Met Con takes over slopes of Blue Mountain 0
BLUE MOUNTAIN - More than 1,300 runners faced the steep slopes of the Niagara Escarpment on Saturday, competing in the inaugural Met Con Blue adventure race.
The 13 obstacles - including logs, muddy pools, and climbing ropes - would have been daunting enough, without the steep approach leading to the first obstacle as the runners started at the south end of Blue Mountain Resort, running a route that paralleled Scenic Caves Road to the top, then down a ski run.
That first stretch had many walking rather than running after tackling a series of logs that runners either had to leap over or duck under.
From there, it was two more obstacles on the way to challenge at the top of the hill: a 50-foot long muddy pool with floating logs, and encouragement - or goading - from spectators for the racers to hold their breath and duck under the logs rather than navigate over.
A few of the racers, feeling brave, braced themselves and dove under.
"Oh, my god, that was cold," said one young woman as she clambered over the muddy pile at the end of the obstacle and soldiered on toward the next challenge.
From there, it was all downhill, as the runners faced eight more obstructions before taking on the final obstacle and the finish line: a slide down a 50-foot long tarp into another muddy pool, and a crawl under razor wire before a final 50-metre dash to reach the end of the five-kilometre challenge.
"This is like nothing I've done before," said Collingwood resident Martha Whitton, who came first in her category. "I've done lots of running races, and lots of different kinds of racing, but this was totally, totally different.
"It was hard, it was fun; I was laughing, I was wincing - it was hilarious."
The first race went off at 9 a.m., with heats setting off every 30 minutes until around 3; seven-time WWE Women's Champion and fitness icon Trish Stratus, who signed on as the 'face' for the event earlier this year, got each race started.
"My mission is to get people more active," Stratus told the E-B between heats. "If I can go out there and find ways to get people together, have this group camaraderie of tackling things together, circling something on your calendar and saying 'this is my mission', I'm all for that."
The event also included a 'heroes race', featuring several Canadian soldiers wearing adaptive devices - including Collingwood's Jamie MacIntyre, who lost his foot to an improvised explosive device in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan.
A portion of the proceeds from Met Con Blue was to be donated to Soldier On, an Canadian Forces support agency that provides resources and opportunities for serving and retired Canadian Forces personnel with a permanent or chronic illness or injury to actively participate in physical, recreational or sporting activities.
"It's kind of rainy, it's kind of muddy, but you get the full army experience that way," said MacIntyre, a sergeant with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment battle group and on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was injured.
MacIntyre runs with a prosthetic made from high-performance carbon fibre - though he wasn't expecting it to give him any kind of advantage.
"I haven't done any training going up steep inclines or steep declines with this leg," he said. "It might be a bit sketchy, but we're going to see how it goes and wing it."
Making the event accessible to all - regardless of age and ability - was part of the goal of event organizers.
"We think this event is great for families, for friends - it's just a big camaraderie thing," said Stratus. "Everyone is working toward a goal, and that is the mission to finish.
"It's not about being No. 1, but about completing, and it's great when you can get out here, get active, and complete a goal."
The success of this year - with more than 1,300 participants, and more signing up on the day of the competition - has organizers now looking ahead to a 2013 event.
"We couldn't be more excited with the turnout today," said Met Con Blue's Jennifer Nichol.