August 21, 2013
I started running to help me deal with the emotions I was feeling when a very close friend got very sick. If you run far enough, eventually, there’s a point where your mind lets go of everything else. It can become meditation. And that’s what it became for me.
I ran a marathon, and then a second marathon.
But I started to wonder, “how far can I go?” and I started to look into ultra marathons.
An ultra is just that – it’s beyond any distance greater than the traditional marathon distance of 42km. I did one. Liked it. And then on August 3rd I did my second, the Canadian Death Race, which took place in the mountainous terrain around Grande Cache, AB.
It was 125km – 25km longer than I’ve ever run before – and included very significant net elevation gain – 17,000 feet in the Rockies. I had some goals going into it and some pretty fantastic memories coming out. Turns out “how far can I go”, is answered with “at least 125k”, cause I made it. But it wasn’t easy.
The 125km distance was spread out over five checkpoints and racers were allowed 24hrs to complete it. Only 30% of racers finish on average each year and that includes the 5 – man relay teams. I knew that I had to break the race down into smaller, more manageable distances. But the weather really didn’t cooperate. Just going over the first major peak we were hit with hail and a wind that I would guess was hitting 50-60mph. The rain made the descents greasy with mud and very tricky. You could hear people wiping out all through the night. I kept hoping that they’d extend the finish an hour or so because the weather was so bad, but of course they couldn’t do that. I had to make my legs move and not let myself off the hook because I knew that if I did I would never make it. I kept yelling “NBD!” (which stands for NO BIG DEAL) into the night.. I’m sure people thought I was crazy but it was the mantra I had been given from Johan, a member of my support team, and it helped.
Speaking of support, I definitely want to stress that the Death Race requires the commitment of a team to help you do it. The support team needs to be at each of the feed-zones, leapfrogging ahead after they supply their runner with the right food, drinks, and clothing for each leg. My team was amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them. Casim, Nathania, my amazing wife Hannah, and my son had my back the whole time. They had a Long View T-shirt on a big pole so I could see them in the middle of the night. They were running down into a laundromat in town to dry my clothes and clean up the shoes I’d wear for each leg. Just seeing them helped immensely. Also all the messages of love and support from my Long View family were a tremendous source of inspiration especially at 3 am when you have hit a wall, thinking of all the people that were behind me supporting me kept me going. I did it for me, but I wanted to do it for them, too.
In the end, despite the awful weather, I was able to finish in 22 hours and 23 minutes. I was 20th in my age group, which I’m really happy with.
I have a demanding career that I love as Director of Cloud Services here at Long View. It’s helped me in big ways. I really don’t think I’d be as successful if I wasn’t in the culture I’m in; surrounding yourself with positive, motivated friends has a significant impact. I work with people that are always doing stuff, some of it athletic, but lots of it community – based. When I see my friends out there doing different things it gets me thinking about ways I can participate or challenge myself.
Those attitudes come right out of Long View’s culture. That’s a core reason why I even thought to take on the Death Race in the first place. I wanted to push myself to grow and see where my limits are.
I learned a long time ago that if you have the right friends and you work in the right places, your dreams and goals can be achieved.