Last month I scored a last-minute opportunity to race Leg 10 in the Kananaskis 100 relay, a 100 mile relay through the Rocky Mountains, ending at Nakiska, one of the 1988 Winter Olympic venues. I’ve run Leg 9 twice before, and was delighted to get to run Leg 10 this time.
To back track a bit, I had been training up to almost a half marathon distance this spring just for the heck of it. I had the time and encouragement from running friends, so the weekend previous to the K100 I had handily managed 20km in town on a paved bike path. A few days before the race a friend of mine posted an appeal to local runners on Facebook. Her sister’s K100 team needed a last-minute runner to take on Leg 10, 18k of mountainous trails.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Lucky me!
I love mountain trails. I could run 18k, if they don’t mind my slow pace, and they didn’t mind at all. I love the fun running teams! Within 48 hours of the race start I had connected with the Prairie Mountain Goats 1 team (from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), garnered a check-in card and a t-shirt.
My running partner was also racing that day – he ran Leg 2, so we drove out together and I supported his run by checking on him every 2 km. His long run schedule called for more than the Leg 2 distance, so he continued running well into Leg 3 to finish up 24 km. There was a light rain much of the day, but it resulted in refreshing running temperatures and he did well.
We had awoken early that morning (5 am) to get to the start of Leg 2, and my relay leg wouldn’t start until 6:00 pm, so we drove ahead of the race for a while, had lunch and a nap. Once rested, we cheered on his team mates and one of mine. We chatted with other runners we knew.
The rain steadily got heavier, and I prepared for a very wet mudfest. Most of the Leg 10 runners begin at a forced start at 6:00 pm instead of waiting for their team mates to come in. The race is organized this way to ensure that everyone finishes before dark and for supper, including the volunteers. I was estimating a finish time of around 8:30-8:45 and getting hungry just thinking about it.
Since it had been raining so much, the race organizers cut Leg 10 short to avoid losing racers in a swollen creek crossing. They announced that the new distance would be 13 km instead of 18. I high-fived a few Roadrunners I knew in the pack before we were sent off into the wild, and away we went. As if on cue, the rain lightened up and stopped.
Within a few minutes the pack had left all but a few of us behind and we stragglers bonded as we bounded through puddles and muck. Wheeeee! The downhill start was fun, but it was going to suck on the way back. I tried not to think about that and focused on efficiently using the gravity. Eventually as we got closer to the turnaround the pack met us on their way back and we exchanged a few more high fives and encouraging cheers. The sun shone for a while and we soaked it up.
As I rounded the corner at the 3k-out water station on the way back I checked my watch and decided either the course was even shorter than 13k or I was totally kicking butt. The climbs back up to the finish line were very challenging, but again I managed a steady effort and it took everything I had left to keep running at the finish.
According to the results, my name is Glen Ackerman and I finished in 1:22:46. We found out later that it was more like 11.5 km, which gives me about 7 minutes/km – good enough for me, especially considering the mud and hills!
There was a small crowd cheering a few of us in and I appreciated it very much. In that crowd were two of my new team mates from Leg 1 and 9 – very cool! They introduced themselves and we thanked each other for an awesome experience. My team captain found me a little later and gave me a gift card to a running store in thanks for filling in. Sweet! Thanks again to the Prairie Mountain Goats for a very fun day, topped off with a fabulous run.
I headed inside to warm up with a burger and a beer, and enjoyed hearing others’ experiences of the day. Later that week my muscles reminded me of how hard I’d raced, but it was a good ache. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.