Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Local runners enter Death Race and live to talk about it

For the Westlock News

Sheldon Wilcox makes his way through the Death Race on Aug. 1. He finished the race in just under 24 hours. Supplied
The most grueling race in the country was held over the August long weekend, and no less than eight Westlock residents are among the few and proud to have finished it.

The Canadian Death Race, held every year in Grande Cache, Atla. on Aug. 1, is actually two separate races, consisting of both a team relay version and a solo competition.

Westlock is home to survivors of both events.

During the race, competitors must cross five rivers and move between 17,000 feet of elevation. They must complete the race in 24 hours, which includes ascending and descending three separate mountains.

“There are three summits you have to make on the course – Flood Mountain, Grande Mountain and Hamel Mountain — and they’re all six to seven thousand feet in elevation,” said Sheldon Wilcox, one of 121 competitors who managed to finish the 125-kilometre solo race.

Wilcox finished 115th overall and completed the race with a total time of 23:25:58.

“It’s a tough race,” said Wilcox. “It’s not meant to be raced or finished by just anyone. It’s unapologetically difficult.”

Wilcox, who broke his ankle running in May, said he’s happy he even finished.

“I wasn’t expecting this to be my best performance,” said Wilcox. “I’ve been four weeks out of the air cast, so I was very happy to just finish this year.”

Also in the solo race was Westlock Elementary School teacher Robert Weiss, who lives in Morinville. He finished 86th overall, completing the journey in 22:28:40.

The solo race drew 326 competitors from across the planet, with people traveling from as far away as Australia and Japan to test their might on the marathon.

The relay race, which drew 162 teams, also had good representation from Westlock. Murray Tuininga helped his team, the SpringDocs, finish 13th overall with a final time of 14:41:44.

Also returning triumphantly to Westlock is Victor Gunn, who played on the five-man relay team JLL that placed 49th overall, finishing the race in 16:50:38.

An all-Westlock team consisting of Coreen Rivard, Tammie Rogers, Megan Balascak and Tammy Round joined forces to become the Wonder Women, who placed 99th overall and finished the course in 18:46:03.

“It’s beautiful, but challenging,” said Rivard, who completed two of five legs during the relay.
“The amount of climbing that you’re doing puts a lot of tax on your system. It takes a lot more strength and determination to get to the top of that mountain, then of course the technical stuff coming down takes a lot out of your body.”

This was Rivard’s third year in the death race.

The grueling competition is not just a physical one. Racers are also required to carry coins with them to pay a ferryman to cross Smokey River – a nod to the Greek myth about the river Styx and the mythical passage to Hades.

“You have to have a coin to present to the ferryman as you cross the Smokey River, at about 110 kilometres into the course,” said Wilcox.

Wilcox has now completed three death races solo and one death race as part of a team.

“It’s unusual to compete in three death races and complete all three,” said Wilcox. “So I’m feeling pretty good.”

Wilcox added that he’s proud of his accomplishment, but he’s glad it’s finally over.

“It’s always a great feeling to be done,” said Wilcox.

“I’m exhausted. It’s going to take a few days to be able to walk normally. I’ll be glad to be wearing shoes again in a day or two.”

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