Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Canadian Death Race: All Signed Up and Ready To Roll

I have never really been one for nicknames, yes I do have a hasher name and a lot of people have affectionately started calling me 'Barefoot Bob' or 'Barefooting Bob'. But the one nickname that has intrigued me over the last couple of years is 'Death Racer', I don't know why it just sounds like a really cool moniker to put after your name, "Barefoot Bob - Death Racer", or the affiliation, Barefoot Bob D.R. (the letters should go after the name don't want to be confused as a Doctor or something) . It just oozes cool, right. I thought so.

If you are unfamiliar with the moniker, then what hole has your head been stuck in for the last 11 years (just kidding your head could of been stuck in a paper bag too I guess, I am not out to offend anyone here). The 'Death Racer' is the moniker given to the few who have ran one of the hardest ultra marathons in Canada, 'The Canadian Death Race', a 125km trek through the mountains around the sleepy town of Grand Cache, AB every August long weekend. This race consists of extreme mountain trails, three mountain summits, 17,000 ft of elevation change, one major river crossing and the ever constant possibility of encountering wildlife in their natural habitat (including grizzly bears, cougars, etc), remember we are entering their domain not the other way around. This run is a premier event and will test the best of the best to their limits, and has been on my bucket list as a 'One Day' since I started running. Well, that 'one day' has happened, Nicole and I along with another friend (Dan) have signed up for the relay event this summer. It's kind of a interesting story how it all transpired, two weeks ago, I never would of guessed we would be planning our trip to Grand Cache this summer to take part in this awesome event.

It all started last week when Nicole mentioned that it would be fun to see if we could put a team together for the CDR relay, now I will admit at the time I did not take her to seriously because the Death Race is a huge endeavour to undertake without a lot of commitment. Of course, I said yes we should look into that, half thinking that the idea would dissipate in a few days, but to my surprise Nicole kept bringing it up and there was obvious research being done. Suddenly by the weekend, I was picking the brain of a friend who had partaken in the event last year, we were making arrangements for my parents to watch the kids while we attended the training camp in June on Monday, we were scheduling vacations around June and the race event in August by Tuesday, crap this was turning into more than a possibility the anticipation was becoming pretty intense. Suddenly Nic and I were frantically trying to find some more crazies who wanted to get in on our little adventure lined up. I'm not sure whether the majority thought we were kidding or something because we did get some interest then they researched a little further and the maybe's quickly became no's. This was kind of expected, it not easy to get past the thought of running this event with all the challenges that you would face, but then I got a message from a fellow hash house harrier, with a short and sweet, "I'm in". I did a double take, and quickly sent a response back to Dan to confirm if he was serious, he was, and suddenly we were three. With this confirmation I jumped to the computer and the application process was on. Hoping that we would get another interested party prior to me sending in the application and making payment to round out our team, but not really expecting it, I felt we could not wait any longer, because there was only limited spots and I didn't want to miss out on getting in.

So on Wednesday night I signed us up as a team of three, called "What Were We Thinking?", consisting of Nicole, Dan and myself. It was a good thing I did not wait to long, because low and behold Thursday morning early the run was sold out, now all that remained were some lottery spots, and we did not have to leave it to chance, cause we were in. Now the funny thing with all this, was once you are registered with the numbers of your team you cannot change the numbers, so our team of three could not add a runner, nor can we delete a number. This was ironic because I was contemplating signing up a friend who I did not hear back from before I hit send just in case but figured it would not be a good idea in case he did not want to run. I didn't want to be stuck with three members in a registered four member team. Of course as luck would have it, I hear from our friend the next day and he wants in on the race, not only him but I hear from 2 other friends that would like to run it as well. Crap, wouldn't you know it, I was stuck telling these guys that they were two late, maybe next year. I felt bad, but honestly not for long as the smile grew onto my face once again, I'm going to run the Death Race.

Go Death Racer, Go.

So here we were three runners from Manitoba, going to tackle one of the hardest Ultra Marathons in Canada, no pressure. The description of the legs as defined by 'The Canadian Death Race Website is as below, as for the sequence of runners it follows:

First leg, 19 km: The Downtown Jaunt
Approximately 6 km of pavement initially, followed by trail and 3.5 km of gravel road. It includes a net elevation loss of 500 feet, rolling hills with flat sections, several creek crossings and one significant downhill. The course will start in downtown Grande Cache and the race officially begins at the 5 km mark, after passing the Grande Cache Saddle club. It then continues past Grande Cache Lake and Peavine Lake, mainly on quad trails and including a section along a ridge with a spectacular view of Peavine Lake and the mountains of Willmore Wilderness Park. After crossing Washy Creek and skirting the north end of the CN rail yard through a deep mud bog, enter the first full aid station and relay exchange zone. Cut off Time: 12 Noon

This leg will be ran by me, I will be running this barefoot at least that is the plan as it stands.

