Canadian Death Race

The Canadian Death Race

They don’t call it the DEATH RACE for nothing! It was unbelievably hard – I have never seen ups and downs quite like this.

CDR in perspective

Here are some pictures at  the start of the race.

before the start

             race start          leg 1

Description of Leg 1 and what gear I carried:

Approximately 6 km of pavement initially, followed by trail and 3.5 km of gravel road. It includes a net elevation loss of 500 feet, rolling hills with flat sections, several creek crossings and one significant downhill. The course will start in downtown Grande Cache and the race officially begins at the 5 km mark, after passing the Grande Cache Saddle club. It then continues past Grande Cache Lake and Peavine Lake, mainly on quad trails and including a section along a ridge with a spectacular view of Peavine Lake and the mountains of Willmore Wilderness Park. After crossing Washy Creek and skirting the north end of the CN rail yard through a deep mud bog, enter the first full aid station and relay exchange zone. Cut off Time: 12 Noon

Wore fuel belt, arm warmers, applied body glide, sunscreen and bug repellent. Wore my Salamon with the “Dirty Girl” Gaiters – got lots of great comments on those! gaiters

 Expected finish time: 2hrs15min: Actual finish time:  2:07 


Leg 2: 27 km: Flood & Grande Mountain Slugfest
Includes about .1 km of pavement. The rest is dirt trail with rocky and swampy sections, and approximately 6 km of hard packed dirt road. Net elevation gain is 500 feet, but the total elevation change is well over 6000 feet. This leg of the race is characterized by long sustained climbing with about 3 km of very rough terrain and two creek crossings. The trail from the summit of Flood Mountain to the summit of Grande Mountain is the roughest piece of trail in the Death Race. The power line down the front of Grande Mountain leading back into town is the most dangerous part of the entire course. This is due to the steep, rocky drop-offs and unstable footing while running downhill. The Slugfest is the most technical section and is rated the second hardest leg of the Death Race (although many rate this leg as the hardest of all). Cut off Time: 5:30 pm.

Exchange fuel belt for the hydration pack

Poles,  Hydration pack included the following:

  • Full bladder (regular gatorade and package of GU endurance)
  • Two bottles in front (water)
  • Cliff shock blocks
  • Granola bar
  • Toasted cheese bagel
  • Baggie with advil, pad, salt tablet, bandaids
  • Jacket
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Bear bell

Here I am getting ready to start leg 2.

starting leg 2






Expected finish time: 4hrs30minutes (2:45pm) : Actual time about 7 hours (5:15 pm)

Leg 3: 19 km: Old Mine Road (or “City Slicker Valley”)
Includes 5 km of pavement: the rest is dirt road with several creek crossings. One creek runs right down the trail as you descend the first part of the Mine Road, making for very slippery, rocky terrain for 30 meters. This section passes through the lowest point in the race, hitting the very bottom of the Smoky River valley floor, with knee deep water for 25 meters. (If it’s a wet summer, it’s worse.) With a net elevation loss of about 1000 feet, this section is the fastest and easiest of the race and one of the most beautiful, offering stunning views of the Smoky River valley. Cut off Time: 7 pm:  11 hours from the start time.

Drop of poles, restock the hydration pack and put on my regular running shoes.

Unfortunately my day ended at 60km as I did not make the cut-off time after leg three. I knew after leg two I wouldn’t make it, but I didn’t want to quit then. I wanted to see how far I could go before being told I could go no further.

This was by far the hardest run I have ever done. Leg 1 and 3 were doable, but leg 2 (27km) which was the hardest and went over 2 mountains was so difficult. There was hardly any running I could do as the ups were too steep and the downs were so steep I actually went down on my bum at times. The picture gives an idea of what we were doing.  This is a picture one of the other racers (Addison Hagan) took of the descent down the power line.  Then right in front of us was another uphill (just like the downhill we had just done)…..brutal!!

going down powerline

Likely due to the heat and not getting enough electrolytes, even though I had them in my drinks, I started to cramp.  I have never cramped in a race before  and I have never taken salt pills, but all of a sudden in  leg two my inner thighs started cramping (one leg at a time) and it just stopped me in my tracks! I literally couldn’t move. Fortunately I had salt with me and as soon as I took a few of them the pain magically disappeared…amazing!

