Cindy Branum is doing it again. She and husband Roger, their children and Cindy’s best friend Julie are heading to BC where Branum will compete in the Canadian Death Race.
“Nobody has ever actually died running it,” she says brightly. “It’s 125 kilometres and you have 24 hours to complete it.”
The race is coming up this August long weekend, beginning at Grande Cache, Alta. Runners will climb and descend three summits, Mt. Hamel at 6,986 feet (2,100 M) being the highest.
“They says it feels like you are going up a ladder for three miles.”
Last year’s race
“Last year my race was 50 km in Fernie. It was really tough because by 9:00 a.m. it was already 30 degrees in the mountains, really, really hot. A lot of people couldn’t finish it because of dehydration.
“I finished it. I was dead last I believe. But I was so happy I actually completed it.”
She says she’s training much harder this year with four runs per week, that’s 11 hours of running. Plus, she does boot camp with two hours of weight lifting and workouts.
Branum is going solo on this race which is made up of five legs, with cut-off times for each leg that must be achieved or you cannot finish the race.
The first three legs up mountain summits means hiking and running, and not much time for resting. “I’ve been told if you do the three legs on time, then you can start the fourth and fifth legs…you should be able to complete them.”
Gear and team
Compression socks, good running shoes, a belt with nutrition in it and a water bladder with two litres of water in it (refilled at every station) is her gear.
In training and other races this year, she has been listening to music.
“Last year I listened to books, and it really slowed my pace down.
“Good lyrics to get you daydreaming, that’s the best place you can be, and a good rhythm so it keeps you on pace,” says Branum.
Her husband, friend and sister-in-law will be part of her super crew, to meet her at the stations to provide food and water.
“If my family and husband were not on board with it as well, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Her ongoing schedule has also been demanding.
“Every weekend I’m gone running, usually by 4:00 a.m.”
With three children and a business to help run, Branum expects this will be the last big race she does for a few years.
“This is definitely a ‘bucket list’ item.”
She says she loves both the mental and physical challenge of the marathons.
“It’s beautiful, it’s fun. It forces me to get out of my comfort zone. At that pace, its not even physical. It’s all mental.”
Branum ran a 50K race near the start of June, on the beautiful trails of the East Gate of Riding Mountain National Park.
She had a lot of fun and finished second in the female division.
“I finished really strong. I could have kept going so I know my training is going well.”
She hopes to do more of these smaller races.
“I used to think 10K was so overwhelming; 25K was overwhelming. And then last year, 50K was overwhelming.”
“This year I decided, ‘No, I am not going to take this 125K as overwhelming.’ It’s whatever you train your body to do, but the rest is in the mind.”
But, there’s no snoozing on this jaunt up and down mountains and through bear and cougar country. She will be running at night through wilderness and is prepared to be alone at times, no other runners in sight. Bear spray is a must.
The trip up Mt. Hamel can take four hours, then 7K through the bush to the river on a groomed but rough trail.
Death Race Coin
Another concern is getting across the river.
At the river bank, runners hand in the coin they carried from the start line - their pass to pay the grim reaper (in costume) and be ferried across the river. “If you lose the coin, you’re done,” she says.
“Someone told me those are the seven longest kilometres you’ll do all day – in the bush, at night and you’re so tired from coming down the mountain. You want to get to the boat on time.”
She must eat every hour, take salt and electrolytes.
There are burgers and chips available too but Branum doesn’t eat much while running.
“I don’t care how I place; I just want to finish it.” Actually, she does care. She hopes to finish within 21 hours.
About The Canadian Death Race
It combines some of the best trails in the area with view points and scenery that only a few people ever get to enjoy.
The Canadian Death Race is as mentally demanding as it is physically grueling. You need to be self-sufficient when you are out there and the help you receive on course is very limited. (www.canadiandeathrace.com)