Not all Death Race soloists finish the race – pt. 2

Wayne Little's monthly column of sports motivation and nutrition.

Wayne Little at the Grand Cache Death Race.

See Part 1

I walked into the Leg 4/5 transition and I was very tired. I originally hoped I would finish in between 15-17 hours. I was ignorant in how I came up with that time, but I knew I definitely would not be finishing in the “imaginary” time I came up with.

Phil and Grace gave me a pep talk, filled my bottles and pockets with food, told me how far my friends were and the fact they were still going, and away I went.

I walked onto Leg 5. It starts as a really nice single track, which is a trail runners dream trail. I was walking though, not running now.

I was in a low spot, so low, I was in a horrible mood. Peppy, zippy and happy relay runners would blast by me and give me words of encouragment. I would grunt at them, and tell them to eff off (under my breath). I had no positive thoughts in my head.

I started crying a few times, thinking about how generous Phil and Grace were to be my support team, about how my family wouldn’t be there to see me cross the finish line, about how my friends were way ahead of me, probably in a nice hot shower now, or maybe getting together for a beer and talking about how awesome they are and how slow Wayne is.

All these thoughts were just conjured up in my mind. Although I didn’t hallucinate like some people do after running for almost 24 hours straight, my mind was messing with me. I remember saying out loud derogatory comments at the tiniest little things. I swore out loud at the little roots I kept kicking with my feet, my toes were so sore. I remember stopping and swearing out loud about how large this stupid toad was on the trail.

At the river crossing, Hell’s Gate, Charon (or someone dressed as him) – also know as the Gate keeper – takes your coin. This is all to simulate the crossing of the river Styx.  The coin that you’ve been making sure was in your pocket all this time.

I checked to see if it was there at least s thousand times during the race. He takes your coin and you get a ride across the river.

A few people I talked to in the race said if they lost their coin, they would just swim across. Yeah, that wouldn’t happen. It’s a glacier-fed, freezing cold, very fast moving river, at least 200 feet wide.

On the other side of the river, there is a long steep hill to climb. I keep walking. I’ve walked 8kms in about three hours. I still have lots of time left, but I am tired. Real tired.

At the top of the hill, the trail flattens out. I feel like running again. I am on the high. No, I’m really on the high. My mind is blown by the fact that I can run again. I can run even though I’ve been on my feet for 18 hours and travelled over 110kms. I’m running so fast, I look at my gps watch. Nope, I’m not running that fast, but I am running.

The trees have tiny little reflective dots on them so you see the trail like its lit up. I have to put my headlamp on “projector” beam because I’m able to outrun the “flood” mode. Now I can see the roots, rocks, stumps etc along the trail before I get to them. I keep running and pass people, they try to stay with me so our headlamps will work better, they are trying to feed off of me.

I welcome it, I become their rabbit. I’m thinking of running with my friends back in Kamloops, my friends like me because I’m their rabbit, I am in a high spot now. I know I’ll finish, I feel great. I keep running all the way into town.

I’m in Grande Cache now, it’s past 3am. I have no idea where I’m at, I just keep following the Death Race logo’ed pylons I see.

I go by a house with a group of people partying with a fire in the front yard. They cheer out to me “Go Death Racer!! We love you for putting Grande Cache on the map!”

Then they yell, “Hey, you want a beer!?” I run past them and stop. I do want a beer. I go back, walk into their yard, they crack me a beer, we toast, I give them a hug, they say they love me. You know when you’re drunk and you say “I love you, man”? It was that sort of thing.

I down my beer from the most gracious fans in the world. It was so good. I gotta tell you, after drinking warm cytomax, mountain stream water, eating gels and granola bars for 19 hours, I was sick of them.

Back onto the road I go, following the pylons. I have no idea where I’m at, even though I’ve worked in this town, and have family here. My mind is so messed up, I don’t know what direction I’m going or where anything is.

I keep running, effortlessly. Then bam, I look to my right and see the finish line.

I sprint across the line and put my chip in. I’m emotionally overwhelmed. Phil and Grace are there to take embarrassing pictures of me and to hug me. I’m a bawling buffoon. I’ve done it,  I’ve become one of those people. Over a decade ago I saw these immortal soloists, and now I’m one of them.

My friends all finished two hours ahead of me. I guess their lows weren’t as low or as long as mine, but I finished just the same as them, and got a coin.

My time was 19:35, good for 38th overall. I burned approximately 12,000 calories, and visibly lost a lot of weight.

One of my friends, Jamie, did the race for her first time and got fourth female overall. Another friend, Francois, finished the Death Race for the first time after it beat him last year. Another friend who I didn’t see at any point during the race except for the start line, Andrew, hit his low right at the finish line, but he did finish, and finished well.

Unfortunately there were 240 or so people who did not finish, only 119 out of 326 solo runners finished. It’s called the “Death Race” for a reason, it’s not called the “Rainbows and Unicorns all downhill race”.

You could always tell who the Relay people were because they ran differently. You didn’t need to look at their bibs, you could just tell. They were peppy, they were fast, they didn’t carry much. They all gave words of encouragement. I hated them, I wished I was one of them. I wanted to run like that. Until I finished, then I knew there was something much bigger, and better. I was so happy I did it solo.

People asked me if I was coming back, come back to get a better time?

For now, I’ll say no. I would if my wife wanted to put the team back together, like the Blues Brothers did with putting the band back together. I would if my wife wanted to try doing it solo, I would run with her, to help her through those lows, and keep her on the highs as long as possible. Otherwise I’ll keep looking for something a little harder than the Death Race, like maybe a 100miler?

Thank you to my family, for putting up with my “long runs”, to Phil and Grace of the Dirty Feet Race series, Runners Sole, and the tribe at Multisports solutions for helping make this race happen and help me across the finish line.

Wayne Little

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