Friday, July 17, 2015

Alissa St Laurent's Sinister 7 Race Report

Spoiler alert, I ran Sinister 7 100 miler in 18:37. Faster than any woman so far, and by a fair bit. 2 hours 34 minutes actually, and faster than the old 148km course too. In less than ideal conditions. I know…I’m just as surprised as you are. And you might say I’m lucky. I wouldn’t disagree, I’m always saying that too. But when I say that it’s because I really just dislike the notion of having bad luck and I believe in being positive. So…here is how I set some big scary goals to be the first place female at my one of my very favourite races and to break the women’s course record. Oh and I crushed those goals. And in truth luck really had nothing to do with it.

 The start…hey there’s my buddy Eric in the yellow!
My day started out calm. Waking up was easy, breakfast of muesli, almond milk, and banana was simple and I washed it down with a coffee and a coke. I was relaxed and joking all morning, as I had been all week. In the past I’ve struggled with pretty severe anxiety before and even after races, to the point that I get anxious about getting anxious. Maybe it’s the support system I’ve built up around me, or a familiarity that’s settled in over my short little racing “career” I’m not sure. But I think it’s a confidence thing, I’m learning to trust my training, my planning, and my abilities.
I didn’t feel overly chatty at the start line. So I didn’t give myself much time just to stand around, I got there just in time. The crowd started moving and we set off for the first section of easy ditch and road. Effortless floaty kilometers. Not thinking about anything but the freshness in the air. I settled in and chatted easily with a few runners. My usual teasing and making plans for beers at the finish line. A little trash talking, I couldn’t help myself! I want to publicly apologize to the random relay runner who I asked if he minded being chicked by a soloist. I’m sorry, sometimes I think I’m funnier than I actually am. And I really did like your tights I wasn’t being sarcastic. Actually, maybe I wasn’t as sorry as I say because I then did it again to my good friend Steve Baker on Leg 2. Sigh. Sorry Steve.
 I had my eye on my watch and the spot I knew the 1st transition would be as we worked our way up into single track and trees. Still effortless, I didn’t walk a step on Leg 1. I popped out at the transition a minute or so ahead of my planned pace. My one man crew, Ryne Melcher was the first and kind of the only person I really saw there, he switched out my soft flask filled with Vitargo. I had met Ryne earlier that spring in France when I’d ran the World Trail Championships in Annecy. Despite my somewhat mediocre performance there I was beyond excited when he offered to come out and crew me at Sinister 7. He’s a very accomplished runner and has more experience crewing than anyone I know. I knew his personality and style of crewing would suit me and I could learn a lot from him and trust his judgement. Although I had laughed at him when earlier that week he told me he thought I could run the race in 18:45. I also admit to rolling my eyes a few times when he kept telling me to eat but he was so great all day. I have to start off by giving him a huge amount of credit for making me look good in the transitions and keeping me on track, it was a game changer.

