Death Race…The Journey

30 07 2010

Death Race…………..The Journey

July 28, 2010, my 45th birthday today.  Its 430AM and im sitting here at my computer.  Tomorrow morning I get on a plane with my sister Ava, for Edmonton and then a rental car to drive up to Grand Cache Alberta to participate in the Canadian Death Race   with 1500 other crazy people on its 10 year anniversary.

To give a bit of a story on how I got here I’ll try and summarize………..

Born in Montreal but grew up in rural south-eastern NS with 3 siblings, the woods behind my house was my playground.  In order to get anywhere I ran.  I spent my childhood years playing and running through the forest.  My Father and Mother were very out doors type people, and by age 15 I had done numerous long treks in the woods.  I am sure many a weekend I hiked 20-30 km with my dad to hunt rabbits or find a new fishing hole.  We spent at least 250 days a year hunting and fishing.  My mom was an avid bird watcher and forager of wild plants and mushrooms and if you went for a walk with her you were in for some exercise.  She could walk at about the same pace I could jog.  Even to this day they both do a lot of outdoor activities with my dad doing a 3 day hike in the Czech republic alone when he was 62, and my mom only recently doing a two day hike alone in the mountains of Arizona…………………you get the picture…outdoors type family.

My other siblings were great at sports.  My kid sister Yvette didn’t have to practice at all and could shoot 3 pointers in Basketball all day.  My brother Randall is a natural athlete and could do and still does numerous sports but was an excellent basketball player despite his massive 105 kg/6 foot 3 body.  My sister Ava was so tenacious that she would try and did everything from basketball to windsurfing.   Me………well I was the renegade……on the high school track team and wrestling team I was more interested in playing guitar in my band and smoking cigarettes and drinking beer than in getting fit.

Although on the push from my parents I ran in some school cross country races and even ran the 800 M in the Antigonish highland games.   One summer day, my dad and avid jogger, dragged me out on a “little run” and we ended up running about 15km in the summer heat…….I couldn’t believe it.   It was exhausting, but I also remember it being awesome that we ran so far.

Once I entered the cooking profession the next years were a blur of working long and brutal hours and partying.  This destructive life style continued until 1991, where by the only exercise I got was what I refer to as jailhouse curls…………….basically hitting the biceps with as much weight as possible with terrible form to pump up the arms only!

In 1991 I reconnected with working out and religiously hit the weights with a 5-10 minute run on the treadmill as a warm up.   By 1999 I was big, weighing about 105 kg and could run a 530 mile and bench press 405 lbs.  But……….I felt terrible.  My diet was poor and I was overweight.  The heavy weight lifting had pounded my joints and I always had issues and pains.  The only distance running I heard about was a friend of my ex-wife’s family who occasionally would run home 28km from his job….I thought he was lying.  How the heck could someone run 28 km?????

In 2003 my sister Ava casually mentioned she was training for a marathon……………scheduled for May 11th in Ottawa.   I thought  …”that’s crazy she can’t run that far!”   First of all I asked how long is the Marathon????  I didn’t know they were all 42.2 km!

At any rate I decided to sign up and train with her at the local running Room in Halifax.

My first 5 km training run with her I had to walk at least 4 times……I couldn’t believe it.  She was fast and fit compared to me.  So I dug in and trained as laid out in the course.  I would guess I did about 60% of the required training and didn’t look at my diet at all so by race day May 11th I was still about 102 kgs and in OK shape.  Regardless we ran together and it was one of the biggest things in my life.  I remember at 36 km running with my eyes closed praying I could hang on for a bit longer.   We went through the finish line holding hands in 4 hours 18 minutes!  Very emotional.  It was also excruciating…painful!   I had a blister the size of a large marble (clunker) on my second toe and later two toenails fell off.  Holy crap….never do this again or learn to do it better!

