The Canadian Death Race 2009 was a fun event, and hot! I ran leg 4, the Hamel Assault, in 2007, and that year we had quite a bit of rain. This year, it was 26-28 degrees most days, and very little rain. This made for tough conditions for many runners.
I didn’t have a team this year, but my wife did. A friend of mine was in the same boat, so we both signed up as volunteer runners, kind of in the last minute. It took a long time and waiting to finally get on a team, but we both eventually did. As it turned out, I ended up on a British Commando Soldier team. How cool! These guys were really strong and fit, and they were super nice and friendly. I had a great time hanging out with them. It turns out they actually had 3 teams and 3 solo runners entered. My team, Commando Team 2, needed a runner for leg 3, and I was pretty much prepared to run any leg. I had hoped I could run leg 1, but 3 should be interesting too. I had bought new trail shoes this same day, and against all wisdom, I decided to run in these new shoes. It did work out great, as a matter of fact.
It was hot when I started on leg 3, but a little bit of drizzling rain came down for a short while at least. This leg is almost all down hill, and there are lots of sharp rocks, shale and uneven terrain to master. I was feeling great and I pretty much just sprinted anytime there was a steep down hill, and it worked very well. I passed some people who probably thought I was nuts, seeing how they walked carefully over slippery rocks, while I came sprinting like a bat out of hell.
It was an interesting leg to run, and there was even a few climbs too. At one point, we ran along the river where part of the path had fallen into the stream. The course was marked so that we had to go as far away from the edge as possible, but I still got pretty close to the edge hanging over the river. Kind of adventurous! Then I fell and hit my knee a bit, as I was jumping over a small creek. No biggie though – I got up and finished strong in 1:10, which I think is a very good time on this leg.
I surprised our next runner, who probably didn’t think I was going to come for another 10 minuter or so. He took off up towards Mount Hamel, and Alex, who was supposed to run leg 5, mentioned he had a sore knee. Alex had run leg 1 and an injury flared up. He said he could do leg 5 anyway, but when I saw him limping, I offered to run leg 5 instead. Everyone thought that was a good idea, and our team was hoping to catch their 1st team with me running leg 5.
Back to see the Race Director to see if they could switch me in on Leg 5. Easier said than done, it seemed, but Alex took care of that while I went to the hotel to get some food in me and a bit of rest before heading down to the exchange for Leg 5. I had a beer as well, and ahh, did it ever taste good!
For the race, I decided to wear a CamelBak with water, and I felt I should take it somewhat easy, since I didn’t know if I could run so hard after the fast running I did on leg 3. Problem was, this leg starts with a very steep climb, immediately. Well that got my heart rate going! I passed a few people going up this steep ascent, and I started to feel quite good. At this point, you run for quite a while in a green forest area, on a narrow, winding path where it is hard to see where you put your feet, due to all the vegetation. My shoes were wet from leg 3, and at this point my toes were starting to hit the front of my shoes. Ouch. I ran sideways on most of the downhills from now on, in order to save my toenails – they were so sore!
I eventually got to the split rock, which was cool, and then next thing I knew, I was at Hell’s Gate and the check point. I was a bi slow getting my coin out to the ferry man of Death (we was very kind by the way), but oh well. There was another guy there at the same time, and we briefly exchanged a few words – he really enjoyed this experience too.
At the other side of the river, there was another check point, and then the real work started. Steep, steep climbs, one after another. I noticed my legs were starting to have enough, and I decided to walk anytime it was very steep (which was way too often) and jog on the easier climbs. I eventually came to the avenue of leaves, where I passed the eventual solo winner. We exchanged a few words and he seemed to be in great spirit, whereas I was thinking “how the heck can you even make it this far?”, as I was dead tired after a leg and a half only.
Next, the Root Route, full of tricky tree roots everywhere. At this point, it was getting to be quite dark, and I had trouble seeing where I put my feet. I had a head light with me, but it was somewhere in my CamelBak and I thought I would soon be getting to the road, at which point I wouldn’t need the light. After some some stubmling and tripping on roots, I finally made it to the road. Just a couple of kilometres to the finish, and it was pretty dark now. The last part on the road has a really steep hill, and there was no way I could run up it. My legs were dead.
I felt relieved to finally get to the town and see some lights and some people. I forced myself to get the legs going a bit harder towards the end, just for show, and I finished in just over 1:50. Tired, but happy! I never got close to that other team; they had too much of a lead on us, but our team placed 10th overall – certainly no shame in that! Our team did great, and we all had a fun time. I say big thanks to the all Commando Soldiers; I really enjoyed this!
The next day, it was Kid’s race. It was insanely hot, and these kids had to run 5 km with a really long and tough hill halfway through. I had a proud dad moment, seeing Karly come in as one of the fastest girls in her age category, and Amalia sprint to the finish with impressive energy. She is only 5, and the course and the conditions were certainly not easy to handle. Well done, girls!
Overall, it was a very enjoyable weekend in Grand Cache. It is a great event to do, if you are a runner. It’s hard, but it’s not as bad as it may seem. They do a good job with entertainment and race atmosphere, and I certainly think we will come back and do it again.