Saturday, August 22, 2009

sinister 7

so i get this email about a year ago from my good friend tone. all it says is, 'this is just wrong', and it sends me to a website called 'sinister 7'. curious, i hit the button, and this is what i find: 146km - 7 stages ranging from 12 to 33km - elevation gain 5050m - 27 hours to complete the entire course. "solo runners if you want to run the sinister 7 solo, you should not be sitting here reading; you should be out clocking up the mileage. this race will be in some very isolated areas and may not have immediate access to facilities or assistance of any sort. if you cannot run the 146km in less than 14 hours, you will be running in the dark. the sinister 7 is far more mental than it is physical. when you have been running for 12 hours, your mind will give you a million reasons to quit - you have to decide that it is more imortant to finish." interesting!! so, i email tone and reply, 'yes, but we have to do it, it has a really cool name.' to which he replies, 'but it is just wrong.' and that is how it all got started.

and it was also around this time, that my buddy paul, aka onions, found out that his wife was expecting their 4th child. with a classic 'deer in the headlights' look, he asked if he could accompany me to the sinister 7, as he needed something 'else' to focus on. no problem i say, but you will have to train. (famous last words). oh, one more thing, onions figured that the baby was due around july 4th - right about the time we would be climbing the 5th mountain peak in alberta! what could go wrong?

i set myself up a schedule and pretty much stuck to it. i recall many crabby runs in the winter, slogging through way too many inches of snow, as in taking over 6 hours to run 26 miles, and almost killing myself trying to run on glare ice, as in taking almost 7 hours to run 30 miles (until i got my 'blue screw shoes' - thankyou richard!). did some great cross training on the snowshoes to break up the monotony of deep snow running!

spring finally came, and i managed to do a couple of 50 mile races in the OUS as training runs - seaton trail and sulphur springs. and i was handling the weekend back-to-backs with no problem. my last long training runs were june 13 & 14, consisting of 30 miles on saturday and 20 on sunday. now it was time to taper - did i mention that i hate tapering?! and i think it was around the end of june that i started panicking. i noticed in my running log on june 28, that i had entered the following: 'going crazy!!' hahaha!

and so, on july 1st, me and onions made our way to the airport, and headed out to calgary. the plan was to meet up with my new buddy wayne, someone i hadn't actually met, but had been connected with through another runner i had met in colorado last sumer. he offered to let both of us stay at his house in okotoks, and he assured me that although he may bite, he had had all of his shots. he also found us a support crew for the race - a buddy and former running partner named gary. and this is how he described him: gary likes smelly girls. gary knows that all ultra runners lose their marbles at some point in the race, so please babble at will. perfect!!

on the thursday, waynes' awesome wife trish took me and onions hiking up to little elbow lake. we sat on the side of the mountain and had a picnic lunch.

on the way down, we came across 2 guys hiking up to the glacier to go skiing! so cool! we also saw a moose strolling through the trees just across the creek from where we were hiking. what a beautiful place. thanks trish!

on friday, we got all our stuff together, picked up gary, and headed down to blairmore. trish left early in the morning to ride down! again, very cool! wayne had booked us a place called 'turtleback cottage' and it was just that. there were turtles everywhere - stuffed ones, ceramic ones, pictures of ones - which i took as a good sign, as i love turtles! once settled, we went over to the arena, got checked in and ate our pre-race pasta dinner. got to see a lot of runners, most of whom wayne and gary knew from other alberta events. after, we went back to the cottage and got our race bags ready for the next morning. race start was 7am. i had settled quite a bit, but was still antsy to get going. and oh yes, no baby yet. thank goodness!

finally saturday morning - show time! this was it - let's get running people! check out this picture of me, onions and wayne at the start. could we look anymore nervous? well, except for wayne, he was a pro at this, having placed 1st in his age group last year and 3rd overall.

leg one - frank slide - 16.5km - 1650' elevation gain - time 1:50:38

fairly easy leg. lots of road and gravel. ran by the slide, which was this massive area of fallen rocks and boulders. nice warm-up!

leg two - hastings ridge - 16km - 2780' elevation gain - time 2:18:07

had a nice climb up to the ridge where the view was spectacular. little freaky on the way down, as we experienced a 10 minute storm with thunder, lightning and hail. not a nice thing to run through at 2700'. made sure we stayed a good distance from the people with trekking poles. we finished up back at the start/finish area, where trish helped us restock supplies for the next leg.

leg three - willoughby ridge - 33km -4057 elevation gain - time 4:59:25

from here, we headed up a ski hill along a very recently cut path of single track. i think that onions found this to be the hardest leg. there were a ton of really steep climbs, the worst being a grade of 26% and some even steeper descents, with grades of almost 30%. and it was hot!! at one point, we ran through the remains of the 2003 lost creek fire - very eerie! we were able to make up some good time on a fairly long gravel road downhill, back to the start/finish area one more time. towards the end of this leg, onions was figuring he'd be lucky to finish leg 4 in 7 hours, and that he wanted a scotch waiting for him at the end!!

leg four - iron ridge - 32km - 3293' elevation gain - time 5:31:10

can't remember a lot of this leg. i know we climbed for awhile, and then hit this really pretty meadow. onions was complaining that he had sand or something stuck in his sock, so we sat him down on the side of the trail on a log and took a boo. i started wiping the dirt off his foot so i could get a better look and he got a little frantic that i was going to rip off some blisters. i patiently explained that i needed to dry the area before applying - the red green special - 2 layers of duct tape. that seemed to work pretty well, and we made our way 'around' the stream crossing. yours truly didn't feel like getting her feet wet at this point. then i seem to recall running down a road for a long time, running along a highway, and then on to the next transition. it was just starting to get dark and i informed onions, that since he'd made it this far, and since i didn't really want to run in the dark by myself, he had no choice but to keep running. once in the transition, we retaped our blisters, changed sox (thanks trish - i really owe you for that one), put on our headlamps and headed off into the night for stage 5.

