The Mighty Mudcat Challenge – May 2017

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Virgil – Small town races have a completely different vibe. While the excitement of 20, 000 runners all barrelling down an avenue has its own excitement, the smaller race format and more community oriented feel at Dunnville made it a memorable race weekend.

As it was the first time Dunnville was hosting a marathon it felt like they needed to punch well above their weight to impress this city slicker. The Race Expo was a simple affair, with various vendors available and kit pickup at the end of the arena. I was a little disappointed that Race Weekend Warrior participants didn’t get a shirt for each race, as it was a lovely designed shirt. I made my way over to the Fishy 5k start and had to kill some time. Soon, the 1K Family Run was assembling around the start and it was a delight to see the kids all running with their parents; then came our turn.

After the race photographs were taken and a minor delay, the race was off to the sound of an air horn. For an ephemeral and glorious moment, I was in third place out of the gate for a good 15s. Now, running 5k’s is not my favourite length of race, as you start out full tilt and zone 5 it from start to finish. There were a lot of kids running, along with Jess in full mudcat costume, and even a fisherman complete with pole and net. It was a simple out and back, and before you knew it, it was over.

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I didn’t stick around because I was starving and wanted to go to the pasta dinner that the race organizers thoughtfully organized. Better than going to some fast food chain, or a local diner of unknown quality… The meal on offer was all you can eat carbs, carbs, carbs, salad with toppings, drink and pie. The complimentary drink ticket could be used for a beer or wine – I picked the latter, in white. We must have sat at the VIP table because Jess the mudfish, Tony the announcer and Edison the photographer were all sitting at the table. I found out that Tony was going to be the announcer at the 10k race I was going to do on Sunday as well.

Then the conversation somehow tilted to the idea of me wearing the mudfish costume for some reason. It appealed to me in a funny way, as I had never worn a costume in a race before. Unfortunately, the logistics of getting the costume over to me didn’t pan out, though I thank Sheryl the RD for sending a 4am email and taking an early morning call.

The next day, all the fears of rain were gone and we were greeted by perfect cool weather at the start line in Cayuga. After the national anthem we were off to the races again, this time I picked the half marathon to run (had to save some energy for my third race). I was wondering when the marathoners, who had started 90 minutes before us, would catch up to the half marathon group. Unbelievably, they caught us up not even 3k into the half! The race leaders blew by us like motorbikes, accompanied by their bike escort. The water stations and spectators lined the roads, while the traffic was mostly shunted off the road. Wind turbines dotted the landscape and you could see a fair distance when we crested the top of a gently sloped hill.

We were basically following the Grand River all the way southeastward. It started warming up considerably after 5k, and I was periodically wiping off sweat. Friendly spectators offered words of encouragement as we ran by. I even got a bottle of water from a race marshall driving on the road, and it was a cold bottle! After the 3:40 and 3:45 marathon pacers passed me, I had to focus back on the task at hand. Under 5k to go, we passed by the Mudcat banner strung across the road and the famous 50′ Muddy the Mudcat statue, the largest in the world, apparently. Then I dug deeper because I didn’t want the next pacer to pass me.

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At the finish line there was a large crowd, and I picked up the half medal and the Challenge medal. Wow, the half medal had a moveable fish fin, and the Challenge medal was a huge weighty anchor! It’s probably the second largest/heaviest medal I have now. Sobey’s was handing out some post-race food, and I quickly got in line for a well-deserved body massage.

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One thing about small town races is that the lineups for massages is correspondingly short! I had the wonderful Julie from Beamsville as my masseuse, who proceeded to knead away all the tension and pain I collected at the race.

Congrats to Jeffery for claiming 3rd AG in the 5k and 1st AG in the half marathon – hope that was a boost for your half IM races coming up. Also great job on Phil in getting 4th AG (missing the podium by 63s!) in the marathon. I’d like to thank Sheryl for organizing a well-executed double race day, and all the volunteers that made this race a standout success. The only suggestion that I have for the race is to have the sponges near the 10k mark of the half (31k into the marathon), so that both parties could cool down. I thought that having the sponge station with 3k to go was strange as it was too close to the end of the race (I guess it was to see the people doing the 5k and 10k). I’ll definitely be back, if only for the chance to wear the Muddy costume!

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AdamOriginally I planned to head up to the inaugural Mudcat Race weekend festivities Friday. These included the Fishy 5k, race expo and pasta dinner. Unfortunately I could not make it and that is my biggest regret of the race! Race morning began a little earlier than normal with a 4:30 am wake up. The drive from Hamilton would take almost an hour and race kit pick up started early with a 7am marathon start. Also, a kids 1km and the Riverfront 5km and 10km would also run concurrently on parts of the course that morning. Upon arrival at Lions Park I loaded onto a shuttle bus for the approximate 20 minute drive to Knights Beach. It was a relaxing ride through the town that showcased some really cool looking homes, parks and beautiful views of Lake Erie. Once at Knights Beach race kit pickup was a smooth, easy transition. It was a great touch to see a breakfast set out of bananas, oatmeal, coffee and other goodies.

Washrooms were moving and the entire atmosphere was chill and calm. The start line came together shortly before 7am. O’Canada, some race announcements. The RD expected a fraction of marathoners and I think was happily pleased to see such a turnout. A count back from 10 and all were off.

