The Bromont Ultra is for the ultimate off-road adventure seeker. Not only because it’s held on a holiday weekend each year (perhaps a nod to a trail runner’s diehard commitment to racing), but the rather-young event, only in its fourth year, is already known as one of the toughest in Eastern Canada.
The race, held in Bromont, Que., which is located one hour east of Montreal and approximately 45 minutes north of the Canada-U.S. border.
You’ll want to consider these following seven points to see what challenges lie ahead and whereabouts the Bromont Ultra stands amongst the toughest ultras east of the Canadian Rockies.
Apologies in advance, quadriceps
The Bromont Ultra 160K, which is two loops of the signature 80K, features a course where you will be climbing or descending for a vast majority of the race. A mere 14 per cent of the Bromont Ultra is comprised of flat terrain. The double-loop, as race director Gilles Poulin describes it, can be psychologically advantageous as well as a detriment. You know what’s coming so you can prepare for it the second time but “you remember the loop’s first 20K which are particularly tough,” he adds. Plus, there are sections where one can hear echoes of the finish line, teasing runners to think they’re closer than than they actually are.
The 80K includes 3,257m of elevation change while the 160K is of course roughly twice that at more than 6,400m, including passages of Mont Brome, Mont des Pins, Mont Gale and Mont Oak. It’s only expected that the Bromont Ultra, which is 100 per cent organized by volunteers, is tough considering the race begins at a mountain with more than 35 per cent of the terrain considered difficult for downhill skiers, let alone runners. (Not only is the race volunteer-organized, 50 per cent of registration fees go to various charities.)
Push yourself to the limits, then run a bit farther
The Bromont Ultra has an intriguing set of distances that will push participants to new limits. Poulin refers to this feat as LBs, ‘longest bests’, and he says 50-60 per cent of the field set new distance bests at the Bromont Ultra. “We have seven different solo distances [2K, 6K, 12K, 25K, 55K, 80K (50-miler) and the 160K (100-miler)], which allows people to go beyond their limits,” he says. Have you done a 10K? Consider pushing yourself to finish 12K. Thought a half-marathon was doable? Take on the 25K. Have you done a marathon? Add distance to hit 55K. (Plus, a new distance means an automatic PB.)
Hold on tight
One of the course’s memorable sections is so steep that you will need a rope to traverse the climb. Known as “Lieutenant Dan’s climb,” the challenging section comes on the third major ascent, at around 10K, and if conditions are wet, as they were in 2016, runners are in for a physically daunting task of holding on tight or it could result in a face full of mud.
The competition will push you
Quebec is becoming one of Canada’s hotbeds for trail runners with many of the province’s runners producing fast times and top results both domestically and internationally. (Quebec ultrarunners took five out of a possible six podium spots at a recent New York trail race, for example.) That said, you may be running amongst some of the country’s best off-road specialists, like Annie Jean, the winner of the 55K in 2016 and recent podium finisher at the Marathon du Mont Blanc, during your time at Bromont. Sebastien Roulier, the top Canadian male at the 2017 Western States 100, won the 100-miler in 2016.
You’ll be among select company by merely finishing
A lot can go wrong over the course of a 100-miler. You’re out on course for tens of hours. According to Poulin, the finishing rate of the 160K in 2016 was 50 per cent, down from the typical finisher’s rate of 60-65 per cent. Look around on the starting line, and half of the field at some point will have to throw in the towel. Are you up for the challenge?
Runners have 34 hours to complete the 160K, 14 hours for the 80K and 10 hours for the 55K.
Tackle race-exclusive terrain
The event collaborates with 17 landowners in the surrounding area opening up exclusive trails that are not open to the public. For race participants, that means reaching areas that are largely untouched. With that in mind, very few runners will have what’s known as a home course advantage, leaving plenty of surprises on the table.
Imagine a challenging and technical course with singletrack trails. Then, turn the lights off. The early-morning start (3:30 a.m.) of the Bromont Ultra 80K race ensures that even the best of runners will overcome the night with a headlamp before the sun rises, or after the sun sets. And for the 160K, runners will be taking on the dark in the latter stages of the race as it begins at 7:30 a.m. and goes through Saturday night into Sunday.
This year’s Bromont Ultra, the fourth time around, goes off Oct. 7-8.