Rivers edge ultra 50 miler -just because it isn’t in the mountains doesn’t mean it’s flat

Shortly after my disappointing end to Blackspur 108 I decided to add one more longer race to my season. I eyed up a few different races but this one was close to home, filled with friends, fees go to charity and in previous years I was unavailable on the REU (rivers edge ultra) weekend. Usually at another race out of town/ province. So this was finally my year to run it. I admittedly waited until I saw how my body was healing from the last race and what the weather forecast would be. Last year there was a full on blizzard during the race and all distances were shortened for safety reasons. This year the long ranged showed sun, warm temps (18-21c) and my body was feeling pretty decent after my attempt at the Sinister triple so I pulled the trigger and signed up for my first 50 miler. Full disclosure if you have read any of my previous blog posts you know I have run more than 50 miles in races before but I had never run a 50 mile race until Saturday.

The morning started early like I mean people are still out getting drunk calling it a Friday night, but it was our Saturday morning. I was able to get to sleep fairly early and was sawing Z‘s by 9 PM. But by midnight my tiny bladder had woken me up. I returned to bed only a moment later but was not able to fall asleep again. I laid there from midnight till 2:20am when Mike shook me awake to ask me what time I needed to get up at. I grumbled my alarm is set for 3, thanks for the early reminder. I wasn’t asleep anyway so it’s not as though I was mad at him for waking me early, which would normally be the case. Don’t wake me unless the house is burning down.

I laid there another 20 minutes and then decided I should just get up at 2:46 AM. I quietly made my way to the kitchen trying not to wake the sleeping members of my family who would not arise for many more hours. In fact I had run about 20 to 30 km before most of them would be awake that morning.

3:45am Coral arrives to pick me up. We load our bins, lawn chairs and various other items into her car. We are off headed to REU and a full day of adventures.

We arrive at the staging area for the race and unloaded all of our gear. I headed to package pick up and was surprised to find out that I was still able to get a choice of swag items. I love hats so this distressed trucker hat was a no brainer. Proudly displaying the distance. I think it was only available for the 80 & 100km distances.

At 4:57am we all gathered around the start and had the shortest race briefing ever. It went something like. Good morning, thanks for coming, there’s been a bit of course tampering, don’t worry you’ll be fine. Now get the fuck out of here!! And off we went, into the dark early morning crisp air.

Loop 1 9km (done 1x) the summit loop

We started out in the dark guided by reflective flags, our headlamps and the runner in front’s footsteps. We wound ourselves around a big field and then another. I happily chatted away with my buddy Shane about our latest adventures since we’d last seen one another, including his recent 200km finish at Lost Souls. It was all fun and games in the dark until I tripped on presumably nothing and completely ninja rolled into the tall grass, popped back up and kept going like nothing had happened. Luckily I was okay and I quickly finished loop 1 in just over an hour.

Loop 2 19km (x2) homestead loop

Just after I came into the communal transition tent my buddy Moe popped into the tent as well. Moe was running the 50 miler as well. I asked if he was going back out quickly and he said he was ready to go so we headed out together, starting the first of the Homestead loops. I was familiar with this loop as I had done it in pre-runs over the last three years, so I knew what to expect. I had estimated three hours for each of these loops and that is pretty much what it took.

The Homestead Loop winds you through forests and several barbed wire gate crossings. You could tell were each gate Crossing was meant to be because there were plastic coverings over the Barbwire so you could pull the strands apart and safely get through without cutting yourself on the barbs. About 8km into the loop you reach the Wallace residence. This is the race directors home. Here you will find a bathroom and of course tables of food and drink setup outside. with friendly volunteers to help you with anything you need. Inside you’ll find Mrs. Wallace (Debbie) cooking up a storm. She made most( if not all) of the food for the runners from meatballs, to power balls and sandwiches in baggies packed up to take on course with us. This sweet woman cooked all day, taking care of us on HER 65th BIRTHDAY!! Thanks again Debbie for all the support you give Bryan and us runners.

After a quick stop at the Wallace place it was back out on course to finish the last 11km of the loop. Moe and I ran along through fields of tall grass astonished at how much of the course so far had been runnable terrain. The last 3-4km of this loop are my favourite part. you are back in forested area along the river bank. I was looking forward to this point all morning. You pop out of the trees and there is a beautiful view of the river. as you descend down a steep hill only to IMMEDIATELY turn and head straight back up the hill only a foot to the left. I always think ‘why didn’t they just make the trail through the brush at the top of the hill?’ But I guess it wouldn’t be as memorable then, would it? After the steep climb back up you head into a winding section that is pretty much never flat. You are either going up or going down, if fact this area of the course boosts 3 rope sections to help you get down or up the steep parts. At this point I was mostly hiking this section but somehow still managed to roll my ankle as I ran down a quick descent. After a few swears and a walk break I was okay. In fact I even started to pull away from Moe as I was leading and didn’t realize he was falling back. I made it back to transition to a host of cheers.

