I'm never one to miss an inaugural run, especially one of such epic proportions as this one, which replaces the long-running Shawnigan Lake Half Marathon. Our plan was to arrive on Sunday morning in enough time to do an early start for the half marathon at 10:30.  I had the instructions in hand on Saturday night, and feverishly studied and memorized. I awoke Sunday morning and uttered, "I'm not going."  "Okay," muttered better half.  Think again; it was half an hour later and I was sitting bolt upright, eyes wide open and there was no way I was going to miss an event with the motto Run Now, Wine Later.  "Do you have the directions?" uttered better half.  "I memorized them," I said.  Okay, so we set out... and the rain came.  It had been raining buckets all night and, earlier that morning, at approximately 4am, there had been a massive amount of loud bangs. I thought they were gunshots, but turns out they were just thunder, and the storm was lingering.  Well, up and over the Malahat we soared and the directions were pulled out of the Murse (man purse) and studied again. 

Approaching Duncan slowly, we were so sure that since it was called the Cowichan Autumn Classic it was going to be near Cowichan Lake (this is where assumption was our undoing) -- so we were looking for a Super 8 Hotel way past Duncan.  We arrived in Chemainus at approximately 10:00am and then my heart sunk as I knew the half marathon was out the window for me.  We promptly turned around, found the GPS utterly useless as it didn't know Allenby Rd, and then kept eyes peeled for a Super 8 Hotel. 

"Ah, there it is," I said, and swung a sharp right on Allenby across from the Super 8 Hotel - exactly like the instructions said. Then we found Indian Road and turned again by a very quaint house with miniature cars and trucks dotted all over it.  I was starting to be in a better mood, but as 10:30am approached and we had just arrived, the early start for the half marathon was not in the cards for me.  I ran in, giving instructions to the kindly marshal to please look after my friend as he parks his car (said car is now dubbed "Precious 2" as yours truly purchased a new vehicle for a retirement present which is called "Precious 1").  There was the 10K table and yes they would take my registration.  I apologized profusely exclaiming we'd traveled to Chemainus.  "That's okay," they said. "Would you like to participate in the wine tasting?" the form asked, so I check "yes," wondering if we could just forgo the run and start the wine tasting now as I'd felt I'd had enough of a journey.  Also, the honking bottle of water I'd slugged while traveling with the "memorized" instructions in my brain had now caught up to the kidneys and, oh well, there were only six people ahead of me in the washroom lineup.

Business dealt with, I walked out of the washroom calmly looking at my watch.  22 minutes to 11:00, 8 minutes to start time.  I walked outside and everyone was gone -- ARGH!  I started to run -- "Where are the 10kers?" I asked. "They left 5 minutes early."  I sighed.  "Go!  You'll catch up," they said. At that point I was glad there was no early wine tasting.  I sprinted with all my might to catch the 10Kers, and consoled myself that the people around me all looked a lot younger so I might, if I keep sprinting, be in the cards for an age-category prize as I heard the 10K was not as populated as the half marathon.  I am constantly strategizing in hopes of being on the podium. The 2K marker came quite quickly and then we hit the trail. Well, I'd chosen the wrong shoes to wear.  I was not anticipating a trail 10K and had donned my brand new wide-fitting Brooks - Ghost 7 road shoe from Frontrunners.  So far in the etiquette department, I'd failed on two points.  Showing up late for registration and not being able to find my ID when asked.  And now, it looks like my shoe selection leaves a bit to be desired.  I'm now starting to hobble and the sprint is not so sprinty.  We arrive at the trestle which is very scenic and the rushing water is spectacular, but we're not here to take pictures, we're here to hopefully get a ribbon.  WOW, I'm really excited as it looks like absolutely everyone around me is way younger.  "Just keep one foot in front of the other..." I say to myself.  Finally we reach a turnaround point and a lovely witch casts a spell on us for good luck. "Awesome," I think.  We plunder on, along a very woodsy and very nice trail.  I it found most irritating in the original Shawnigan Half that the road tilted and, to compensate, one's ankles also tilted, making it very hard to master the one foot in front of the other.  This lovely and picturesque run has a very flat road, so no twisted ankles.  But I thought too soon, as just after the 8K marker, there is a mountain of a hill, quite similar to Gonzales Hill in Victoria if you've ever run or biked up that hill.  Then a very nicely dressed up -- I'll call him Black Death -- complete with hooded face and blackened fingers points us in the direction of the finish line with a helpful "Up and around the corner and straight down the road you will come to the finish."  The finish was a nice downhill, so with a certain amount of restraint I was able to refrain from doing a face plant and then headed for the whine (wine).

Lovely souvenir glasses were handed out at the finish, filled with a sample of our choice of red, white or rosé.  Back at Glenora Hall, there were three marvelous chilies to choose from along with buns and coffee, while outside on the deck was a selection of fruit and cookies.  The volunteers were all wearing a lovely gold technical shirt which is rumoured to be in the budget for next year for all the participants.  The awards and draw prizes for the 10K and half marathon were not long to wait for at all, starting at 12:45 pm.  There were also very nice bands along the route, cheering us on with very melodious tunes.  The race organizer told us the Cowichan Autumn Classic 2014 had replaced the Shawnigan Lake Half Marathon as in the interest of safety the race organizers felt it was too dangerous.  Shawnigan Lake has grown to be the most densely populated unincorporated community in BC, and this of course brings traffic and the possibility of accidents.  It was a wise decision to move it.  As far as awards go, I guess I really do have lofty dreams, as my category was female 40-59, and I placed 38 out of 71.  The next age category was F60-74, so I will not give up this dream. There is also a 75-99 category.  I'm not to sure what happens to you when you reach 100.  Rounding out the five age categories are 01-19 and 20-39. The awards are to the top 3 in each category. 

To show the toughness of this 10K course, Richard Light was first place in 37 minutes flat, Angus Brown 2nd, in 39:54 and Michael Lord 3rd in 40:13.  The top 3 in the half marathon were Logan Roots in 1:14:46, Claire Morgan in 1:24:32, and Gary Duncan in 1:26:24.  The complimentary wine tasting was very classy with the champagne being offered first - a lovely brut - then a selection of whites and reds. The Merlot was on sale for $12.95 -- very reasonable indeed.  As we had another function to attend, we couldn't stay and cheer on the other half marathon finishers, but hoped they had a chance to try the lovely wines and maybe make a purchase or two.

IMG 20141029 112704 (Claire's first-place medal and finisher's medal)

Happy trails everyone, and CHEERS!

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