Frontenac Provincial Park is a trail running paradise (I think I start every blog about Frontenac that way). We do most of our long runs in the park and have covered every trail countless times.
Once or twice a year, I like to get out and do the entire perimeter of the park. The true perimeter starts at the Trail Office, continues along the Corridor Trail, then turns right on the Rideau Trail out to Slide Lake loop, then completes the east, north and western tips of the park. It’s just a beautiful loop, but quite challenging and a good benchmark of fitness.
John McAlister had contacted me about running it together sometime and we decided we’d do a long run together on November 17 with the potential to run the entire perimeter if we felt good and the conditions allowed.
I got a last minute email from Keith that he now had the day off work, but unfortunately he didn’t get the message back until after we’d left and couldn’t join us.
Truthfully, we hadn’t really planned on running a fast time on the loop. Our goal was to just get out for a long run, enjoy the trails and show John the section of the park that he’d never seen before.
We didn’t get away quite as early as planned. The potential for finishing after dark ensured that we packed headlamps, just in case. The weather was ideal, with it being right around 0C. Perfect running weather. We dressed light and were on our way before 9am.
It wasn’t long once we got going that I realized the trails were in the best shape of any time I’ve run on them. They had been heavily used by foot traffic during the annual Frontenac Challenge which packed down the fallen leaves nicely and prevented us from tripping over hidden rocks and roots. Also, the tall weeds that made negotiating trails in the summer difficult had died down or been trampled. Park staff and volunteers had also done a great job of clearing away blowdowns on the trails too.
I knew that we were moving fairly well after the first few hours as we were further along the trail compared to the last time Keith and I ran it together. John asked me after about 3.5 hours if we were halfway through the loop yet, and while I didn’t know exact splits, I was sure we were well over halfway.
We were talking a lot so must have scared most of the wildlife away as we only saw one deer, but hit the jackpot when we saw a Great Snowy Owl. This was a real treat to see such an incredible bird. Seeing it sitting on the high point of Mink Lake Lookout, then the wingspan when it took off was truly a highlight of the run for me.
The run itself otherwise was fairly uneventful. John took a spectacular fall at one point, which was karma from the three nasty falls I took and was given a hard time over the last time we ran together. I was able to stay on my feet with only a few minor ankle rolls.
I ran with a hydration pack and John ran even lighter with two handheld bottles, but treated water with his Steripen a couple of times from the many lakes in the park.
Once we arrived at campsite #11 to fill up water, I knew that we had a solid time going. It was right around this time that the snow starting blowing hard off of Birch Lake. The first snowfall of the year is always a special sight and this somehow seemed fitting for this point in the run when we were beginning to tire.
When we approached the north-east tip of Arkon Loop at around 5 hours, I mentioned to John that we could run a new fastest known time (FKT) on the loop as long as we just kept it together at a solid pace. We were both very surprised with this as we didn’t feel like we were hammering the loop, but just running a good, even paced effort throughout.
We arrived back to the Trail Office and were pleased to see that we had dipped under 6 hours in a total trail time of 5:53:50. This was about 20 minutes faster than Keith and I ran it a couple of years ago. The main difference with this run was that even though the trails are very technical (lots of rocks and roots), they were in the best possible shape they could be on the day. The cool temperatures also helped as we didn’t have to hydrate as much and waste time treating water like Keith and I did in the summer (we also ran out of water that day as the batteries in my Steripen died with a few hours to go). Our pace was also steady the whole time with no highs or lows, or physical issues for either of us on the day.
Until yesterday, I never thought that November would be a good time to run the perimeter, but I have since changed my mind and would definitely recommend this as a perfect time.
Thanks again for the run John, and sorry you couldn’t make it out Keith.
Location: Frontenac Provincial Park, Sydenham, ON Canada
Date Completed: November 17, 2011
Fastest Known Time set by: John McAlister and Derrick Spafford (previous FKT set by Keith Iskiw and Derrick Spafford on June 19, 2009)
Start/Finish: Park Office
Conditions: 0C, dry conditions, Snowing at north end
Elevation change: +2,904 feet gain
Comments/Exceptions: This route did not include Doe Lake or Arab Lake Gorge loop as it is not part of the perimeter. The route used was the true perimeter and included the full outside of Slide Lake Loop (not the Great Rock side trail option).