I was super excited when Erin asked me to join her “4 Summiteers” team for the Canadian Death Race this year. Having grown up in Grande Cache, I knew the 125km route well, and was eager to be on her team! Unfortunately, Erin tore her ACL and was not able to run. Luckily, a gal on our team (who was already signed up to run 2 of the 5 legs (legs 1 and 5)) offered to take over Erin’s leg (leg 3). I hadn’t met either of the ladies on our team (with Lara travelling from Vancouver and Cathy from Kelowna), so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into…
Turns out I was getting myself into an amazing team! The girls were strong runners and more importantly, we had an absolute blast.
Lara started the day for us taking on leg 1 (19km) starting bright and early. Leg 1 travels out of town, through a mud bog and up through the trail system behind the local golf course. Lara set a great pace for the start of our team event! It was also nice to see lots of familiar faces (both soloists and teams).
After a quick first leg, Lara passed the mandatory “coin” on to Cathy who took off up Flood and Grande Mountain (including the infamous slugfest) during stage 2 (27kms) of the race.
Dad and I hiked part way up Grande to our favorite cheering locale and watched the speedy racers whip by effortlessly…and also some others who were offering big money for a pair of fresh quads or calve muscles!
Having both completed leg 2 in the past, Lara and I were sure Cathy was going to have so much “fun”. Those weren’t the EXACT words that Cathy used to describe the gruelling climbs and descents…but I know deep down she loved it…and she did great!
Cathy zipped into town and passed the coin back to the freshly showered Lara for her second leg of the race (leg 3 – 21km).
Lara ran another great stage of the race (you would not have known she already ran almost a half marathon that morning) and was at the end of her leg in no time…giving me plenty of daylight for my leg (thanks Lara!!). She was all smiles as she passed the prized coin my way.
I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous about the idea of running leg 4 in the dark, so I was eager to take off and get as much done in daylight as I could. Leg 4 (36km) makes a quick turn up from the highway to the Mount Hamel trailhead…or as some like to call it “The Hamel Assault”. I’ve done the leg in training a few times over the years, so I knew what I had ahead of me. With plenty of fluid, tasty snacks (mmm chips and kids sharkies), and my good ol’ poles, I was on my way.
I quickly caught up to a few soloists, so was glad to not feel too alone on my trek to the top. A light drizzle started quite early on during the leg and made for a lovely climb up the 9km trot to the summit. I power hiked the majority of the way up, conserving my running energy for the rest of the leg.
The summit of Hamel is pretty exposed, so as I approached the treeline, I was a bit worried as I knew it could get pretty nasty up there. Luckily, as we climbed the switchbacks above the treeline, there was no wind to be found! We were pretty fortunate for this.
Upon reaching the summit, there were a group of about 20 of us coming and going from our pick up and delivery of the “prayer flags” from the out and back along the ridge. I was fortunate to catch up with a group of guys and a couple of us chatted as we started down the mountain, however I lost them as I stopped to throw my poles in my pack. I caught up with a guy from one of the military teams, and we chit chatted most of the way down the descent. Once we reached the cross over trail, we ran into some more soloists and team runners. There was a group of about 5 of us around the same pace which made for good conversation and took our minds off of the always muddy trail :).
The 5km cross over trail opens up to the Beaver Dam road. After a quick fuel up at the aid station, I was off to the Ambler loop (which was pretty muddy at this point). I think I may have spent more time in the bush avoiding the deep puddles then I did running the Ambler trail itself!
After finishing the Ambler loop, I knew we had 5k down the Beaver Dam road and then just 2kms along the highway to the end of the leg. I was pretty excited to catch up with a doctor from Saskatchewan, so we chatted all the way down the gravel road (leave it to me to find anyone who will let me talk their ear off)…it was great to have the company! We were about half way down the road when I see a guy mountain biking UP the road…sure enough…it was Dad, coming to cheer! I think he was surprised at how far I was towards the end of the leg because I was about an hour ahead of my goal time. He quickly turned around to give my team some warning of my early arrival.
I was pretty excited to finish the leg feeling good and about an hour ahead of my estimated time…and in daylight too. Thank goodness for my organized team members who showed up at the end of my leg “early” (about 2 mins before I showed up) “just in case”. It was perfect timing (though Lara may have felt a bit rushed). I happily passed the coin off once more for Lara’s 3rd and final leg. Leg 5 is 22kms and climbs towards town (including a river crossing).
After a quick shower, we headed up to the finish to cheer Lara in. She did absolutely amazing. We finished in under 17 hours and Lara was still smiling…even after 3 legs of the race!
Huge Thank You!
Thanks to Lara and Cathy for being such wonderful teammates, thanks to our supporter and #1 cameraman, Mike, and thank you to the rest of our support crew – Cathy’s extended family, Ma and Pa Campbell, the Drummond clan and the Kelly crew. Also, thank you to Erin for organizing such a great team…wish you could have been there.
Congrats to all the teams and soloists who participated!