Sugar and spice and everything nice...that's what little girls are made of! Possibly, but some women are made of really tough stuff including my friend Carol Bradbury that I had the pleasure of supporting this past weekend at the Sinister 7.
This is her at about 140 km into a 148 km race called the Sinister 7. If you've been following blogs this is who I've been talking about.
I still question why she does it? Why run insane distances over mountains, creeks, dead fall, cougar country, bear habitat and simply unimaginable altitude and descents that most people wouldn't consider quadding down.
Myself, I am an ultra runner (kind of in comparisson) but only to about 50 km in distance which in it's own right is far but some of these races transcend body, mind and spirit capability.
Allow me to take you through a day in the life of an ultra runner....
Wake up. Dress. Eat. Drink. Get your gear ready.
Depart to leave for start at 7 am (we're not keener's we like to cut it close so you just walk up to the start and go!)
Race start of the longest day of her life (and ours except we got to sit!)
Arrive off of Leg 1 (16.5 km) in a great time feeling good. Fill up her hydration bag, feed her, bug spray her, fill her bag with food, and send her off again. She is happy and life is good. Running is fun (kinda).
Come into transition with her arms pumping and excited!
This stage was hard (16 km), so much dead fall, a grizzly bear, more dead fall, a really big climb up a mountain and simply hot! We fill her up as well we feed her again and change clothes and socks. Off she goes ready for Leg 3 (35 km) difficulty of the whole course 7/7! We had an ice bath for her feet and sponges to rinse her off with...yes, many other solos were jealous! We shared though!
I arrive after the breakdown since I headed out to run with a friend on Leg 4 (32 km) we bail after 16 km because she not feeling well from the heat and gets sick! Carol comes in with stories of excruciating heat, empty water stations, creek crossings and more creek crossings, drinking from the creeks and hell. I missed it just before I got there but she is having a mental breakdown. Our friend Lorne is there and him and Leyann convince her once again she can do it. She is walking with a friend who helps her through the race he was her angel. She eats some ravioli, refills water, changes shoes, drinks a Boost and heads back out. I give her a hug as she tells me she's quitting then she says "Na just kidding". Yes, please get your butt out there when you still have a sense of humor. She has ran 67 km to this point.
Now she is coming in off of Leg 4 (32 km) it has taken her 6 hours and she is behind schedule a bit but her feet are trashed. Literally I take off her shoes and they are rotting, she has completed 99.5 km of the race! 48.5 km left. She begs to stop. We fill her up again, give her clothes, tape, moleskin, and put on clean dry socks on her feet. This time she hobbles off but as soon as she moves she says her feet start to feel better...oh we hope the next leg goes well. We had the honor of watching other solos come through and helping some. Others were so quick and efficient they simply come through without sitting down and keep chugging on, how I don't know. We taped a couple other runners feet at this point and assist others filling up their bags etc. and getting them food.
No pictures here, it was dark and we were busy!
Thunderstorm and downpouring rain. The last ultra she ran it poured and she became hypothermic, it is a fear of hers. We are quite worried she will quit! Definitely not looking good.
In comes Carol running! Wow! She looks so strong it was amazing. She tells us tales of creeks up to her hips and how hard the leg was. She made up a little time and we quickly feed her warm food Ichiban noodles and coffee then send her out. Time is getting close now! She has finished nearly 122 km and it now is pouring rain. Things are not looking good. But we promise her that Leg 6, 13.8 km is simply wonderful! Yes, we lied a lot! She asks about another solo runner friend who we know for a fact he pulled out at 77 km, but we tell her he is just behind her. It keeps her moving. Off she goes in the pouring rain.
My friend Leyann and I that are supporting her have indepth discussions about why she does it. We don't know. Stopping at Tim Horton's we grab a decaf coffee hoping to grab a nap after we warm up. Wearing a down jacket in a down pour does keep you warm. Kinda like a wet sheep. We grab Carol a coffee to spur her forward to the final 12 km of finish when we see her. The sun is rising and the views are spectacular. Sleep did not come though...
I dress in her clothes that we have carried around for her to change into and head up the trail 0.5 km to get her. Her friend came through and says she is struggling to keep positive at all. I find her nearly crying and DONE! I'm not going to finish she says. I encourage her and we time in at the transition station and keep pushing through to the finish. It is 12 km to the finish and she wants to stop. We are SO close to it. 2 hours and 15 minutes to try at least.
The last time I ran Leg 7 it was different and if it would have been that course we would have had a chance but the terrain was so difficult and steep again that we simply couldn't do it. We talked a lot, we walked a lot and we looked at the beauty around us even though she hurt EVERYWHERE. I asked her what was great that she saw or did on the course to take her mind off the negative.
She had nothing left, not to finish in the time we needed. It was 9:15 am and the cutoff to finish officially was 10 am. 6.8 km left to "run" literally we would have had to RUN flat out to get there. Spent and at peace with stopping when we hit the final aide station of the race she pulled herself from the course. I was so proud and emotional all at the same time.
She is my hero and simply amazing. Passing out in the chair as we waited for a ride back to the finish line I just couldn't believe she had made it that far. It was unimaginable to think about it, next time you are driving somewhere that is 141 km pay attention the whole way and imagine now running that over terrain deer and quads would travel on.
Yes, she did not finish officially! But, she finished 141 km of extreme terrain in +36 heat with the humidity and raging creek crossings as well as a thunderstorm. She ran farther than ever before and her stomach felt better than ever allowing her to eat and drink more than ever which energy wise kept her feeling the best in any race she had done. (Did I mention she finished a half ironman the weekend before?)
Great job Carol. Rest well my friend and get ready for Ironman Canada in August. She laughed at the thought of how easy it will be now compared to this race.
Congratulations Sinister 7 you have a truly hard ultra, she said she would rather do 2 of the Canadian Death Race in a row than that one ever again! Mind you this was in the middle of running it!
Why she does it? I don't know. No one can describe it until you watch it or do it. But it is something to behold. Next time you see a fit person limping around most likely if you ask them what they did for the weekend the answer will be something like this:
"I just ran a little in the mountains for fun...."
Myself, I am preparing for the Canadian Death Race to complete as a two woman team. 68 km/57 km respectively my friend and I will run to finish the race. We are doing it simply to see if we can! I don't think. I KNOW we will!
I will keep you updated come the August Long Weekend!
I Live Life Now,