Second leg, 27 km: Flood & Grande Mountain Slugfest Includes about.1 km of pavement. The rest is dirt trail with rocky and swampy sections, and approximately 6 km of hard packed dirt road.. Net elevation gain is 500 feet, but the total elevation change is well over 6000 feet. This leg of the race is characterized by long sustained climbing with about 3 km of very rough terrain and two creek crossings. The trail from the summit of Flood Mountain to the summit of Grande Mountain is the roughest piece of trail in the Death Race. The power line down the front of Grande Mountain leading back into town is the most dangerous part of the entire course. This is due to the steep, rocky drop-offs and unstable footing while running downhill. The Slugfest is the most technical section and is rated the second hardest leg of the Death Race (although many rate this leg as the hardest of all). Cut off Time: 6 pm

This leg will be ran by Dan, he will be our anchor to get Nicole to the downhill portion.

Third leg, 21 km: Old Mine Road (or “City Slicker Valley”) Includes 5 km of pavement: the rest is dirt road with several creek crossings. One creek runs right down the trail as you descend the first part of the Mine Road., making for very slippery, rocky terrain for 30 meters. This section passes through the lowest point in the race, hitting the very bottom of the Smoky River valley floor, with knee deep water for 25 meters. (If it’s a wet summer, it's worse.) With a net elevation loss of about 1000 feet, this section is the fastest and easiest of the race and one of the most beautiful, offering stunning views of the Smoky River valley. Cut off Time: 7 pm

This leg will be ran by Nicole, with the expectation that she will be able to pick up some time on the downhill portion, because I am going to need it for the next leg.

Fourth leg, 36 km: Hamel AssaultThis is mostly dirt trail and hard packed gravel. While the net elevation gain is zero, the total elevation change is well over 6500 feet, which comes practically all at once. The ascent of Mount Hamel (elevation: 6,986 feet) is broken into two very long climbs, with one small reprieve as you gain the shoulder of the mountain at the mid-point. You will pass the Hamel Escape station where racers can bail out if they've had enough. At the forestry tower on the summit of Mount Hamel runners check in and then continue toward the spectacular cliff bluffs at Hell's Canyon, where they must retrieve a prayer flag as proof they have made the turnaround point. The descent is strewn with boulders and deep ruts. The downhill is not that technical, but any falls will be on very unforgiving ground. (Read the waiver section about being in remote areas and not being rescued in time to prevent serious injury or death.) This entire leg is fantastically scenic. Cut off Time: 4:15 am

I will be tackling this leg, I love running hills, it tests the core to no end. Now I know this is a mountain and not just a hill, but I will be running this with a smile from ear to ear. And yes, I will be wearing shoes for this one, probably a pair of Minimus (I am going to throw some plugs to some friends to see if I can get a pair to test, shhhh don't tell anyone).

Fifth and final leg, 24km, The River CrossingIncludes 1 km pavement, 6 km gravel road, and a river crossing. The rest dirt trail, grass, and single track. Net elevation change of over 2500ft. This section runs from the Northwest end of the Hell’s Gate Access Road southward to the Sulphur Gates Road, across from the Hell’s Gate emergency aid station. It crosses the Hell’s Gate road and heads down to the Boat Launch road . Runners will be ferried across the Smoky River. There is an emergency aid station on the west bank of the river. From the raft crossing, racers will proceed up the east shore of the Smoky River and follow the trail to the Sulphur Rim trail. The course passes the Firemen's park, heads up Firemen's Park Road and continues to the Finish line in the Grande Cache town square. Please note: For most runners this leg will be completed in darkness with much of the trail under a heavy canopy of trees, so eye protection is required. Although this section is well marked with reflective markers, flags and signs, we recommend you bring a halogen headlamp with brand new alkaline batteries. Daylight training on this part of the course is highly recommended.
Last boat: 6 am End of Race: 8 am Course closes: 9 am

The last leg is going to ran by Nicole, she really wants to do the Smoky River Crossing, my only concern is she will be running this at night. But I know I will be so proud of her when she crosses that finish line.

Just to give you a true picture of what the elevation changes are like take a look at the following:

Doesn't it look fun.

Anyway, training for this run is going to be very important, we are going to need every advantage, so we are also signing up for the Death Race training camp in June, so we get a first hand look at what we are getting ourselves into. Over the weekend we will see every inch of the course either with mountain bike, running it or hiking it. All valuable knowledge, because to come not prepared to a race like this is a recipe for a DNF. While just being involved with the race is going to be great, I am not going to settle for anything less than a finish time, because that is just how we roll. Look out Grande Cache we are coming to see ya this summer.

Also want to send a shout out to another Winnipeg runner, who I had the pleasure to run with last summer. Mark will be tackling the Death Race solo, how about that, and you thought we were crazy. This will be his first visit to the Death Race, I know he is going to kill the course.

On that note, I want to leave you with some outtakes from the 2010 race for your viewing pleasure. This will be a prelude to the pictures and video taping I hope to be doing throughout the race. I am hoping to borrow a friend's strap on video camera for the race, and if I can manage it I hope to take some good footage along the way.

Happy Running and

Go Death Racers!!

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