Leg 2
I really love Leg 2. It was the first section of the course I’d ever done when I raced on a team in 2013 and I enjoy the steady climb and the really runnable rocky loop around Hastings Ridge. I was moving well, breathing easily, and just enjoying myself. I stopped for a quick fill up at the midway water station and before I knew it the leg was over and I was coming into the busy field at the transition, happy to be there. Ryne was right where I pictured he would be and we switched out bottles and I filled him in on what I’d been eating and told him I was feeling good. I circled around the timing mat and back to Ryne for some ice down my sports bra and in a bandana around m neck and I pushed him for time goals. “When do you want me back here?” He took seconds to do the math - which I couldn’t be bothered to do myself - and gave me the numbers while I started off up the hill with a honey stinger waffle in hand.
Leg 3 was where I expected it to get warm, and it did. According to my Suunto it reached over 31 on the most exposed section. Before I’d even had a chance to get there though I felt like I was working, for the first time all day. Nothing specifically wrong, just a bit tired, almost lightheaded. I don’t know when it lifted but when I ran passed a handful of relay runners that were walking on the climbs I knew I was back. So I let myself go and I started to have fun again. I got to chat with an amazing runner friend, Kendall Barber, and something about our short conversation made me realize that I was out here in my element, this is exactly where I belong. It was time to work again. Up the climb I spotted a few of the male soloists ahead, Eric Reyes, Timo Meyer, & Ian MacNairn. I realized I still had my hand on the pulse of the front race. I only mildly questioned what the hell I was doing up there with these big guys but I’d worry about that later if I needed to. I was taking this one leg at a time and I was sternly cutting short any thoughts that went past the end of the leg that I was on. Focus on the present.
As I cruised into the transition I felt great, like I’d just snuck through hell and made it though unscathed. Leg 3 is notorious for crushing soloists. I mentioned I had a bit of a soft spot on that section but I was fine, ready to go. “I took in around 900 calories on that leg” I proudly announced as I tossed all my empty gel packets on the ground as proof. Ryne didn’t exactly stop to congratulate me, he acknowledged it and stuffed more gels in my pack. Okay fine. Time to go. We went over times and quick updates on what was going on in the field. Only two men ahead of me and no pressure from the women’s field. I heard it but didn’t feel any sort of reaction to the news. I felt completely independent.
I was grateful for the climb up the ski hill at the beginning of the leg. Climbing felt good, it felt like I was chipping away at some of the elevation on the course while settling in to a good pace. And somehow it felt restful. I was ready to run again when the opportunity came. I slowly caught up to Eric Reyes, the 2nd place soloist. I was happy to see him and we chatted briefly. I told him he was 2nd and he didn’t believe me, said he had ran in with the other guys and they’d surely gone out ahead. We ran into a water station and while I was sponging water over my head I asked the volunteers about how many soloists they’d seen come by. “Just Dave Proctor”, the lady told me. To which I immediately replied “Oh well no one cares about Dave anyways”. Luckily they laughed. But Dave, I really meant that at the time!
“See, you are in second!” I told Eric as I started heading out. “No, now you are!” he shot back as he followed behind. We went back and forth with each other until the end of the leg, which was mostly open and runnable from that point. A few kms before the transition we caught up to a girl not moving well. As I passed I asked her if she was okay and if she needed anything. “Can you help me with my shoes? If I bend down I won’t get back up, I’m cramping too bad.” So Eric took one foot and I the other and we loosened her shoes for her. She was a relay runner and I was mildly amused that two soloists were down on the ground for her but it could’ve happened to anyone, we didn’t think twice about being able to help her. We wished her luck and kept going. Thunder had been a constant background noise by this point and Crowsnest Mountain was tucked deep into dark blue grey clouds that just kept getting thicker. That was exactly where we were headed. This day might change drastically, I thought and I made a note to pick up a second jacket at the transition.
Like every leg I had a nice downhill to come into transition so I put a little extra crispness into my movements, zoomed through, and we got to work. I mentioned the jacket but Ryne said the rain wouldn’t last, I’d probably be okay. Despite a little clunkiness in my stride due to my hip flexors tightening up I was still moving really well and was comfortable with his prediction. The air was still warm and I had my emergency gear. Sometimes it was just better to get wet. I was out and running in under two minutes.
Leg 5
The run along the road for the first few kms was happily uneventful. Just an easy running pace watching the rain move in, a slight steady climb. I turned off from the road as it really started to settle in, puddles forming in the quad tracks. Mud and puddles was the theme of this leg. A beautiful, rolling, evergreen quad track section that alternated roots with giant muddy puddles with steep edges, avoiding them was useless. I have to confess as everyone has been saying that it was too bad about the conditions on this leg…but I loved this part. Sadly this is where I dropped Eric for the rest of the day, he was such a joy to run with. I kept checking my back hoping he’d catch up. But I was feeling good, my legs loosened up and I was plenty warm in just a singlet and shorts. A few times I whooped out loud and danced over the roots, hardly noticing the puddles, just went straight through. I’m sure I slowed down some but I didn’t feel it, and I didn’t look at my watch save once when it beeped into the 100km mark around 11 hours, I celebrated by myself right there on that trail. I didn’t really even consider using the mud as an excuse to slow down or adjust my time goals. I knew it might slow me down. But I can be apathetic to a fault about those kind of things that are out of my control and on this day the mud just didn’t phase me. Stick to the plan and push where you can, I told myself. By the time I joined the road I was paying attention again. I knew this part well and I knew I’d be through there again on Leg 6, but then in the dark. So I paid attention to the conditions and picked out where the best lines on that section were so it could hopefully be helpful later. It did end up paying off, even just in a small way.
·       END OF LEG 5
Ryne at work-Always keeping me on track
End of leg 5
·       RYNE AT WORK – Always keeping me on track
·       ON TO LEG 6
Leg 6. I was ready for it. I’d ran Leg 6 the Sunday before the race and I was glad I did. I knew exactly what to expect, it was now all just doused in water and heading into darkness. That was okay, I was focused. Someone mentioned I’d gained time on Dave on Leg 5 and I guess I wasn’t surprised. But right then I was focused on chasing the light. I knew I wanted to get over the high point on the course and down the washed out rock garden of descent before I needed my lamp. I had ground to cover. Ryne gave me my time goal and I immediately thought it was too generous but reminded myself that it was ugly out there and 36km is still a long way. Still, I had it in my mind to better it.

