Ponoka’s Slade McCormick completed the Sinister 7 ultra recently placing 15th overall in the 161 km mountain race. This was McCormick’s second attempt after being unable to finish last year. Photos by Raven Eye Photography

Ponoka runners complete gruelling Sinister 7 ultra

Teams and individuals take on the 161 km course

There’s a contingent of Ponoka runners who take long distance running to new lengths.

Several runners from Ponoka recently took on the daunting Sinister 7; a 161 km (100 mile) race that covers 6,400m of elevation over several peaks in the Rocky Mountains.

Starting in Blairmore, the ultra pits runners against the elements, the mountains and a 30-hour time limit. Of the 300 solo starters, only 46 completed the race.

One Ponoka team managed a solid second place team finish overall despite only having three runners. Dubbed Attitude Over Altitude, the Dalke brothers, comprising James, Jayden and Joedy finished the run in 16:54:37.1, just under two hours behind the six person team Original Joes Redline Overlords.

And they almost gave the Overlords a run for their money if there wasn’t one misstep during the race, explained James.

Probably the most challenging part of the race for the trio, who all have a joy for running, was communication and ensuring all the transition points were stocked. James likened the challenges to being siblings growing up together.

The Sinister 7 has seven major legs to the race and the three split up the runs thus: First was Jayden, second James, third Joedy, fourth Jayden, fifth Joedy, sixth James and the last leg went to Jayden.

Will they do it again? “Yes, because we need to make up for our mistakes,” joked James.

James said there was one turn that got missed during the race that set the team back about three kilometres. Even with that misstep the next team behind the Dalkes — No Limits from Calgary, which is comprised of seven runners — finished almost 40 minutes later to secure third.

“We knew we were physically capable of it,” said James.

“We were within 15 minutes (of the leaders) at one point in the race.”

For him the race was a confirmation of their ability to take on other ultras as a team. They are already planning to take on the Black Spur Ultra in August in Kimberly, B.C.

When it comes to running, the Dalkes are ready for the long haul. “Altitude is just a thing. Attitude is the way you approach it,” he added.

Running solo this year was Slade McCormick who completed the run in the 15th overall spot at 26:34:04.9.

For McCormick, this was an important race as he attempted the Sinister 7 last year and was unable to finish. “In a 100 mile race you never really know for sure if you’re ready.”

“I ended up dropping out at the 100 km mark,” he recalled adding that he started making plans for this year almost right away.

“The biggest thing was I didn’t have any failures,” said McCormick of this year’s finish.

In an ultra, anything can happen, a sentiment both McCormick and James confirmed. For McCormick the trick was to minimize any big problems such as injury and supplies, which tend to compound when you’re running 161 kms.

Despite a number of falls along the way, and soaring summer temperatures in the 30 plus degrees C, McCormick knew he was in for a good run.

After completing the last peak, and biggest climb before the descent at about three in the morning, McCormick paused and enjoyed the scene. “That was one of the things I tried to do this year was stop and enjoy the views.”

It was no easy task; McCormick says his legs could barely handle any more running towards the end of the race. He kept his focus on finishing, staying cool by laying down in the mountain creeks, and taking one aid station at a time.

“When I got there I focussed on getting to the next one,” said McCormick.

Racing long distance runs is about being competitive but also by getting into a calm state for McCormick.

“It’s a way of just focussing on my mind and being peaceful,” he added.

The prize for solo runners? A special belt buckle with the Sinister 7 logo. This was also the 10th anniversary of the ultra.

Ponoka Path Pounders were the other Ponoka team that took on the race. It was comprised of Gary Hoogers and his son, Darcy, siblings Emma and Findlay McCormick, Jeff Patsula, Dale Krenzler and Shawn Hollingsworth. They finished 65th overall with a time of 23:14:11.5.

Darren Schmidt was the other solo runner but he was unable to finish the race.

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