Even though this is the first time I haven’t finished a race I am happy with my day as I got to the start line injury free and well trained. There was just no way I could have been prepared for these mountains – while lake placid training was good it just wasn’t hard enough. The  heat was a huge factor in terms of slowness and cramping as well was around 30 degrees – even in the mountains.

At the end of the day, I was still smiling!

end of leg 3

CDR – June and July

 Training has ramped up over the past few weeks and as of today (July 10) there are only 22 days till race day.  While there are days where I feel I need more time to train and get in the long runs, I am also looking forward to being finished with all the volume and just getting to the start line and doing the race.

As I am getting closer to race day, my thoughts are starting to turn to what I want to do for the rest of the year and then what to do next year.  I already have two races post the Death Race and they are the Gatineau Park Marathon and the Las Vegas Marathon.  I recently saw advertising for the Canadian Sears Run (Ottawa to Montebello) that I will sign up for and run solo (100km). 

As for next year, I haven’t landed on a particular race just yet.  I do need to undertake some home renovations so more than likely anything I do will be within driving distance.

  W/E June 8 W/E June 15 W/E June 22 W/E June 29
Total 101km 68km 113km 123km  
Monday spinning  17km (Arboretum to Montreal road and back) 7km treadmill
Tuesday nil  Nil 13km (along trail 1)  treadmill in am; 15km (p8 – split)
Wednesday weights and  9km (2xpenguin Nil 13km 15km (p8 – split) 
Thursday 22k (road)  15km (P8 to split) Nil 10km
Friday nil  nil 4km 8km
Saturday 45 km (36 – trails and 9 – road)  22km 50km (14km on road, P7 to Champlain x 2) 25km (Hike: Mount Marcy) 
Sunday 25km (inner loop) 14km 26km (inner loop) 50km (Wilmington to Lake placid)


  W/E July 6 W/E July 13 W/E July 20 W/E July 27
Total 130km 100km 67km 45km 


Monday 25km (Whiteface)


Nil nil nil
Tuesday 27km (memorial highway)



15km (P8 – split)

15km (P8 – split)


Wednesday nil 14km (canal) nil  nil


Thursday 15km


7km 18km in park and 4km hike 10km
Friday 4km


nil nil nil
Saturday 34km


40 km (23 road and 17 trails) 21km (trails) 17km (trails)
Sunday 25km 24km (canal) 13km (trail running clinic) 12km

CDR – Lake Placid Training Weekend

I had been planning a training weekend in Lake Placid from June 28 – July 2 in order to get in some running and hiking at elevation similar to that of the Canadian Death Race.


My plan was to run/hike mount Marcy (the highest peak in the Adirondacks with an ascent of 3166 feet. Out and back is about 24 km. The way the trail was described it seemed doable in about 3.5 hours. Then I was going to do about 21 more in the trails and another 15 on the road for a total of 60km. Like I said that was the plan.

The first maybe 5 km (my garmin had somehow lost its charge so I didn’t have a watch) were great and then the rocks appeared – not tiny ones but boulders and not in anyway runnable – at least not for me. I managed to walk at a good pace though and then when I reached a clearing I thought I had reached the summit but oh no it was still a ways to go and you had to climb up the rockface. I took a deep breath and started the last leg. You know it’s hard when you just know the descent will be even harder. I made it and the views were spectacular. Going down I was right – parts were so hard for me that I did the bum slide :) I fell once on the way back – total face plant into about six inches of mud…yuck! Didn’t hurt myself though. You know you look hilarious when people see you and start laughing and then realize they should ask if you are ok. All in all this little adventure took 6 hours! I was totally spent so called it a day.

Since I didn’t get my 60 in yesterday I decided to do it today. I started out by running from where I am staying to lake placid and back for a total of 40km and then up memorial highway to Whiteface and back for another 20. The run to lake placid along highway 86 is up and down but more uphill on the way out. As I got ready to go I turned on my garmin only to find all the data fields had changed and wouldn’t let me change them back. I finally was able to at least get the distance one going…most frustrating. At 40km I took a brief break at my room for a quick sandwich and then I was off again. My legs by this time were very tired so I ended up walking up 5km of the memorial highway. This is a steady climb so even walking was tough. At the 5km mark there is a toll and for people in a car it costs 10 for the car and 7 per person. For cyclists it’s 6 and for runners/hikers it’s 7. When I asked why, the girl had no answer. At any rate I couldn’t find my money (I found it later in another pocket). So I ran back – 50km today