On to leg 6
I put work into the first 10km, ran like I was being chased. The first half of the leg has pretty much all of the 1100m of climbing on the leg and plenty of rocky wash outs. Knowing it was going to get colder I was pushing in the calories and eyeing my pace constantly. It’s giving me a headache recalling the focus I had through this section! But once I crested that ridge at the highest point in the course I let out another whoop. It was still light enough to see the spectacular view and the gnarly downhill just ahead. I felt like I could relax a little. Still moving well, I ate up the rest of that leg. The slippery conditions required some patience so I focused on taking care of myself before the final push. I came in 52 minutes ahead of Ryne’s projected leg time.
On the surface I felt calm arriving at the transition for the last time. But my eyes felt a little too wide, there was an energy and emotion that was threatening to bubble over and I didn’t know if it would manifest in tears or laughter if I let it out. The crowd was amazing and overwhelming, I kept hearing that Dave was only minutes ahead of me. I was surprised…but I kind of wasn’t. I cracked a sugar free redbull and downed half of it, giggling for no reason. I had to go. Last year’s winner, Vincent Bouchard, had been close by the transitions all day. He was crewing for Eric. “Vincent!” I yelled, “I just crushed your time on Leg 6!” How do I have any friends left?
Ryne gave me 90 minutes to go and said he’d see me at the finish. I knew exactly what was out there, I’d done this leg a handful of times before. Never in the dark but I didn’t even notice that anymore. I started the climb, noticing a headlamp and thinking maybe it could be Dave’s. It was high up on the hill and I felt I had a lot of work to do to get there. The climb felt good, just longer than expected. I was passed by a relay runner or two, they were kind enough to offer encouragement and congratulations. I recognized the turn that ended the climb and was relieved to start running again. And then immediately regretted it. It’s not a good race report without some physical struggle, so this short part was mine. The rocks seemed like impossible obstacles and the grade was too steep for my body to take at that point. I was openly crying, cursing, knowing I was slowing on this section, stumbling over every rock. The gritty mud I’d been carrying from Leg 5&6 dug into my ankles and suddenly my toes were banged up to the point that I knew I had blood pooling under the nails. I tried to calm myself, knowing I was reacting too strongly and needed to stay calm, it would soon get gentler. I could walk it in at this point if I had to. Almost there, deep breath. I started to pick it back up on the smoother single track and by the gravel road to the halfway point I was back in rhythm. Another welcome climb to take the pressure off my hips and feet and I knew the way from there. Lovely single track. The first sign of town and the turn down onto the road. Accelerate. Stay smooth. A light bobbed down the road and as I passed it I realized it was Ryne. I tried to hold back an emotional sob. He recognized me and started shouting encouragement. I felt the words but they fell without any real meaning. Eyes ahead. Smooth downhill and a few turns to the finish. I saw nothing. I felt so much, mostly relief. Definitely pride. I’d accomplished more than I thought possible that day. I dared to put down some goals that scared the hell out of me and then trusted myself when I woke up that morning and knew that day was going to be something special.
This picture makes me cringe a bit, it was
such a personal moment, I forgot everyone
was watching
With my dad and brother at the end. As a born
and raised Southern Alberta girl this race was
pretty special to me
I hadn’t let myself linger over thoughts of the finish line all day. But here it was, now I could savour it. My Dad and my brother were there at the finish line, the first time they’ve ever seen me race. It was such a special moment to share with them. More hugs and congratulations. Finally I saw Dave back in the crowd a bit, the first time I’d seen him since the start. He looked like he’d used the mud as war paint or camouflage, his face was smeared with it and he had that same wild look that I felt. We hugged, had our moment. Dave it really wasn’t about you, but man I was happy to have someone to chase. It gave me something to hurt for on that last 10km and it was totally worth it. You completely earned your win and I was genuinely happy to come that close. 
Finally caught the bugger!
2015 Canadian 100 mile champions at the
awards ceremony
I’ve received the rock start treatment since that day and I really just want to express my gratitude to everyone involved, at the race and behind the scenes and throughout my training. And especially the volunteers and the people who wok so hard throughout the year to put this race together. Your efforts are so worth it and much appreciated. The cheers, the support, and the advice, it has meant so much to me. Let’s do it again soon!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sinister 7

