The Canadian Death Race (The Race from Hell)

(The following is an unedited, energy drink fueled brain dump.  It may be choppy, and rambling)


Redbull Fueled 17:09 finish

Starting these posts is always the hardest part.  I guess the best place to start would be at the beginning.

Date:  Sometime before registration closed
Time: Sometime before bar close
Place: Bridge Bistro, Fernie, BC

I had registered for the Sinister 7, and the Blackspur Ultra, earlier in the season.  I had completed the Canadian Death Race (CDR) the year before, and had sworn to NEVER.  EVER.  EVER.  run it again.  I had a decent time, and had no desire to suffer needlessly.  If I wanted to suffer for no reason, I heard Taylor Swift had a new album.  But there I was.  Sitting on a patio, drinking some amazing Fernie Brewing Company craft beer in the summer sunshine, when my lovely wife brought up the subject.

I can't for the life of me remember what she said, but four beer me found the argument enticing, and four beer me....hates stone cold sober me.  So, sitting on the patio in the sun, four beer me made a cheque, that stone cold sober me was going to have to cash.

And that is how that went down.  So here I am, 36 hours out from the race, feet in ice buckets, scribbling my thoughts.  I hope you all can relate.

Wake up at 6am for an 8am start because yes, I am a keener, and to be there later than 7:30 would be awful.  Scarf a bagel, and remember that yes indeed, I did eat a large pizza the night before, so I don't really need anymore carbs.  Consume enough caffeine to kill an elephant.  Get changed, and readjust my shorts a dozen times, for maximum comfort, and anti-chaff protection, and head to the start line.  Proceed to visit with everyone I know at the start line, and wait.  Once waiting, remember your wife has your deathrace coin you'll need on leg five to cross the river.  Get said coin.  Then in full public view, stuff said coin into the key pouch on the inside of your shorts (not looking creepy at all).

Now to the good rambling.

LEG 1 (Easiest Leg)

The leg begins on the road.  Don't like running on the road in trail shoes?? Not comfortable on the
bottoms of the feet?? Too bad.  5k on the road for your running pleasure.  Enjoy it.  It's the last time you'll run this fast.  Next up is some ditch running, followed by some lovely quad trails into the woods.  This is where the race clearly starts, as indicated by the large mud puddles (get used to those, there will be a lot).  The next portion of this leg, is a pointless attempt to keep the feet dry 'for just another 10 meters'.  Some of us danced around them, while others just plowed through them.  We call those people, 'relay runners' (jk).  After some ups and downs, if you've managed to keep your feet dry, you hit another runnable dirt road.  This goes by a lovely lake, and is pretty enjoyable, lulling you into a false sense of security in your dry shoes.  At the end of the road, you get to run on some recently cleared highway mulch. before diverting back into the woods.  Here, is where your dry shoes make their last stand.  You can hear the people cheering at the Transition Area, and you take your mind off the trail for one second.  Sploosh!  You are now the proud owner of wet feet.  But at least you are done leg 1.

LEG 2 (5th Easiest Leg)

If you've run this leg before, you probably have a pair of shoes dedicated to this 26km nasty patch of dirt exclusively. I had a pair of old Salomons, with several thousand miles on them, and fit for the rubbish.  Fully expendable. The Leg begins along a gravel rain line, before veering onto a mud road that slowly winds upwards for a few kilometers.  This leg doesn't seem so bad, right??  Then the climb up Flood Mountain begins.  The trail is a little rooty, a little muddy, but basically vertical.  When it finally levels out, there are two signs.  One for the near death marathon, heading towards Grande Mountain, and one heading straight up, for the relay and solo people.  I was part of the latter group, so that is what will be described.  One basically climbs up to a false summit, then gets the pleasure of climbing up yet again to the real summit.  It's not technical, but it is not fun.  The descent is runnable, and you get the pleasure of seeing the near death marathon people that were behind you, now gleefully in front of you.

