The Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU) is a 3-Day 150km semi-supported stage race taking runners on a journey through Gatineau Park, Canada. As part of my training for the Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) my coach insisted that I participate in this event. Of course that was way back in January of this year so it was only in the last few weeks that I started giving this race any serious thought.
It’s not that I wasn’t training for it, I just wasn’t focused on it. My coach laid out my weekly running scheduled and I followed it, usually without questions. I had settled in to a routine of long runs Friday and Saturday with Sundays thrown in when a third back to back was required.
I’ve been eating mostly “real” food and/or trying out different protein bars for these runs. I’ve also been using a few different hydration mixes as I try to dial in to what is going to work for me. I have had no issues so far with any of the food/hydration that I am trying but I am still working on timing, calories and of course sustaining energy. Days before BBU I had just picked up a new hydration mix that was full of good stuff and more affordable than what I was using. Seeing as BBU was a training race, to give me experience with stage racing, it seemed appropriate to test this hydration out over the weekend.
I was dealing with some difficult news leading up to the weekend, and true to “Leanne style”, I pulled away from everyone, including my coach, in an effort to deal with the emotions I was feeling. I made some race decisions on my own and because of that I experienced some valuable in race lessons.
As I packed my back pack for the three days, I was not concerned with the 15lbs weight (before water) as for G2G I will be starting out with approx. 20lbs on my back. I later learned that most of the other runners packs weighed in at around 8lbs-10lbs. In addition to new hydration (I had a selection of what I was currently using and the new format), I was also determined to get my nutrition figured out. I limited myself to a variety of bars and discovered I really lacked imagination and experience as to what would benefit me.
We arrived Wednesday afternoon at the Wakefield Mill Hotel and Spa giving us a chance to meet the other runners and settle in before we shared a meal together. We were given a swag bag and assigned our own beautiful room. After dinner there was a mandatory gear check and race directors went over the next days race course.
As this was the very first BBU the race was capped at 20 participants. It was clear from the beginning that there were many experienced ultra runners as well as a number of first time stage racers. My goal was easy, learn as much as I could from these amazing people and complete the 3 days!
Day 1 (55km’s)
The start line was just outside the hotel and ended at Brown Cabin near Lac Phillipe. Temperatures were in the high 30’s and was certainly felt when we were out in the open especially on Trail #55. We headed up to Lusk Caves where we dropped our packs and made our way through the very cold water. I was nervous about this very early on in the day, but with the heat it ended up being all I could think of through the day. I was thankful to go through the caves with another runner and the cold water was so appreciated. From the caves it was maybe 7km’s or so to the finish line.
The volunteers were like angels at each check point! After a few check points, I realized the doctor was pretty much at every check point as I arrived. A high five was in order on Day 3 when I celebrated not needing his services 🙂
Day 1 I also realized that there were sweepers on the course to pick up the flags after the last runners. We ended up having Neil as the sweeper on Day 1 who ended up hanging out with us for the first 25km’s. I offered to pick up the flags so he could get a good run in 🙂
When I entered this race, I suspected I was the slowest runner so knowing there was a sweeper on the course was very comforting in the event I was out there at night by myself.
Day 2 (70km’s)
The heat was unbearable over night in the cabin, no air circulating at all. As I was one of the last one’s in the night before I was left with a top bunk for sleeping. After unsuccessfully trying to sleep we were up for 4am for breakfast and coffee.
By 6am we were heading out for Day 2. It was another high humidity day with temperatures reaching “feels” like 40+!
From about 12km’s on I was having stomach issues, this is the first time I have ever had issues and it was awful. Another runner was experiencing his own challenges that day and we ended up running together most of the day. I was very thankful for this as he is an extremely experienced runner and had completed G2G 2014. We climbed lusk falls, dealt with full sun as we made our way to the fire tower and down Trail #1. The funniest moment was when Colin suggested we find some shade and lie down for a minute, where he shared his chips with me (I will be forever grateful) and the sweeper caught up with us. She was a little surprised to see us lying on the trail and cautiously asked if we were okay. She shared her ginger candy with me to help my stomach issues (see they’re angels, all of them!!)
We didn’t lie around to long, a few moments at most and continued making our way to Wolf Trail. I was thankful to be climbing down this trail as it would have just been cruel to make us go up. We eventually made it to Meech Lake and then shortly after that came some rain. Most of the day is a blur of familiar and unfamiliar trails, including our last check point at Champlain Lookout. We then made our way to the final trail of the day. Within 10 minutes of hitting Trail #9 (quite technical), it was like the lights went out. We now very much depended on our headlamps as we made our way through the trail to Camp Fortune, the finish line for Day 2.
I’m not sure exactly how late it was that we came in but I found it difficult to eat anything. I forced some pasta down simply because I knew I needed something. Tonight we were sleeping in one large room. This was the night I was testing out my sleeping pad that I was planning on using for G2G. Unfortunately, it was another almost sleepless night with lots of tossing and turning. We were up again early for coffee and breakfast.
Day 3 (25 km)
I felt better heading out and decided early on that I was going to just run for me today. I texted my husband “if all goes well I should come in around 1:15pm”. The route for the day took us back onto Trail #1, #17, down #8 across to King Mountain, did the loop and then out to I think #15 back to P7 and eventually down Penguin to the finish line. I crossed the finish line at 1:11pm, I’d say it went pretty well then. I felt like myself the entire run and enjoyed so much about this route.
There are so many memories mixed up between the days now but the entire race was full of incredible views and experiences.
Crossing the finish line did not mean we were finished yet! Once everyone arrived we headed on over to Le Nordik Spa for a special time in the baths and to enjoy the brand new VIP area. There was an open bar and an amazing post-race dinner cooked on their brand new outdoor grill. It was a wonderful way to end a truly epic event!
The race directors wanted to use this event to highlight some of the amazing trails throughout Gatineau Park but they also wanted to highlight some of the local businesses in the area. We were treated to our first night at the Wakefield Mill Hotel, breakfast and dinner each day were provided by local businesses, bars on the course, and so much more. Instead of receiving a medal at the end of the race we were given maple scented candles, crafted locally as a keepsake of our amazing journey.
My coach Ray Zahab has become like family! His belief in me and ongoing support has helped me succeed in ways that I never knew were possible. He understands the commitment and dedication required to chase my dreams and try to have an impact on others to believe enough in themselves to chase their own dreams.
I would highly recommend this event to anyone who is interested in an amazing 3 day stage race. Whether you are very experienced or just thinking about a stage race, this race has so much to offer everyone. I have no doubt next year will be even better!
Do you have some go to snacks you use on a long run?