Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Report—Canadian Death Race 2010

From the desk of Michelle, recounting her participation in the Canadian Death Race—125 kms of extreme mountain trail, 3 mountain summits, 17,000 ft of elevation change and a major river crossing, snaking around the small town of Grande Cache, Alberta. we go. I hope you have a few minutes. This is the massively abridged version!

July 31—I got up in the morning feeling very calm, excited, and not nervous at all, which surprised me! The first leg (approx 20km) was no sweat. We did what we had planned - ran the downs and the flats, walked the uphills, and felt great.

Leg 2 was a killer - incredibly steep ups and downs, crazy. I wiped out once only which is nothing short of miraculous! Leg 2 was supposed to be the toughest, but I was still fresh so felt pretty good. End of leg 2 was about the 50km mark. Just as I was coming into the transition zone, the toe nail on my baby toe bent backwards...Yeee-ouch! Bandaged it up and off we went into Leg 3.

Leg 3 was the least difficult by far, mainly flat, slightly down but very rocky and uneven and that's where the blisters showed up. With a vengeance. The fact that we were only at the half way point (or just under), and my feet were starting to hurt really badly put me in a very bad place. I felt tired, super sleepy, and discouraged. I had slowed down quite a lot around km 65 until Artur snapped at me to pick it up. It made me mad enough that I did. We got to the end of Leg 3, and threw some liquids and food into our packs. At this point I grabbed my hiking poles (thank goodness because they saved me) and started Leg 4, Hamel Assault.

Hamel Assault is a steep, long climb to a 7000’ peak. For some reason, however, I felt re-energized. We motored up that mountain, making fantastic time and passing tons of people. The descent was at sunset, and it was beautiful up there, but the descent was hard because my knee started to hurt (I think a result of the fall in Leg 2). Going down was torture on the blisters, but by this I was used to the fire in my feet and accepted that it would be so, there was nothing to be done except live with it. The last part of Leg 4 was mercifully easy – a gentle down slope on a gravel road in dead of night with a huge moon and brilliant stars.

We hit the 100 km mark and we felt jubilant, only 25km to go and 6 hours to do it in! We've got this! We slid into the Leg 5 transition zone with big smiles as people cheered us on in the middle of the night, headlamps bobbing in the darkness behind us on the trail. Then BOOM—a steep ascent up twisting, turning, unending, uneven trail. It was brutal. The stuffing was knocked right out of me, and exhaustion started to set in. We finally make it to the river crossing with 15km to go. As we get off the boat that zipped us a cross the river, someone said "you have a tough climb ahead of you". That was the last thing I wanted to hear. I choked back sobs of exhaustion and kept going. Again, thank goodness for my hiking poles. I don't know that I would have stayed upright without them.

Trudge trudge trudge. Daylight breaks. It's cold, we're beyond tired and we've slowed down so much that we both believe we'll miss the cut off. Suddenly, a mile marker of which there were very few appeared: 120km. It was like a punch in the face. 5km left you idiots...SNAP OUT OF IT!! And we did. We blasted through those last 5km, cruised up that final, cruel, loooong climb and ran to the finish line with 30 minutes to spare.

We made it! I'm pretty sure we both had tears in our eyes (I know I did) as we crossed the finish line. It was a big moment for me, and I couldn't have done it without Artur pushing and encouraging me throughout the event and in our weeks of pre-race training. This Death Race was the most incredible 24 hours. For 2 days I could barely move. Now, the pain is forgotten, but the glory, pride and joy remain and always will.

At 7:29 a.m. on August 1, I confirmed that I am capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to. I wonder what will be next.


  1. Thanks for the race report. Well done. Do you at least get a big ass belt buckle for your troubles?

  2. Blisters were what really hit me hard too. Not sure why. Great job for pushing through. It is amazing what our bodies will do when we don't let our minds decide. Great read and proud of your accomplishment.
    Naomi Humenny

  3. Double WOW - Well Done!! "the pain is forgotten, but the glory, pride and joy remain and always will" ... SO TRUE!
    Enjoy - you earned it.