Well needless to say I kept going…..I trained very hard and lost some weight and ran the 2004 Philadelphia Marathon in 3 hours 28 minutes.  I was exhausted though from my crazy 80 hour work weeks and ended up fairly sick for several weeks even coming down with Bells Policy!

Meanwhile my sister Ava had been doing a lot of reading and was forever asking if I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, run the Antarctic marathon or the Canadian Death Race…….well these all sounded good to me.  This Death race in particular stood out in my mind!  125 km run though!?  Crazy………while on a flight to Hawaii I met a woman who told me she had run on a relay team on the Death Race and she gave me her Death Race coin to inspire me (which I still carry with me today)…………….in 2005 I trained in a half assed fashion for the Death Race, not listening to my body at all and finally tore a calve muscle.  That put running on hold for a while, but it did show me I was capable of a whole lot more!

Well after a few more half hearted runs and some injuries I wasn’t really focused on running for a few years.

While in Montréal I had reverted back to some of my bad habits and found myself at 106 kgs by Christmas 2008!   

This was the turning point.  Time to get back in shape.  I signed up for a July marathon and on March 1st 2008 I started to train.  In the back of my mind I was thinking about this Death Race.  I soon discovered I had let myself get in terrible condition with high blood pressure, cholesterol, and fat!  My cardio was the shits and I could barley run 1 km without stopping!

I hit the training like a demon though and dropped the weight to 94 kgs by summer and ran the marathon…it was tough and I wasn’t fully trained.  I got through it in 4 hours 19 minutes……………………….I barley slept that night and decided to get in a lot better condition…………………….well after a 5 day break I started to train religiously for Death Race 2010.

I blogged about this and publicly talked about it in order to put pressure on myself to do this…………………………….after running over 6000 km in training here I am

I weigh 83 kgs with a body fat of 9%.   I can run 40 km non stop any day I feel like it and have run 4o km plus 25 times since January 1st 2010.

I am in the best shape of my life.

Now I know I could go to Grand Cache and take it easy and complete the course in under  the required 24 hour cut off time, based on what ive seen in my training…………..However that’s not what I intend to do.

I am going to push myself with every fibre of my being.  I want to test the strength of my soul.  See what im made of!?  I want to break down the barriers and take a look at what’s inside.

My goal.  17 hours 55 minutes.

I am entering with quite a severe knee issue and know that this is going to add a considerable amount of pain to what is already a painful journey.

My sister Ava will be there to run on part of a relay team ( she has done 3 marathons this past year including Boston)   Ava will run a 24 km leg 5 at night through the woods alone, with full blown Chronic Planter Faciatus…………..she can barley walk today so I wont want to moan and groan about my knee too much.

As you can see from the past blogs I have trained and readied myself as much as humanly possible for this day.  I have consulted experts, hired a coach, trained religiously                (missing 21 days training in 18 months due to injury or illness)………..but am I ready?

I will soon find out.  I will post Video and pictures on this Blog spot as much as I can over the next 72 hours.

Stay with me and hear my honest, live and candid commentary on one of the world’s toughest ultra marathons.

We toe the line at 8 Am Alberta time on July 31st!  What a great birthday 45 is going to be!




4 responses

30 07 2010

Go Death racer

30 07 2010
Darryl Rowe

Go get ’em Chef! I will be cheering you on.

Great example of determination and commitment…well done!!


30 07 2010
Norbert Lennartz

Hi Stefan,

You are right about the pain……. If you want to find out what is inside, it has to hurt…… hurt badly….. and it will…..
Pain, physical or mental, is indeed a driver that obliges us to look inside.
The first thing you see are two option……. no, giving up is not the one you want to adhere to .

125km are mind blowing…. anyway, good luck…. and welcome to the better live…… Norbert

31 07 2010

Go for it Stefan
You trained long and hard for this day, I know you can do it.
Just typing this message has me tired I can’t even imagine what would it be like running 125k
We’re all pulling for you and your sister, in the meantime I’ll be sipping a cold beverage and having a smoke and thinking of you two.
See you soon

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