After killing the Canadian Death Race last year, the all women’s team Kootenay Krush placed third recently after taking on the mountainous challenge of the Sinister 7, a 161 km ultra marathon that travels up and down ridge lines, through forests and streams of the Rocky Mountains at Crowsnest Pass.
All in their late 20s, Chantal Orr, Heather Weberg and Brittany Boyer grew up in Nelson and went to L.V. Rogers together.
They teamed up in July with four other friends, Lisa Giles of Calgary, Julia Ransom of Canmore, Laura McDonald of Edmonton, and Kelsey Thomas of 100 Mile House, to share the seven-stage race which promised to cause suffering to the unprepared. The race’s name is inspired by the treacherous Seven Sisters Mountain that looms over much of the course.
Five of the seven team members of Kootenay Krush- left to right: Chantal Orr, Brittany Boyer, Kelsey Thomas, Heather Weberg, and Lisa Giles placed third in their division at Sinister 7, a 161 km ultra marathon race that took the all-female team through the Rocky Mountains near Crowsnest Pass in July. Submitted photo.
And true to their team name, they crushed it. Their collective time of 18:33:09 earned them third in the all-women’s relay out of 20 teams. Overall their time was 19th out of 245.
This is the first time the team has tackled this race. “Awesome” is what Orr had to say about it, adding that it was one of the best-organized races they had been to. People in Crowsnest came together to support the race and its participants, she said.
Nelsonite Heather Weberg ran along a ridge called Satan’s Back in the heat of the day during the Sinister 7 Ultra relay near Crowsnest Pass, Alta. Raven Eye Photography
Each leg of the race has unique challenges, going up and down, with an elevation gain and loss of 5,687m with the first leg crossing the Frank Slide.
Each team member took the leg they were comfortable with.
“Everyone ran strongly,” Orr said.
Teammates Julia Ransom and Kelsey Thomas ran the first two legs with top times, gaining the team a lot of ground. (Ransom trains on the national biathlon team in Canmore.) Weberg battled the heat of the day, running along a ridge called Satan’s Back. Orr said Boyer took the hardest leg, running a muddy 35 km in the dark in just over four hours.
“Brittany’s a bit of a mountain lion,” said Orr.
Orr emphasized that the feat was a team effort, which included transporting each other to and from their legs and cheering on the other runners at the finish line as the bulk of the race they run alone, rarely intercepting other racers in the forest.
At one point Orr realized she had forgotten her hydration pack at the hotel, an item athletes are required to wear or be disqualified. A teammate retrieved it moments before Orr was to start her leg. And it’s this team support they love. Be it an ice bath or a massage, it’s all about making sure they feel good.
What possesses them to run 161 km from 7 a.m. until midnight?
Orr said they wanted to try something equally challenging as the Canadian Death Race (a 125 km marathon around Grande Cache, Alta.) but with more people, “with the classic running feeling.”
Trading-off the time chip from one Kootenay Krush runner to the next during the seven stage 161 km relay. Submitted photo.
Explaining the draw, she quoted American ultra marathoner Dean Karmazes: “There is magic in misery. Just ask any runner.”
“You’re in misery,” said Orr. “At least in my mind. I would tell myself ‘You are doing great’ but I was completely like a crazy person.”
She described telling herself she could do it — only to silently question how could she make it through the last few kilometres.
“Like the classic, ‘I’m never going to do this again’, then after some water and a good night’s sleep you wake up and say, ‘Okay, when’s the next race?’”
And true to form, Kootenay Krush plans to complete in an ultra race every year with aims to take 45 minutes to an hour off this year’s time and continue to share in the sport with good friends. But until then they celebrated their third place finish by sleeping and eating lots of good food.
How do they prepare for such a feat?
The team signed up in late January but didn’t train as a team per se. Orr said she wasn’t “super regimented” but trained regularly with running clubs, and took spin classes. In June Orr, Weberg and Boyer were part of a larger team that ran the 260 km Banff–Jasper relay.
Orr also began running up mountains to increase her strength. “Just being born in a mountain town and playing in organized sports makes a difference,” she said.
Chantal Orr competing in the Sinster 7. Raven Eye Photography