photo by Raven Eye Photography
The night before S7 I lay there in my tent trailer with Sharon tucked under my arm knowing that tomorrow's race would be a good one. At this point of the season, especially coming off the World 24 hour Championships in April I knew my fitness base was good enough to carry me through the challenging 100 mile course. The forecast called for thunderstorms between noon and five which sounded perfect as it would nullify the heat on the exposed course. The only niggling concern I had was the minimal amount of climbing I've squeezed into my training. To be honest, I hate it. I'd rather go to a One Direction concert than power hike. The other strange little concern I had was I was having a hard time digging up the desire to put out every drop of blood, sweat, and tears into tomorrow's effort. In other words I just didn't want it as much as I've wanted other races in the past. I fell asleep that night hoping I'd find the desire the next morning.

photo by Megan K Koevoet
photo by Raven Eye Photography
The gun rang at 7 am. The relay runners drove swiftly ahead leaving a clump of familiar faces around me. In the mix was the drop dead good looks of Devin Featherstone, the youthful optimism of Eric Reyes, the contagious spirit of Ian MacNairn, and the sexy legs belonging to Majo Snrik. Tucked smartly behind us was the stone cold killer Alissa St Laurent and the "closer" Travis Brown. Around 4K in I peered down at my watch and noticed a 4:45 pace and thought to myself, "Hmmm we could very comfortably pick it up a bit." A couple K's later I was all by myself, no one wanted to play with me and that was when the long, lonely day started. The climbing into T1 saw a lot of relay runners slow behind me as they couldn't keep the pace on the ascent. At T1 I saw RD Brian Gallant where I told him I felt very comfortable and just wanted to ride this flow for awhile. Leg 2 had to be my favorite. It has stunning views and tricky technical descents. I found myself smiling from ear to ear for two reasons. First I was enjoying myself, second I was flying past parts on the course that last year left me wincing in pain when my ankle was not able to take the demands of the course. This year I was in no pain and my effort level was still very low. It was gonna be a damn good day.

