Michelle: Sinister 7 50km Race Report



Elevation Gain

1955 Meters

Avg. Pace

12:24/ km



Cellular Coverage: Partial Coverage

Trail Type: Loop

At Sinister, I am always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Well, in my case, always the crew, never the racer.
Until now, that is.

Mike and I have gone to Sinister for the last 4 years. I love everything about this race; the community, the atmosphere, the excitement. Normally I’m crewing Mike, but with his nagging injury, we weren’t sure 100 miles was in the books for 2023. We booked accommodations regardless with the intent to volunteer if he couldn’t race, but as luck and consistent physiotherapy would have it, he was feeling good, and we decided to race, so I picked up a 50K bib and Mike a 50miler.

The 50K course bridges the first half of Leg 1 and the last half of Leg 2, then carries on to Leg 3. With a generous cut-off of 13.5 hours, it’s perfect for back-of-the-packers like me. I figured it would take me about 10 hours at an enjoyable pace, maybe closer to 9 if I wanted to race it. My first goal was to have a good time and keep a positive mental attitude the whole way. My biggest challenge on most races is the mental game and staying positive when things don’t go the way I anticipated. My second goal was to be fast enough that I wasn’t chasing any cut-offs and that I was able to stop, take pictures and enjoy the views.

I felt really well prepared for the race. We normally train using a standard plan from Training Peaks – the goal being to maintain a level of fitness year-round that allows us to sign up for whatever race looks interesting. Mike had surprised me 2 months earlier by hiring Evolution Hill as my run coach, and it was a game-changer! Paul developed a plan that not only pushed me physically but also challenged all my self-limiting beliefs. He had me running farther and more frequently than I ever had in the last 4 years.
Sinister 7 50K

Mike and I got to the start early to soak in the excitement and watch the 100milers toe the line. So many run friends from Edmonton come to this race, and it’s always fun to see who will be there year to year. The 50K started 30 mins after the 100milers left, and apart from realizing 2 mins before the start that I had forgotten to put on sunscreen (not a problem in 24-degree heat, right?) I felt ready and super stoked to get out on the course. Mike was excitedly bouncing around through the crowd, saying Hi to old friends and busy making new ones.

Leg 1 starts in Blairmore and runs along the train tracks past the massive debris field from the Frank Slide. The pace is determined by the pack for the first couple of km as it’s single track with no real opportunities to pass. I settled into the middle and just kept focus on the shoes of the runner in front of me. The whole leg is very runnable, with a couple of decent climbs to switch things up.

The first real climb starts around 10km in. I used poles pretty early on and kept them out for the duration of the race. I would tell you that I used MY poles, only I didn’t – they were Mike’s – he can explain that one, I think… I always run with a vest, 2L of water, all my nutrition (I have IBS and cannot generally eat off the aid stations) and my new 500ml Salomon filter flask. This worked really well as my bladder contains Skratch Labs electrolytes, while my flask has plain water, which feels really refreshing given all the sugar I’m taking in. I refilled my flask at every creek, CP1 and CP2. Leg 1 felt good – it always takes me at least 5-10k to loosen up and get into a relaxed rhythm.

Leg 2 has the infamous heartbreak hill. I’m not sure where it started, but I can tell you that the view from the top of Hastings Ridge is spectacular! You get a view of the entire valley, including Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters, before you drop down the other side and head towards Blairmore to finish at TA2/3. There are some steep climbs and even steeper descents, which I normally dread as my knees are typically on fire (which I attributed to arthritis), but I felt amazing! The training with Paul already paid off, and I was so much stronger! No knee pain, and I was making good time. I just had to push past my fear of falling.

“Strong legs, good feet. Strong legs, good feet” – I just kept repeating my mantra over and over till I got back on the flats.

The whole segment was 19.3km with an elevation gain/loss of 870m. I came into the TA feeling fresh and strong. My thought process going into the race was that these legs were the warmup before the real race begins on Satan’s Sack.

Legs 1 & 2 elapsed time: 3:36:21.3
Let me take some time to explain the TAs – I normally don’t stop at TAs. I simply don’t have the time, as I generally chase cut-offs and don’t have the luxury of hanging out. They also don’t have food that I can risk, so really there isn’t much value in me stopping other than to refill water.