The Downhill.....It's basically just controlled falling.  I used poles (aka 'cheat sticks') for this part, to slow my fall, but I still had the grace of a hippo on a trampoline.  The plus side of the downhill, is that you get a little break in the middle to regain some of that elevation, just to lose it again (the designers were so thoughtful).  Finally at the bottom, you think you are safe.  You thought wrong.  Slugfest begins in earnest.  Those disposable shoes now make sense.  Knee deep mud?  Check.  Slick roots to climb out of said mud?  Check.  Hopefully you've tied your shoes tight enough to cut off circulation to your lower extremity, because if not, you better be good at running barefoot.  Don't worry though, you'll get to go uphill soon enough.

The Uphill....affectionately called the 'Stairway to Hell'.  It can best be described this year as a river of mud, one must climb for a thousand feet.  Again, I brought my cheat sticks for this leg, so I was able to get traction, and make quick work of this.  It is also where my stomach left me.  Once the trail levels out (I use that description in the loosest sense), the trail is runnable.  This is also where I made sure to empty my stomach contents all over the bush.  I'm pretty sure nothing will ever grow on the left side of that trail ever again (can I get trail maintenance credits for that?).  The trail continues progressively upwards, until you finally hit a road/quad trail.  This signifies that the aid station is close.  Once at the aid station, your almost at the top (but not quite).

The Top......Climbing 4km from the aid station finally nets you another peak in your bag.  Good work you think. It's all downhill from here.  Piece of cake.  

The Powerline Shuffle....This too is just a controlled fall.  If you're not tired yet, you will be.  Don't worry though, they thoughtfully broke up the downhill with another climb.  The controlled fall continues all the way to the graveyard (fitting right?).  You are then granted a lovely 2km road run/walk/shuffle into town, and to the TA.

Leg 3 (2nd easiest)

In a fit of sheer genius, this leg takes you right beside the dump/landfill.  The smell could gag a maggot, so why not climb a short hill with that assaulting you?  Leg 3 however is a nice downhill run for the first 10km.  It's a little rocky, a lot humid, and relay runners will pass you going Mach 5.  At the halfway mark is an ominous sign '1000 feet, up and up and up'.  Runners slow down and brace for a hill.  It doesn't come for another 8km.  Before that happens, you get to run through an industrial area, and across a bridge.  Then, you head across the highway into the bushes, only to pop back out to the highway 500m later.  There was a quick climb, but nothing too bad.  You were told the climb was far worse.  People like to exaggerate, don't they?  A few hundred feet, and your back into the trees.  It doesn't look too bad.  Then it begins.  Up.  Up.  Up.  Up.  You know you are getting near the top, as a) there is a rope, and b) there is not much else above you but sky.  Once at the top, the course spares no expense in expelling you from the summit.  The controlled fall begins again. However just as you begin to question your life choices, the leg ends, and all is well with the universe.

Leg 4 (4th easiest)

I'll shut this debate down forever.  Leg 4 is much easier than Leg 2.  I would sooner run leg 4 naked, covered in honey, with bears loosed on me, then have to run Leg 2 twice.

Leg 4 begins with a climb, the assault on Mount Hamel, or the assault by Mont Hamel.  Then continues with a climb.  Then another climb (did I mention the climbing?).  You know you are nowhere near the top when you hit the aid station.  You can see the top, but you have a ways to go.  After climbing for somewhere between 2-11 hours, you hit the top.  I was lucky enough to get some good sideways rain at the summit.  Once at the top the volunteers ask you to run the ridge, grab a little flag, and run it back to the summit.  It didn't seem efficient to grab one flag at a time, and it seemed like it would have saved everyone time, if the first person, had just brought the entire bucket of flags to the volunteers.  Furthermore, if the volunteers needed the flags so badly, why did I see them carrying a load back to the bucket?? Anyways, you're at the top now.  That is all that matters.

