Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sinister Seven 2014

No, the race was not named for my kids...although it does seem like a good nickname for them collectively.

The Sinister Seven Ultra Marathon and Relay is an annual event in the Crowsnest Pass in the Canadian Rockies.  Its a killer of a course where the runners go up and down and around mountains, splash through multiple river crossings, often run into cougars and/or grizzly bears, fight pain and fatigue and finish on an incredible endorphin high that only an ultra runner can I'm told.

When some of our kids decided last year to take on the challenge of this year's Sinister Seven, I cringed and started to worry.  Some of them had never run before...of the team of seven, three had never raced.  But they all started training...running through the cold of our Alberta winters, the heat of the summer, and everything in between.  Here's the lineup before the run began.  I was reminded to mention that the team got their name from my blog, Pat's Ramblings.  They called themselves the Ramblers, knowing full well I'd blog about them.

Our nephew, Noah; SIL Greg, Daughter Mary, Daughter Sara,
SIL Curtis, and son Michael.  For Noah, Curtis and Mike, this was
a first-time run.

Lloyd and I weren't there to see the first three runners off so I don't have pictures of them except for some I stole from Facebook.  Noah did the first leg, running 16.5km (10.25 mi) and got the team off to a good start (they did the Sinister Seven as a relay).

 Second up was our big chiropractor Curtis who looks like he'd be more at home on a wrestling team.  He completed his 16km (9.94 mi) in great time.


We arrived just as Mary completed the third leg of 35km (21.75mi) and Sara set off on the fourth leg (17km (10.56mi).

Mary finishing with daughter Amy photographing

Mary had the most frightening encounter of the day.  As she was running up her mountain, a huge grizzly bear came out onto her trail about 30 metres ahead of her.  Mary immediately turned around and started running back down the trail (they were told never to turn your back on a bear but fear takes over reason).  She met three male runners coming up the trail.  They formed a group around her and making as much noise as they could the four of them went back up the trail, effectively scaring the bear off.  She said that really got her adrenalin going and she made excellent time finishing her leg of the relay.

The best picture of the day is the one of Mary finishing her leg and passing off to Sara, and telling Sara about the bear.

"You saw WHAT???"
Sara's expression (turquoise) says it all.

I'm going to say right now that I have more pictures to post of Sara than of any others because with the length of the legs and the timing, hers was the only leg Lloyd and I were there to actually see coming in.

She did two legs, the first one was 17 km (10.56 mi) followed immediately by a 29.6 km (18.39mi) leg. She ran from around 5 pm until 1:30 am, through mountains and rivers and mud.  She relayed pictures to us via her cell phone along the route.  She was still fresh after the 17 km and after five minutes of blister bandaging, shoe changing (running across rivers tends to make them wet!) and gulping down orange segments she was off again.

Surrounded by family and friends, Sara is getting her blisters treated

because running in wet shoes is hard on the feet.

Fresh oranges and she's off again.

She almost lost her shoe in the sticky muck.

It was very frightening having her out on the mountain in the dark.  The runners had small headlamps on their foreheads that just allowed them to see the ground immediately in front of them.  They didn't see a hill looming until they were on it, a river in front of them until they were in it.  And of course the light in the middle of the forest attracted all the bugs in the area.

This is a selfie she took.  It's incredibly dark except for the light on her forehead.
Not my idea of fun.

 When she made it to the transition area after midnight, Greg was waiting there to begin his grueling 36.2 km (22.49 mi) leg.  I can't imagine beginning a race on a mountain in the pitch dark.

This picture was taken while we were waiting for Sara to
return after her first leg.  Greg is pointing over his shoulder at 'his' mountain.  

His run took him around the base of the mountain, up into the forest and beyond, into the snow that you can just see above the trees, and around the smaller mountain behind the first one.  When he finished just after 6am he claimed it was the best run of his life.  Runners!!!

Greg finishing 

Then it was Mike's turn to finish up with the final 10.7km (6.65 mi) leg.  His run started with a steep long climb and an even harder run down into the valley but he did it like a pro in great time.

A colorful finish to this year's Sinister Seven

And congratulations from those who matter most.  He's his
boys' hero now.

Our Super Seven Sinister Seven Runners with their medals
Curtis, Sara, Mike, Mary, Greg and Noah
Way to go guys!

This final shot sums it all up.


Mickey said...

Awesome adventure & accomplishment! It meant for a very exciting yesterday as I kept in touch with you! So great to have all the photos to put into your blog! You & Lloyd must be bursting with pride!

doodles n daydreams said...

Wow, that's a family to be proud of.
Well done all those people :)
My niece likes to run and has just really started the competitive stuff and has not long completed her first half marathon. She has plans to do more and longer races. She loves it. I think there must be a bug they catch, haha.



That must be amazing to run at night. Though I'd be concerned what wild animals you might encounter then, with only that small headlight. I used to power walk early in the morning before the sun came up, though. My brother is the one who ran marathons. Looks like your family made a good run. Great family pics.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

That was quite an event. Running isn't easy in a place like that but to do it in the dark, really challenging. I can see why you are proud of them.Sinister for sure when you have to deal with a bear on top of it all. That would be way too exciting for me.

Granny Annie said...

If I had been Mary I would have kept going back down the mountain. I would never have believed the other runners could have protected me from the bear and would have called it quits. Yikes!!! said...

Wow nice pictures. Sure happy pride there.

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