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

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62. Preparation for the Death Race

North Vancouver, Canada, 26.07.2018.

Right after Glenn and I finished our Road Trip through BC on June 21st, I headed up to Grande Cache (see title picture) to take part in the first of the two Death Race training camps this year. This turned out to be a very good decision since I got to know the course, I experimented successfully with nutrition and gear and I met a lot of friendly fellow racers that all share my goal and passion for running.

This was our schedule for the weekend:

Friday: Leg 2, pasta dinner and front end of leg 5 ~ 30 Km
Saturday: Legs 3 and 4 ~ 52 Km
Sunday: Part of leg 1 and back end of leg 5 ~ 22 Km

Due to time constraints, we skipped a few uninteresting and easy stretches on legs 1, 2 and 4. Thus, we did not do the full 125 Km of the race.

Town2
Scenic view from my AirBnb- apartment. Always a pleasure to come back to Grande Cache.
Flood
Leg 2. Turn right to run up Grande Mountain, turn left to run down Slugfest.
Flood-Grande
Up on Flood Mountain. Views on Grande Mountain and Mount Hamel.
Powerline
Still leg 2: Powerline trail. So steep and hard on the knees!

It was really good and insightful to see most of the race course and to know what challenges will be waiting for us on Race Day. After this training camp, I now know that I will be able to finish the race if I manage to avoid injuries and if there are no unfortunate circumstances like bear incidents or thunderstorms. Thus, after the training camp, I lost my fear of the race and instead, I am now looking forward to taking on this challenge. I still have a lot of respect for the race course and it won’t be easy but I now know that it is doable for me.

During the training camp, I experimented a little with nutrition and I think I now figured out a configuration that will work for me on race day. As my main drink, I will go for water, enriched by electrolytes from NUUN- tablets (Hi Kyla :-)). In addition to that, I will eat CLIFF- bars and CLIFF- bloks (energy chews) during the race to at least get a minimum of solid food every now and then. I don’t really like the Gel packs so I will only carry a few as an emergency reserve but I don’t really want to use any during the race. I feel that they did not really do all that much for me in the past… During my short rest periods in the transition areas and aid stations, I will eat a combination of fruits (bananas, apples), veggies (bell peppers) and prepared food (Pasta, salad and sandwiches) to refill my stomach. Fortunate for me, I figured out during the training camp that I don’t have an issue with running after having eaten a lot. 🙂 I know that some runners just can’t eat a lot because it makes them nauseous and some even have to throw up due to that. So I am blessed to be able to eat as much and whatever I like and just continue running afterwards. So this is exactly what I will do: All you can eat during my short breaks. 🙂

Leg3 finish
Transistion area at the end of leg 3. After this stop, it’s a 2 hour climb up Mount Hamel.
Hamel
View on Mount Hamel from the distance. Not so very motivating. 😉
View from Hamel1
View from Mount Hamel on the surrounding mountains. Still snow there in late June!
View from Hamel2
The fire lookout cabin on Mount Hamel. After passing that, it is downhill again.

The one thing I have not yet tried or practiced is the use of poles when running/ powerwalking. In hindsight, I should have taken poles with me and started using them on the course. Since I didn’t, I then felt that it is maybe to late to start using them and to change my style of running so close to the race. So I decided not to use poles for the race and to do what I feel comfortable with. Of course this means that I am potentially missing out on a good tool that could help me to conserve energy but on the other hand I just did not want to “touch a running system”. Old Windows- joke that definitely has some truth to it. 😉 So no poles it is for race day. I think I will be fine anyway.

Last but not least, it was great to meet so many fellow runners, have good conversations and exchange running experiences. It was definitely helpful to get running tips and advice on nutrition as well as helpful gear advice for race day. So after returning from my trip, I went to MEC in North Vancouver and to REI in Bellingham to get everything that I still needed for race day. And now I am all prepared, I guess and hope.

Confluence
Leg 5: The confluence of Smoky- and Sulphur River at Hell’s Gate Canyon.
Hell's Canyon downstream
Amazing how these two rivers have totally different colours and that they dont mix right away.
Tree-of-Souls
Leg 5: Back at the Tree of Souls. I left my good old trainers there (pointing at them) and I will wish them a final “Goodbye” on race day.

Overall, I am grateful for the truly amazing experiences I was allowed to make during that weekend. Kery, Tracy and Anita did an awesome job organizing the training camp and I am happy that I was there to prepare for the upcoming race. 🙂

In the past few weeks after the training camp, I continued my training mostly on the North Vancouver trails (Baden Powell and Mount Seymour). In addition to that, I also did the Grouse Grind and the BCMC twice. I felt that I needed this intense uphill- and downhill exercise as there are quite a few stretches on the Death Race that are comparably bad or even worse (Powerline downhill on Leg 2). Right now, I feel prepared and ready to do the race and I will focus on regenerating a bit during this last week leading up to the race. The race itself will be on Saturday, August 4th and then we will see if I had enough training or not. Wish me luck! 🙂

Today’s music piece is from a crazy German HipHop- Electro Band and it fits the current challenge/ race theme of this blog entry. Sort of. 😉 Enjoy!

Deichkind – Limit