Grande Cache, Alberta
Runners will pass over three mountain summits and a major river crossing at the spectacular Hell's Gate canyon at the confluence of the Smoky and Sulphur Rivers. Extreme athletes, individually and in relays, push themselves to the limits of their endurance against the breathtaking background of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The race begins and ends in Grande Cache, Alberta. The five legs may be run individually or in relay teams of from two to five members. The first leg is the shortest at 19 km, the second is the most technical, the third is considered the easiest section, the fourth is the longest at 38 km, and the last leg to the finish line is of (comparatively) intermediate difficulty. Included below are the cut off times for each leg. Cut off times are set for safety purposes and are strictly enforced for that reason. Included below are the cut off times for each leg. Cut off times are set for safety purposes and are strictly enforced for that reason. If a team's Racer does not make it in by the cutoff time, as a courtesy, the next Racer can begin at the cutoff time. However, the time to do the leg will not be scored and ultimately the Leg 5 Racer will not be able to cross the river (since he will not have the coin).
First leg, 19 km: The Downtown Jaunt
Approximately 6 km of pavement initially, followed by trail and 3.5 km of gravel road. It includes a net elevation loss of 500 feet, rolling hills with flat sections, several creek crossings and one significant downhill. The course will start in downtown Grande Cache and the race officially begins at the 5 km mark, after passing the Grande Cache Saddle club. It then continues past Grande Cache Lake and Peavine Lake, mainly on quad trails and including a section along a ridge with a spectacular view of Peavine Lake and the mountains of Willmore Wilderness Park. After crossing Washy Creek and skirting the north end of the CN rail yard through a deep mud bog, enter the first full aid station and relay exchange zone. Cut off Time: 12 Noon
Second leg, 27 km: Flood & Grande Mountain Slugfest
Includes about.1 km of pavement. The rest is dirt trail with rocky and swampy sections, and approximately 6 km of hard packed dirt road.. Net elevation gain is 500 feet, but the total elevation change is well over 6000 feet. This leg of the race is characterized by long sustained climbing with about 3 km of very rough terrain and two creek crossings. The trail from the summit of Flood Mountain to the summit of Grande Mountain is the roughest piece of trail in the Death Race. The power line down the front of Grande Mountain leading back into town is the most dangerous part of the entire course. This is due to the steep, rocky drop-offs and unstable footing while running downhill. The Slugfest is the most technical section and is rated the second hardest leg of the Death Race (although many rate this leg as the hardest of all). The Near Death Marathon course bypasses the Flood Summit Loop but otherwise is the exact same Legs 1 and 2 and finishes at the Start/Finish Line at the end of Leg 2. Cut off Time: 5:30 pm.
Third leg, 19 km: Old Mine Road (or “City Slicker Valley”)
Includes 5 km of pavement: the rest is dirt road with several creek crossings. One creek runs right down the trail as you descend the first part of the Mine Road., making for very slippery, rocky terrain for 30 meters. This section passes through the lowest point in the race, hitting the very bottom of the Smoky River valley floor, with knee deep water for 25 meters. (If it’s a wet summer, it's worse.) With a net elevation loss of about 1000 feet, this section is the fastest and easiest of the race and one of the most beautiful, offering stunning views of the Smoky River valley. Cut off Time: 7 pm.
Fourth leg, 38 km: Hamel Assault
This is mostly dirt trail and hard packed gravel. While the net elevation gain is zero, the total elevation change is well over 6500 feet, which comes practically all at once. The ascent of Mount Hamel (elevation: 6,986 feet) is broken into two very long climbs, with one small reprieve as you gain the shoulder of the mountain at the mid-point. You will pass the Hamel Escape station where racers can bail out if they've had enough (Cut off Time 10:15 pm). At the forestry tower on the summit of Mount Hamel runners check in and then continue toward the spectacular cliff bluffs at Hell's Canyon, where they must retrieve a prayer flag as proof they have made the turnaround point. The descent is strewn with boulders and deep ruts. The downhill is not that technical, but any falls will be on very unforgiving ground. (Read the waiver section about being in remote areas and not being rescued in time to prevent serious injury or death.) This entire leg is fantastically scenic. Cut off Time: 4:15 am
Fifth and final leg, 22km, The River Crossing
Includes 1 km pavement, 6 km gravel road, and a river crossing. The rest dirt trail, grass, and single track. Net elevation change of over 2500ft. This section runs from the Northwest end of the Hell’s Gate Access Road southward to the Sulphur Gates Road, across from the Hell’s Gate emergency aid station. It crosses the Hell’s Gate road and heads down to the Boat Launch road . Runners will be ferried across the Smoky River. There is an emergency aid station on the west bank of the river. From the raft crossing, racers will proceed up the east shore of the Smoky River and follow the trail to the Sulphur Rim trail. The course passes the Firemen's park, heads up Firemen's Park Road and continues to the Finish line in the Grande Cache town square. Please note: For most runners this leg will be completed in darkness with much of the trail under a heavy canopy of trees, so eye protection is required. Although this section is well marked with reflective markers, flags and signs, we recommend you bring a halogen headlamp with brand new alkaline batteries. Daylight training on this part of the course is highly recommended.
Grande Cache was a mining town that once thrived from the mining of coal. After the mine was closed, the town suffered. Many homes were in foreclosure and the morale of the people who lived there was low. With the hope of possibly bringing his hometown back to life, Dale Tuck began the ultramarathon now known as the Canadian Death Race. In the beginning, Tuck did not have the support of the town council. However, that did not hinder the race from being a success in its first year. The first race was launched in August 2000 with 193 participants. By 2010 the race was attracting more than 1000 participants each year from around the world. In 2015, Alissa St Laurent became the first woman to win the race; she finished in 13:53:35.
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