The first km twisted in and around Knights Beach before leaving the grounds and onto Lakeshore. What a beautiful view to start the marathon. I drew a breath, seized the moment and held it for the rest of the race. If anything this marathon displayed absolute rural beauty. Run mostly on backroads with some gentle rolling hills, this race fooled people into paces that would not hold up. It was deceiving for runners as the gentle hills (I say gentle as a trail enthusiast) came toward the 30km where you tend not to want to see anything going up. The last 4km I passed quite a few marathoners. People were struggling!

What blew me away were the volunteers. The Mudcat seemed to have an aid station every half hour stocked with gels, hydration, water and the nicest, warmest smiles. From the start, through Cayuga, it seemed like the Mudcat hired out a massive team of the best professional volunteers. These folks were pros! Locals cheered us on the entire way too, standing along the roads offering bottles of water and support. The whole uplifted atmosphere of the run kept me strong until about 36km. I knew I was close now and the rural road gave way to the town again. Once more crowds of locals cheered us on. The final stretch once more showcased the uniqeness of this rural marathon and layout of Dunnville. I finished in 4hrs 32 minutes which blew me away. I expected 5hrs. As a Boston qualifier you can get some good speed on the course. But it might leave you digging deep toward the end.

The best take away beyond the race experience of course is the medal, the coolest medal I have received thus far this year. From the Mudcat fish to the moving fin, just totally awesome. So cool. Although I don’t often do long distance road races, the Mudcat marathon will be on my list next year without a doubt. For its inaugural year the Mudcat pulled off a fantastic bunch of races. I wish them all the best as this race will surly grow fast, especially with RMT’s at the end waiting to work out those tight legs!

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PhilipShuttle buses took runners to the start, which were prompt and plentiful.  Once we arrived we were able to wait inside the snack bar restaurant until the official start.  There were even several pace bunnies which are usually seen only at the larger races.  The start began with a few announcements from the Race Director Sheryl then the national anthem was performed live.

The start of the race takes you along the shores of Lake Erie which was flat and scenic, luckily I found a few people that were going at my goal pace so we ran together for the first 10k.  The route was well marked and as promised scenic with minimal elevation change.  Water stations were well staffed and at every 3kms.

The next 10km the sun came out and it was getting a bit warmer but at crucial turns there were volunteers directing and cheering you on.  Roads were in great condition which made keeping pace effortless.  There were sections of dirt roads but nothing significant.

Once you cross a bridge in Cayuga you know this is the half mark and start seeing some walkers from the half marathon.  Here you get some rollers and nice country views.  The final 10km gives you several glimpses of the Grand River and some beautiful farms. 

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This course is very flat with every km marked so I’m predicting that this will be a popular course for those looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I was on pace for my goal time until the first half but had to slow down due to cramps and a previous injury. The amazing volunteers and fellow runners are what made this race so enjoyable.

I am really impressed with the organization and the support of the local community.  If you’re looking for a well organized Boston Certified course with amazing people look no further.

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JefferyThere is a legend of a monster lurking beneath the current of the Grand River.  A monster of a fish that is, which locals call “Muddy”.  She was a giant from birth and continues to grow to this day.  In spirit of the legend, organizers of the Danville Whole Health Muscat Marathon created one monster of a race.  Deep as it is wide, this race brings together distances for the masses and stiff competition for the most hardcore among us.

This is an event for everyone, one certainly the whole family can enjoy.  Organizers and volunteers came together to provide a spectacular atmosphere and excellent courses designed to be quick and scenic.  Registration took all of 5 minutes ahead of time at the Dunnville Arena race expo or could also be done on-location at all events for ultimate convenience.

The race weekend comprised of a 1k fun run for kids (on Friday), a Fishy5k (on Friday), a Mudkitten 1k (on Saturday) Riverside 5k (on Saturday), a Riverside 10k, a half marathon and marathon so you know what I mean by this being an event for everyone. The Mudcat Challenge provided extra bling for anyone who completed races on both Friday and Saturday, which the Trek and Run team surely did.  All courses are flat and fast, providing breathtaking countryside and riverside views.  Marathon and half-marathon distances required transport to the neighbouring community of Cayuga and the Lake Erie waterfront to start the point-to-point course, where all courses merged at the finish in downtown Dunnville..

So how is this event unique to the other races out there?  What is it that should pull people from beyond the county to head to Dunnville to conquer the Mudcat?  To me there are two BIG reasons.  The first is the personal touch that this event brings.  The things that can happen when a community commits and helps realize a dream.  From the live performance of our national anthem before the gun, the post race parties, to the premier sponsors, this race was run with good old fashioned town pride.  The second are the courses.  Never have I completed a half marathon distance without turning once.  It was as a ride at Disneyland which carried you from scene to scene until the finish.  At one point a deer ran across the road not 50 feet in front of me nearly causing me to soil my pants before disappearing into the brook.  I felt compelled to snap pics of the sun glistening off the river, even though I was fighting for the podium.  Not once did I have to count down the kms or look at my pace. 

At the end of the day I completed the Fishy5k in 22:43 taking 17th overall and 3rd in my age group.  I also completed the half marathon in 1:56:32 to finish 40th overall and 1st in my age group.  It is without question that I will return next year to defend my crown in the male 30-34 category and I hope that you’ll join me.  

To discover more, please see https://www.mudcatmarathon.ca/

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