It might seem strange to suggest that
a race of more than 150 participants could include
a heavy dose of on-course loneliness, but that was
exactly the case for the 2020 Turkey Gobbler in Naughton,
an event which featured athletes leaving the start
line in five different waves.
"It was a little
bit different, in that you're solitary," noted
Sudbury Fitness Challenge mainstay Donna Smrek. "We
were three friends in a row, so it became a slightly
different game out there for us, with someone to chase."
Likewise and of similar
mindset, Lo-Ellen Park Knights' senior Eran Bursey
chased down a good number of his wave co-horts, recording
the fifth fastest men's time in his distance, covering
7.5 kms in 31:57.
"Usually, you have
a big pack of runners of similar speed," said
the 16 year old veteran of the south-end cross-country
powerhouse. "There's a lot of strategy. In a
race like this, it's much more of a mental game."
"You might be three
kms in and you feel so dead, but you know that you
still have the bulk of the race left, and you're alone
for most of it."
An avid treadmill runner,
Travis Annett of Lockerby Composite might typically
find the motivation to psh forward in his Netflix
choice of the day, perhaps the Formula I series, Drive
"Just because they're
all racing, it's all fast, so it motivates me because
I'm like a race car out there, going really fast,"
he explained with a laugh. No such environment for
this race day.
"It's a lot more
weird, not being out there with people your pace,"
Annett added. "There were obviously some people
out here not going as hard as some others, just out
here trying to get some exercise and not really racing
"It's just weird
to run past those people, because you would never
really see them in the mass starts. It was pretty
lonely, by the end, with no one around."
Now on the other side
of her 50th birthday, Donna Smrek is used to running
on her own - for quite a ways, actually. "I've
been working on my distances, so trying to get a little
longer, which has slowed me down," she said.
"But with us, we're
all in that fun competitive bubble. I think we run
more for the social side. I'm not breaking any records,
but I feel stronger, taking the time to recover. I
am in that over 50 group and want to stay healthy,
just so that I can keep doing it."
"I was sneaking
into the ultra distances - 50km was the goal, but
my race (Ragnar Ontario Trail) was cancelled - but
I could see it going there. It's just the rush of
something different that drives you there. I could
see myself stretching out to 50 kms and then trying
to do it consistent - not fast, but consistent."
Beyond the lack of companionship
on the trails, the runners also shared one other takeaway
from their Sunday adventure. "I can tell you
what I don't like - all of the hills," laughed
"I'm pretty sure
(race organizer) Neil (Phipps) got us through all
of them. Somehow he managed to work in five major
climbs but only two downhills. Of course, the hills
mean that you get to the top of something, and I'm
not going fast enough that I don't appreciate the
view when I get there."
"At this time of
the year, the colours are beautiful."
Eran Bursey might have
been a tad more oblivious to the scenery, given the
speed at which it was flying by.
"This course is
tricky, because you're feeling pretty good, and then
you get to that single track section, really windy
with the huge hill," he said. "That really
Mind you, overcoming
those nasty hills is a process made much easier when
athletes take the proper approach to race day, a definite
source of pride at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School.
you really learn that it's the days before the race
that really make the difference," said Bursey.
"When you get against the good high-school competition
and everybody is training, it really is about whoever
prepares the best, getting good hydration, sleep,
nutrition, things like that."
Good news - it definitely
paid off on Sunday for Bursey. "I was four seconds
fast on my pace the whole race, so that's good,"
he said. "I was going for a 32 minutes, and I
broke that by a little bit. I was just trying to focus
on catching just one person in front of me at a time."
That sense of competitiveness
is also apparent in chatting with Travis Annett, as
the 16 year-old grade 11 athlete looks to a fall schedule
that now appears likely to include at least a few
high-school races in the mix.
"It doesn't sound
like every school will be there, but I will try and
just stick with the kids that beat me last year and
stay ahead of the guys that I beat last year,"
he said. "Really, just do the best that I can."
Where some of the athletes
arrive on the SDSSAA cross-country scene, already
armed with name recognition with the local circuit,
Annett developed moreso upon his arrival at Lockerby
"I did some running
in grade four and up, but really just to miss school
- anything to get out of school," he acknowledged
with a smile. "In the summer of grade nine, my
father started encouraging me to get out to the track
a bit, just to train for whatever sports."
"I started out my
grade nine high-school season a lot better than I
thought I would do, and then started taking it a lot
As for the Naughton Trails,
Annett was struck by much the same features as many
of his fellow runners. "It's very hilly,"
he said. "Well, I guess all of the Sudbury trails
are hilly. But this one is tricky in what I think
they call the roller-coaster section, where it's single
track and really windy."
with a lot of tight corners."
But in a year like this
one, athletes are more prepared than ever for just
about anything to come their way, right around the
Following are some results from the
2020 Turkey Gobbler:
Women's - 7.5 km distance
1st - Sara McIlraith - 35:00
2nd - Jayde Hurley - 36:27
3rd - Kalila Hamilton-Bachiu - 38:12
4th - Mia Toner - 38:58
5th - Lexi Ransom - 39:23
Men's - 7.5 km distance
1st - Kendyn Mashinter - 27:43
2nd - Eric Leishman - 28:40
3rd - Alex Lambert - 30:35
4th - Patrick Wiss - 31:37
5th - Eran Bursey - 31:57
Women's - 3 km distance
1st - Maren Kasunich - 12:04
2nd - Bree Bourget - 13:47
3rd - Mira Battaion - 15:21
4th - Ava Hodgins - 15:35
5th - Isabel McKague - 15:35
Men's - 3 km distance
1st - Callum Wiss - 13:10
2nd - Robbie Jones - 13:38
3rd - Griffin Jones - 14:06
4th - Aaron Bolton - 14:51
5th - Frank Battaion - 14:55
overall female winner
overall male winner
F UNDER 12
Isabella Mastroianni F13-19
Marlee Clement F20-29
Jess Lonsdale F30-39
Sara McIlraith F40-49 (OVERALL WINNER!!!)
Donna Smrek F50-59
Mariane Larose F60-69
Maureen Moustgaard F70-79
Julian Luoma M12&UNDER
Kaeden Ward M13-19
Nick Vanderschoor M20-29
Dan Whalen M30-39
Mike Banks M40-49
Neil Phipps M50-59 (Men's Winner)
Frank Battaion M60-69
John Larmer M70-79
CONGRATULATIONS to you all!!!