63. Canadian Death Race 2018

North Vancouver, Canada, 12.08.2018.

Day 7 after I finished the longest race so far in my life and today I finally find some time to recap a little what has happened. The Canadian Death Race was such an amazing experience with so many different impressions that I still feel a bit overwhelmed by everything. At the same time, I am also super happy that I achieved a long-term goal that I started dreaming about more than two years ago when I first visited the small town of Grande Cache to do a half marathon there in May 2016. So much has happened since then but I never stopped dreaming about finishing the Canadian Death Race and now I actually finally achieved that goal. It feels amazing on the one hand but also a bit scary on the other hand as I now don’t have a long-term running goal anymore! Anyway, let’s start with the recap of this exciting weekend now.

00-Town
Scenice view down the main road of Grande Cache.
04-Leg4
Downhill stretch on Mount Hamel, leg4, during a short rain-free priod.

Prior to the race, I had asked my lovely Rachel if she was willing to crew me during the race and luckily, she said yes. So we drove all the way up to Grande Cache together on Thursday, August 02nd. And by “we”, I meant that Rachel drove all the way and I was just dilly-dallying on the passenger seat. 😉 Anyway, we arrived at Grande Cache in the evening and just unloaded the car quickly before going to bed.
Then, on Friday, we prepared everything for the race. I packed my drop-bags while Rachel prepared food for me in the morning. We managed to register for the race fairly early and then I showed Rachel where she would need to drive to find me after leg 3. I decided that I only wanted Rachel to support me after legs 2 and 3 for the following reasons:  Leg 1 is pretty short (meaning that I would not need much support after finishing it) and having Rachel support me after leg 4 would have meant for her to stay up all night which I did not want. So I decided to just have drop bags at the end of leg 1 and at the Ambler Loop (which is close to the end of leg 4) and to not plan anything for the transistion area at the end of leg 4. In hindsight, this whole planning was pretty solid and I think that there isn’t much that I would do differently if I chose to do this race again in the future.

elevation
Elevation profile, leg structure and aid stations, Canadian Death Race 2018.
00-Start
About half an hour before the start of the race: The calm before the storm. 🙂

 

On race day (Saturday, August 4th), we arrived at the start line fairly early and the weather was good for running. About 20 degrees, mostly sunny and only a few clouds in the afternoon. Of course, the weather on Mount Hamel was an exception: Strong winds and rain so that it did pay off to carry and wear a jacket while being up there.

I started the race at a fairly slow pace because I knew what would be coming during leg 2. This was probably not the best idea as I was stuck at the back of the field for a long time and I had to wait several times to pass through narrow parts of the trail. Usually, the trail would have been wide enough to pass slower runners but with the huge puddles of mud and water, we had to take detours around these obstacles and that meant single- file “traffic”. Anyway, I made it through leg 1 without any issues and then I started leg 2 with a fresh new T-Shirt, new socks and new runners. Then, on leg 2, I stepped up my pace a little bit and I also managed to do the downhills without major injuries. I did fall twice and I also hit rocks with my right foot twice but overall my feet and legs were still absolutely fine after leg 2. However, I had a bit of a scary situation while running the uphill stretch in between Flood Mountain and Grande Mountain as this was a very very hot and humid stretch that felt like being in the jungle. At one point I felt really dizzy and also started feeling nauseous so I had to stop for two minutes to rest a little before I could go on. That felt really strange but luckily it was only a minor and temporary issue.