Sharon was the very best crew!
Approaching T2 I found the motivation I was missing and I found it in the strangest of places. To everyone at the staging area I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your cheers and words of encouragement drove stakes through my heart reminding me that I can sure act the spoiled bitch sometimes. There are people that would die to be in my position and here I am dug 5 feet in the ground with my first world shovel feeling bad for myself cuz I just didn't want it bad enough. You've got to be fricking kidding me. Sharon met me with new handhelds and apple sauce and I was off. As I climbed out onto leg 3 as corny as it sounds I had a song in my head 
photo by Raven Eye Photography

and it was set on repeat the rest of the day. It was a song and video Sharon made for me that I first watched in April, the morning I ran 257K in Turin breaking the Canadian 24 hour record and finishing in 6th place. Watch it here. The rest of leg three went seamlessly. I sponged down in creek crossings, slowed on the climbs and sped the downs. I ate a bar I got in my race package called Thoz Barz and it blew my mind, a bar Ill definitely fuel with in the future. The song kept playing reminding me how blessed I am and that life is too short for mediocrity and I am truly the luckiest man I know. I fuelled every 30 minutes, drank RE7 when thirsty and kept my pace well below the dangerous red line. Now 67K into the race I descended into the staging area now with a larger gap on the lead I eagerly awaited Sharon's aid, more apple sauce and the welcome of the crowd.

photo by Raven Eye Photography
Leg 4 was my predetermined GO leg. This was where I thought it best to pick up the pace and lengthen or close the gap on my competitors. With the first climb up the ski hill out of the way I quickened the pace. On this portion of the course I now reaped the benefits of staying cool during the heat of the day. The three things that aided this was my cowboy hat, arm coolers, and an ice filled bandana around my neck. Cowboys aren't just good looking you know. At the next transition station I saw Sharon, Misti, Dan and Laura. Sharon was holding the exact thing I was craving, an Iced Cappuccino. Like Snoop I dropped it like it's hot. Smack!!! Once the flavour hit my lips it was surprising I didn't drink it in one pull. Misti suggested I shouldn't drink all of it as it was made with milk. "That might not end well," Misti said with concern. She was right, I ran the next 10 K trying to not jostle my bowels to allow safe passage as the creamy goodness flirted with a northern passage. I passed by my best friend John
Hubbard through the ditch along the highway who had words of encouragement. He's always been able to get me to dig deep. As I turned north off the main highway the ugliest of ugly clouds swirled closer. Before you could say Adam Campbell, lightning was crashing down left and right. All I wanted was to get out of this ditch and away from the telephone poles. A sign showed a left turn off the road. YES, now I'll be safe. You wouldn't believe it, the course turned directly into an open field
with a row of electrical towers over 200 feet tall, BLOODY HELL THIS IS HOW I'M GONNA DIE!! Adam Campbell's voice was in my head telling me to be a moving target so I picked up the pace and got through that hell hole as fast as possible. By the time I got to the base of Mount Tecumseh the heavy rain turned to vicious hail. The cowboy hat was perfect as my arms hurt from the frozen bullets but my head and shoulders stayed protected. My pace slowed as I tried my best to keep my feet dry. The quad trails acted like a perfect culvert for the water to stream down creating a raging river. Twenty minutes into the climb I realized that the wet conditions will not be improving so I might as well get dirty!

