Love or hate, elevation is part of racing. For some runners, they rave about elevation on a race course on roads or trails. But the Not Since Moses 10K/5K showcases an overlooked feature…the lowest point on earth for a race. This unique course is on the seafloor in The Minas Basin and is part of the Bay of Fundy that has measured tides at 11.7 metres (38.4 feet) high. The high tide activity is a product of the gravitational pull of the moon.
The moon was full six days prior to this summer’s race and combined with the funnel-shaped topography of the Five Island area contributes to the high tide activity. The forming of Five Island according to Mi’kmaq culture comes from a Kluskap trying to drive away the Giant Beaver and throwing five great sods of mud into the bay. Those clumps of mud formed the Five Islands known as Moose, Diamond, Long Egg and Pinnacle along the coast. Further discovery of knappable stone found in the basalt that was used to make tools such as axes, spear points and knives, ties the area to the Mi’kmaq.
I was eagerly looking forward to this race as there were some very unique features to behold. Being a point-to-point race, both 10K and 5K participants are bussed out to their respective start lines, the 10K at Soley’s Cove and 5K at Five Island Lighthouse Park and run back to Five Islands. Participants of the 10K event are warned they must be able to finish the 10K distance on a normal road surface in 1 hour 15 minutes. The ocean floor conditions also include a lot of mud with the course running along the coast, and around an endangered species (mud piddocks) habitat before the finish line. The Five Island Volunteer Fire Brigade waits for participants at the finish with equipment to wash off the mud (et al). It is advised that soon-to-be-discarded-shoes be worn for this race.
I registered for the race and planned it as part of our family vacation. Our family of four, plus my mother-in-law, sister and brother-in-law, were all excited to witness this adventure. My brother-in-law had heard about this event that started in 2007. Plus, it was announced that world renown celebrity chef Alain Bossé, a.k.a. The Kilted Chef was going to be handing out wild blueberry spritzers at the finish (Nova Scotia’s provincial berry)!
We arrived on Friday in Truro, Nova Scotia, about an hour drive from Halifax, around 1pm. As we were all hungry, we found The Nook and Cranny Brew Pub that featured local craft beers and food.
Not far from The Nook and Cranny Brew Pub is a woodland valley gorge that has a 175-step staircase called Jacob’s Ladder and a waterfall in Victoria Park. We weren’t sure if it would be accessible due to the floods two weeks earlier, but it was open and we walked the 3000 acres of parkland. Unfortunately, there were a few staircases that were damaged during the flood, but the waterfall was a popular watering hole and provided a way to cool off under the falls.
Admittedly, I was late in booking accommodations, and the event did provide a list of places to stay or camp, but all were either fully booked or wanted at least two nights stay. As internet algorithms will have it their way, ads for dorms at Dalhousie Agricultural University had dorms popped up on my screen. At $62/night for a double room, it did the trick for a night’s stay. Side note: my kids were thrilled to be staying in residence and were convinced this was the real university experience. (Check back with me in a few years to see if they still feel the same way).
As outdoor events go, suffice to say, the race organizers were tracking the weather. By late afternoon Saturday, a weather alert was posted on their social media platforms, stating they are monitoring the weather and will inform everyone of the status as early as possible on event day. Given the location of the event, it’s almost a given that all participants were from aways. By 1am on Saturday, Executive Director Sherri Robbins considered pulling the plug on the event, but gave it more time in hopes the weather would change.
At 4am the next morning, the rain had been constant throughout the night and the sky looked dark and ominous. And although the wind gusts were forecast to include 35K/hour winds, I still dressed in anticipation to race, mentally bracing myself for the inclement weather, but had mixed emotions about my family attending and waiting in those conditions. They, however, were keen as mustard and everybody was up and preparing for the outdoor conditions.
We went in-search of a 24-hour Tim Hortons and by 6:15am, the organisers called off the race in an email. Environment Canada called for severe thunderstorms for the Colchester area with up to 50 millimetres of rainfall some areas. Given the storms two weeks prior and damage the fires and flood had on existing infrastructure, such as bridges, deciding to cancel the race was the responsible decision. I was thankful of the organiser’s diligent and constant communication updates, as I also had an additional family from 2 hours away coming to the race, and was able to get in contact with them just as they were about to make the trip.
What I learned from Sherri Robbins, Executive Director of Blue Nose Marathon, and the organisation that took over the Not Since Moses Race from founder Dick Lemon, was the safety for participants and volunteers was tantamount. In wet conditions, being out on the ocean floor and also the start and finish areas, did not have a fixed structure to offer shelter. Participants were to take one of four shuttle buses to the start from 7am, meaning people would have been waiting out in the rain until the 9:30am start. Moreover, the tear-down of the course means volunteers would be out for another 2 hours after participants cross the finish line.
The course was marked with 22 rebars which is NOT ideal to be near in looming thunderstorm conditions. Moreover, the conditions were so tumultuous that the rebars that were laid out on Friday, weren’t collected until Sunday under better weather conditions.
And lastly, and this detail is the final extraordinary feature of the race, Robbins could not bring herself to ask from the Five Island Fire Department, again due to asking people to endure severe weather conditions, to station a boat and crew on the course/water. It would have meant launching the boat at high tide (6am) and it would have stayed out of the course, then turned ocean until noon.
The uniqueness of this location also dictated any possibility of a rain date in 2023, as the date is tied to the timing of the tides, one of the fantastic features about this area. Instead of refunds, participants have a choice to use credit towards any of the upcoming Blue Nose Races that includes the 2024 Not Since Moses event. Medals were also sent out to all participants in a timely manner. The 2024 date has been set for August 24, 2024, and iRun will wait with baited breath to once again have the opportunity to be chased by the tides! Until then, we chased waves on surfboards at one of the many beaches Nova Scotia has to offer.