The Canadian Death Race

When you read this report you must realize that I signed up 2 weeks before the race and I had never run further than 71km. When the phrase ‘No one has actually died’ was said it somehow felt reassuring. This was going to be a training run for Blackspur 108km at the end of August but it turned into the race of a lifetime.

Death race report

We get into grand Cache at 7:30pm on Friday evening and rush straight to package pick up. Once we arrive I start to see many friends who want to wish me good luck. I try to keep the conversation short and sweet for now as I want to make sure I have time to make a couple prayer flags for my family to go up Mount Hamel. Thanks to the awesome unicorn Keith, I was encouraged to make a second set of flags that way I physically had to get up to the top of Hamel to bring them there myself. After receiving many hugs and well wishes from friends. mike and I headed back to set up camp at tent city. We lucked out and found a cushy place in the trees next to Tess and Jeremy.

Shortly after we arrived to set up our tents Keith and Tania showed up to camp out as well. We had a great time camping with them at Sin 7 so this was a bonus.

After thoroughly going over my race plan with the crew we decided at 11:30 PM to hit the hay and set our alarms for 6 AM, which would be the start of a very long and crazy journey.

Leg 1– as we stood in the corral I wanted to make sure that I was far enough back to let all of the marathon and relay runners get a Head start. I found friends Lisa, Cory and Tracey and waited for the countdown. we could hear the cheers of friends as we ran through town and began the race. the energy was contagious. As we all ran out of town and started to settle into our own paces. Tracey took off to crush the near death marathon but not before some fun heckling from the peanut gallery aka Cory & Tony also running the marathon. Lisa and I running side by side laughed at the antics happening around us.

Running down the side of the highway I ran into friends Matt, Terry and Lay all soloing too. Once off the highway the boys took off probably never to be seen again. we turned into the trails, and the puddles( some the size of small ponds) began to divide the runners as we chose our own paths around the water. as some runners dive through puddles I am only concerned with keeping my feet dry and happy as long as possible. They yell things like “they’re gonna get wet anyway!” I think to my self yeah well hopefully not until leg 4 lol I’m guessing most of these people are relay or marathon runners. Like Tony and Cory who chose to run through the middle of a giant puddle only to realize A few strides in that the puddle was getting pretty deep lol Cory luckily bailed when he saw Tony ending up about waist deep as far as I could see from my nice dry view as I skirted around the mud hole.

Thanks for the laughs Tony.

Leg 1 wrapped around Grande Cache lake offering a beautiful view and the sound of loons calling. it ended with a fast transition switching from a couple handhelds to a pack full of water and nutrition that mike was patiently waiting with. I Ate a bunch of watermelon while I waited for Lisa to fill her water, she was running unsupported for most of the race so she had to replenish her own supplies.

Leg 2 now the climbing begins. we climb up for a long time, then we reached a checkpoint and Gerri is waiting with hugs that’s the good part. the bad part is she then tells me that this is where the marathoners get to go downhill and we get to take this steep, sketchy looking trail up to the top of Flood Mountain.

Once arriving at the top of flood mountain I was so happy to see the volunteers at the check-in.

Just like any mountain top the views on top of flood were spectacular. If you have ever thought to yourself why do people do these things and put them selves through the torture of the climb. It’s for the views and the satisfaction of achieving a magnificent goal. There is something so magical about seeing the view from the mountaintop with your own eyes. You can feel the massiveNess of planet earth and it fills your soul. We didn’t want to hang out too long so We took a couple pictures and got our snacks ready to go, off we went. Thanks for the beautiful view Flood.

Coming down we enter a steep, slippery technical downhill section called slugfest. There are signs on the trees suggesting we might want/have to slide on our bums? We stayed upright but it was tricky at times. Uphills had mudfalls (it’s like a mud waterfall) we slogged along Lisa, Deon and I trying to just get it done. We finally arrived at the aid station only to be told that they were out of water. They DID however have an assortment of hi chews to which I snagged a couple. realized they are amazing during endurance races when you need a quick pick me up. I had taken with me a pack of mango hi chews given to me and ate most of them. Thanks Mark they were delicious.