photo by Raven Eye Photography
Into the storm we go
photo by Raven Eye Photography
Mud, mud, and more mud
I might be exaggerating but it seemed like I slipped and fell every 2-5 minutes. As awesome as the NB Fresh Foam Trails are they are lacking on muddy grips and this definitely slowed me for the remainder of the race. I arrived at the end of leg 5 sunken and demoralized. Putting on a brave face for my crew and friends I really didn't want to leave the comforts of that tent. Sharon noticed this, called me on my bullshit and almost physically pushed me out onto leg 6. Thank you Sharon! The first 5 K into leg 6 wasn't bad. My spirit was reasonable, my pace still okay that is until the climbing started. Did I mention I hate power hiking? For the first time in a couple years racing I really started to mentally struggle. Many relay runners passed me with words of encouragement but I was a miserable disgusting mess. Negative self talk filled my head and the feeling of not caring about anything took over. A passing relay runner informed me that Alissa was only 29 minutes behind me at the start of leg 6. I don't know much but I know what happens when you dangle a carrot in front of a race horse and this thought made me get off my ass and get up this mountain. Upon the descent I started struggling again and I found myself making the biggest mistake a runner can make.  I sat in a chair at a remote aid station before T6, covered in a blanket, with a cold fizzy pop kindly donated by one of the 3 amazing volunteers there, and I stayed for ten minutes. All I remember was my head was sunken staring at my feet when something caught my eye. I wrote 257K with a Sharpie marker on my arm in the off chance I'd need a reminder of how strong I can be and that 161K is nothing. I got up and ran. 

The crew: Misti, Dan, Laura, Johnney, and Sharon was taking the pic.
I arrived back at the transition station at exactly midnight. Still not in good spirits but certainly better than before. Sharon asked me what I needed. I said, "To get this F?*$!ng thing done." I hammered half a Red Bull and off I ran on the final leg and still in first place but by how far I didn't know. As I climbed out of the transition area my spidey senses tingled. At the top of the climb I looked back and saw a headlight approaching the climb. ALISSA, that little twerp, it's gotta be her! The remainder of the leg was really fun as most of it is single track slowly winding it's way back down into Coleman where the finish line awaited. The last 800m was asphalt road and it was only there that I turned, saw no light and began feeling safe. With 100m left Oleg Tabelev grabbed my handheld and exchanged it for a cold beer. Cracking the beer and chugging that bad boy through the finish line was certainly worth the suffer...18hrs21min, new course record and 2015 National 100M trail champion!

The predator and the prey

Sixteen minutes later Alissa crossed the line in 18hrs 37min!!!! Crushing the female course record! Un-freaking believable!

Team Proctor
Everyone sees me running out there on the course but what they don't see is the one person behind the scenes keeping everything afloat. Thank you Sharon for being my rock. None of this, I repeat, none of this would be possible without you.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Tips and recap from last years Sinister7 team champs

With a week to go before the Sinister 7 I reached out to the defending champs and course record holders the Bow Valley Harriers/Strides Running Store. They were kind enough to offer advice and pass along some tricks and tips to help the runners at this year's Sinister 7 perform at their very best. All seven men on this team have been performing at an elite level for many years so I suggest reading on and taking there advice to heart. These swift gentlemen from Calgary will be back to defend their title so when you see them be sure to wish them luck, they'll need it to surpass their last year's time of 13:29:31!

