Archive for November, 2012

Day Of The Dead Fun Run

What is Day Of The Dead?

“The Day Of The Dead (Dia de los Muertes) is a holiday that focuses on family and friends gathering to celebrate the lives of family and friends who have died. It is particularly observed in Mexico, where it has the quailty of a national holiday. Similarly themed celebrations are held around the world.

Each culture and region has its own traditions; they often include special candies, pastries and drinks, shrines or offerings to the departed, and visits to their burial grounds.

Worldwide, celebrations almost always include a parade – which is where the idea for our fun run was born.”Mud First Racing, organizers of the Day Of The Dead fun run

I ran Day Of The Dead for the first time in 2011. I was over trained and burnt out and I needed a way to re-kindle my running fire. It instantly became my favorite event of the year and I vowed to return annually.

Day Of The Dead is run at Blackstrap Provincial Park, about a 30 minute drive from Saskatoon. There are 5K and 10K options, with the 10K simply being two loops of the 5K course. The course is a challenging one through hills and bushes and trees. The race is always run at night, and always on November 1, the night after Halloween. The course is marked with glow sticks and bits of white paper (which actually show up very well, despite my skepticism). Costumes are encouraged, and quite a few runners wear some sort of extra add-on. This year I chose a black and silver cape and a flashing red fiber-optic headband.

This truly is a fun run. There is no timing, no bibs, but a very cool tech t-shirt for each runner and a feast at the finish line. Each runner must use their choice of a headlamp or flashlight, and temperatures are usually right around the freezing mark.

Lime green tech-t featuring a purple Mexican skeleton!

Usually. The 2012 version of Day Of The Dead proved to be slightly  more… entertaining. Freezing rain was forecast, but our weather forecasts are so often wrong that I wasn’t too worried about it. It was a chilly but beautiful night as I drove out to Blackstrap after leaving my kids with my parents in Saskatoon for a sleep-over. It started to rain lightly as I arrived and picked up my race package. I was plenty early, so retreated to my warm truck to fire up my Timex GPS and make sure my headlamp was positioned properly. A few minutes before the start I saw two friends of my sister-in-law’s. Sippie and Chelsea were exctited to be running their first 10K race, but were understandably a bit nervous about the whole trail run at night idea.

Getting ready to run!

Fellow runners’ Halloween masks were admired, glow bracelets donned and headlamps turned on, and we were off. The freezing rain seemed to have let up a bit and runners chatted excitedly during the first kilometer. There was some snow on the ground, but not enough to be a concern. Yet.

Whenever I run in poor weather I don’t realize just how bad it is until I’m done. I get home from a rainy run then look out my window and think “whoa! I ran in that?” As we ran along I knew it was raining again, but didn’t really pay attention to it at first. This course is full of steep ascents and descents, and after the first couple hills they became icy. Really icy. The rain falling on the already present snow was turning the course into a curling rink. A hilly curling rink. I caught myself on trees to avoid falls several times during steep downhills into the bush on narrow single track trails. Every time I did, the guy behind me would call to his running companions “icy here!” I started to feel a bit like a guide dog!

Despite the crazy conditions, this run was still so much fun. The course winds around through the trails so much that you can look around and see the headlamps of other runners bobbing all around you, even though they’re on a completely different part of the trail. Runners chatted and encouraged each other throughout the whole run. It’s like a team wind-up for the running season and everyone’s just out to have a good time.

We finished the first 5K loop and found a line of volunteers blocking the beginning of the second loop. “10K is cancelled! It’s too icy!” No kidding. Once we all stopped running it became obvious that the weather had worsened considerably while we were running. Ice pellets landed in my hot chocolate, splashing it up the sides of the cup. Runners quickly gulped down chicken soup, hot dogs, chips, candy, hot chocolate and gourmet cupcakes (see? Finish line feast!), thanked the volunteers profusely, and discussed strategies for making it back to the city. The girls I knew finished with big grins and exclaimed “that was insane!” They didn’t seem too disappointed that their first 10K would have to wait.

Here is a video another runner made about Day Of The Dead 2012!

I scraped the ice off my windshield, then set out with my new tires and 4WD and was thankful for both. By the time I got to the highway my windshield wipers had completely iced up and were basically useless. I stopped and tried to clean them off, but it was pointless. I scraped my windshield again and turned onto the highway. Thankfully it was a divided highway, so we had an extra lane to use. Small cars in the right lane were driving 60 km/hr, but I was able to join the trucks in the passing lane who were able to go about 80. An RCMP cruiser with its lights on was stopping all the semis and there was quite the line-up of them pulled over on the shoulder. Everyone was driving carefully (there’s a first time for everything!), and I got back to the city without seeing a single accident or vehicle in the ditch. I pulled off the road again at the edge of the city to scrape my windshield again then made my way carefully across the city to my parents’ place. The rain was slowly changing to snow which would make driving conditions even worse – ice covered in snow is very slippery! 6-8 inches of snow fell overnight and the city slowed to a snail’s pace. The kids and I stayed put until late morning then safely made it to swimming lessons and home!

Day Of The Dead 2012 is one for the record books, and will be one we talk about for a while. I know at the 2013 start line there will be many stories told. “Remember last year?!”

Gotta run.

Have you ever run a night trail race? Tell me your Blackstrap Day Of The Dead story if you were there!