We still had to go up Grande mountain and couldn’t continue on without more water. In a race where you are facing cutoffs any time wasted can mean the end of your race. Luckily there were the rescue guys? On quads and they had a bunch of water bottles (I’m assuming their own personal supply) that they dumped into our packs to fill us up. The water truck showed up just as we leaving and We ran into Cory again. He stopped for water and wished us luck as we headed off to climb Grande.

Reaching the summit on grande we ran into Deon again. Enjoyed the view at the top for a moment, got a hug from Roger and headed off the top. I stupidly thought there was only 1 more little climb on that leg. It turned out that ‘little climb’ was power line 😳.

As we worked our way back to town we could hear the cheers at the transition. We came in running to the transition and I went to see my crew. They sat me down and I ate chicken noodle soup while they changed my socks, shoes and repacked my hydration pack. Lisa appeared, ready to go. Mike and Tanya helped me get my shoes on, Keith shoved a grilled cheese in my hand and we were off on leg 3.

Leg 3 as we ran down the road we were in good spirits. I split the grilled cheese and handed half to Lisa. We enjoyed the gooey cheesiness as we hiked our way down the gravel road back out of town. We ran above the town landfill. Some have said they’ve seen bears in the area in previous years so I was trying to be aware of my surroundings. As we are approaching the landfill another racer in front of us says “oh my gosh is that a bear in the trees?” scaring the life out of us “oh no it’s just a garbage bag.” Thank goodness it was just a garbage bag. We get to run quite a bit and make a fairly good time on three.

Lots of gravel roads fairly flat for several kilometres so we can actually run. after crossing the highway we go back into some singletrack a new section added last year. It is here I now regret that I have no poles on this leg. Luckily Lisa is awesome and only needs one to navigate so she loans me the other one and we continue to power hike passing several soloists near the end this leg. The end of this section is so steep they have added a couple of ropes to help you navigate the up and downhills. After the ropes it is a quick run into the transition. As we run in we see people coming from the highway. we were confused and thought maybe they weren’t going to make the cutoff so they ran in the old way. We then hear that only a few minutes behind us a black bear mother and her cub were spotted on the trail. The other runners had to divert to running on the highway for their safety. I will count myself very lucky that I didn’t see or hear any bears on this leg or any other. So if you were reading this to see if I saw a bear then you don’t need to read any further, NO BEARS!

As we pitted at the end of leg 3 Lisa and I went our separate ways she to her drop bag and I to my nascar crew. we only had 15 minutes to get out on leg 4 so my team worked fast. Sheldon and Keith on my feet, Everyone making a towel change room so I could put on pants, Steve for helping get those pants on quickly. Hugs and encouragement from Brenda, the water bottle from someone’s kid so that I had enough before going up the largest mountain in the race, and off we go with 5 minutes to spare. Well I guess I’m going up Mount Hamel.

Leg 4 within The 1st km you start climbing, it’s pretty much switchbacks and quad trails for the first 12 km. As we are doing the last straight up climb to the Hamel bail out checkpoint. We run into Deon who I wasn’t sure we’d see again.i was So happy to see him and know that he was still in the race. We also caught up to Lay who I hadn’t seen since the beginning of Leg 1. We all made it to the checkpoint with time to spare. Now to get to the top of Hamel and find the prayer flags. From the check point to the top are all switchbacks covered in loose shale rocks. Once we eventually reach the top we had to check in with a volunteer and do an out and back on the ridge to collect a pin flag and return it to the volunteer as proof. Then over to the ranger station where the prayer flags are tied to the fence. it was dark and windy at the top. There were a lot of flags and it was hard to find the ones I had made in the wind but I was determined and finally found them. I also had a similar set that I carried with me throughout the race in my pack. Once I had located the flags we put on our long sleeves shirts and grabbed a snack from our packs and headed on down as it was getting cold and time was ticking. Coming down off Hamel is beautiful but the section in between the Summit and ambler loop seems to take years. So many large puddles/lakes that you had to go around. Taking branches to the shins and face as you maneuver around them trying to keep your feet dry. Seeing lights ahead thinking you have finally reached the amber loop check in only to find out that is just the reflection of another racers headlamp in the night.

