July 4th, The day of the run was finally here!! It was a beautiful sunny morning, crew and runners met outside my house at 7am to convoy to our start in Fort Saskatchewan. When we arrived we were met by a few other runners Tobias, Soren & Darren who would pace us on the first part of the journey.
Leg 1 Fort Sask. to Clareview 35km
7:52am the race began, we headed out of the parking lot towards the trails and the adventure began quickly.
When planning the route I wanted to explore as much of the trails as we could when running through each city. We had an immense amount of rain the few days prior and the river was much higher than normal. meaning many times we’d have to retrace our steps and reroute due to flooded out trails.
Luckily Tobias lives in the Fort and knew how to get around things. Once we ran out of single track it was time for Tobias to head back, he left us at the 1st aid station at the edge of Fort Saskatchewan. We had arrived to the aid station happy and still pretty fresh after only running 14km.
We quickly said goodbye and headed down the TransCanada Trail. Dirt and gravel trails in the exposed sun was what we ran on for the next couple hours. No shade, no trees, no clouds just high sun as we hit the lunch hour and it hung directly over our heads. We worked our way towards the Anthony Henday bridge to cross the river. We had a small hiccup but with a small fence hop to get us back onto the trail we quickly arrived at the end of LEG 1 in Clareview where my Mom was waiting for me. My mom doesn’t get the opportunity to come to many of my races so this was special to have her there.
While at the aid station we were greeted by 2 other awesome runners & friends Jessica & Tracy, who were also doing the #pureultra race. We added our friend Regan to the crew and off we went on Leg 2.
Leg 2 Clareview to Kinsmen 25km
I was already starting to feel a bit rough after the 1st leg. The thoughts “I shouldn’t feel this bad so early” ran through my head. I thought we’d get a bit more shade on the next section but the sun kept shining directly on us.
We ran through hermitage and then Strathcona science park, finally a bit of shade. We enjoyed some of the single track in that area although the mosquitoes were terrible whenever you where in the covered trails. It was somewhere on the way to Capilano that things started to fall apart. As we entered Goldbar park I started to feel overwhelmed with Nausea and vomited; in front of a bunch of families picnicking in the field, classy Jen, real classy! I tried to pull myself together by washing my face in the bathroom building at Goldbar and noticed my ghost white face. not good I thought to myself as I looked in the mirror. At only 48 km in this was way too early for the wheels to come off. It was only another kilometre to the check in at Capilano Park. I mustered up my energy to carry on to get to the crew. I called my husband, Mike to ask him if I had left something in the fridge at home only to find out that he was in fact waiting for me at the aid station. This perked next up knowing I’d be seeing him soon it was a great surprise.
I arrived at Capilano Park and my crew had already been told about the vomiting. I was able to get in some chocolate milk and a bit of watermelon. Before leaving the checkpoint I decided to use the nice clean washroom with sinks and running water. It was however at that moment that I realized the painful things brewing in the downstairs region. Chaffing and other unfortunate issues provided a painful experience with each step. 50km in and things were going all kinds of wrong. after my painful discovery I let my crew know what was going on so they could help me mitigate it later on. We left Capilano headed for Kinsmen in a choose your own adventure style. There are so many different trails in the Capilano/ Forest Heights area but depending on how you were feeling or if you’d like more single track you could choose a different trail and everything end up in the same place. Since I was feeling terrible I chose to stick to the easier Doublewide for several sections, while the others hit up some single track. The closer we got to the next check point the darker the clouds that surrounded us until we were running into the aid station in the pouring rain. I think I barely remember Paul showing up to cheer as we arrived to a tent tucked down to keep the rain out with a ring of chairs inside and a station for each runner set up. Did I mention how awesome our crew was?? We grabbed our coats from our bins and ate soup to warm our bodies. As we left we were joined by Dave for the next couple hours.
