Lake Superior – Gate to Gate Run

Goals and Friends

Running has allowed me to meet so many amazing people. I’ve met a number of people online and sometimes I get the opportunity to eventually meet in person. That’s what happened with my friend Agnes. Agnes and I met through facebook a little over a year ago when a number of our mutual friends kept popping up in our news feeds. Agnes and I both support i2P (Impossible to Possible) and we have the same running coach, so it seemed natural to connect.

From the beginning we supported one another with our running goals. The very first time Agnes and I met for coffee we chatted about our running goals 🙂 Agnes mentioned an idea she had for an epic run that she wanted to organize to raise awareness for i2P. My hand went up immediately, please sign me up! Over the next several months whenever Agnes came to Ottawa, we would get together for a running adventure of our own making. It’s been fun. She is seriously a beautiful person with a genuine heart to encourage others.

That of course was before I had any idea what my own epic run in 2017 would require of me.  When Agnes messaged me recently, with the details of her run, I wasn’t sure if I could commit. Would it sideline me from my own training?  Did I want to put finances out when I was already under pressure for the financial commitment to my own run? Would my coach think it was a good idea?  When my coach gave the thumbs up, I decided I had to do this with Agnes and the other stuff would work itself out.

I love what Agnes wrote on facebook about what we were doing? (copied below)

“ad•ven•ture: n. A challenging journey that pushes us beyond ourselves in a positive direction and allows us to engage the world directly, defy personal limitations, expand our understanding, and inspire others.” Tomorrow, this team is heading up to Lake Superior Provincial Park. This Saturday, we will be running from the North Gate to the South Gate, along one of Canada’s most scenic routes on King’s Highway 17 (part of Trans Canada Highway). This 83 km stretch hugs the rugged shores of Lake Superior, providing spectacular views that were a huge inspiration to Canada’s Group of Seven painters. This is not a race, there will be no medals at the end – we are doing this to bring awareness to impossible2Possible, an amazing organization that inspires us all to reach beyond our perceived limits and create memories of a lifetime.

The Weekend

The weekend started with a 12hr drive from Ottawa to Batchawana Bay, ON. I picked up Gesine early Friday morning and we were off. We ended up driving 12hrs, including a 2hr detour accidentally, but the drive was beautiful, the company amazing and I gained a new friend family member. Finally we arrived, met the rest of the team, had dinner and then a quick photo before heading off to our hotel to get organized and hopefully some sleep.

The Runners

The Runners

Woke up at 4:50 am with the sound of trucks whipping along HWY 17, the same hwy we would be running on. I’ll be honest, this made me somewhat uncomfortable to think that we would be running along this for most of the day/evening. There was no turning back, I pushed those thoughts aside.

Gesine and I realized we were not going to get anymore sleep so we got up and rechecked gear, clothes and of course water/nutrition (in the end we forgot our cooler of extra water/hydration mix)!! We met the other half of the team to start the drive to our drop off point, a 1.5 hr. drive along Lake Superior. We missed our drop off (construction on the road), making our starting time later than we had intended.

On route to our drop off

On route to our drop off

We finally got started close to 9:30 am and the temperature was already climbing, we knew we were in for a hot day.

The entire route was made up of rolling hills (part of the beauty when driving), with some inclines continuing for 2-4 kms at a time. The final 4 km was by far the the worst and steepest, but we completed it!

Shot this video at the 11 km mark along the route.

Some of my thoughts during the run:

  • I am not trained for road running
  • what was I thinking
  • man this is amazingly beautiful
  • no doubt people must think we are insane
  • these truckers are amazing – very supportive – I bet they are messaging other truckers to watch out for us
  • okay, seriously I am not going to be able to complete Bad Beaver let alone Grand to Grand Ultra
  • I don’t think I even want to! (see above thought)
  • Why am I even doing this…oh right, I wanted a BIG goal to demonstrate with hard work and a commitment to working towards my goal I could do the seemingly impossible – to encourage others to dream big….hmmmm
  • UGH why does this right foot always give me issues? I seriously need to have Ryan assess it
  • Just focus on counting, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; 1, 2, 30, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 20; etc.
  • This is spectacular! There are so many fire flies!  It’s seriously magical.
  • Okay, for sure people think we are insane now – running in the dark on hwy 17 with headlamps/wrist lights and reflectors – what a site!

I’m sure there were a lot more positive thoughts as well but mostly they escape me right now 🙂 The whole experience was truly remarkable, I do not regret any of it! The reward was so great!

