I may or may not have mentioned that one of the guys (Nick Lees) driving our support van flew 5000km just to drive a support van for the Cabot Trail Relay Team (Alberta Energized) he also happens to be a journalist, who likes to tell stories. Here is his take on the Cabot Trail Relay and his experience. I’d like to say, on the record, that Nick loved every minute and I guarantee he will be back next year if only for the following: Yacht Club & lobster. Thanks a million to Nick, for driving the van around the winding Cabot Trail and dealing with a LOT of crazy runners.
“Baddeck, NS — It was 9:15 p.m. and my buddy Dave Velting and I were wondering if we could perform a miracle by quenching the thirst of 70 runners in the Cabot Trail Relay Race. We had two small bottles of water.
Snow mixed with icy rain fell as we munched lobster burgers outside Mount Pleasant View Restaurant on the May 23-24 weekend, and considered our position at the end of Stage 9 in the rugged Cape Breton Highlands.
“It could get it worse,” said Velting, a Suncor operations manager and an old marathon-running friend.
He’d invited me to drive a support vehicle for Team Alberta Energized, whose members nearly all had one thing in common. They had grown up in Baddeck (pop. 853) and loved to return to the shire’s county service town where the race begins and ends.
“In recent years, some 200 people have left Baddeck to work in Fort McMurray,” Marvin Cook, a Fort McMurray Suncor reclamation manager, had told me earlier.
How could our water plight get worse? “There’s now no cellphone coverage,” said Velting. “We can’t contact the mother ship (our other van) to pick up water supplies.”
We’d been told to the represent our team and organize a water station by 11:30 p.m., on Stage 11 in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia.
But we only had a 500 mL bottle of water each as we set off up Leg 10, on a road that climbed nearly 396 metres (1,300 feet) over 6.2 kilometres. It was arguably the toughest of 17 legs on the 276-km race.
We were looking for Cook’s van, but the first moving object we spotted through thick, low-lying cloud was our captain, Kat Macaulay. She was comfortably in last place and breathing easily.
“All who run this stage get a local placemat at the awards banquet,” said Velting. “It’s quite a trophy. But you can buy one for about $4 at Canadian Tire.”
There was no sign of Cook and we considered our options. We didn’t have any.
The next leg of the race was minutes away from starting at 11 p.m. and our runner on the leg, Meredith McNeil, was in Cook’s van.
Runners start at a given time and don’t wait for a baton changeover. If your runner doesn’t make the cut-off, your team is handed a five-minute time penalty.
Runners were warming up on the road when we spotted Cook’s concerned face in the crowd.
“Meredith is here,” he said. “We left Kat on the road. Grab the water from my van about a kilometre down the road and set up our water station as fast as you can.”
The race never spreads out and cars move between stages in a convoy about three kilometres long. It seemed ironic to be travelling bumper-to-bumper in pitch darkness along some of the best seaside country in the world.
We drove like bandits in a getaway car to look for a good spot to hand runners their Adam’s ale.
There wasn’t one. None of the 1,200 runners in the race would vote us the best water station. Other water crews, formed by runners from Maine, Ontario, PEI, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Quebec, had, in the middle of nowhere, dressed up as pirates, leprechauns and other characters.