leg five - the seven sisters - 22.7km - 3352' elevation gain - time 5:38:43

'whattya mean we gotta climb this?' good thing it was dark! ack!! true to garys' word, the first couple of km were pretty flat. and then we started to climb up this river bed. i'm thinking had it been raining all week, it would have been really nasty. as it was, we only soaked our feet a couple of times. paul managed to find a few 'hidden' bridges not quite marked on the trail that we could use. it truly was the 'leg of the glow sticks' - they were everywhere. and we saw a couple of really big shiney frogs on the side of the trail (we both saw them so i wasn't hallucinating). i kept thinking we were at the top, but it seemed to take forever. after almost 16k of climbing, we finally reached the highest point of the race, which was 7200'. we made it into transition 6 at about 3:15 in the morning. trish and gary were there to help us for the last time. after hugs and goodbyes, we assured them we could managed the final tr by ourselves. they had had a long day, and we were happy to send them back to turtle cottage!

leg six - crowsnest mountain - 13.8km - 397' elevation gain - time 2:32:49

this was a nice, gradual downhill leg. i found i was able to run most of it, which made up some time. there were a few drainages, and a lot of baby heads, but i managed to stay upright. onions was still moving - what a machine! as the sun started to rise, we approached the final transition, and the last leg of the race. onions and i argued a bit over me going ahead, as i felt pretty good. he said he didn't want to run, but could if he had to. we figured we both had 4 hours to make the finish. so i handed out another hug and made my way to the tr, passing a solo female on the way, who, in her words, was done running, and was going to walk the last leg. i quickly dropped off my headlamp, grabbed a drink, thanked the volunteers and started out on leg 7. woo hoo! what could go wrong??

leg seven - wedge mountain - 12k - 1040' elevation gain - time 2:09:18

now in the words of the beloved race director, 'the final leg begins with a steep ugly climb up the base of wedge mountain, followed by an even uglier descent into the nez pierce creek drainage.' and it was just that! after managing not to kill myself on that little section, i popped out onto a rail trail kind of path, and came into the last water station. i asked the girl there how much further, to which she replied, 'only 7.5k, and hay, you're 2nd place female.' oh crap! how did that happen? and i didn't need to hear that!! at first i figured she had made a mistake, and then i remembered the soloist behind me from the last tr. ack!! better get moving! part of me didn't believe her, and part of me did. but i sure didn't want to lose that placing - flashbacks from stage 6 of last years' transrockies run with christine went through my head. so, i actually RAN the last 7km. and it didn't feel that bad! i met up with a guy almost at the finish line who informed me we only had 4 blocks to go. i urged him to run with me, but he quickly dropped to a walk after about 20 steps. and a good thing, as i was cursing him when it turned out to be 6 blocks!! but finally, there it was, the big green sinister 7 sign. wow! it was 8am, and i was 2 hours ahead of the 27 hour cutoff. brian, one of the race directors, (and a real cutie), informed me i was 2nd place female. i didn't believe him either. it felt good to finally stop and sit down, and i waited for onions to come in. i think i was more excited for him than i was for myself when he crossed the line only 30 minutes after me. gary was at the finish to see us come in, and wayne even made an appearance, having come in at 19:39 and 5th overall! awesome!!

and here's a pic of me with andrew and brian, finally accepting that i had placed 2nd in the female category.

a few notes:

* total distance covered - 146km

* total elevation gain - 16,564'

* highest elevation point - 7216' (leg 5)

* total starters - 50

* total finishers - 27

* total women finishers - 5

* total gels consumed - 21

* total training miles from registration date of dec 13 - 1300

* pauls' total training miles - well, i know he ran a couple of 50k's . . .

many thanks to everybody who helped me do this, with a few who deserve special mention. wayne and trish, i can't thank you enough for welcoming us into your home and taking such good care of us. gary, nice to meet you and thanks a lot for helping us get through the transitions. i know we both totally enjoyed our time spent with all 3 of you. ann, thank you for the card and the good luck charm - i carried it the whole way. moose, as always, you keep me going - you're the best! tone, i forgive you, and i thank you for getting me started. the only thing making it better would have been you running along side of me. captain, thanks for talking me out of another stoopid ironman, and into an adventure of epic proportions. homey, thanks for getting up at 4 in the morning so we could test out headlamps, and for the dozens of loops in palgrave forest over the winter, and for putting up with my tantrums, and for convincing me at least 327 times that i could do this - luv ya dahling! and to my latest partner in crime, you did it! i knew you would! you had no choice. after blaming me for getting you involved (like i got your wife pregnant) and then making you sign up, i wasn't about to let you quit. and you didn't! you truly do possess an amazing strength of character that will serve you well in the many months to come - yes, that baby finally arrived! congratulations onions - be proud to be a sinner!

to everybody or anybody this may have inspired to go out and do something cool and scarey, i leave you with my favorite quote which originated with my friend gordo . . .

'long may you run'


  1. Chris says that you are awe inspiring, I think so too!
    I hope that you are keeping blogs, or a journal, of all your ultra running exploits. Then sometime you must write a book about them, it makes for most enjoyable reading.
    We love ya.

  2. Girl, you are so hardcore.
    Congratz on an awesome finish. Wow...