Under normal circumstances, the Sinister 7 ultra marathon is a brutally-tough test of physical and mental fortitude.
When a large chunk of it is run in 30C temperatures, it becomes downright hellish.
Still, three Prince George soloists managed to complete the 148-kilometre race through the mountainous terrain around Crowsnest Pass, Alta., this past weekend. And one of them, Jeff Hunter, finished fifth overall.
Meanwhile, Reid Roberts demonstrated a superhuman will to reach the finish line and was the 13th man to get there. Fellow Prince George athlete Adrian Smith was 32nd overall.
A total of 166 runners (male and female) tackled the course as soloists and only 47 of them conquered it.
Runners started the Sinister 7 -- named for the Seven Sisters Mountain that rises above much of the route -- at 7 a.m. on Saturday and the winner, Calgary's Oleg Tabelev, finished after midnight. His time was 17 hours 45 minutes 26 seconds, which was about 45 minutes quicker than runner-up Joe Huising of Edmonton. Hunter clocked in at 19:14:12 and classed his result as "OK" because his goal was to finish in 17 to 20 hours. He said the heat was a definite factor and that he actually overcompensated for it by taking too many salt pills.
"I ended up with a bit of a high salt condition but managed to just power through it," said the 36-year-old. "I had a really tough, tough end of the third leg and into the fourth leg, which is between 60 to 70 kilometres in, and really struggled through to about the 100K mark. Then I started getting things back together and got stronger right through to the end of the race."
Because of his high salt condition and general dehydration, Hunter had to fight through several unpleasant side effects.
"I ended up with severe cramping, nausea, dizziness and severe fatigue," he said. "I really had to correct [my internal balance] so I laid down in a creek for about 10 minutes and drank a whole bunch of water -- about a gallon of straight creek water. I couldn't move, couldn't walk, so I waited until that corrected a bit and then was able to start moving again, kind of hobbling down the trail, and then was able to start running again."
Along the length of the course, runners had to deal with more than 5,250 metres of elevation change. The Sinister 7 website warns that "this race will punish those who are not prepared."
Roberts, in the longest race of his career, prepared as best he could but still suffered mightily.
Roberts, who turns 43 later this month, got through the first 36km in good shape but then started to have stomach problems and battled moderate to severe nausea and dehydration for the next 112km. With a pair of 13km legs left to go, he bottomed out.
"I went white, numb, started shivering, and could not get anything in me," he said via e-mail. "[My wife] Chelsea was the most amazing crew! She knew I was not going to quit."
Roberts got 7km into the second-to-last leg and started vomiting. He said he staggered into the final aid station and, despite the worries of his wife and his dad, Pat, kept going. At one point during the last leg, he actually started to fall asleep while he was walking. That was followed by more vomiting. Two other male soloists stopped to help him and Roberts said there was no way he was going to let them down by not finishing. For the last 4km, he was able to run hard and, when he did finish, his time was 23:17:59.
"The race turned into a run of survival and determination," he said. "As soon as I saw Chelsea at the end, I had tears. It was so hard, and honestly because of my stomach, it was not fun at all for the last 110K. Will I do [this type of ultra marathon] again? Yes, but probably not the Sinister."
Smith's time was 26:40:27. The cutoff for finishing was 27 hours.
Three Prince George teams also participated in the Sinister 7. See Friday's Citizen for their results.