The Canadian Death Race: Grande Cache, Alberta

During the long weekend in August, Sheena and I… and a group of friends went waaay up north to do anDsc00366 adventure race dubbed, "The Canadian Death Race".  Located in Grande Cache — northwest of Jasper — the ‘death race’ is a 125K slog over mountains, rivers, hills and forest.  I was introduced to the possibility of doing the race about 8 months or so ago, when a friend from work asked me if I wanted to go.   I had heard of it when I was out east and now having the opportunity, I jumped at the chance.  After deciding, I had started increasing my running distances throughout the year and did quite a few scrambles preparing for the race. 

We would run the race as a relay team of 5 called the ‘Gun Runners’.  Each person took one of the race ‘legs’.  My leg was the "Hamel Assault", leg 4, stretching just about 38K.   The race spanned 24-hours…with each leg having a maxiumum cut-off time.  My leg was described as the hardest, although others had their challenges.  I ran the leg in just over 7 hours.  It was mostly trail, with a 10K section of dirt road.  If you want to imagine what I ran/fast hiked…here goes: The race only has a few aid stations…so you have to bring your own
water and food enough to last you most of the length of your leg.  The first part, think of climbing a mountain (6900+ ft) with numerous switch backs on a double tracked trail (wide enough for a four wheeler) .   That took two and a half hours.  Then spend 4 1/2 hours running down and around the back of the mountain (in the backcountry), through summit ridges and forest and don’t forget the mud, streams, puddles, alders, boulders, rocks and assorted obstacles along the way.  Oh and if you don’t finish it fast enough (like me), some of your run will be in the dark via headlamp.  The downhill was murderous on the knees and quads, but hell, it was all alot of fun. 

Overall, the weekend was excellent.  The people of Grande Cache worked hard to bring us a goodPhoto race experience and that they did.  People lined the route throughout the day and night, each choosing their own spot to cheer on racers — many were dressed up in halloween type gear and all were excellent sports.  With luck on our side and some speedy runners, we were able to finish the race (which is the main thing!) in just over 19hrs.  There were many that ran faster, but we were genuinely happy with our time — as there were many that did not complete the 125K. 

Of course, there were the dedicated and determined folk who ran the entire race — 125K – solo.   It serves to mention that the fastest racer was a soloist, coming in a half hour faster than a team of 5.  Imagine that.  Of course, he ended up in the hospital, but nevertheless. 

If you thought 38K was foolish — I have plans in the works to do next year’s race solo…hopefully, I can be as determined as the people I ran into all weekend.

Quite a race, quite a town.   See all our photos on flickr.  (Oh and we visited a bunch of waterfalls on the way back too…those will be added to Seeking Waterfalls).

7 thoughts on “The Canadian Death Race: Grande Cache, Alberta

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