Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sinister 7

Sometime around this past Christmas, I got a text from my sister Mary asking me to do her a huge favor.  I asked her what the favor was, and her only response was "Are you in?"  By this point, I was pretty sure what she was asking me to do.  She and her husband Greg are pretty hardcore runners, and they will sometimes enter long distance relay races and ask family members to join them.  This wasn't the first time she had asked me, but I had never agreed.  This time, she was trying to get me to commit before I knew exactly what I was committing to, and even though I saw through her ruse, I agreed.  She e-mailed me a link to this website, and informed me that I'd be running the seventh and final leg of a 100-mile race through the Rocky Mountains in the Crowsnest Pass area of southern Alberta.  So after half a year of getting my fat butt out running, and after shedding 20 pounds (my goal is 50 pounds, but I sure do love fattening food), we met in Coleman, AB this weekend and ran the race.  The team breakdown was this:

Leg 1: Noah Heninger (my cousin)
Leg 2: Curtis Woolf (my brother-in-law)
Leg 3: Mary Bourne (my sister)
Leg 4 & 5: Sara MacKenzie (my sister and team captain)
Leg 6: Greg Bourne (my brother-in-law)
Leg 7: Mike MacKenzie (my self)

Along as support were my sister Amy (Curtis' wife) and Mike Lush (Sara's boyfriend).  Avril and my kids showed up Saturday afternoon.  This was the first race for three of us (me, Noah, and Curtis), and a lot of people were shocked to find out that we chose the Sinister 7 to be our first.  It isn't called "sinister" for nothing.

Noah and I stayed where, until recently, my in-laws had a cabin, but they had just torn it down, so we slept in a tent trailer.
Me and Noah at Lee Lake
Noah started in Blairmore (just down the road from Coleman) at 7:00 Saturday morning.  Leg 1 (the Frank Slide) was 16.5 km.
The Ramblers at the start line in Blairmore.
The road to the transition area between leg 1 and leg 2 was treacherous, so we weren't allowed to drive up there to meet Noah at the end of his leg.  Curtis was bused up since he had to run leg 2, so it was up to him to greet Noah after Noah finished leg 1 in the impressive time of 1 hour and 50 minutes.  Then Noah got on the bus and met us down at the base of ski hill in Blairmore where we waited for Curtis to arrive at the end of his leg.

Noah getting off the bus after his run
Leg 2 (Hastings Ridge) saw Curtis running 16 km, but with higher climbs than leg 1.  He had an elevation gain of 937 meters and then an elevation loss of 1100 meters.  He powered through it and we cheered him in to the transition area.
Curtis finishes his leg.  (Those are folded-up hiking poles he's holding. A lot of people used them.)
Mary was the first of the experienced runners to head out.
Mary heads out
Leg 3 (Willoughby Ridge) was 35 km with an elevation gain (and then loss) of 1327 meters, and it had a difficulty rating of 6 out of 7.  It took a few hours, and a close encounter with a grizzly bear (nobody was hurt, thankfully), but Mary headed into the transition area at the end with a big smile on her face.
Mary finishes.  (Sorry about my finger)
Sara's reaction when told about the bear
There were seven legs, but we only had six runners, so Sara volunteered to run two legs, starting with leg 4 (Saddle Mountain), which was 17 km.  We drove out to the transition area between legs 4 and 5 to cheer her on, where she changed into a new pair of shoes and socks (the first pairs were wet and muddy) and to have her blisters tended by Mike Lush.  After the change of shoes, she set out on leg 5 (Mount Tecumseh), which was 29.6 km.  A good deal of this leg was run at night.  She finished at 1:00 in the morning while I was sound asleep resting up for my turn.
Sara after she was done.
Once Sara was finished, Greg set out on the hardest single leg of the course.  Leg 6 (Crowsnest & Seven Sisters) was 36.2 km, and had Greg running around the Seven Sisters and Crowsnest Mountains.
Greg and the mountains he ran around.
Five hours after he started, shortly after sunrise, we met Greg at the final transition area.  He had a great run and was all smiles as he finished.

So with everyone else finished, it was my turn to head out on the final leg.  Leg 7 (Wedge Mountain) was the shortest leg (10.7 km), but not the easiest.  It was rated 2 out of 7, and it started with a steep 390 meter climb.  It was rough.  I huffed and puffed all the way up, and my legs burned, but I knew that if I stopped to rest, I wouldn't be able to start moving again, so I kept hiking up the trail (one thing I learned about trail running is that there's a lot of walking involved).
There's a lot of mouth breathing involved, too
After a little while on that wide path, I veered off onto a narrow path that just kept going up and up.  I've been out of breath on runs a lot since I started training for this, but I had never heard my heart pounding in my ears the way I could on the way up.  Eventually, I reached the highest point of leg 7, where I had been instructed by Sara to take a selfie.
"Gotta hurry up and take this before I die."
That's the town of Coleman in the distance, which is where the finish line was.
Then it was time to start down, which turned out to be almost as hard as going up.  The ascent was hard on my lungs; the descent was hard on my legs.  It took a lot of strength to keep my control and not just fall all the way down the mountain.
The downward path
I don't have any pictures of it, but the steepest downhill section was a narrow path through the trees, and I slid most of the way down this stretch on my butt, using my hands slow myself by grabbing trees as they went by.  I got to the bottom and looked back up only to see three more people coming down the same way I did.  "Beats coming down on your face" one woman said to me.

The rest of the run took me through beautiful mountain forests, through a creek, down more hills, and eventually into Coleman.  The majority of the running I was actually able to achieve was in town, but the running in town was easier than the walking I did on the mountain.  Finally, I rounded a corner and saw the finish line.  I finished my leg in 2 hours and 10 minutes, and celebrated with my team and my family.
Nearing the finish line

The Ramblers with our Sinister 7 medals
Going in for a hug from Avril

Hugging my kids
I had a great time, and I plan on doing more runs in the future.  I want to drop those other 30 pounds I planned on losing, and the feeling I had when finishing the run is one I want to experience again.  Thanks, Mary, for making me do this.

And here are a few more random photos of the weekend:

Noah and I came across a turtle near our campsite

Waiting for the race to start

Another view of the Seven Sister and Crowsnest Mountains

Dad waiting for Sara to finish leg 4

Sara (in blue) finishing leg 4

Me and Mary waiting for Greg

An actual flat section (it's blurry because I was moving when I took the photo)

Another open-mouth selfie. This section of the trail reminded me of Skyrim.

Me with my medal and horrible hat hair

Noah and I taking our phones for a hike

1 comment:

  1. A great blog Mike. I'm glad Dad and I were there for most of the run to share in the excitement as part of the support group. You all were amazing. We are so very proud of you.


Hyper Shoe

Hyper Shoe
A red high-heel shoe has always been hyperferrianism's avatar