The Down.  If you are like me, you packed enough Aleve, Redbull, and sugar to essentially kamikaze the back half of this leg.  I'm sure my eyes were wild and bloodshot, and I looked insane, but with enough redbull, I personally felt like I had StarPower on Mario Brothers. I  had the music from the game playing in my head, and I barrelled down the mountain at warp speed.  About halfway down, there is a connector trail that is between 6 and 30km long (I swear time stands still on this portion).  This takes you to the Ambler loop portion.

Ambler Loop.  You get an aid station.  Then you get to run 4-5km?  and you get the same aid station again.  It's downhill on a road, then uphill on a trail.  Then basically just avoiding puddles until you are back at the aid station.

Beaver Dam Road (or Damn Beaver Road).  Love it or hate it.  you get 8km of intensely runnable terrain if you have anything left.  It's all downhill.  This is where you will regret running those short hills early on, and killing yourself to save two minutes.  This section can be done in a half hour, or two hours.  Suddenly saving those early two minutes don't feel that smart.  Once at the highway, it's a 2km jaunt to the TA.  Leg 4 is done.

Leg 5 (3rd easiest leg)

Leg 5.  You're tired by this point.  Maybe not feeling too funky fresh.  You're either fighting cutoffs, or fighting to finish.  At this point, you'd sacrifice your house cat to the endurance gods for a fresh set of legs (or maybe just because you hate cats you'd do it for fun.. you disgust me).  Either way, you're dragging your chaffed, black toe nailed self back into the fight for one more round.  You're Rocky fighting the Russian.

Sulphur Gates.  The first portion of this leg is to the river, and past the Sulphur Gates.  No one as tread on this trail since last years CDR, so be ready to fight overgrown vegetation, low flying trees, hardly visible trail, and dark monsters.  The leg starts with a 'gentle' climb, through the forest.  Then 'gently' meanders you up and down in a peaceful fashion.  Hopefully you have either a really good headlamp, or a really crappy one.  Anything in between will make the entire course look like bears.  After about 7km, you hit the Sulphur Gates (basically two big rocks with a crack in the middle).  You are then spilled out onto a parking lot with an aide station.  DO NOT look at the lights as you will see swarms of bugs like something out of the movie 'The Myst'.  From here you run down a few hundred meters to the boat launch, where you can deposit your coin, for a boat lift across the river. 

The last 15km.  Enjoy the 30 second boat ride.   After the boat ride, you get to run along the beach trail like in BayWatch, or in my case, Free Willy.  From here, you are treated to a climb.  Estimates range from 1200ft, all the way to 5000ft.  So somewhere in that ballpark.  Once you finally climb out of the river valley, you are on a flat'ish' trail.  It's all runnable now.  Luckily, you've been saving yourself for this all day, right?  You pound out the next 8km at a blistering 12min/km pace.  You feel like you're flying, just like Rose in Titanic.  Your sure at this point your life will be as happy as her's was.  Then boom!  The Iceberg.  You get to do one last road climb.  It's dark.  It feels endless.  You regret all your life choices that led you to this.  Why didn't you take up competitive origami?  Why did it have to be ultramarathon?  Isn't normal marathon enough??

 Then, it's over.  You see city streets, volunteers are cheering you.  Peace, tranquility.  The desire to run fast.  You look like a knee braced Forest Gump, but you're going for it.  Ultra shuffle in full effect.  You are a magnificent beast you tell yourself.  One. Last. Short. Road Climb.  You round the corner.  You can see the rec centre.  You can see the park.  You're so close. You turn the corner.  The 8 fans consisting of family, friends, and that one guy who has been there all day, are cheering you on.  You cross the finish line.  You are done.  You sit down.  'I may never run again' you think to yourself.  The race staff give you your coin and customized beer.  You get the glamour photo.  Your crew/spouse helps you into the car.  You grab your phone to check race results (to make sure at least one poor soul was behind you).  Then you remember you have a spare weekend in September.  You wonder if there are any races that weekend.  You open Ultrasignup. 

Le Fin.

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