Leg 3 kinsmen to Terwillegar 18.3km
My stomach still feeling terrible and not allowing everything to stay down kept my pace slow as we left the aid station bound for Terwillegar. Since things were still going rough for me the crew decided to meet us at the Fort Edmonton parking lot to check in again in a few kilometres. Just after leaving Kinsmen we ran it Jim who’d run all the way from Terwillegar and was going to pace us there. By the time we’d reached the End of the world I was starting to feel a wee bit better and could actually manage a slow run down Keillor road. I asked Denise to meet me at the Alfred Savage amenities building with some medicated ointment to hopefully ease the pain on my lady bits. As we left I felt as though I was wobbling a bit and It would take time for my body to get going again after each stop.
Finally I reached the Fort Edmonton parking lot where everyone was already waiting for me. It had now stopped raining and I was freezing. I decided to change my clothes putting on fresh shirt, capris and dry socks & shoes. Once I was changed and had a few calories in me we all left to finish off the third leg. Getting in some more chocolate milk was critical because I wasn’t able to keep in anything else by then. I was very low on calories & electrolytes and we had now been out for almost 12 hours. Denise decided I needed a babysitter, she was probably right. so she joined us for the next several hours reminding me to sip water and to try and eat.
Leg 4 Terwillegar to Devon 40km
Arriving at Terwillegar was fantastic we saw many friends. Narissa brought peppermint tea and Kate had gone to buy effervescence both of which I’m sure helped my tummy. Jim was done but Stephen decided to join us for the night section.
I believe it was here that I started adding a fuel/ electrolyte source to my water (I never do this I like real food, gels and gummies, etc.) since I wasn’t able to keep in anything I normally use I thought we’d try it.
Heading out from Terwillegar I was ACTUALLY RUNNING and finally after 13.5 hours starting to feel better. It was cooling down now as it got dark and the rain had let up. We reached the Henday bridge and slip slided our way onto Breathless. At first we thought it would be fine to run it after it had rained but we soon learned just how terrible and in fact treacherous it was it be out on the ridges. where we were using bushes, trees and other random plants to rappel and climb the slippery muddy river bank. Eventually we ran out of shrubbery to hold ourselves up with and we had to bail off the trail, by bushwhacking straight up the river bank onto what we found out was a very unhappy person’s lawn at 1:00am. We tried apologizing and explaining to him what had happened but he wanted none of it. so I kept apologizing as I walked my way out of there. I wasn’t going back down the cliff and I didn’t want to hang around to chat either.
Because we had to come out of the valley early we needed to get our bearings backtrack on dirt road to get ourselves back on course. Drinking some calories and keeping them down had really helped my energy and mood. We were running again down the road and all of a sudden fireworks erupted a few hundred metres away. It was like they were just for us, such a cool moment. Just after the fireworks we made our way down the dirt road to meet the crew.
As we approached we could see headlights of vehicles arriving and then the spectacular and colourful light up hula hoop and Jill dancing with her hoop. As the cheers of our friends cried out to us the sky opened up again. As we ran into the aid station at Grandisle & 199 st the skies cried out. We had arrived before tents could be erected so runners huddled under umbrellas and hatchbacks as the crew stood in the rain trying to care for us through the downpour.
We made this a quick stop and made sure to get going before our temperatures dropped too much. No point in changing clothes as it was raining hard now. We headed off down the road and would meet them at the Blackhawk golf course in a couple hours. I was feeling better in the cooler temperatures and running felt easy for the first time all day. We found our entrance to the trails a fence with a rusted out sign quoting ‘trespass and die’ we slipped through the fence and plotted our course through the darkness. we ran around in the pouring rain slipping and sliding in mud holes the size of small cars that were in spots knee deep.
We Ran past an old Chrysler left to rot in the woods. Finally we found a gravel road only to realize the trail goes no further. What!! Oh no we had some how taken a wrong turn. We back tracked for what seemed like forever keeping our headlamps down, not talking much. I could faintly hear a dog barking in the distance; from what I assume was the homestead on the property we were running through. Back on track finally!
