The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning. ~Ivy Baker Priest
I am back from the Canadian Death Race 2008, I joined 223 soloist and 182 teams for what it turn out to be the hardest race I have done. To downplay the race to seem modest is a disrespect to the 81 soloist that finished me included and also to all the racers who tried but had to drop out of the race because of injuries or missing cutout times.
Of the 223 soloist only 81 finished, and out of the 81 only 8 where female. Jack Cook from Edmonton smoked the course again, he is the course record holder and he finished first overall at 13:56:13, the fastest female was Diane Van Deren from Sedalia USA, her finish time was 17:16:22. To my surprise I finished 30th overall, 4th female and first on my age group at 20:44:14 even though it was posted I was third on my age group, I was awarded 1st at the awards ceremony to my delight.
I was nervous coming into the race, after all this is the race that started it all, exactly one year ago I came home from Grand Cache sore, beaten, but in love with ultrarunning and trail running. Last year I didn't finished, but I went a lot farther I had ever gone before.
When I signed for the race last year, I didn't know about ultrarunning. It had been a year after Karl was diagnosed with cone rod dystrophy and I was devastated,it's a hereditary condition so it has to run in families, when the doctor asked about my family history all I could think was that my grandfather had been blind, different condition but who knows that was Mexico 40 years ago. The following week I started running, I remember wanting to run until my skin came off. In less than a year I had a son who was diagnosed with an incurable condition, I had lost my job, and I was single and heartbroken. There at home unable to sleep I tried to find a race for the summer, I started running with my best friend Nadia to qualify for Boston, something I did accomplished but Boston was longways away, I needed something to do for the summer. I found the Death Race, doing some research about ultras, I came upon an article about ultrarunner Mimi Anderson of the UK, she was part of a small group of female ultrarunners that the media calls "Brave Girls" feeling vulnerable at that moment,is exactly what I wanted to be,brave to face the challenges that lay ahead.
After just one more year I am please to tell you that things have changed significantly, while there is still no cure for cone dystrophy, I just saw an article about medication being use for macular degeneration, is in the same family of disease so I am very hopeful. I have a great job where everybody is very supportive, my family and best friend are there for me and of course I met the most amazing man in the world, Brett Wilson, before you go an google him let me do a shameless promotion of his TV show, he is the new Dragon on CBC's Dragons Den
I have know of Brett for quite sometime, and in Calgary who doesn't, I was apprehensive about going out with him after sparks flew when we finally met in person at his Garden Party, after all he is the Canadian version of Richard Branson, I have always admire his charisma and how brilliant he is in business and at marketing but I am more private about my life ( except now I guess is rubbing off)but the Brett I fell for was the one who took me to the children's hospital to visit Eugene, a friend of his son Russell. Eugene is battling cancer, Brett himself being a prostate cancer survivor wanted to stop by and see him and his mom, there in the hospital, talking about soccer with this bald teenage and making him smile, I watched his mom's face relax for a second, I could see the exhaustion on her face, but she was at that moment delighted to see her son smile and talked about something he loved, sports. when we left the hospital my doubts where gone, sure I might see him on the paper jumping off an hot air balloon wearing a wedding gown in protest of domestic violence but that is part of who he is and I love it.
Brett also emailed John Bobenic CEO of Maxim Power, he contacted the local power plant in Grand Cache Milner Power and before long I had a support crew
Alta Ball of Milner Power turned out to be amazing, she was through and meticulous. I drove with my nieces Karla and Brenda who are visiting from Mexico and by the time I arrived in Grand Cache 7 hrs later she had everything organized for me. We met after picking up my race package to go over the details, basically told her to treat me like a spoil child who won't eat her veggies, to prevent hypothermia I needed her to make sure she fed me well during transitions. As it turned out we had a lot in common, she had been a runner but because of arthritis she had to quit running, her ex husband also happen to be legally blind with the same condition as my son, well, I know my sister Muneca is going to have a field day with this one, even I can't just write it off as a mere coincidence. WE had a heart to heart talk, she worries about her kids who don't have any symptoms but since is a disorder that is pass down on the genes they are all aware of the risks. I was glad to tell her that even if her kids would be OK, with the support of friends, family, the community and associations such as the CNIB kids like Karl have the same opportunities as fully sighted kids. Harder? sure but not impossible.
Race day I stood there at the start line, chatting with Neil Runnions, Logan Beaulieu, Jack Cook, John Postoluk, I was part of the group, the tough guys knew me and accepted me. Then out of nowhere strangers started approaching me to wish me good luck, they all referred to me as the Mexican running wild, they told me they where fans of my blog. It was a bit overwhelming and humbling.
At 8am the gun went off, the first leg was an easy 19k with amazing and breath taking scenery, it was a relatively cool day so running felt great.
Leg 2 was a lot trickier, 27K of very technical and very slippery.I spent more time on my butt trying not to break my legs than I did running, by now it started to rain so it got more and more complicated as it when along.
Leg 3 is the easiest, since is the flattest of all the legs, this is where I tried to make most of my time, I am terrible at climbing but decent at running downhill.
Leg 4 is what nightmares are made off, the net elevation is well over 6,500 feet. This is where Neil Runinion caught up to me, we have a friendly competition since he is better than I am at climbing so it depends on the design and elevation of the course he might or might not finished ahead of my, last Saturday was his lucky day, he managed to finished at 19:08;28.I loved it when the next morning over breakfast he told me he had run scared the last leg, he was worry I was going to eventually catch up to him. At leg 4 my spirits where still high but I was feeling exhausted, I came into the last transition area before the finish line at 12 midnight, Alta, her kids and my nieces where there to cheer me on, Brett tried calling from Nashville but coverage was sporadic. Last year I was pulled out of the race because of hypothermia just before transition 5, I was very tired but I only had 25K to go, piece of cake, right?
I never expected leg 5 to be as hard as it was, I thought after leg 4 we where going to be treated to an easy jog into town to roll in with some dignity, instead I stared over and over again to yet an other climb "How many mountains and hills Grand Cache has anyways?'
I took me over 4 and half hours to finished leg 5, quitting never crossed my mind but I wanted to be done badly, I kept straining my eyes to find a light, any light something that might resembled town lights, instead except for a few team racers that passed me it was complete darkness.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tough at it was, I loved the race,the whole town of Grand Cache came to cheer us, most of the ultras I go to, might be a couple hundred of racers and their families only, here people came to cheer on complete strangers. I greatly recomend this race, specially if you are a female. I heard that the tough girls club was looking for more members...
I came home with a silver Death Race coin and a small plaque engraved with my name, time and place, this is the only thing I displayed openly in my house, on top of the mantel piece there are numerous awards my kids have received but mine are tucked away in my bedroom.
This award doesn't just mean I finished a 125K, that itself is amazing, but what it really means is that the human spirit is amazing about coping with adversity if you overcome your fears and keep placing one foot in front of the other until you will eventually reach the finish line. Quit to soon and you might never know how far you are truly capable of going.