Camp Saturdays – Cabot Trail Relay


Team Camp Saturdays at the beginning of the Cabot Trail Relay. Special thanks to team organizers, Pretty Mudhar and Jenny McConnell. Photo by Fred Goris. 

This blog post is a slight departure from my usual posts, as it’s not meant to necessarily appeal to the general blog reading population. Moreso, it’s meant to give a summary of some (and hopefully in the months to come all) of the legs of the Cabot Trail Relay.

A few weeks ago, I ran the Cabot Trail Relay with a group of really amazing, strong women from Toronto (see the #CampSaturdays and #RelayCollective hashtags on Insta). While training, a lot of us found it difficult to find information on our particular legs. Sooo… in response, I asked the women on my team to each send a little description of the part of the trail they ran. I’ve had a few submissions so far, but am hoping that the list will grow as I have a chance to check in with people in the weeks/months to come. Below, please find a little summary of each leg, as written by the lady who ran it.

Here goes.

Leg 1 – Altaira Northe

My leg! I felt really lucky to be kicking off the start of the Relay, and also be racing at a pretty normal time of day for racing. The energy around the starting line is great, and it was really nice to be able to get sent off by my entire team. Leg 1 starts at 7 am, the temperature was cool, but not cold, and it wasn’t until the end of my leg that the bugs started to come out. I hadn’t been to Nova Scotia before, and I don’t really know how to imagine the real life hills that I see in elevation maps, so I didn’t know what to expect from the hills in this leg. They were not as bad as I had imagined. Yes, there were lots of rolling hills, they weren’t tiny, but they also weren’t HUGE. There was one very long steady hill partway through the course, but there was also a lot of pretty gentle downhill. A few notes just for me personally – I was using a watch for the first time, and hadn’t made sure that it showed total distance, which would have been really helpful. I also feel like I could have pushed harder at the end if I’d made a mental note of roughly where the last few hills fell along the course. The course ends along a long steady downhill curve heading into a bridge before a tiny upslope, sending you into a small church parking lot to finish.

All in all, this leg was difficult, but not horrendous. This could also be because for me personally, running in nature makes everything seem more enjoyable and more chill (when compared to city racing). By the end, I wish that I’d pushed harder, but all in all, great experience.

Another aside – I brought clothes to change into right after my leg, but wish that I’d actually brought a third set to change into after being on the road for another 12 hours.

Leg 7 – Carissa Gregorio

Leg #7 is described as 13.1k of rolling hills with a 90m steady incline over 8km and rated 3/5. At the time of the race, I was running against the cold wind with overcast skies. Besides the wind, it was ideal weather for the steady climb as it kept me cool.  The leg did involve rolling hills, and it seemed I reached the peak of that hill just before 6km and had about a 4km downhill. The views at the top of the hill and then going downhill were amazing. There were two unexpected (steep) hills during the last few kilometres, at about 10km and another one just before the finish line. The most challenging aspect was the long (fast) downhill and being able to readjust to going uphill again and keeping the pace. Regardless of the leg, running the Cabot Trail was unforgettable, the quiet and the sounds of the trees and the breathtaking views were all worth it.