We arrived at the Blackhawk golf course a little late and with extra mileage on our watches. Finally the rain had let up. I changed into a dry shirt & coat to stay warm and ate a whole bunch of soup. It tasted fantastic and I shoved it in quickly. Dry and fed we headed off for the last stretch to Devon. Not even 5 minutes after leaving I wasn’t able to keep my food down any longer. All my soup came out with a vengeance. ‘Puke and Rally’ had been the theme of this run so why stop testing my will now.
Now on the dirt roads we headed towards the abandoned Westridge 9 hole golf course. Making a peninsula shaped loop We kept following the river and it eventually led us through a farm field and back onto a dirt road. We were now so close to Devon we could almost see the bridge. As we made our way through the trails to prospectors point a feeling of excitement and relief came over me. We’d made it to Devon!! We were over 110km in and now we were heading towards home. On Friday I was informed about the boat launch and trails being closed due to flooding so our checkpoint had to be moved. Luckily Matt P. met us at the bridge into Devon and was able to guide us to the crew.
Arriving at 4:30am We had gotten so lost and had to reroute so many times that we had added an extra 12km to our journey. Dawn was apon us and we no longer needed our headlamps.
Leg 5 Devon to Wintermere 25km
Now in Devon and the new day approaching we were in high spirits knowing we were over 2/3 done and each step led us closer to the finish. We hit the paved trails that led us down into the golf course and finally into the Lions campground.
I am a bit familiar with these trails from running the 5 peaks Devon race 2 years in a row. So I had an idea of where to go. We hit a double wide dirt trail that was our exit to the range roads we’d be running back to Edmonton. As soon as we set foot on the dirt we could tell it would be a muddy adventure. What we didn’t expect was washed out trails, mudslides and climbing over downed trees at 118km into the run. Our nice clean, dry shoes that we’d just put on sure didn’t last long, but that was par for the course all weekend.
Once out of the woods we ran down the shoulder of highway 19 a stretch and then turned onto quiet range roads. At this point we had run further than both Derek & Joel had ever run and were getting close to my furthest as well.
Running was getting hard and we pushed ourselves by counting telephone poles. We fartleked our way through this one, Run 2 poles and Walk 1 was the strategy. It’s how we stayed motivated to run and how we kept entertained. We ran for what felt like forever on those dirt roads. Finally we could see something on the side of the road and hear the cheers.
Our amazing crew, our friend Brenda and her megaphone were awaiting us. By this point there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to finish this thing. It was here we decided to move up our finish line. With so many bonus miles we could stop at Alfred Savage getting rid of the entire last leg. We called our families and let them know the NEW finish line location.
After a quick pit stop at our roadside oasis. we rallied to make it to Windermere which would officially have us back in Edmonton. We ran through so much gravel. Looking back it’s no wonder my feet hurt. We arrived to find a roadside party as the parking lot I’d originally chosen was locked, oops. No big deal, at this point we were used to things not going to plan. Luckily my friend Vicky was ready to join us and help us keep the pep in our steps. We left our amazing crew once again onward through South Edmonton.
Leg 5 Windermere to Terwillegar 25km
After a tour through Windermere we found my friend Kim again and her daughter who brought us candy and a bubble machine to cheer us on. I was very surprised to see them and it was very uplifting to see my little 5 yr old buddy Tealya she always makes me smile (her Mom’s pretty great too).
After we left Kim & Tealya we snuck down onto the golf course (it’s a public course) and ran the trail down through there. We Didn’t see any golfers close up until the very end and they happily let us cross. Now back in the woods and on familiar trail as we past Brandy’s landing. Taking notice one of the trees has fallen down and sadly the swing is no more. This year the river has been particularly harsh to the trails on its banks. All I remember about the next section is how crazy bad the mosquitoes were. I remember keeping my mouth shut because if I ate another one I’d be vomiting again. I just ran and ran until I reached the henday bridge.
We waited on the bridge for Derek, Joel & Vicky to catch up. We were less than 5km to Terwillegar now. We decided to go straight to the parking lot instead of looping the park first. We would make up the extra distance after the aid station.