Again super weather. At the end of the run today I have logged in 100km in three days….don’t think I have ever done that much before . My legs were protesting this morning as I started out. I hiked up to almost the top of whiteface – again the trail was not runnable and not even easily walked – lots of rocks again. I got to about the 9km mark and all of a sudden there was this huge wall of rock and I thought “seriously we are supposed to climb that”, but thankfully there was a trail to the side otherwise I would have headed back. This trail climbed up to the top of the rock wall and it opened onto the highway. At this point though there was so much fog I could hardly see five feet in front of me. I decided not to get back in the trails but rather run back down the road. The down hill was 11 km. I’m not sure how far from the top I was but tomorrow I am planning on running/hiking up to the top on the road

I started at 6am. The run along the memorial highway to Whiteface is 13km at an 8% grade – so up,up,up the whole way. I couldn’t run the whole thing so I ran for half a km and walked half a km. About a km from the top it was again very foggy and windy. When I got to Whiteface even though I couldn’t see a thing I climbed up the last 300 metres to the summit. Glad they had railings to hold onto as it was very windy. Then I ran all the way back – that was hard too. So another 27km done.

Hopefully this puts me in good stead for race day!

CDR – May

Activity W/E May 4 W/E May 11 W/E May 18 W/E May 25 W/E June 1
Tues: 9km (P8-picnic area -penguin and back)
Wed: 7km (P8 on road)
Thurs: 7km (canal)
Sat: 42km (inner loop and trails (P8 – penguin – P13 and back) 
Sun: 21km (P7 – Keogan and then joined trail group)
Tues: 10km (P8 to split)
Wed: 21.5km (inner loop)
Sat: 40km (Lake Placid – mix of trail/road)
 Sun: 18km (Lake Placid – road)
Tues: 9km (P8 to Penguin – 2x penguin)
Wed: 18k (Keogan to P12 and back on road)
 Thurs: 11km(2km warm-up, P12:40 – 24 – 1)
 Sat: 20km (p8 to Champlain)
 Sun: 20km (P8 to Champlain)
 Mon: 15km (canal)
 Tues: 18km (Moncton)
Thurs: 7km in am and 8km in pm
 Sat: 45km  (inner loop and trails)
 Sun: 20km (P8 to Champlain)
 Tues: 6km easy
Thurs: 7km easy in am and 20km in pm (inside loop)
 Sat: 48km (p8 to Penquin – trails for 28km, inside loop for 20km)
 Sun: 24km (P12 to Fire tower)
Spinning Mon (2) and Wed Mon (2) and Wed Wed 0 Mon
weights 0 1 0 0 1

The training this past month has progressively gotten harder and yet with only 8 more weeks of training  to go, it just doesn’t seem enough!  The vast majority of my training is being done in the Gatineau Park  and I am getting stronger as there are some days where the hills are easily doable, but then too there are other days where there is a lot of walking going on.

I have begun training with my hydration pack on almost every run.  It gets heavy with 2L in the bladder and two 20oz bottles in front so I need to ensure there are no issues come race day. I love the hydration pack I bought – it is PB (Peter Bakwin) Ultimate Direction (  It is very light weight, breathable, has lots of storage and most of all is very comfortable.

I have also begin running with poles as many reviews of the race indicate that poles are very useful for some of the more difficult legs of the race. The poles I am using while being inexpensive and adjustable have been working just fine and have saved me from falling a few times already.  For race day though, I plan on buy a pair of very lightweight non adjustable poles.  There are sections of the course where poles aren’t needed so I’d like to fold them up and then not fiddle around adjusting them when needed again.

Next up will be to research headlamps. 

At the end of the month I have another Lake Placid weekend planned and this time I should be able to get into the trails.


CDR – April

Training is going well and I am loving it that finally we are getting some nice weather.  What a feeling to be running in t-shirt and three-quarter tights. Not to mention warm toes :)

  Here is a brief synopsis of what I did this month:

Activity W/E April 6 W/E April 13 W/E April 20 W/E April 27
Run 76km (30 long run) 78km (34 long run)  41km(35 long run) 91km (42 long run)
Treadmill 10km 14km 10km 6km
Spinning 1 2 1 1
Interval weight class 1 1 1 1

 The treadmill work outs are usually 2 – 3 times a week and are done at 15% incline for 45 minutes.  I do mix it up from time to time by adding some -3% decline and some slow running at 10% incline.

