Bluff Trail Run…..A Real Run……….Nova Scotia

17 04 2010





Trail Running…..The real deal


My Sister Ava sent me a link to a place called Bluff Trails in Timberlea,  Nova Scotia.   I checked it out on-line just before I came down to NS.  It looked great but not very runable………I talked to my mother and ava about it and they were convinced it was indeed, runable.

I printed out the topographical map in color and could see it was very hilly.  I got up a bit late today and didn’t get there until 10:00.  I didn’t have a compass, matches, an emergency mylar blanket.   I did have 2.5 litres of water and Poweraid, a lighter, an Eatmore bar, walnuts, and an energy gel. 

It was about 5.5 km to the parking lot in  Timberlea from exit 3 off the 103 to Chester. 

 When I arrived I saw a very civilized trail from the “Rails to Trails” project.  I thought..”hmm this isn’t much, maybe I ll run a thirty”……it was about 4 C and wet.  I was dressed warmly and wore gloves.  I ran up the trail about a km and consulted the map…realized id actually missed the “off road” trail, had to run back a half a km where I came to a small trail leading into the woods by cranberry lake.  From my map I can see its broken into 4 loops one on top of the other.  The first loop is a yellow loop approximately 5 km around, on top of that is the red loop about 7 km around, on top of that is the blue loop about 9 km around and finally an orange loop which is about 14 km around.

I decide on two loops and set off.

Its funny but after last night of running alone in the dark through the woods and confronting those primal fears of the unknown, the night.  Things that go Bump in the night.  I have no hesitation or feel any sence of foreboding as I set off into the thick wood.

The trail starts easy and even has a board walk.  I can see that a lot of people use this first km hike.  There is a warning sign for Bear and Moose and after 2 km I see a fresh Bear track.  Within a short distance the trail starts to climb and twist back to the lake into boggy muddy areas, only to climb back up the steep trail slick with pine needles.  It gets rougher and more uneven each 500 meters.  Lots of roots and rocks, finally climbing higher and higher and onto bigger and bigger rocks until it hits the red route on top of a huge granite outcropping.  There its like running along  highway on top of this big boulder for several hundred meters.  The flora changes so much, from tundra types with moss and lichens and boggy muddy full of picture plants and Labrador tea.  Pine forest with some oaks, to black spruce and tamarack trees.   I like the rocky parts the best and make up time rock hopping, scrambling across several small brooks and leaping off two meter drops to the trail from an outcropping.

This is a hardcore run and I am sweating and breathing heavy with a heart rate from 145 up to 185 on the hard climbs.  I soon learn to calculate where my foot should hit the ground at the most advantages place to push-off for another stride.  It’s busy,  You are looking down all the time as its treacherous 90 percent of the time with twisted roots, small ankle breaking rocks, wet big rocks with sudden drop offs and lots of muddy sink holes

At the same time you need to constantly check up the path to plan your strategy where to accelerate to give you momentum for a short climb or slow into a long steep climb.  There are several places of a couple hundred meters where it’s not possible to run and you need to hike.  Im completely in the zone at about 8 km and loving it.  I munching a bit of food every 30 minutes and constantly hydrating.  I get to the top of the red loop and chk my watch.  I’ve been running for an hour 35 minutes…I had promised my self to be out in 3 hours.  I hesitate for a few moments and decide to go for it and loop the blue loop back to the red for another 7 km or so.  I set off at a much quicker pace as I really need to be back in 3 hours to get back to town and clean up for a business meeting.  I’m a mess too.  Feet are soaked and muddy, socks wet, hair soaked with sweat and rain. 

 I say I speed up but understand that compared to road running it’s a snails pace.  Averaging 7-8 minutes per km.  There aren’t any huge hills but there are many accents and descents of varying heights and grades.  My legs are not bad, but my calves are getting burnt and my feet are sore.  My feet aren’t sore from impact, in fact you can barely hear me coming as im hitting the ground so lightly on the ball of my foot and the trail has great cushioning except the rock portions. My feet are sore from working so hard and constantly balancing lateral movements and twisting working the many small muscles in the foot which normally don’t get worked.  Im running in a trance now, not minding at all the work, running uphill as good as down.  There are lots of sign of Lynx, Coyote, Bear and Moose.  You can hear ruffed grouse occasionally and there are loons and ducks in the lake.  There are areas blanketed in Mayflowers. 

It’s by far the best run of my life outside the first marathon in Ottawa with Ava.Its getting late and at 16 km I feel like ive run 40.  All the sudden I slip and go down hard and fast on a slick granite boulder.  I twist so my left forearm and hip take the impact.  This is why I was wearing gloves, not the cold, as my hand slaps down on the rock.   Ooppps that’s going to leave a mark I think as I get up off my butt.  I’m moving now as its late and I arrive back at the car for 21 km after almost 3 hours of work.  I’m spent, feet and legs are shot.  Even lower back and shoulders are sore.  Legs feel like after the 62 km run last week.  Wow.  3000  calories burned, 2.5 litres of liquid and I quickly drain another 710 ml on returning to the car.   Imagine I can run 36-40 km in 3 hours and I only get in 21km !!!!!  It’s a big 21 km though.

This is one amazing run.  Ive you’re a lover of trail running put this on your bucket list!  I cant wait to get back and run it on a hot summer day.  Instant weight lose program.  Im inspired.  Im not a road runner, im a trail runner.  It’s like being transported back to my childhood when Id run for hours back in the woods.  On a cold fall night id run back from a lake in the woods behind my house about 8 km in the last minutes of light with a pack full of ducks or grouse and a 12 gauge shotgun.

With my dad we’d hike hours and hours and hours either trout fishing in spring and fall or chasing rabbits in the winter.  My moms a hiker too, and even now in her early 70’s shes still hiking and rock climbing in Arizona.  It’s natural for me to be in the woods.  I find it much easier to run longer here than on a road.  But man oh man if this is any indication of what the death Race is like plus add the mountains its going to be one hell of an experience and I need a lot more training.

Im going to bed.  Im speant.  I made it to my meeting all cleaned up and respectable and have been eating for the past 3 hours to try to replenish.  I need sleep now. 

Trail Running….bring it on.




3 responses

18 04 2010

it’s funny you post this , people think that there isn’t much in the way of hill training back east … how wrong they are eh?
wish i was in your shoes , running wise , your doing a great job training!!

18 04 2010

There some awesome hill training. Going to wolfville and running out to Blomidon and back for 50 k and one hell of a hill up to the “look off” This trail had no big hills but it was constant up and down.

23 04 2010
The Chef's mother

Great description of a serious trail run, Stefan. And you must put Cape Chignecto Provincial Park on your list at #1 for an awesome and beautiful trail along the Bay of Fundy Cobequid Mountains. Total distance 64km with serious hills! And the trails behind Port Greville for good woods! I love your blog.

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