Not Every Run is a Win—What I Learned from My La Cloche Run… This Time
My big goal for the season—the FKT on the 78-kilometer La Cloche Silhoutte Trail in Killarney Provincial Park—has come and gone, and no, I didn’t get it. In fact, we didn’t actually get around the full loop. So, with that in mind, I wanted to highlight a few things that I learned this trip, both about the trail itself and about myself and my feelings around missing a major goal for the season.
Have the GPS file running
Will it beep at you constantly? Yes. But it’s probably worth it. We had a redundancy of GPS watches and computers, but what I didn’t realize as we started was that, while we had the route loaded, neither of us had turned on the GPS to map our route. The La Cloche trail is reasonably well-marked, but when you’re 15 miles into running some of the most technical trails in Ontario, it’s very easy to a) take a wrong turn onto a semi-side trail that is just a tramped down couple hundred meters of non-trail, b) go back to where you took the wrong turn, c) end up backtracking on the trail because you spot a blaze… that you had already passed. What happened to us was that we took a sidetrail, backtracked, and went back the way we came for 5 miles (trust me, in there, it’s easy to do when you’re in a section that doesn’t have a lot of obvious features like dams). By the time we realized, it would have added 18 kilometers of running to our day to turn around and continue to finish the loop. We didn’t have enough food, we would finish 3 hours later than planned, and honestly, I didn’t have the heart at that point. The goal had been to get the fastest known time, and with that out of the question, it didn’t make sense to turn out 50-mile run into a 60-miler. So, we continued back to the campsite, finishing the day with my longest run ever at 32 miles.
Don’t underestimate the trail
Like I said—you might think you’re a great trail runner/racer (ahem, guilty) but this isn’t just about trail running. La Cloche involves navigation, filtering water, thinking ahead, and honestly, being 100% engaged with the trail. It makes the mountain runs and trail 50ks I’ve done look tame. It’s easy to assume that 78-kilometers of trail will be like any other trail you’ve done, but seriously, at running pace, the navigation is tricky, the foot placement is trickier, and you do have to take into account huge stretches of it where you won’t find water easily. It’s a fantastic trail, but it’s a HARD trail.
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Not pictured: me bawling my eyes out on the trail. Not every adventure goes according to plan. All the feelings were good, the pacing was fantastic, the body was happy, the navigational skills were … extremely subpar. La Cloche remains my white whale, and I am weirdly OK with that after a minor pity party (or 3) in the woods. 📷 @peterglassford (who, in the last 48 hours has reminded me big time why he is my person.)
Don’t underestimate your friends
The real reason I was crying when I realized what had happened? If I’m being honest, yes, number one was that this FKT was my major goal for the season and when we realized what we’d done, I knew it wasn’t happening. I lost my race in a big way. But a close number two was that we’d told a lot of people about our plans. And it was freaking embarrassing to get back and have to text a few people and tell them what happened. I was tempted to go radio silent, but I had friends who would be really worried if they didn’t hear from me, so I needed to let them know we were OK. I hesitated about posting about it, but the fact was a lot of friends (and podcast listeners and you, anyone reading this!) knew about my goal, and I don’t think it’s fair to only talk about your wins. But still. It was really hard to admit to people that I didn’t get my goal, and that we screwed up in such a silly-sounding way. But my friends were amazing about it. Of course they were.
You should still tell people your Big Scary Goal
The day before we did this run, I watched one of the girls from the Quest camp that I helped Ellen Noble run not make her Big Scary Goal in a race. Back in March at the Quest, 20 of us sat in a circle and shared our big goals—and some of the girls have made them happen. Some of them haven’t. What I’ve realized, though, is whether you get the goal or not, telling people is still a good thing. It may not be fun to have to then admit you didn’t hit your goal, but if you only tell people about goals that you definitely will/can achieve, what’s the point?
Have a food and water strategy
Despite our screw-ups, one thing we did right was our food and water strategic planning. (I’ve written about fueling trail runs here, if you want more specifics!). I had a handheld and my hydration vest, and the handheld had a built-in LifeStraw so that I could fill it whenever it was easy, with the plan to stop at the 20-ish mile point at a site we knew to refill my pack, which was full of Tailwind for calories (I would add iodine tabs to that water). I also had gels and stroopwaffles with me and was munching away. And honestly, at the 20 mile point, right before I realized we had doubled back, I was feeling the best I’d ever felt 20 miles into a trail run. My stomach and legs were working exactly as planned, and I think a big part of that was because I finally had my hydration and fuel strategy dialed for the task at hand.
Be OK with not being OK
Like I’ve said, I bawled my eyes out in the woods—nearly gave myself a panic attack as I started to run while still crying and couldn’t catch my breath. It was a pretty low point for me, and I know it wasn’t easy on Peter either. But while I had a voice in my head telling me to suck it up and get over it, I knew I needed to get out some of my emotions if I was going to move on and get past it, and honestly, that sob-fest was exactly what I needed in that moment. Taking that time—even just a couple minutes—to not be OK allowed me to actually be OK for the rest of the run back, and for the rest of the day and night at the campsite. (See photo above.) We could have had a miserable afternoon and spent a grumpy night in our tent, or even just packed it in and went home, but we ended up having a lovely rest of our day.
Celebrate the wins
- My longest run ever, check.
- Legs and stomach and body feeling great, check.
- Handling trails that are much more technical than 80% of what I run, check.
- On pace to hit my goal time, check and double check.
Sure, I didn’t hit my big goal of getting the FKT or even making it all the way around the loop. But a lot of milestones were still ticked off that day, and that’s something I can be proud of. And that trail isn’t going anywhere, so now I have a goal already in place for next season!