Canadian Death Race: Michelle’s Near Death Marathon



Elevation Gain

1805 Meters

Avg. Pace

11:55/ km



Cellular Coverage: Partial Coverage

Trail Type: Loop

I have never run a marathon.

I’ve done many 50ks, a 60k, 80k, and attempted 100k (2nd attempt will be in 7 weeks!) but never a marathon.

CDR is one of Sinister Sports‘ slew of races. They have a little something for everyone, so if you haven’t heard of them, have a look – Brian and his crew always put on well-organized races with a super fun atmosphere AND it’s Trail Sisters approved!

The Marathon is 41.1km with ~1700m elevation and a cut-off of 9.5 hours. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very challenging course, but back of the packers like me have a solid opportunity to finish in the time allowed.

Got snot? Monday before the race I started to get a sore throat, sore ears and itchy eyes. Awesome. I was hoping that it wouldn’t progress into anything worse but come race day I was in a full-blown head cold and hadn’t slept properly in days. Armed with Dristan, Tylenol Cold & Flu and a bunch of Halls, I decided to toe the line and see how things went. Mike and I have a game we play – reason? or excuse? – it’s a way for us to think through the challenges that come up in life. Are we stopping because of a good reason? Or just an excuse? It’s important to know the difference and not push yourself when real injury is a possibility but not avoid a challenge just because you are uncomfortable.

The problem with one toeing the line loaded up on cold medication is that one could possibly be foggy, and then one potentially could forget something important, say, like a timing chip, back in the hotel, a good 10 min walk one way – 15mins before the gun goes off…

…so with 2 minutes to spare, Mike comes flying back, my timing chip in hand and we are literally off to the races!

Leg 1 – 16.6km, +244m, 1:57:23, TA time 9 mins

The course starts with about 1 km of pavement as you make your way through downtown Grande Cache at Central Park, followed by trail and 8 km of gravel road. It then continues past Grande Cache Lake and Peavine Lake, mainly on quad trails, and includes a section along a ridge with a spectacular view of Peavine Lake and the mountains of Willmore Wilderness Park. After crossing Washy Creek through a deep mud bog, you enter the first full aid station.

I really enjoyed leg 1 and wish I could describe the segments in greater detail but honestly, I was so brain-fogged I can hardly recall where I saw what, so take all this recount with a little grain of salt (or Dristan). Leg 1 was super runnable. I remember it went by really quickly. It was very wet in spots, so wet feet were not avoidable. I liked the variation in terrain – pavement, rolling hills, forest trails, bogs and logs. Quite a few bottlenecks, from what I recall, but the pack moved through decently enough, so it wasn’t a standstill. This leg was a great warm-up for the slog to come on leg 2. I had no idea what to expect, which was probably a good thing. I used to try and get as much beta before a race as possible, worrying about the elevations and distances, but all that did was get me stressed out about how long a climb was taking or how far it was to the next aid station rather than being able to enjoy the course. Now I kinda settle in and accept where I am. The climb is done when it’s done. The aid station will come when I get there. I find this frame of mind allows for a much nicer experience on course. I try to pay attention to the sights and smells, see the wildflowers as I pass them and take a moment to enjoy the vistas at the top.

Top of Grande

Gear n stuff

I used poles at some point. They were super helpful in the bogs, as footing was sketchy and vaulting over the puddles was helpful. Sunscreen was a must, but I didn’t use any bug spray and wasn’t bothered by any mosquitos. I had 2L electrolytes in my bladder and 500mls up front in my Salomon filter flask, which was plenty to get me to the aid station. No need to fill at the creeks, and this leg was not overly hot as it was still fairly early in the day with large sections in the trees. I’m running in Salomon Ultra Glide 2 at the moment – plenty of shoe for this whole course. Of course, I have my usual vest, sunglasses, hat with visor, Garmin watch and Aftershokz.

Leg 2 – 25.7km, +1563m, 6:09:00.03

Leg 2, appropriately called Slugfest, is the most technical section and rated the second hardest leg of CDR (although runners I spoke to said it was THE hardest). It includes about 1 km of pavement, a 19k dirt trail with rocky and swampy sections, and approximately 6 km of hard-packed dirt road (power line). Total elevation change is well over 6000 feet, characterized by long sustained climbing with about 3 km of very rough terrain and two creek crossings. The trail from the turn on Flood Mountain to the summit of Grande Mountain is steep. The Near Death Marathon course bypasses the Flood summit loop (about 1.7km), and if I remember this correctly, this is where I “ran” down Bum Slide 1 and Bum Slide 2. Although I didn’t land on my ass, several racers before and after me did -poles were a huge asset here to slow my decent. The Bum Slides weren’t too long, however, so I didn’t think they were as terrible as they were made out to be. There are some really beautiful bits of trail on leg 2 but be prepared to climb, climb, climb.

The power line down the front of Grande Mountain leading back into town is steep, and has rocky drop-offs and unstable footing. I would estimate the grade is ~45 degrees or more. I won’t sugarcoat this – it is brutal. And relentless. 6k feels like 50k, and many people had to stop on the declines to take a break. There isn’t anything to look at either. Just dirt, rocks and steepness. And just when you think it’s over, and you get to climb a little as a break, you crest over more beige dirt to see another stretch of steep, dusty shitty descent. Oh… and that repeats a few more times. Brutal.

I almost ran out of water, but there was a well-placed water station about 2.7km before the finish. I paused here to chug a bottle and refill my flask. It felt so good to get off the descent and know I had a short little jaunt back into town. At this point, I really slowed down – my cold meds had worn off, and my sinuses were fully plugged up again. I had loads of time to cut off and had been playing reason or excuse for the last couple of KMs – I decided I wasn’t making excuses and that there was no reason to completely fry myself on the last bit. I jogged/walked it back to the finish line to collect my medal and give Mike a big ole’ kiss.

I really enjoyed this race – the parts I can remember anyway 🙂 and am very glad we added it in to this year’s roster. I set a goal time of 7:45 so was really pleased that I came in 30 mins over that given how sick I was. Unfortunately, I was too foggy to think about taking pictures along the way and only snapped one at the top of Grande.

Total time 8:15:18

Total distance 41.54km

Total elevation 1,807m

Final position 53rd/110 women, 16th/52 Masters women

We finished our race, showered up and headed back out to help Katrina crew her hubby in the solo. Katrina is my invaluable crew wife. As a runner, she knows exactly what I need and is always willing to help me out where she can. She’s a wonderful friend, and I would be remiss if I didn’t give her a shoutout.

Kat, Shane, Me and Mike

Lessons learned in this race;

Maintaining a positive mindset makes the race infinitely easier than worrying about what may or may not happen.

I can push more than I realized.

Power line is the Devil’s work.

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