This is my second time at the Ultra Trail Harricana (http://harricana.info/en/) which is held in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. It's an absolutely spectacular area, and after running the 65km event there last year, I was pretty anxious to come back again, but try the 125km race this time.
My lead up to this race was far from ideal. Back in the spring I started to have issues with the knob below my knee- where the patellar tendon inserts to the tibia. I had to cut way back on my training, but still managed to have a decent run at the Cayuga Trails 50 Mile in Ithaca NY at the end of May. After that race I took a couple of weeks off, and then started to train again. From that point on, right up until the race on Sept 19, it was a constant balancing act of trying to get in enough miles and trying to keep this injury from flaring up too badly. I would run for a few weeks, the take a week off when it got too sore.... and so on.
A few weeks before this race I was really wondering if I should go and even try to run since I'd only been able to do 3 runs over 20km since my race in May, but my brother, his nephew, and another friend signed up for the 28km distance, so I figured I'd go and see what happened. At the very least it would be a fun weekend with the guys.
We got to the town of La Malbaie in the early afternoon on Friday, picked up our race kits, and then headed to the campground to get set up. The campground was called Chutes Fraser, named after the beautiful waterfall there.
The start of the race was in the middle of a village called Notre Dame des Monts. There were about 85 of us for the 125km distance, and at 2am sharp we set off into the darkness, headed for the mountains.
The first 6km was on pavement, which then narrowed to a farm path, then into a hunting road, so it was easy going for the first 2 hours, which got us to aid station #1. At that point I was feeling fine, and my legs were okay. My game plan was to take it easy, go nice and slow, and just try to keep moving without aggravating the injury.
As we headed off from the aid station, we started the ascent of Mont des Morios- which basically was a trail straight up the side of a mountain, around the top, and then straight back down. If you look at the course profile, it's pretty easy to see where it is.
As I was heading back down the mountain, the sun started to peek over the mountains to the east. It was truly one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen. There were mountains as far as you could see, and there was a pink glow starting to come over the horizon. Even though this was a race, I just had to keep stopping and soaking in the view.
At the base of Mont Des Morios I was back at the aid station again, and I was feeling great. My legs were good, and I wan feeling pretty energetic and optimistic. I grabbed some food, filled up my bottles, and headed out again. But within about 200m of leaving the aid station I had to stop again for the view. I stood there in awe, taking photos, and another runner came up and offered to take a photo of me.