01-Leg1
Enjoying my run on leg 1. So much energy left!
02-Leg2
Power- hiking up Grande Mountain with Mount Hamel in the back. Still smiling! 🙂

Then, at the transition area after leg 2, Rachel waited for me to assist me with putting pain relief creme on my hurting knees, with eating, with changing my clothes etc. After a short stay, I headed out on the course again. Luckily, the black bear that had been spotted at the start of leg 3 earlier had gone again so I was not affected by this anymore. On leg 3, I met Alain, a fellow runner from Wainwright (AB), and we kept running together for about 25 kilometers, which was really nice. We also met a Husky dog on leg 3 who was running on his own and accompanied us for a while and then apparently ran the last part of leg 3 together with a different group of runners. 🙂 Then, in the transition area between legs 3 and 4, someone leashed the dog and checked its collar to return it to its owners. Pretty funny story though. 🙂 Again, Rachel waited for me in that transition area and supported me with everything I needed. At that point in the race, my stomach was a little bit upset which is highly unusual for me. Thus, I decided not to eat any of the prepared pasta or salad anymore but to stick to watermelon, bananas and apples.
At the end of leg 3 I still felt fairly fresh and energetic and the only pain I felt was in both of my knees. As everything else was okay and since I had managed to run faster than planned, I knew that I would be able to finish the race in time unless I severly injured myself on the final two legs of the race.

03-Leg3
Leg 3. The dog was running next to me, right in the water puddle. Unfortunately, the photographer did not want to include the dog in the picture. 😦
04-Hamel
Leg 4, up at Mount Hamel. Yes, I was still in a very good mood, despite the wind and rain.

As expected, the start of leg 4 was a strenuous and long powerhike up Mt Hamel but I still felt good doing it and except for my slightly nervous stomach and my aching knees, I was still in really good shape so I even enjoyed this rather demanding stretch. When I came close to the summit, it started raining and strong winds made me put on my rain jacket (see picture above). Of course, Mt Hamel had its very own weather during race day to challenge the runners a little more. 🙂 Then, on the way down from Hamel, I ran for a long, long time while it was still light and thus covered a lot of kilometers in short time. When I reached the Ambler Loop aid station, the sun was already gone but there was still a little bit of light left so I decided to immediately do the short loop before accessing my drop bag. This turned out to be the right decision as I definitely got my feet wet while running the loop due to the large water- and mud puddles on the course. So after I finally completed the loop, I put on a fresh pair of socks and runners and continued running towards the end of leg 4. Although the pain in my knees had continuously increased during the last hours, I still managed to run down Beaver Dam road and to cover more kilometers quickly. This stretch, however, was the last part of the race that I actually ran.
Roughly half an hour after midnight, I arrived at the transition area between legs 4 and 5 and I was amazed how well it was organized in terms of food, drinks and assistance for runners. I had warm meatballs (!!!), a coke, a slice of watermelon and some chips before I headed out into the darkness again to finish the race. What a feast!

Times
My times during the race. I started slow, then stepped up the pace on leg 2. Strong uphill!

Leg 5 was rather uneventful for me. I managed to not lose my coin (read more about the coin here) during the race so when I arrived at the river crossing, I was safely ferried over without any issues at all. Since my knees felt quite bad going into leg 5, I decided not to run anymore but to just steadily hike the rest of the race. I am sure I would have been able to run at least a few stretches of leg 5 but I decided to not put this additional strain on my knees and to just take it easy. I knew that I would be able to easily finish the race in time even if I only hiked so I decided it was time to give my body a little break. Interestingly, I did not even feel the urge to walk faster or to start running when other runners passed me. Prior to this race, I had made the pledge to myself to run my race at my pace and to ignore what would be happening around me. It turned out that I was very disciplined about this and that I managed to live up to my own expectation which clearly helped me to finish this race without any major struggles. Thus, I arrived at the finish line at 04:36:51 AM in the morning after 20 hours, 36 minutes and 51 seconds on the course, placing 77th out of 271 solo runners who started and 174 solo runners who finished. At the finish line, Rachel was already waiting for me and it felt so good to see her and to hug her after the race was done. Not sure how it felt for her to hug her extremely sweaty and smelly boyfriend but up to now I heard no complaints so I guess it was not too too bad. 🙂
Then, Keri, the race director and one of our trainers during the training camp in June, gave me my finisher medal and my personalized beer can from Folding Mountain Brewing (see titel picture above). She had predicted that she would do that on race day and I am really glad that she was right about it. Then, Rachel and I drove to our Air BnB place so that I could massage my legs with ice cubes, get a shower afterwards and then get some rest. Even though we were both exhausted, we did not manage to sleep very long so we got up fairly early again and started packing up on Sunday morning.

