By Darren Lum
The Red Hawks this year were well-represented by 16-year-old Nick Phippen in the 50 kilometre race at the annual Haliburton Forest Trail Race where he wasn’t just the youngest competitor, but also earned a respectable placing, finishing only a few minutes out of a top ten.
Finishing 11th overall a few weeks ago and just about 84 minutes from the top finisher, Tanis Bolton, the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student, who wore a Red Hawks running kit proved he belonged in the field of 84 adults.
He reflected on his six hours, 40 minutes and 13 second performance.
“I was proud of it,” he said.
He called it the toughest and longest race he has ever completed with only a 10 kilometre road race being his previous longest. Phippen explained his decision to wear Red Hawks running kit was chosen in part because of its function, as much as it exhibited the pride he has for his school.
Phippen’s high school cross country team coach Karen Gervais said this performance will serve to inspire others.
“I feel many people stopped challenging themselves and gave up on things they were once passionate about during the pandemic. Nick’s run is hopefully a spark to reignite some motivation to continue to strive towards our potential – athletically, or otherwise. I look forward to having this kind of committed and determined leadership on the team this year. It will definitely be a building year for our team with students adjusting to being physically back in school as well as returning to extracurricular activities,” she wrote in an email. “Nick should hopefully walk away with some confidence not only in his physical endurance, but the mental stamina required to finish a race like this. I think Nick has proven how capable he is of pushing his limits and hopefully that confidence in his abilities will carry over to this year’s cross country season.”
In a race of this length and challenge, which included lung burning climbs and feet sucking mud, he learned about the most difficult opponent in an epic race like this, which is roughly the equivalent of running from Haliburton to Minden and back again.
“The biggest competitor is yourself,” he said.
He admits the race was more difficult than he anticipated and he started the race with too quick of a pace, getting caught up with staying with the lead group. If he competes again next year, he plans to start slower.
He never eats during his running races, but this distance taught him that he may need to learn to adapt, if he runs anything like the 50 kilometre race again.
He ended up only consuming water and one granola bar for the duration of the race. It was something that he said could have affected his performance because between the 30 and 40 kilometre mark of his race, he noticed a bit of muscle fatigue set in and is considering greater consumption of nutrition the next time he competes.
Phippen believes this performance and his off-season work of running 25 kilometres a day for five days week has not only prepared him for the trail race, but has also got him primed for more races. He’s already eyeing the potential for a high school cross country season, which includes the tentatively scheduled Kawartha championship on Oct. 20 and the Central Ontario Secondary Schools Associations championship on Oct. 27.
He believes other high school runners will not have put forth the same effort as him and with the mileage he ran in the summer, establishing an endurance base and the success of this race, it all has him poised for success against his peers.