By mid-afternoon a thunderstorm rolled in with some lightning.  Obviously this caused some concern and we were careful to take cover when necessary. I believe we thought if we took refuge in the van the run could be over! I think we were all avoiding getting in the van. The temperature dropped significantly during the storm and we were drenched. When the rain finally stopped, the warmer temperatures and humidity returned. It did not take long for things to heat up again.

About 11.5 hrs into the run we needed to start preparing for night running. We had headlamps and reflective gear ready to go and of course we were very mindful of traffic (both directions). It was a unique experience for me to be running on a hwy in the dark with fireflies all around. I was accomplishing something I had never done before, the entire experience being etched in my mind and heart.

This video is of Anna and I with 5 km’s to go (for distance runners you get this time in a run when your brains have shut off and it’s hard to think clearly)

The goal: run from the North Gate to the South Gate along Lake Superior, a total of 83 km’s to raise awareness for i2P.

The start - North Gate

The start – North Gate

The Finish - South GAte

The Finish – South Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

The experience: a total of 85 km’s (look out points/beaches along the route, running in and out of bushes (potty breaks) added to the total km’s.  The route provided spectacular views of Lake Superior and gorgeous tree lines. The hwy proved to be incredibly hilly, the first 20-30 km’s seemed to be a consistent incline.  The middle portion seemed more flat(ish) with the decent towards the end. There was a final 3-4 km steady, steeper incline to finish the run. The support from truckers throughout the day was really special. 90+ % of them would move over (if possible), honk their horn and wave! Like cheering us on. Parks Ontario were on route to cheer us on and get some photos, they were really amazed that we were doing this.

Some of the views along the way:

(photo credits to Agnes, Pearl, Anna, Gesine and myself – as we uploaded a bunch and I can’t remember whose was whose 🙂 )

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Park Warden stopping in to meet us.

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Leanne RunsHere is what I learned about myself:

  • quitting was NEVER an option – did not even cross my mind
  • I will need to have salt tablets with me and use them before my fingers swell
  • little pieces of cold grilled cheese sandwiches does the body good
  • my mind truly is able to push my body to do more
  • I can run 85 km WITHOUT music – yup I did not play music the entire run
  • long steady inclines no longer intimidate me (steep hills I still despise)
  • I am trained more than I think – I was shocked at how fast and well my body recovered
  • I need to start asking more questions BEFORE I agree to do things 🙂

Most of my training has been in trails so my biggest hurdle to push past was the physical and mental exhaustion of running road. It’s boring! With trail running my mind is busy looking ahead and anticipating where my foot is going to land next. I feel more engaged in the run when I’m out on the trails. Thankfully the route was beautiful as road running can get monotonous, just keeping one foot in front of the other.

We were five women who came together to share one goal, raise awareness for i2P (Impossible to Possible). We finished, having accomplished that goal but accomplished so much more in the process. The experience allowed some of us time to heal, a time to be renewed, to gain confidence, and a chance to encourage others. We also witnessed that some of our weakest moments  somehow were also our strongest.

My New Family

A highlight of the whirlwind trip was the company, the views were spectacular but the people I ran with are beautiful. When you drive a total of 22 hrs. with someone, you have a chance to get to know each other. I’ve never met any one like Gesine (The German Gazelle), I am inspired and in awe of her strength and her life story. Of course there is Agnes (Aggie Bear) who I admire for her experience and knowledge of the outdoors, her passion for inspiring and helping others achieve greatness and have fun! Precious Pearl is an angel, who took time off work to crew us and genuinely wanted to be with us and encourage us in every way possible. She stayed on course for 14 hrs to ensure we had food, hydration, we were safe and during the storm she circled around to make sure she was available to pick us up at a moments notice! Lastly there was Anna Da Bomb! Anna and I shared the experience of achieving a whole new level of distance together. We had both only ever ran 50 km’s prior to this run, so this was kind of a big deal for both us. Like myself, Anna seems open for anything, seems to enjoy an adventure and doesn’t ask a lot of questions. Anna quickly became my sista, someone who I knew was like me in a lot of ways.

Family

Family

I arrived on Friday in the company of strangers and left on Sunday saying good-bye to family.

Do you have a tribe either in person or online? I’m extremely grateful for the running friends I have, in person and online.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Lake Superior – Gate to Gate Run

  1. Great story – I’m always amazed at what ultra marathon runners do, and how the body can sustain that; puts little aches & pains of everyday running in perspective.

    • It becomes so much about the mind! I’m still learning the difference between aches/pains and simply tired legs 🙂
      I do love the adventure that running provides and there is no great way (in my opinion) to explore!

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