I didn’t officially have a crew, so I had a drop bag at TA 2/3, but my lovely friend Katrina was volunteering and was able to meet me. Katrina is amazing and knows the drill to a T. In the past, I have rushed through TAs where I should have really taken more time to reset – this has caused many issues on the subsequent legs because I forgot to do something important. I decided that since I had made good time on Legs 1&2, I was going to take my time to ensure I did all the things necessary to be successful on Leg 3. I had started the race without sunscreen, so that was my first priority. Katrina refilled my bladder and flask, found me some ice (which was a miracle) for my ice bandana, took all my garbage while I refilled my nutrition and helped me change my socks. I decided to stay a little longer to enjoy the freezie that one of the volunteers offered me, and 25 minutes later, I sauntered out towards the start of Leg 3. I have never stayed that long in a TA ever, and I will tell you, it was glorious! It was so nice not to feel rushed and panicked to get back out. I left feeling recharged and ready to tackle the infamous Satan’s sack.

Leg 3 is 30.8km with an elevation gain/loss of 1385m. It has the second most elevation gain and distance, is hot, dry, exposed and starts with a climb. My phone died early on, which sucked because, of course, that means no pictures but, more importantly, no music!! Oh well – I settled into listening to the rhythmic sounds of my feet on the trail. The course is beautiful and varied, so when you are getting tired of climbing, there is a descent for relief, then another climb just in case you were getting comfortable.

I am an introvert, I do not generally chat with other racers other than to say hi, but I had been yo-yo-ing with this chick for a while, and likely because my music had died, I decided to start up a conversation. “Thank the Gods, we have cloud coverage at times. And the breeze is so nice!” She was nice enough to respond, and we wound up chatting for a while, exchanging stories and keeping each other company during the gruelling heat. I asked her if it was her first race, and she told me about how she got into ultras. She started to tell me about this time she was hiking EEOR 5 years ago, and some “super stoked chick” was talking about Ultras…

“Holy shit! Wait… did you pick up a random hiker on that trip??” She stared at me in disbelief.

You see, 5 years ago, I was attempting the triple crown in Canmore during training. After finishing Ha Ling, I headed up EEOR – the June weather was fickle as usual, and I found myself going from sun to sleet to snow. I lost my way pretty early on and knew well enough that EEOR can be problematic when visibility is shit.

Along come two girls who seemed to know what they were doing, and they were kind enough to let me tag along and help me get safely to the top. As we trekked, we shared stories, and I told them about the ultra I was training for. One of the girls said something to the effect of “I can only run 5k!” to which I replied, “If you can run 5k, you can run 50K.”

Now all these years later, what are the odds that we would find each other on the same course?! We decided to stick together for the rest of the race and cross the finish line together. The hours went by pretty quickly as we caught up on each other’s lives. Her company lifted my spirits and helped me forget the heat and hills.

She was stronger on the up hills, and I was faster on the down, so we pushed and pulled each other through Satan’s sack, stopping at every creek to cool off. We took the time to help a relay runner who wasn’t fairing so well, took pictures of the views, and refilled at all the CPs. Honestly, it was the most fun and relaxed I have ever been on course.

Leg 3 elapsed time: 6:44:03.5

We finished as newly cemented friends, hands held together overhead as we crossed the finish line together.


I accomplished my goals for the race – have a good time, keep a positive mindset, and run fast enough not to be chasing cut-offs. After heading back to the hotel for a shower and a quick nap, it was time to head out to TA 5/6 so I could catch Mike as he headed out on Leg 7.

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2 Responses

  1. I love story’s like this. I used to be a runner. The odd marathon and nothing over 26.2. In recent years I took to backcountry hiking and I always encounter those people who are running the trail, whether it be 10km or 40km, there are those who just get after it.
    It was inspiring to hear your story and I wonder …. lol. West Coast Trail is coming up in sept and I’ve heard people even run that 75km.
    I’ve been following you and Mike and I can only imagine how awesome it must be to share the sights and experience with your partner!
    Awesome job Michelle!

    1. Thank you! I have the West Coast Trail on my radar for sure – it looks amazing… I’m glad you are liking the videos 🙂 The new format is super exciting and I love that Mike is flexing his creative muscles again. Check out Rockbound Lake, it should be out today!

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