Second Homestead loop 19km

The second time around was very much the same as the first. Moe had caught up again in transition and headed out with me onto our third leg of the race another 19 km loop of Homestead. This time we knew what we were doing because we had just done it. By now the 80 K relay teams had started their race and we were starting to see some relay runners out on this leg. Which added some fresh energy and some more friendly faces. I saw One of my clients Christina out there crushing the relay. Always nice to see her at races.

Moe and I ran along picking up another couple of relays. After the aid station Moe was a couple minutes behind because he wouldn’t stop eating at the Wallace place lol so I ran along with Joanne and Chris while waiting for him to catch up.

We were all together and then all of a sudden only Chris was running with me. He and I ran the second half of the leg together chatting about races we’d done before and family life outside of running. I love making new friends on course and this race that was Chris.

We reached transition just as Coral was also coming in. What luck there was my awesome 100k buddy coming in too. Chris give me a high five as he passed off to his friend that was doing the next leg of the relay.

Loop 3 20km Westridge loop

Westridge is 10km out towards the Devon bridge and 10km back. We had just run 2 19km loops so a 20km loop shouldn’t be any harder right?? Wrong!!! This out and back takes you backwards through the never flat trails you’ve just done twice. It’s here where I run into Coral again who’s also on the same loop now. In this direction it seems like it’s all uphill but finally we reach the cliff with the unnecessary steep downhill on the previous loop but you keep going past the chain link fence this time all the way to the bottom where you finally find the flat section on this course. It’s a beautiful single track run along the river valley. After a couple kilometres you come under the Devon bridge and there is your only other aid station on this course. This was a wonderful sight to see. We found a couple of fantastic volunteers dressed as pickles and were very helpful filling water and chopping up delicious watermelon, of which I ate several slices as I hiked up to the multi-use trails that are open to the public. At this point I’d lost Coral as she pushed ahead. Through this section we follow the double wide trail. as there is almost no flagging in this area but a steady stream of 50km runners are now filling the trail so it’s easily notable where to go. I reached the end of the multi- use trail and head right into the single track bush again. Flagging is still minimal but every now and then a runner would come back at you so you’d know you were on the right track. I finally reached a sign that said ‘50k turnaround’ I questioned if it should have said 50 milers too?? But it didn’t so I kept going knowing at one point I would see Coral coming back at me and know I wasn’t too far from the turnaround. However that never happened. I did however after several minutes see a runner come back and asked her if the turnaround was ahead she said it is but still a loooooooong ways away. I tried to put my best foot forward although I really just wanted to turn around and start heading back to that aid station that had the delicious watermelon. After a while I did see Coral but it wasn’t her coming back at me it was me catching up to her from the back. She was having a low point and also very pissed off at how long it was to our turnaround. We brought it up again and shared our discontentment and several swears on the trail. We ended up having another 100 K join in behind us as we climbed up this steep hill and finally reach the top popping out onto the road. We saw volunteer and we were so excited hoping she was telling us this is where we would turn around BUT NO in fact she told us we were to run a kilometer down the dirt road to a fence where we would turn around and come straight back. What a way to add insult to injury. We had gone about 2 miles past the 50 K turn around and therefore had to still go back that same 2 miles and then all the way out to the aid station. I swear that guy at the aid station said it was only at 2 km loop LOL I guess that was for the 50 K not us. Eventually after a lot more swears, a bunch of walking And a few dirty jokes. We had made it back to the aid station victorious! Until we discovered that there was no watermelon left! so we thanked the volunteers for their time and continued on to finish off the Westridge loop. On our run back under the bridge we passed two 50K runners who said how strong and amazing we looked. that was just a boost of motivation that coral and I needed to breeze along through the flat section together.

as we reach the single track along the river we know realized we had found the infamous nude beach. We counted five naked bums and a couple of other body parts that we won’t mention. Also how is it comfortable to go naked hiking? Seems like there would be way too much chafing. After all the nudity down below (no pun intended) we hiked back above the fence line to the land of the fully clothed, well partially clothed anyway. We climbed up the steep single track track that hugged the cliff and back into the ‘never flat’ section for the 3rd time in this direction 4th and final time for the day. I mentioned to Coral about this beautiful viewpoint just steps off course that I always take a second to step out and enjoy the beautiful view. In fact if you look wayyyyy out you can see the white transition tent back at the start/finish. We took a couple quick pictures and headed off to finish this never ending leg of the race. One last look from the ridge of the beautiful river valley before pushing on to finish the final mile or so of the leg. Coral and I strategized a bit about how to play out the last piece of our races. I had 1 12km loop left but she had to do it twice. I told her maybe we should split up because it would be harder for her to continue once I was done. Now this may not make sense to you unless you’ve done this race I’ll explain later. *

