My Deadfall Trail Race Experience - Marathon Running ...

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My Deadfall Trail Race Experience

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon

After 2 years running our local awesome trail race, my running partner and I decided to branch out and try another trail race in the province. It is a 3 hour drive from home so we made a girl’s weekend of it. We didn’t know anyone who had ran the race previously nor did either of us know the area so we were going into it incredibly blind. All we knew was that there was a 12.5k loop that you ran 1, 2, or 4 loops depending on your distance (only 1 loop for us please), it was ran on narrow single track and wider cross country ski trails, 4 big hills that made up most of the elevation change was ran in the first half of the race and headphones were strictly prohibited and enforced. Having ran our local race with crazy narrow single track and headphones not being prohibited and the challenge of trying to safely pass someone on those trails when they can’t hear you, I was ecstatic, to say the least, of this rule. I am a huge fan of listening to music on my road runs but find trail running requires a lot of care and attention so I never run with music on the trails.

The weather forecast was looking cold and windy. With wind blowing off the lake, it could be chilly so although I had a kit game plan in place I threw in extra clothes so a last minute change could be made if needed. We woke up to -4C, with a high of -3C, and winds 20-30kph, so windchill was at -10C 😬. Last minute changes were made, warmer clothes and a new running toque purchased the day before were donned and we hit the road.

We got to the race plenty early, as planned, checked in and had time to kill and body parts to freeze while waiting to run. There was limited space in the visitor centre but we all crammed in waiting for orientation. Finally we all had to go outside, get our race debrief with the visual aids to help us all figure out the trails to follow (there are many in this area but the race director did a phenomenal job marking the course and educating us on how to follow it). 5 minute countdown, mad dash to the portapotties, outer layers peeled off, buff pulled up over chin, racing chip attached around ankle, watches and phones started, we’re in the chute but at the very back. Not knowing the course or the other runners we thought that was ok .... rookie mistake!

First hill, narrow single track, we’re walking stuck behind a long steady string of walkers, which is ok because it is so bloody cold and windy it is a good warm up for the muscles. Unfortunately, we’re warming up nicely, ready to run through some very pretty, but narrow forested trail but nobody in this group is showing any signs of running soon. My running partner, who is an absolute beast in the hills back home is amazing at reading the line and getting politely around people so I have her pass me and we’re off - “Excuse me, can we pass as soon as it’s possible? Pardon me...passing in the left/right....Coming up on your left/right; Thank you” - pass the first group of 6, the next group of 6-8, get past a few more pairs and finally we’re spread out from the others and can power through.

My running partner has been struggling with her knee and her IT band for the last 3 weeks so this was supposed to be an “exploration” run, take our time, enjoy the scenery, take lots of pictures but she’s loving the hills and feeling great so she’s off and I’m doing my best to keep pace. The track is frozen hard pack littered with a full bed of leaves and surprisingly slick. We slip/slide down the first hill and now understand the suggestion for eye protection and gloves. Grabbing onto a branch as you’re flying down the hill, sling shotting around the corner is SO FREAKING FUN!!! This trail is a blast, even when I got distracted by someone slipping on a rock and end up hitting my head on a low hanging branch knocking my toque off my head. Pride is the only thing that’s hurt and I’ve now been schooled to watch the branches. This trail is so aptly named, the amount of Deadfall to climb over, climb under, duck around is amazing!

We move onto some wider track, then back into some narrow windy hilly track again and repeat for a total of 4 hills before we reach the aid station at about 6.5k with a warm up shack. No need for the warm up, but will gladly take some water and an orange slice. The table is full of chips, chocolate, gummies, bananas, oranges - you gotta love trail running aid stations! I’m not risking tummy upset so skip most but grabbed a package of peanut M&Ms, just in case 😉.

The last half is undulating hills along the top of the hills through some meadow which reminds me of the type of trails I enjoy snowmobiling on. It is fun but all the hills has wreaked havoc on my partner’s IT band and knee. She feels good at a walk but has pain with running so we’ve adopted a new plan - run for a km, stop and stretch it out and run some more. It worked for a bit but by 11k she was done running (or so she claimed). I’m on the terrain that I excel at and can run forever. She’s feeling bad so sends me on my way to kill that last 1 1/2 km. I didn’t want to leave her but she insisted. At this point we had met up with the runners on the 5k loop (we start and finish on the same paths but branch off to 2 different loops) so knew passing could get to be a challenge if we’re stopping/starting because the runner numbers are up again so I run a few feet, feel guilty, turn around and ask if she’s sure and she tells me to go so I’m off and in my glory!

