For the 3rd winter in a row, on a frosty February morning I've headed out to the bustling metropolis of Switzerville ON, which is not too far from Kingston. This race is held at the Spafford family farm, where the parents of the race director (Derrick Spafford of Spafford Health & Adventure- http://healthandadventure.com/) live.
This is a really nice race- the course is great, the setting is beautiful, and the atmosphere is very relaxed and friendly. When you get there you can hang out by the bonfire until the race starts, chatting with other runners, looking out over the meadow- what better way to spend a Saturday morning?
The conditions for this year's race were tough but good. All the snow we've had lately ensured that there were no issues with snow coverage on the trails, but it also made for tough footing. In some parts a snowmobile had gone through to pack down bit of a track, but in other parts, where it was too tight through the forest for a snowmobile to get through, the path was just what Derrick had been able to tramp down by running around the course with snowshoes on.
I figured that with the deep snow passing would be tough, so I tried to get up pretty close to the front right from the start. We started out down the laneway of the farm, but within about a hundred metres, we were into single track, and with the snow getting kicked up by all the runners, it was like running through a blizzard.
I could hear someone a little way behind me, and when we hit a corner I took a quick peek to see who it was- crap! It was John McAlister (https://twitter.com/JohnMcAlister) who I knew was a fast guy. I figured if he wanted to pass me, he probably could, so rather than kill myself to try to pull away from him I slowed it down a touch, figuring he'd rather tuck in behind me than venture into the deep snow for a pass, and then I could save some energy for the end. For about 2 km he was behind me, then on the final hill less than a km from the finish he got past me. At that point I thought there was nobody else around, so my position was safe. Wrong. As soon as John passed me, my buddy Joe Turner came out of nowhere! There was no way I was going to let Joe catch me in the final 500m so I started pushing hard. It was tough- by the end I was right at my puke threshold, and the blackness was starting to close in (that almost always happens to me in my finishing kick.....), so it was all I could do to keep upright and not let him pass.