Leg 1 Frank Slide 16.5K with 502m elevation 1:07:28 -  Nathan Kendrick

You'll start the race with a good send off from the crowd in Blairmore and have about two blocks before you turn into the ditch. With waist-high grass in some areas, you'll have to balance looking up to find the next flags or the runner in front of you with looking down to secure your footing. After 2.5K you'll jump onto the roads of Frank and head away from the highway. This next 7K or so is where you can open things up... it’s slightly downhill on good terrain and this is the fastest pace you’ll be able to hit on the leg. Try to keep a quick pace without going past your limits as you’ll still need lots in the tank for the last 7K (or, heaven forbid, 150K!). Around 9.5K you’ll start your climb. Try to keep the same turnover but shorten your stride. Think about standing tall so you don’t lean too far forward, and keep your arms going as your legs will follow. After a couple of K you’ll leave the road and jump on the single track, the most fun and picturesque part of the leg. There are twists and turns, hills and bumps to keep you on your toes. The terrain will sometimes force you to slow down to stay safe, but this can be a welcome rest! Let it refresh you so you can pick up your pace when you’re back on a straightaway. You’ll eventually get a bit of a downhill at the end of the leg, so push hard and bring it home! The first leg has its challenges, but with people relatively near to you and the varied terrain, it’s a lot of fun!
Leg 2 Hastings Ridge 16K with 937m elevation 1:31:16 - Darcy Bell
The day starts early and I found it tough to get going. At least until we arrived at the start line. The positive energy wake you up fast! Then before you know it the race has started and everything is calm again. Everyone doing leg two then hopped on the school bus for the drive up to the end of
leg 1 and the start of leg 2. Then we hang out for the runners to arrive with little to no idea as to when leg 1 runners would arrive. It made for a tough warm-up but I thought that I'd play it safe and stay close so that I would for sure be there. Before I knew it Nathan had arrived and I was off
on my leg. A little too fast to begin with but quickly settled in. It's a long uphill and we had a large enough lead at this point that it was just a matter of putting my head down and just getting one foot in front of the other. It took a bit but eventually I was able to look up and around and enjoy the views. Near the top of the leg it flattens out a bit and gets a bit more enjoyable. Turning the corner you look back down on town and the eventual end of the leg. Downhill!! Sounds like a relief on the legs but for the first bit it's so steep that I wasn't able to get going and really let the legs go. Instead I found myself grabbing for trees in order to stay slow enough that I could stay in control. I heard the second place runner coming up on my and luckily at this point the downhill was flattening to a point where I could really get going. This is where I excel and was really able to fly. Through the mud and through a nice cold creek and back into town where my leg was done. Onto the grass to a cheering crowd and some delicious refreshments. Able to find some shape and enjoy the rest of the day before the heat really set in! A great leg, not without its challenges but all-in-all very enjoyable.
Leg 3 Willoughby Ridge 35K with 1327m elevation 2:52:24 -Ryan Twa

The course is a loop but more like a light bulb in shape as you come back on the same path that you started on. The first few k’s are what I found the most difficult. There are some tough climbs and steep downhills from the start to the first aid station. Watch for small rocks and boulders on the path that can result in a few ankle benders. Also note that leg 4 overlaps leg 3 for about 1km so don’t take the wrong turn!
From the first aid station to the summit it’s pretty straightforward on good wide singletrack and fireroads. You’ll be in and out of the trees for most of this stretch so exposure is not a big concern. This is the part where you can diesel it up the hill and get in a pretty good rhythym. Feel free to push it hard through this stretch because you’ll have time to recover later. Near the summit it opens up and this is where the sun started to get to me. Take your time at the 2nd aid station to recover, hydrate and fuel up (you’ll need it for the next stretch).
From the 2nd aid station it’s a pretty wide open downhill back towards the start. Take your time and resist the urge to hammer down this hill. You’ll only pound your quads into a pulp and there are still some good hills left. This is when the sun and heat starts to make an impact on the body. Drink, drink, drink and drink some more. Footing gets a bit trickier but nothing too technical. This stretch is hot, dusty and dry. Did I mention to drink lots?
From the 3rd aid station back to the junction can get pretty muddy. I’m talking knee high swamp mud here. You can do it two ways, take a lot of time and try and stay dry or hammer through it. I recommend hammering through it. It’s only mud and if you wipeout just the crows will laugh at you.
Reaching the junction turn right (unless you are really motivated to go around again). Remember that downhill you did 20+k ago? Now you get to go up it. Be happy that you took it easy on the downhill stretch. Even though it’s only a few k’s until the end it’s not easy. Take your time, focus on just maintaining effort and grind it out. It’s almost done.
Get to the finish. Drink, eat and relax. You did it.
Leg 4 Saddle Mountain 17K with 675m elevation 1:46:48 - David Chafe
This leg started near the softball fields and immediately began to climb a very tough ski hill, the first couple K's were ran on narrow dirt trails. During the first half of the course there were other legs that crossed over one another, and I was lucky enough to run with some other runners. After the ski hill the majority of the course was ran on ATV trails and back roads, while crossing through ponds and fresh water streams.

