Did you know that the town of Grand Cache, Alberta is a loooooooong ways away?? From anything?? I had Runners Amnesia and had forgotten how far it is to make the Pilgramage to the Death Race.
I had a great weekend at Death Race, it was great fun to go with wide open plans and be a "free-agent" all weekend! The only loose plans were to go support my friends Brenda and Steve who were soloing, go for some runs, cheer on runners (one of my favorite things!), visit some old friends and some new, sleep in the back of the car and maybe, finangle a spot on a relay team in need of a runner!
I did all of these things and had lots of fun along the way.
Firstly, I'd like to say The Death Race has grown up a bit. It has found a great sponsor in the North Face to give the event a little more polish and shine! I ran this event twice in the early years and is certainly a BIGGER, SHINIER Death Race than it was back in the day. This race has lots of personality, a great race vibe and most importantly, it still has the wickedly tough course that has always been the backbone of this race.
Firstly, I'd like to share the story of my first Death Race experience because it was a helluva' lot of fun.
It was the second year that the event was held and we were a throw together, rag-tag team of runners and Adventure Racers. We named our team, Team Beligerrent and the focus of the team was on going for a little runny-run, but also on beer and on fun. The focus was mostly on being Beligerrent in name and spirit. The team name gave us a license to be a little louder and a little more obnoxious, than we actually were.
We convinced our buddy Jeff, who was certainly a fantastic athlete but not a runner, to run Leg 4. He was thrilled that he could leave a drop bag on the summit, because this meant he could put a Budweiser in his bag and enjoy a brew on top of a mountain! To our amazement and disbelief, we all had a great race and found ourselves finishing in daylight and on the podium in second place! Heck, we were 7th overall! Well, this meritted some beer drinking and the next day, whilst slightly hung over, we tracked down the winning team, dragged them into the Legion Beer Garden and challenged them to a game of Bum Darts. While they had kicked our asses out on the race course, we were determined to beat them at a very silly drinking game. Afterall, were were Team Belligerrent. So began, The Bum Olympics. This game is also a relay, where you have to clinch and hold a coin in your butt cheeks, run across the room and then deposit the coin in a pint glass. Well. They didn't stand a chance!! Team Beligerrent rocked the Bum Olympics! I can't remember where the beer drinking fit in to the relay, but it didn't really matter because we had been warming the beer garden for awhile. And in the end, We Were The Champions. At least in our own minds! I danced until the wee hours and drove home with my friend Dorin in his old Porsche. I didn't feel so good on the loooooong drive home and it wasn't my legs.
Fast forward 7 years. My plan was to go for a run in the Jasper area en-route to Grand Cache, but the weather was 2c and raining sideways. I kept driving and ended up in Grand Cache early, so I went for a long run on the race course and did part of Leg 4. Talk abut culture shock! Being a National Park girl, I am spoiled with perfect singletrack and pristine wilderness. In the course of my 4 hour run I found myself enoying a little shift in local culture. There were lots of people enjoying a day on their ATV's. I stumbled across a fee places where I could free camp AND fire a few rounds with my shotgun. Also, there was a new Clearcut in the neighborhood. You can't see it from town fortunately, so the beautiful landscape of Mount Hamel is still intact. It is till immense, rocky and glorious from a distance.
After my dirty sweaty run, I headed to the Rec Centre to clean up and hopefully hook up with some of the friends at the pre-race Pasta dinner. Well. I should have christened this weekend the Leslie FreeLoading weekend because within 45 minutes, I had myself a free dinner, a free place to stay thanks to my North Face friends and their tents and a free entry into the Death Race as a "substitute" runner for Leg 5. Yiihaw! Those are the benefits of being a free agent!
Part 2 - to follow soon.