05-Finish
Finally done: Me walking over the finish line after 20:36:51 on the course. What a relief!
06-Ceremony
The awards ceremony and the post-race dinner at the recreation center in Grande Cache.

In the afternoon, Rachel and I stayed for the awards ceremony and the post-race dinner and then started driving in the direction of Vancouver after we felt that we had seen enough.

So what are my major personal take-aways from this race?

  1. I need to start training with poles, especially for downhill running. Not using poles caused an additional strain on my knees which could have been avoided.
  2. Having Rachel with me, who supported me a lot, was a great help and it made my race so much easier! Thanks, Sweetie! 🙂 Thus, for such a long race, I would definitely recommend a support crew.
  3. I need to eat more “real food” and less Cliff Bars / Block Chews during a longer race. Halfway into the race, I was already quite fed up with my “energy food”. Next race, I will try coconut water, avocados, dates or other more natural food. Suggestions are very welcome, please leave comments!
  4. It was absolutely right to change my socks, runners and T-Shirts several times during the race. Feeling comfortable, dry and warm is such a motivational boost and mostly having completely dry feet during the race definitely prevented me from getting blisters.
  5. Not listening to music while running helped me focusing on the course and the terrain, thus avoiding major feet injuries. I only lost 1 nail after the race. That’s prettys good!
  6. It was good to run my race at my pace and to do what felt good to me. I feel it was really beneficial for me to not look at times and to not try to follow/ catch other runners.
  7. My feet and legs felt absolutely okay after the race and during the following days. However, my knees did hurt quite a bit so I should find ways to protect them in future races.
  8. Even after 125 Km, I felt that I had not reached my limit yet. Although I would not have been able to run anymore, I think that hiking a few more kilometers would have been possible for me. So maybe it is time for another challenge, another race in the near- and/or more distant future? Well, who knows? I haven’t made any decisions yet but there are a few options I am currently looking at… 🙂

Wow, a truly long blog entry this time. Let’s conclude this with the ususal music piece. This time, a German Rap song that I listened to while walking leg 5 during the night. A pretty good on-theme song to listen to in that situation!

Jay Jiggy – Survivor

43. Red Deer Marathon

Olds (Alberta), Canada, 22.05.2017.

Day one after my second marathon in two weeks. This time, I don’t have to work but I can chill at Jo Anne’s and Doug’s house and rest my legs and feet a little. The weather is beautiful and after having written this blog entry, I will definitely go outside and relax a bit in the nearby park. Such a blessing to have a long weekend off. One of the many upsides of my new job as a Senior Store Manager. 🙂

So yesterday I did my second marathon in two weeks and it felt totally different than the first one I did in Vancouver. But let’s stick to the bare facts first before going into detail. I finished in 3:29, which is a bit slower than my 3:27 finish in Vancouver. However, I still managed to be quicker than 3:30 so the pace was a little better than 5:00 minutes per kilometer. Interestingly, I finished the first 21.1 Km in 1:39 whereas my second 21.1 Km were a lot slower with 1:50. This indicates that my time management could have been better in this race. Bearing in mind that the circumstances of the run were not ideal, I am very satisfied with the outcome. So what about the circumstances of the run? Well, first of all my legs and my feet were still not fully regenerated from the last marathon. And secondly, I made the mistake to do a longer and quite intensive run last Thursday and it felt like I should not have done that prior to the marathon. Anyway, I knew beforehand that my body condition could be an issue in this endeavour and I factored that in. And what about the race course and the weather yesterday? Well, I think that yesterday’s course was not particularly demanding but it was still a bit more difficult than the really convenient course in Vancouver. And the same goes for the weather. Generally, it was lovely yesterday but it got annoying when the sun became really strong and I had to run without any shadow for longer periods. In the end I was fortunate to not get a sun burn but I could feel the skin on my face stretching in the evening. Overall, the conditions of the run were quite good but not as ideal as in Vancouver two weeks ago.