After finally reaching the amber loop station we learned that it was in fact not an actual check in and that we had several hours until the next check in. feeling good about the time we decide to check drop bags and re-load water. Volunteers are struggling with Lisa’s bladder to get it closed and wasting several minutes fiddling with it we finally decide for her to take a couple handhelds while we do the 4 km loop to come back and get the bladder at the end. We set off down the dirt road starting ambler loop in the pitch dark. The first half isn’t so bad as it’s pretty flat and wide open. But at the back half of ambler you tuck into the woods and you were constantly puddle jumping or rerouting through the trees for the last 2 km, which seemed to take forever. Once the loop was completed we reloaded bags and headed out to finish the last 9km of the leg. 7km down a wide dirt road which after 17hrs on course we ran most of and even clocked a 5:40/km 🏃‍♀️ and then the last 2 km in the ditch along the highway. As we get closer you can hear faint cheers in the wind as another racer checks in to transition. After what feels like forever we see big flood lights and finally we are there and everyone is cheering for us. I see Cory there for Lisa and I find my crew. I sit down almost already feeling victorious. I’ve now run 103km and we are well ahead of cutoff now. We agree to leave by 3:30am to give us extra time for the last section of the race. Eating soup, drinking coke, charging my phone and using the bathroom ( 1st time all day since leg 1) everyone at the transition is so excited. We’ve come this far, how could I quit now?

Leg 5

It’s dark, technical, rooted and things are slippery. The first 11km of the race are on a goat trail through dense vegetation. Sometimes you cannot even see what you’re stepping on. We were told that the boat was only 8km into the leg, it was the longest 8km ever because it was actually about 11km 😆 it felt like this whole leg was going up and when we weren’t coming up we were crashing straight down steep descents and crossing creeks to only steeply climb up the bank on the other side. Once we finally reach the boat I was able to hand my coin to the sherron and board the boat to cross the river Styx. We then crossed the raging waters of the milky river on a small motor boat.

Once on the other side the trail opened up a bit but still seemed to be climbing higher even though we were supposed to be descending into town. Finally after seeing the tree of soles we knew we were getting close. After popping out of the trail onto the gravel road we knew there was one climb left and then we were almost home. As we ascended the road we saw several other soloists emerging into the road, it reminded me of scene in a zombie movie.

Once we saw the houses in town the small group of us let out cheers and sighs of relief as we now knew for certain that we would make it. The last few blocks through town were strewn with friends and other solo finishers that had come out to cheer the final soloists in.

The big Finish

As we rounded the last corner in town we saw Jeremy waiting for us. He Inquired about how we were feeling and told us we were almost there and then ran ahead to let Mike and the others know we were on our way. As we ran down the road to the finish we were joined by Tess, Tania and Keith. They ran us to the corner and then Lisa and I ran under the arch together for the final time coming in at 23hrs 25min.

To say I ran this race by myself would be a lie. To Lisa who ran every kilometre with me. Listened to me talk endlessly, whine a bit, and eat bacon while climbing Hamel. My awesome friends who helped crew a little or a lot. Keith, Tess, Jeremy, Tania, Sheldon, Steve. To the volunteers cheering us on and helping us out. To Brian for taking over this race and putting your heart into it. To all my friends and family who sent me well wishes and cheers. It’s because of you that I thought I was capable of doing this.

Without the love and support of Mike my hubby/photographer/cheerleader/crew chief/social media specialist/ camping expert/ grilled cheese and bacon chef I could never do the crazy things I set out to do. Thank you for coming on this wild ride with me. For supporting me, crewing me(in races & in life) and believing in me the way that you do. You lift me up and help me achieve my dreams. Without you as my partner none of this would be possible. Thanks again Death race for another amazing experience ❤️

📷 myself, mike and @raveneyephotography


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