We’re on the final downhill and it is even more fun than the beginning. Again I’m up, around, under logs, ducking, weaving from branches and feeling so strong. Suddenly I’m out of the trees, running the ditch beside the road turn the corner and the finishers chute is right there. Final sprint! That’s it! But, but, but I want to run more! I feel so good! I know my partner will be coming in so I run back to the car, grab her wool blanket so she can wrap up and as I’m running back she already passed through the chute! She was less than 5 minutes behind me so there was no way she walked the final stretch. Nope! She couldn’t resist running that final set of trails .... they were irresistible!

We took our requisite bling pics, hobbled her over to the car, put our outer layers on and hit the line for the post race meal - beef on a bun or pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw 😋. So good!

Will we do it again? Definitely! Will we hope for warmer weather? You betcha! Will we get warmer weather? Who knows; doesn’t matter though because we’ll be all in! Will we step up to the next level and run 2 loops for 25k? Not likely; neither of us like repetition but time will tell. We’ll register after we run our local trail race and make a final decision then. Apparently, each year the race director changes the route to run it the opposite direction to the previous year and changes which trails are ran. No 2 years are the same! Sweet!

I’m not great at leaving it all out on the course and always end with way too much gas in the tank, so will need to work on pushing myself more on race day! This was also my first race using a race chip on a Velcro band. I wore it on my ankle, as I saw most of the 25kers doing but it got irritating after about 4k (darn boney ankles) so I will need to research that a bit before next year.

All in all, a great experience, a great girl’s getaway and I got some awesome extreme winter running gear during our shopping spree the day before race day! -20C? Whatever, I’m set!

29 Replies
AlMorr10 Miles

What a great read I have just had to learn about that wonderful trail run you had with your friend, nice photos of both of you and of your medal, I am sure you were a bit unlucky with the cold weather, even in that part of Canada it's not just as cold as -20C in early October, more like December temperatures. There is a half marathon trail race near to where I live in Scotland on Sunday the 28th October, although I am not running in I cheer all the runners taking part. I know the trail very well indeed, I have walked on part of it for many years now, not all at the once though. It starts with a gentle upwards incline but there are many ups and downs just like you described in the trail run you completed with your friend. Good trail running for you in the future.

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to AlMorr

We spent a good portion of our drive home discussing future races and plans. You never know, we might have to consider a destination run at some point!

SqkrHalf Marathon

That sounds like the best fun ever! And with added mid run treat table too (it would take so much willpower for me to not stuff my face at that point) 😀 It's so tough to judge where to put yourself at the start, I always err on the side of caution and politeness and regret it every time! At least getting stuck behind people gave you a chance to enjoy what sounds like a beautiful place though 😊

I've been thinking about doing the Glentress 10 trail in November, and you've definitely swayed me much closer to 'yes'. The Scottish Borders aren't much like Canada, but I think it could still be pretty great 🤔

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Sqkr

I just love everything that trail racing embodies - the challenge, the comraderie, the treats, and it's less about running at break neck speeds but the experience. Of course, we haven't run the same distance twice yet on a course, so haven't had the worry of trying to beat our time and with this race it isn't the same course from year to year so you have to take it with a grain of salt. The person who won our race, did it 20 minutes faster than we did, but we know we could've gone faster if my partner's knee was ok and we chose our starting point better. Who knows, maybe next year, we'll be in the mix?

I'd say Go for it! You won't regret it! It takes a bit to retrain yourself to not compare your road run pace to your trail run pace, but once you wrap your head around it, it is the best kind of running, in my opinion.


Brill trail fun. Those low branches though ey. Oooft! You busily watch your feet ..... 😖

Sounds like a grand day out Well done 💪👍😃🏅✊

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to misswobble

It was quite different terrain than we were used to which made it so fun. You had to pay attention, that's for sure. Do I look up, look down, look all around 😜. The starting and end of the race was on a loop called the Rock Garden which was so much fun, and there were definitely large rocks you had to also watch out for in addition to all the logs and branches. Such a great course 😁

Loved reading this Allie, sounds like you and Denise had a blast!😊 (in as much as running a scary 12.5k trail race in -10 degrees allows😉)

You are definitely set for more of these me it is extreme running, and you are getting extremely good at it!