Marathon1
Runners already lined up at the start line before the start of the race.
Marathon3
At the end of the field: My preferred starting position.

The run itself was a lot more strenuous than the Vancouver marathon and it cost me a lot of effort to maintain my pace throughout the race. While I was still doing absolutely fine after 21.1 Km in the Vancouver race, I already felt leg pain yesterday just after the first 6 Km. So basically, yesterday’s run was all about taking the pain and fighting throughout the race. That is why it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the Vancouver run. Another thing that really bugged me was the fact that I had to run alone for a long part of the race. During the Vancouver run I always had other runners in front of me and I could motivate myself to catch every single one of them. But yesterday, there were not nearly as many runners than in the Vancouver run. So after a few kilometers I had noone in front of me anymore and I had to run against the clock. Personally, I think that this is a big psychological disadvantage and it takes a lot of discipline to keep yourself pushing forward although there is noone to catch up to. Then, if you add constantly aching muscles to that equation, you can imagine how hard it is not to slow down involuntarily. Anyway, I don’t want to complain about anything here because it was still a good run and a great experience to me. And also a good training for the Canadian Death Race that I might do in 2018.

Finish
Unfortunately, there was no mascot at the race this year….
Barbecue
Better weather for the barbeque than last year, that’s for sure!
Marathon4
Chillout- area after the race.

After the race, I rested a little while and stocked up on water and fruits. Although they had a free barbeque- stand again, I did not feel like eating a burger after the race. Also, I felt a little dizzy after the race, possibly because I had been in the sun for most of the time. When I felt good again after a few minutes, I got into my car and drove to Jo Anne’s and Doug’s place to chill out for the rest of the day. And since I also had the Monday and the Tuesday off, I could still rest today (Monday) and postpone my drive back to Vancouver to Tuesday.  Better situation than having to work on the day after the race, that’s for sure. 🙂 However, my legs already feel good again and there is only one real blister at my feet so walking is not a problem at all in the moment. It is a little disturbing though that the upper parts of both of my feet seem to be a little swollen and it still hurts when I apply pressure to the largest of the foot bones. I hope this is nothing serious but I guess I will find out more about that in a few days…

Now what is the plan for the future, which major races will I possibly do in the next months? Well, this is my current calendar:

Langley Half Marathon, 21.01.2017:    1:51
Vancouver Marathon, 07.05.2017:        3:27
Red Deer Marathon, 21.05.2017:           3:29
30K race, Whistler, 03.06.2017:             attendance depending on recovery of feet
Marathon Kamloops, 23.07.2017:         possibly
Half Marathon Vancouver, 12.08.17:   probably not
50K trail race, Squamish 19.08.17:       very likely
Marathon Texada Island, 27.08.17:      probably not if I run the 50K in Squamish
Marathon Richmond, 01.10.17:             very likely
Kelowna Marathon, 07.10.17:               probably not
Okanagan Marathon, 08.10.17:             probably not
80K race, Whistler, 14.10.17:                very likely but dependent on my training status
Marathon North VAN, 28.10.17:           unlikely if I attend the 80K race at Whistler
Marathon, Delta, 05.11.17:                    possibly
Marathon Seattle, 26.11.17:                   maybe, depending on the weather
Half Marathon, Vancouver, 26.11.17:  alternative if I don’t go to Seattle

The two highlights in this race calendar are the 50K race in Squamish and the 80K race in Whistler. Now that I feel pretty confident with doing marathons, I might as well try longer distances and these two races offer me the opportunity to just do that. However, I have not yet finally decided which of these races I will do. Since I don’t know how I will have to work on the weekends and how I will feel after the previous races, I will probably decide on doing a certain race just shortly before it takes place.

Now I feel I have written enough about running and races and it is time to conclude this blog entry with my usual music advice, enjoy:

Offspring – Original Prankster