The alarm goes off at 6 AM Saturday morning. Myself and the rest of the team awaken to start what will be a very long day. We are in Grand Cache, AB for the Canadian Death Race. The Canadian death race is 125 km that summits 3 mountains (Flood, Grande & Mt. Hamel) it is known as the hardest race in the world because of its very tight cut off times, having only 24hrs to complete it. The race is broken into five different stages known as legs. You can run it as a relay team of up to 5 or if you are a special kind of crazy you can run the whole thing solo. This was my first trip to the death race and I ran on a relay team of five amazing people Who only 10 days before the race we’re not even teammates and some did not even know each other.
By 730 the start line is buzzing with energy. I am seeing many familiar faces both on teams and many solo racers. I will not start until much later so the pressure is off for me I am just encouraging everyone else that is starting out in the morning. We find our leg one runner Krystal Melnychuk and ensure that she is ready to go with the coin and timing chip as those are both of utmost importance for your team to be able to finish the race. Everyone walks up towards the crosswalk where the race starts, we hear the gun go off and the race has begun. We cheer all the racers out and then it’s off to the first transition to wait for Krystal to come in from her 22km Leg, which she crushes coming in almost 20 minutes earlier than she predicted.
Steve Baker is ready to go out on leg 2( 2nd hardest of the race) and he is very familiar with it as he’s run this race for 17 years, both on relay teams and as a soloist. Krystal comes in ahead of schedule but Steve the seasoned vet is ready to go and he takes off for his 27 km section of the race. Leg 2 to finishes back at the start line and since it’s going to be a long night for Kevin and I as we run in the evening and through the night we go back to the hotel to catch a few zzzz’s and grab a bite to eat while Steve summits 2 mountains in just over 4hours. It was really weird eating my last meal of the day at 1pm knowing I’d be running by around 4-5pm. Back at transition we await Steve and cheer in every runner and they are coming in hot and tired from a gruelling run. This is where the near-death marathoners finish their race. Brittney Tancowny is next up on leg 3 running 19km with the tightest cutoff time of the race but she runs a solid race even with the new harder single track that everyone says takes a good extra 25 min now. She repels down a steep hill and runs across the field to tag me in and I’m off to summit Mt. Hamel, a bucket list item of mine.
So here’s where the real story begins my 38km journey of a lifetime. When my friend Kevin told me 2 weeks ago that he had a Death race team given to him and he needed friends to fill a team I knew this was my chance to check Mt. Hamel off the bucket list. I threw my name in the hat so fast I didn’t realize that I’d have to run at night(which I’m not very found of) but I decided to take the chance anyway. I only have one life let’s hope it doesn’t end with being eaten by a bear 😳
I head out and after the 1st km of highway ditch running I’m already beginning to climb which I will continue to do for the next two hours before I reach the summit. There was a lot of up and then more up and after 8 km I could finally see the ranger station at the top of Mt. Hamel but it was way way way up still I had no idea I had another 3 km of switch backs covered in slippery shale rock making it very difficult to use poles( thanks for the loan Coral) After reaching the top I’m sent down the spine to the 1st timing check in point.
Then I finally get to pass the ranger station at the top of Mt. Hamel what the previous day looked like a tiny, white dot in the distance so high up. I was now standing right next to it knowing that I had achieved the goal I had set out many years ago. As I ran by tears welling up in my eyes I could see all the prayer flags that had been made for the many runners including one for my friend Tyler Gamblin who was soloing.
It was right after this that I decided to share this moment with the world by posting a live video from the top sharing all the emotions that came with that moment. I don’t remember anything that I said but I do remember how I felt, I felt amazing.
after my quick video I started finally running , running down from the highest point that 6986 feet.
I ran down for a long time which felt amazing but then I had to start hiking up again and that’s when the cramping in my inner thigh made my entire leg seize; but this is not the first time I have had muscle cramps so I knew to pack my yellow mustard and quickly reached for it to help relieve the pain. After I ate the mustard within a couple of minutes the cramping had subsided and I was able to move at a faster walking pace. Although I felt I should be running on what was mostly flat sections at the time I needed to give it a few minutes to make sure the cramping didn’t come back. I also decided to eat something, text my team my progress and intake more electrolytes so that the cramps didn’t return.