As we ran the gravel trails through Terwillegar each step was more painful than the last. My feet felt raw and I was a bit concerned what they’d look like once we got my socks off. Tess, Rae- Ann and Matthew arrived at Terwillegar first. I arrived shortly after them. Derek and Joel only a couple minutes behind me. Denise and Jill helped remove my shoes and socks. locate the blisters, bandage them up and put new socks back on. I really appreciate what a huge help these women were in my journey. We only had 14 km left to go and there was no way I was stopping, no matter what.
Leg 5 Terwillegar to Savage 14km
We all left the aid station together but in our almost inebriated state at the end of 100 miles. There was a bit of miscommunication and how we were going to get the bit of extra distance we needed before we arrived at our finish line. See it was only 8 km or so to Alfred salvage but we all needed in the range of 10 to 14 on our watches to show a true hundred miles. That meant some creative extra distance needed to be added. We need to loop around the dog park and somewhere in there we started to lose each other. Matthew, Tess and Rae-Ann kept running strong. my feet were so sore and the pain was starting to affect my pace. With 12 km left to go the blister on the bottom of my right foot burst. I was immediately awakened by the burst of searing pain from the bottom of my foot. This pain was all too familiar to me as it was the deciding factor in my race last year at sinister. The very demon that took me out of my hundred mile race last year. There was no way that I was going to stop this time. With the end so close. And on trails I knew all too well. As I pushed on I started moving further and further away from Derek and Joel, who were walking as Derek’s knee was giving him some serious grief. Some sort of animal instinct inside me was now the driving force pushing me closer and closer to the finish line, maybe it was Tania finding me and dragging me along. Now across the ribbon bridge and out of Terwillegar I said goodbye to Tania and jogged and walked my way towards the next bridge at Fort Edmonton. I saw Rae-Ann running toward me. I said did you make it?? She shouted “1km to go!” She ran past me to the bridge and back, passing me a second time she yelled out “300 metres! I’ll be back” after reaching 161 km on her watch Rae- Ann resigned to a walk and I was able to catch up to her and then pass her as I was still working on my distance. I reached the Fort Edmonton pedestrian bridge and ran the full length, turned around and ran back to where Rae- Ann was. We walked for a bit and then I pressed on, meeting Soren on the trail to the Fort Ed parking lot. He was a welcome sight. Since everyone was split up at this point I was happy to see a familiar face. We ran/walked together and found Jill at the other end of the parking lot. I was so close now I could almost see it, not really it was still 2km away. The 3 of us were building steam. I needed a bit more distance before I could cross my finish line so I had to keep going up Keillor road by the equine center to the bottom of the hill and back to get the distance. Jill put on some music and Soren told me he had a slurpee waiting for me. I guess I’d better hurry then. Even with blisters that had opened up and pained my every step I was RUNNING at the end of a 100 miles. I had to take the long way back and over the last foot bridge into the parking lot to a huge (read 20) crowd of family and friends cheering us on. As I ran in with Jill I was overwhelmed with emotions. So proud of what I’d finally been able to achieve. So honoured at running 100 miles with such a great group of runners and so humbled at the group of loved ones who came out to socially distance cheer us on.
I will admit that I broke the rules for 1 day, 1 afternoon. I hugged my friends, after what we’d achieved together we are forever bonded by this adventure. I hugged my family who not only came out and cheered at multiple places but they put up with my constant running talk. I gave a few high 5’s and fist bumps that day but will continue on a regular basis to abide by the WHO regulations. It felt like the good old days. For a weekend, a day, an afternoon, an hour we could think about it a little less and celebrate together a little more. I know things will not be the same again maybe ever but I will cherish those moments where we can celebrate each other and ourselves, together again. Official finish time 30:25:39
Thank you to everyone who showed up, ran, crewed, cheered and supported us through our journey to 100 miles. Without you we couldn’t have made this.