Go Allie and Denise! You are both fabulous😀xxx

Don't see your poles in the picture, were they not needed for this one?

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Bluebirdrunner

Thanks Jan! We had a blast the entire weekend, from shopping, eating, running! What more could a gal ask for?

We didn't use our poles on this one. We took them just in case, but left them in the car. The trails weren't as steep and were quite narrow with bushes on either side which can get your poles caught up, in addition to being a tripping hazard with the other runners. There was really only I part where I thought they would've been useful but didn't regret not taking them. I saw some of the 25 and 50 k runners used them, but not like our local race where most used them at the longer distances.

We're really enjoying the more adventure-type runs. I'm thinking of doing the Hypothermic Half this year, it's a road race, but it is ran on one of our our coldest months of the year when the snow should be there, so just adds another challenge. I'm not sure how my training will go though with work this winter so will just have to wait and see.

Ha, I believe some gals might just go to a spa, sit drinking prosecco and maybe get a manicure😉... they don't know what they're missing!😁xxx

Lavender1962Half Marathon

Sounds like you had a great run and fun despite the chilly weather! The snacks and end of run meal were amazing . Nice pics too!

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Lavender1962

It was so cold trying to eat the messy sandwiches without gloves, but sooo yummy. Definitely a highlight! I'm so food driven 😂


Fabulous, and gorgeous pics too. well done to both of you :)

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to ju-ju-

Thanks ju-ju! Still riding the high today... and not even stiff...yet 😆

Loved your post, I felt as though I was with you every step of the way. Thank you!

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Goforitmama

Thanks GFIM 😊

GFIM... hmmm I thought... GF = girlfriend. But what about the IM I thought, so I googled GFIM.... the answer came back as ‘Get F***ed Its Monday’. Nearly fell off my Starbucks stool and actually dropped my yummy warmed up oat bar on the floor. People looked at me.

I eventually worked it out GFIM = Goforitmama. Then I felt really really silly. Yep, I’m having a big blonde day!

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Goforitmama

Ok now I just scared my cat who was lying on my lap I laughed so hard 😂

Oops, need to be careful with some acronyms 😆

Nah, I just need to stop being so ditsy. I felt so silly when it dawned on me that GFIM was me!


Well done! This sounds like such a blast. Plenty to watch out for but so much fun to be had. Love the treats too. And that is some serious food at the end!

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Decker

It's all about the food, right! I've become quite food driven since taking up this running lark 😆. They had less swag than some of the other races, but all the proceeds go to the All-Nations Healing Hospital which is very worthwhile. We haven't done many charity races but there is another one in late spring at a cross country ski course that supports the burn unit that we're tossing around. It also looks interesting and has a HM distance, so perhaps I'll get my HM distance yet 🤞

DeckerModerator in reply to SaskAlliecat

A great cause and good grub. It’s wonderful to see you enjoying these runs so much. I think the trails really suit you! :)

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Decker

Ya, I’d agree! Running trails seem to have even helped me to learn to relax a bit and to with the flow a bit better.

As an added bonus, we just got our results today and even with the issues of my running partner’s knee and having to walk/hobble more than hoped for, we placed in the top third! Pretty pleased with that!

DeckerModerator in reply to SaskAlliecat

Congrats, that is a great result!

aliboo70Half Marathon

Wow what an adventure!sounds great! Well done both of you!😆x

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to aliboo70

Thanks ali! We made lots of fun memories and still have sore abs from laughing so hard. I can’t wait for our next adventure.

Wow, you are having so much fun with this trail running, it's lovely to read your reports. You should definitely look into destination running - it's becoming a really big thing across the world. Great fun and time away with your bestie, sounds like a no-brainer... somewhere warm though! xx

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Fishypieface

I could totally see us doing that some day once we’re both in a bit better of a financial situation. For now, we’ll explore as many that are in a drivable range but some day... watch out! You never know, maybe we’ll even cross the pond! The UK would never be the same 🤣


Brilliant post. It sounds fabulous and you did really well!

SaskAlliecatHalf Marathon in reply to Mimirossi

Thanks 😊

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