Leg 9 – Steph Kelley

Leg 9 has been described by others as “career ending”, “makes Smokey Mountain look small”, and “the hardest race of your life.” I would describe it simply as tough and rewarding. Yes, it will likely be the longest and steepest hill you’ve ever run in your life; measuring 6.2km uphill on the official Leg Map. Yes, your legs and lungs will burn – a lot; but remember, not everyone gets the privilege of running one of the hardest legs in the entire race. So we’re clear – it’s hard, but let’s get into some more specifics so you know what to expect. The first 2 kms are actually pretty flat (contrary to the leg description which say it’s 6.2 km uphill from the start); this was a nice surprise for me as I was expecting to be on the pain train from the start line. I used this first section to shake out the legs and get into racing mentality. The next 4 km takes you on the infamous climb up North Mountain; it starts steep and only gets steeper as you climb up over 380m. This is where the practice comes in – if you do one thing before the race make sure you get both anaerobic and aerobic hill training in, you’ll need both. At 6 km you reach the top of the mountain, on this particular day we actually ran through the clouds at the top which provided a hauntingly beautiful backdrop. There are a few rollers but the 3 km across the top feels extremely flat; I used it to shake out my legs, regain my breathe, and mentally prepare for the second half of the race. At 9 km you start the descent (into the sunset!); the road takes you 3 km straight down to the bottom of the valley. My personal goal here was to maintain a consistent fast pace down without burning out before the remaining 5 km of the race. It’s extremely tough on the joints but it’s a nice change from the uphill section only a few minutes before. By the time you reach the bottom of the mountain dusk has fallen and the reflective vests start doing their work. There’s still another 5 km of the race left; a few rolling hills and a whole lot of grit. The last km provides one last challenge with a small climb to the finish line where you cross from the left side of the road to finish on the right at the Mountain View Restaurant. I was ecstatic at this point to finish 4 minutes ahead of my scheduled time (thanks to some spicy kms on the downhill) at 1hr 26 mins, granting me a third place female finish. My career did not end (contrary to some other descriptions), but it was probably the most challenging race I’ve run to date – but by far the most rewarding.

Leg 15 – Amy Chen

Leg 15 is a fairly easy one, and not too long in total 15.43km (I mean, compared to other legs, like leg 4, leg 9). But it’s not easy to run (at least for me).

I am a person who prefers rolling hills, up and down, because I usually recover super fast. Leg 15 is a relatively steady, but gradual uphill. That being said, I didn’t do a great job to be honest, even though I pushed myself the hardest I could. My pace was 5’50’ and my goal was 5’35”, so far from my goal.

The leg starts from 5:40am, when the mountain is jut waking up – not too hot, not too cold. Everything looks lovely during the early morning golden hour.

The first 6km was relatively flat with some small inclines, and for each short incline, you have a shorter decline, which is good. The scenery was really great, really peaceful, green, lots fields, and pretty quiet.  After that, the course goes up-flat-up-flat until the end.



Two cities. Two loves.

Two and a half years ago, I needed a change. I was tired of the story that I was telling about myself, and I needed to be challenged. I needed to grow. I uprooted my life in Vancouver, and without having ever been here, I moved to Toronto.

And I got what I was looking for. It’s really hard to convey how much things have changed for me since coming here.

In the past two and half years, I’ve taken over running a successful lecture series on creativity, left a job that I hated, and finally shifted sectors after years of waning, found the general direction I want to take with my life, rediscovered the real core of my athleticism, let go of family, solidified bonds with new family, started writing regularly again, and started a writing workshop series. It’s been a good couple of years. I love Toronto.

But here’s the thing – when I am here in Toronto, I miss Vancouver. The feeling of longing for the ocean, and the mountains, and cool clean forest air is buried deep in my bones. In moments of meditation, when I close my eyes, I am running down a soft wooded trail, trees overhead, making my way to the sea. My friends in Vancouver are old friends. They are the friends who know every one of my flaws; who have seen me at my very worst and most distressed; they are the friends who have become my family; they are the friends who are home. The love that I feel in Vancouver is a calm and comforting love. It eases me, and makes me feel safe and whole.

And then there’s Toronto. Still new. And honestly, I still feel pretty lonely here much of the time. I take a long time to feel comfortable in my skin with new people, and so most of my relationships here still feel like early days. That being said, Toronto has shown me a new love. Maybe it’s that sometimes you need to see yourself, or others need to see you, with new eyes to see your true potential. The communities that I have become a part of have pulled something out of me that I didn’t know was there. They’ve made me feel a lot more certain of my own capabilities; more sure of myself; stronger. In Toronto, I have met some of the most incredible women who I have ever known, who continuously inspire me to strive to be better. Not just in big ways, but in the small ways that I carry myself in daily life.

Two cities. Two loves. Two homes.

Can teleportation be a thing already?