April 27th, I ran in the Gatineau Park.  For those of you who know the park, I ran two inside loops – once in each direction.  This took me around 5 hours and I was pretty tired at the end.  Even though I was slow, I feel that I am on the right path in terms of training.  I feel strong and my workouts will progressively get harder, especially as I start adding trail runs and a couple of trips to the Adirondacks in the mix.


CDR – w/e March 31

It’s been a busy three weeks since I’ve posted and I am finally back into the rhythm of training again.

I love the gym I am now going to – GYM MAX.  I have gone here on and off for the past 20 years.  When I moved to Gatineau, I joined GYM MAX because it was convenient, especially because it was open 24 hours a day.   But  as the years went on, other gyms became more convenient whether it was because the kids were enrolled in programs or it was closer to work or the programs being offered were in line with my training at the time (i.e. swimming or spinning).  But now GYM MAX once again makes sense given it is close to home so I can go first thing in the morning and it has everything I need.

I am sure I am not alone when I say I am fed up with Winter!  My mileage this past week though was great as I got in 79km and even though there was yet another snowstorm today making footing just terrible, I only had to run 19km as I did my long run (32km) yesterday.

As I parted ways with my running buddies this morning we said as we have been saying for the past few weeks “next week the weather just has to be better…’s spring time after all”.   Then it isn’t :) But surely by next week we will have finished with all this snow and cold and the weather will be great for running.


CDR – w/e Mar 9

Monday I began my new job and while I am very happy to be back working at Service Canada it means re-working the training schedule and finding a new gym.  As well, my social calendar ended up being full almost every evening which meant I could only get in one workout per day.  I did manage to run 65km with the long runs being 17km (hills) and 30km (flat).

The gym I was training at was convenient to my previous job and although it didn’t have showers my workplace did.  However, the building I am working in now is undergoing renovations and as part of that, the showers are closed.  And since the other gym is no longer convenient, I have decided to return to a great gym close to home.

I am looking forward to getting back to the weights!


CDR – w/e Feb 23 and Mar2

These were a good two weeks of training running 60 and 70 km per week.  As well, I got in two or three weight/treadmill sessions.

I finished reading two books this past week: Eat and Run by Scott Jurek and Conquering the Canadian Death Race.

Conquering the Canadian Death Race is a great book as it provides valuable information in terms of preparing for the race from descriptions of the course, nutrition, gear, etc.  It also validates the training plan I have designed in that the distances and types of running indicated in the book are included in my plan.

I loved Scott Jurek’s book about his journey of becoming an amazing ultramarathoner.  I also liked the way he scattered various recipes throughout the book and I am looking forward to trying some of them.

I found both of these books to be a source of inspiration and motivation and they will be kept close by for times when that bit of inspiration is needed.


CDR – w/e Feb 9 and 16

Finally, the days are getting longer and most evenings I can finish my run in the light.  Last week the temperature after work was  around -6 which was so nice.  But then Sunday (Feb 16) it was -17C with the windchill making it around -25…brrr.  I just want it to hurry up and warm up!

I was checking out the facebook page for the race and ran across this photo….now I have done comrades (up and down) which I found super tough  – this just puts it all into perspective.


CDR in perspective

CDR in perspective

My training beginning in April will consist of running the Gatineau Park the majority of the time and then once a month I plan on hiking in either the Adirondacks or the White Mountains in order to train on the elevations I’ll be facing in Grande Cache.

CDR – w/e Jan 26 and Feb 2

These last two weeks have not been great for training.

The week ending  January 26th was just too cold.  It was -30 something with the wind pretty much every day and I just couldn’t face running in this cold in the dark, be it the morning or after work.  Normally I don’t ‘wimp’ out of my runs but the incessant cold was just to much for me this particular week.  I did manage to get in all of my weight training and treadmill runs (four of them).  On Sunday I ran the hypothermic half marathon which was run on the Marshe’s golf course.  It was another really cold day (- 30 something with the wind),but at least it was somewhat sunny which made the cold somewhat bearable.  I ran a really slow race which I think was due in part to the uneven footing, the cold, the fact I wasn’t wearing a watch – but mostly because i have just gotten slower…..need to work on some speed again.

Then the week  ending March 2 I ended up getting some kind of flue bug and didn’t run or do anything else for three days. By Thursday though I was feeling better and ended up getting in a total of 42km and one gym workout.