Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Canadian Death Race

The Canadian Death Race was my first big ultra race 4 years ago so I was curious to see how it would feel going back and doing it again with more experience under my belt.  

The town of Grande Cache plays host to hundreds of racers who overtake the town for the August long weekend each year.  A lot of the houses fly Death Race flags and locals are always friendly.  And of course we can't forget about the huge army of local volunteers that allow us to go out into their local mountains and race all day and night; it's lovely to see a small town get behind such a great event.

Race Director, Dale Tucker (also known as Dr Death), does a great job at the pre-race briefing the night before reminding everyone how important it is to pace ourselves.  The race is 125 km long and has 3 significient mountain passes so pacing is key regardless of if you're running solo or running as part of a team.

It was hot on race day but there was still tons of thick, gooey mud on some of the trails and massive mud puddles to wade through which actually felt quite good on the feet!  My main goal was to pace myself well and finish strong without doing too much damage on my body as I was using the Death Race as a training race for my big goal race coming up 4 weeks later so time wasn't a big issue, but pacing was.

The biggest challenge during the day was hydration as it was so hot out there I was going through a ton of fluid.  Thank goodness for the clean water running through some of the creeks as it enabled me to supplement inbetween a couple of the aid stations.  However, I still ended up with some stomach issues as I was trying to hoof my way up Mt Hamel.  I ended up having to be content with a slow death march wondering if this would be the race that I throw up in (something I've managed to avoid up until now in my races).  

The best thing about being in a ultra race is that the people around you know what you're going through and give out lots of positive support to help get you through the suffer-fest.  My stomach finally settled as night fell and after I'd gotten into dry, clean clothes and shoes at the drop bag station, I found my second wind and ended up galloping off on the final 20-something kilometers.  I started feeling really strong and ended up passing loads of people which is always an energy booster.  

Having gotten down to the river and given my coin to the grim reaper so that I could catch the boat across, I could smell the finishing line only 15 km away.  However, I knew that there were still lots of steep uphill in that section so I put my head down and gave it what I had.  Once in the wooded section, it's just beautiful running.  It felt great popping out onto the gravel road as I knew it was only 2 km to the finish line from there but most of it was uphill so I pulled out my iPod, plugged in some good cardio music and went for it.  I felt so good.  And when I got into town, I started running as fast as I could to the finishing line, sprinting my way across the field.  I made it in 21:01 hours.  The best thing though is that I had absolutely no stiffness or pain in my body and even after a 6 hour drive back to Banff, I still felt loose and supple. 

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