Runners from Ponoka took on a 100 mile ultra marathon in the Crowsnest Pass, and completed it.
The race is called the Sinister 7 and draws ultra runners from around the world to its course, which covers seven stages and seven mountain peaks. It’s a true test of a runner’s physical and mental strength. The ultra has a high drop out rate.
The highest elevation on the Sinister 7 comes in leg 6, on the Seven Sisters mountain, with a maximum elevation of 2,292 metres. But each leg comes with its own challenges and hurdles. As the organization explains it on its website: “This race is f&%$ing tough.”
For the Ponoka runners, however, that’s exactly why they do it.
Placing second in the team event was Ponoka’s Attitude Over Altitude (James, Jayden and Joedy Dalke), with a final time of 14:13:22.3 against Original Joes (13:53:07.9).
The Ponoka Path Pounders ranked 95th with a time of 22:58:37.2 and was made up of Gary Hoogers, Russell Hemingsen, Roger Dalke (father of the Dalke brothers) and Darryl Johnson. Taking on the solo run was Slade McCormick, in his third year in a row at the Sinister 7 ranking 24th in the solo category with a time of 25:18:44.1.
Dalkes take second place
The Dalke brothers almost beat the Original Joes coming in a close 20 minutes behind the leaders. Attitude Over Altitude also beat their 2017 time by more than two and a half hours, explained James.
“We were in front of them (Original Joes) for a little while,” he added.
Interestingly, Original Joes ran with a team of seven, with each runner taking on one leg of the ultra. The Dalkes ran it with three. James took on legs 4 and 5 — 54.8 kms — and pushed for a strong lead against the Original Joes in that time. Indeed, the Dalkes did take the lead for some time.
“I went out like it was a really hard 50 km race,” said James of his strategy.
He knew, however, at some point that he would have to slow down or possibly not finish altogether. With ultras like the Sinister 7, a small mistake at the start could end up slowing down a person’s overall time.
It’s definitely a tough race; in fact, when James finished his two legs, he sat down and quite literally couldn’t get up for some time.
Jayden, who is training for the Canadian Death Race (125 kms), ran legs 1, 2 and 6 and he helped set the pace. Legs 1 and 2 are about 35 kms combined and Jayden ran them in an even three hours. Joedy ran leg 3 (31.4 kms) and leg 7 (10.9 kms); his goal was to complete his two legs in under three hours, and he was able to beat that goal by 24 minutes.
James joked that Joedy seeing a bear may have also added to his desire to keep his speed up.
“It was kind of cool to show up on their playing field,” added James of being able to complete with Original Joes.
McCormick beats 2017 time
For McCormick, having experience in how the race affects the body and a person’s determination helped him in the long run.
He began relatively slow and then started to move ahead of other racers. It’s about starting conservative, said McCormick, and then being able to pick people off as the race stretches on. “It’s not that I’m speeding up as the race goes on, it’s that I’m slowing down less.”
On leg 6, McCormick passed several people after getting what he calls his ‘eighth wind.’ He beat his 2017 run by an hour and 15 minutes.
“You can’t understand the fatigue and the mental tiredness that hits you,” he said.
Having his wife, Suzanne, give him a mental boost helped. The fourth leg was the toughest portion for McCormick, which had more ascent and descent than in previous years. Suzanne encouraged him to move on and reminded him of a big Tennessee race in October that he’s taking on.
That run is called The Big Backyard Ultra; only 72 runners are eligible to take it on. McCormick is one of them. It’s a 4.1667 mile loop with runners having to complete the loop within one hour, and then repeat it until there’s only one runner standing. Organizers expect it to go for 72 hours.
McCormick says the runners who take on the ultra are among the best in the world. “There’s a really strong field of international runners who are going to be there.”
The ultra is organized by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell, famous for creating the Barkley Marathons.
For McCormick, being able to test his strength and mental determination was a good practice for the Backyard ultra.