Loop 4 12km the island loop

A quick pit stop in transition to get fresh water and ditch my shirt. It was one of the nicest days we’d had all summer and I was pumped for the island loop. I was almost done my race I was feeling good and I couldn’t wait to do the river crossing. I lost track of Coral in transition after we’d decided to split up so I headed out alone to finish it off with one last loop. I was running along the trail and then thought I’ll get out my music and groove away the miles. I could see the trail wrap around a small pond at the bottom of the hill and another runner off in the distance. As I got closer I realized that it was Coral. I ran behind her for probably a kilometre before I finally caught up to her. I guess we were meant to run together. I’m also happy to run with my friend so I wasn’t complaining. We walked along the rocky shore for a long time. It was flat and fairly runnable but my regret was not changing my socks and shoes at all. I had felt good until the start of this loop when I had to repeatedly stop and take my shoe off and shake it out. It felt like a small rock in my shoe and it caused blisters on the bottom of my feet again. As we follow along the river sure we kept seeing ski poles with flagging on them and get wondering where our island was. As we got closer we could hear the faint bullhorn of one Brenda Shaughnessy. As we reach the cliff Brenda informed us that we smelled terrible and if we wanted to come up we would first have to go bathe in the river. so off we went to the river crossing. At this point one of the volunteers asked if we would like to leave anything that was not waterproof behind. I’m so glad he asked because I left with him my portable battery bank and watch charging cord. As we lowered ourselves into the water via long knotted muddy rope. the water was cold but refreshing on the hot day and felt great on all my sore bits.

As Coral and I started to wade out the water got deeper and deeper we joked how it was ovaries deep but in all reality it was much deeper than our ovaries. Up to mid rib cage in the middle and the current was strong. Coral and I held hands and waded our way across the cold north Saskatchewan River to an island in the middle. Once we reach the island there was a friendly volunteer who informed us we would go up a small hill and then run a 3km loop around the island to which we would find a volunteer on the backside that would give us a book page that we needed to produce once we had made it around the island. The island loop offered great contrast. The first half was on the islands edge with views of the river and other small islands but once you received the book page you were running through a dense wooded area alive with fungi and far from the sun bleached drift wood strewn beaches on the other side of the island. As we worked our way around the island I was becoming more and more aware of the time. All runners must start there last loop by 6:30pm, Coral still had one more loop to complete and time cut off was getting closer. I told her we had to hustle to get off the island. We ran what we could and motored along with what we had left. We got back to the river crossing, showed our book pages and grabbed hands to cross once again. The current seemed stronger on the way back and just as we’d almost reached the shore, I tripped on a huge rock under the water and fell in up to my shoulders. My leg cramped up and I struggled to stand up again. Once I was able to stand Coral and I got out of the water and climbed the muddy rope once more. I can’t quite remember what it was that I said but the volunteer who held my battery pack told me that I taught him a new swear haha. Now that we presumably smell better and I had iced all of the things that hurt on my body we were headed back towards the girls and the climb up to the cliff. We use the rope to climb up the steep incline make our way up to where Brenda and Angie were cheering all the runners on. After a quick chat we raced away through the field up the hill and followed the trail that skirted all around the field. We then took a left turn into the trees and ran some of the best single track in the race. A few newly chopped trees cleared the path that lead us up, down and then through a creek this one was only calf deep so it was no big deal. But the hill that immediately followed the creek was a big deal and big, steep, muddy hill. Once we had finished the climb I asked what Coral would need in transition. We determined poles for the river crossing and a headlamp for the last little bit, just in case. As we ran in the last kilometres I was thinking only of her race now and how to send her out as quickly as possible. I came in ahead of her running through the finish line right into the transition tent. My friends are wondering what’s wrong as I frantically rummage through my gear bin for my headlamp and poles for Coral. I setup the poles for her, give her a hug and she’s off with less than 20 minutes to cutoff. After Coral heads out on course it’s a waiting game. I chat with friends, get cleaned up and put on dry clothes. Regan asks me after about 20 or 30 minutes “do you want your medal now?” As he awards me with my handmade REU finishers medal that is standard for all finishers no matter the distance. I was very fortunate as well to have my first age group podium at an Ultra marathon. 3rd female age 16-39 and 4th female overall.

*I’m running 80km and Coral is running 100km. I run loop1(x1) loop 2(x2) loop3 (x1) loop 4(x1) and she runs loop 1 & 4 an extra time to make up the distance. So she’s run an extra 9km to catch me on course and then must run another 12km once I’m finished.

This was my first race over 50km WITHOUT my husband Mike crewing me. See this weekend was his 50th birthday, he had other plans and he said I should go for it but he was done for the year. I was reassured by friends that this is an easy race to be self supported and really I was never alone anyway. There was always a friend nearby and every time I was in transition I had help filling my water, putting on sunscreen and getting whatever I needed from the aid station. Thanks to Regan, Carl, Brenda, Tania, Janelle, Mike Stedall, Amber, my daughter Isabel for helping me out. Thank you everyone for cheering me on and my family who support my crazy ideas. Rivers Edge Ultra was a beautiful course with plenty of single track and gorgeous views of the river valley. The weather was perfect. The vibe was friendly and community driven. I would definitely run this race again. I’m happy that I was able to end the season on a high note and I was able to try a new race. Until next time Go forth and do Great things!!


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