Some might’ve credited fifth-place solo finisher Kevin Grigg with beginner’s luck at the Canadian Death Race on Saturday.
They’d be wrong if they did.
A first-time participant in the 125-kilometre endurance test in and around Grande Cache, Alta., the 29-year-old Prince George resident might’ve been a rookie to that event. But Grigg, a marathon enthusiast, is no stranger to long-distance running. He also got an early taste of the Death Race course during a training camp in June 2009.
But Grigg’s Grande Cache visit last year was casual, comprised of 20 km casual jogs and a half day of white water rafting. Grigg called that more of a vacation.
The Death Race was anything but a holiday. Grigg was still feeling the effects of jogging the multi-terrain course on Monday.
“I’m getting better today but I could hardly walk yesterday. I spent most of the day in bed,” he said. “I made it from the car into the hotel room (in Hinton) and then from the bed into the hot tub and back twice, and had take-out delivered.”
Although he’d never participated in the Death Race previously, Grigg handled the challenge like a veteran. More concerned with preserving his energy, Grigg figured he could’ve taken another half hour off his time of 15 hours, 29 minutes and 55 seconds.
“I was just excited to go up there and try it so I just went into it, half expecting to drop out I guess, but kind of biting my tongue, tongue-in-cheek type of thing. I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I know I’m a pretty tough guy and it was going to be pretty mental.”
Grigg’s impressive first-time showing came on a race in which male and female course records were set by the first- and second-place finishers. American Hal Koerner of Ashland, Oregon, who’s competed in more than 100 ultramarathons in his lifetime, crossed the finish line first at 12:47:21. Second-overall finisher Ellie Greenwood of Banff clocked in with a women’s record time of 13:30:21.
Third overall and second among female participants was Denise McHale of Whitehorse, who crossed the finish line at 14:56:36. Simon Vincent Donato was fourth at 15:07:52.
Saturday’s race was also memorable for another runner who calls Prince George home. Jeff Hunter finished 10th in the individual category at 16:18:08 Having made the trip to Grande Cache to compete in the annual event twice before, Hunter could discuss his experiences with Grigg. He also offered the Death Race rookie accommodation in his trailer. Grigg credited his support group for helping him survive the weekend.
This year’s race marked the first time Hunter completed the 125 km course. Grigg and Hunter ran together in the early stages of the course.
Grigg said two downhill sections in the course’s second of five legs, between 45 and 48 km into the course, were the hardest on his body.
“They had two sections called the bum slide and that’s about all you can do,” he said. “They’re steep. I didn’t run down them. It’s like a cliff.”
Grigg called some uphill portions “nose to the trail type stuff.”
“Some guy took two steps up and almost fell backwards and I actually passed him,” he said of one area of the race.
The race began at 8 a.m., and Grigg completed the course at approximately 11:30 p.m.
Twenty-four of 418 registered participants completed the solo event. There was also a relay event featuring 234 teams.
A chemical engineer who was raised in Idaho, Grigg moved to Prince George in 2007 after obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota.
Grigg said entering his second Death Race in a year is tempting. He laughed when asked if he’ll take a run at Koerner’s course record.
“That’s crazy. Twelve hours to do that.”