My team was sending me encouragement and I knew I had set a pretty good pace for the first 20K of my race. I finally reached the amber loop a 4 kilometre loop with an aid station and two timing check in points. The route was relatively flat for the first half of Ambler loop so I set a pretty good pace running. it was starting to get dark on the second half as I was going through the woods. With every turn I thought I would reach that second timing station but alas it was just more trail usually with a hill involved. Finally reaching the second timing station and decided to put on my headlamp, my fave purple X31 Sports Tech shirt and my brand new compression sleeves from Earthgroove Activewear. Just as I’m getting ready to head out from the aid station these two young French guys come out of the woods and are hooting and hollering both carrying walking sticks they found in the woods. It’s almost 10 PM now and getting pretty dark so I decide to push on and try to catch up to these young guys so I don’t have to finish the last 11km of the race in the dark, by myself. These guys are setting a mean downhill pace but I’m determined not to let them get out of my sight. They stopped to take a bathroom break in the woods and I catch up but as soon as I do they take off again. I’m still tagging along behind them the best that I can and then we reach another uphill and they start to walk I catch them again as they reach the top of the hill and they take off darn it I just caught up.
My Nike app is continually telling me how many kilometres I’ve reached so I know how close I am to my goal. As the kilometres tick away I celebrate by telling the boys how many we have left to go. They are still hopping and hollering and we howl at the full moon as bomb as fast as we can down the side of the mountain in the dark. The boys take a walk at 6 km left as I can catch them for the final time and send a quick message to my team and my friend Kevin Cheung our anchor to hurry up and get ready as I will be arriving ahead of schedule. After sending the message even though my quads were completely destroyed I decided to send it home as fast as I could and continue to run all the way down the hill hitting the last check in point at the bottom of beaver dam road and heading through the last 3km in the ditch to the transition area to meet Kevin our final runner. My legs were so sore and I was so tired but I knew the harder I pushed the faster our team would finish. As I approach the final kilometre there was a creek Crossing where we had to go down some boulders walk through the creek marked with an orange inukshuk. Trying to bend my legs and carefully climb down through the boulders to get to the creek I thought I was going to lose it and fall on my face but somehow I held it together walked through the freezing cold water and climbed up the other bank to run with wet stinky feet all the way back to transition. As I came running into the transition area I started yelling at Kevin to get ready. I was so far ahead of schedule my team was almost not even there. But Kevin WAS ready, after a hug and promising not to lose the timing chip and coin (needed to cross the river and finish the race) he was off to finish the race. It was now almost 11pm I had completed my bucket list run in 5:20 40 MINUTES AHEAD OF MY GOAL!!
My team was all there to cheer me in and bring me the requested slurpee (thanks Brittney and Steve) After a few minutes we left Brittney and Steve to crew our friend Keri B. Who was out soloing. Krystal gave me a ride back to the hotel so I could shower and change. After my delicious chicken noodle soup (thanks Kevin) I went down to the finish line to cheer in other runners and wait for Kevin to bring it home. I hung out at the finish line with Krystal and Monique and we go to cheer in her friend Rhonda, the first female soloist. After not too long we got news that Kevin was close. The whole team was there ready to run him through the finish line and complete the journey together. There was Kevin!!!
I was jumping up and down with excitement. we all ran to greet him at the end of the shoot and hand-in-hand just as a team should we all ran through the finish line together and completed what had been the most amazing journey.
I had such a fantastic weekend with an amazing group of ultrarunners. I was so proud to cheer on all of my friends there whether they ran one leg, all 5 or as many as they could. To everyone who ran the death race this weekend wether you finished or not I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!! It was truly amazing to be able to share even a tiny bit of your experience and joy. Today I am home sore, tired and no voice but my heart is FULL ❤️