My advice to running this leg would be to walk some of the steeper hills, save energy and get fluids. The final third can be ran quickly, as it is flat or rolling with the final section being downhill to the beginning of leg five.
Leg 5 Mount Tecumseh 29.6K with 763m elevation 2:22:52 - Travis Cummings
If it is hot out, make sure you have enough water for this leg, it gets pretty hot the last half as it is all exposed. Leg 5 starts on a gravel road then follows ditches/ATV trails beside a road. It then starts to gradually climb on some double-lane off road trails, which is fun but challenging. Once the trail goes off-road you end up under canopy covered trail, it can be quite wet, rutted, and there are some puddles that look more like sinkholes than small depressions. Eventually the leg turns downhill (a gradual, long downhill where you can pick up your stride), leaves the forgiving canopy cover and turns into a wide, gravel, ATV trail. I started to suffer here (about 18-19km). I had run out of water and the support stations are few and far between. The leg at this point is pretty much just undulating hills, you are either going up, or going down; if you aren’t trained for it expect your quads to be thrashed by the end. That being said, the scenery is pretty nice and knowing I had teammates with ice cold brewskies at the end of the leg waiting for me got me through the final 10k or so. I find up and down courses more challenging than big climbs, the stress seems to be more on my legs have to alternate rather than just pounding up. If you are similar to me then make sure you have lots of water and get some fell running in prior to attempting this leg. Total distance is 30km but it feels much longer if it is hot; good luck, it’s definitely a good challenge.
Leg 6 Crowsnest/Seven Sisters 36K with 1093m elevation 2:57:35 - Jeff Krar
The penultimate leg is challenging.  The entire leg is on wider ATV trails.  Participants immediately begun running up a gradual incline that doesn't relent for nearly 20 kms.  After running through the campground the ATV trails begin.  In spots a nearby stream jumped the banks and ran down the middle of the ATV trail.  The trail bed also has plenty of loose rocks in the first 20 kms so paying close attention to your foot placement is imperative.  The last 2-3 kms to the summit are steep and rough.  Save some energy on this ascent as you'll need it later.  The final 10 kms after the aid station are very runnable and almost all flat or downhill.  My advice is to save some energy for the last 1/3 of this leg as a lot of time can be gained in this section.
Leg 7 Wedge Mountain 10.7K with 390m elevation 51:05 - Allan Brett
This leg may be the shortest, but it definitely has small dog syndrome. It’s doesn’t look the meanest by any means at first glance, but it’s feisty and packs a punch. This being my first trail race ever, I honestly didn’t quite know what to expect going in. Well, I can say Leg 7 holds the illustrious title of being the first race which forced me to walk. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no shame in aggressively hiking up the first hill. If you can register a flight phase the whole way going up, find me after the race, and I will give you a high five and hand you a beer. After dragging yourself up the first hill, feel free to pat yourself on the back, but know you’ve still got a ways to go. Be prepared for many a steep downhill's which your quads thoroughly enjoy. There is little opportunity to get into a groove as you are constantly occupied by ups and downs, twists and turns, and roots and rocks. Thanks to the many steep downhill's the next day when I dropped some change on the ground, I just stared at it because I knew my legs wouldn’t let me bend down to pick it up. I was sad, one of the coins was a toonie.
At the tail end of the race you can look forward to what was probably my favourite run into the finish of any race I’ve ever done. You will have a smooth, clear, slightly downhill trail as you enter town. There’s something to be said about just letting gravity do all the work while dodging in between trees which just makes you feel fast.  Have fun out there, but make sure to give Leg 7 the respect it deserves!
Jeff Krar, Nathan Kendrick, Allan Brett, Ryan Twa, Travis Cummings, Darcy Bell, and David Chafe