The Canadian Death Race: The Course from Hell

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The Canadian Death Race is a 125 km all-terrain extreme race course on very challenging terrain including three mountain summits, a river crossing, and over 17,000 feet of elevation change.




The race begins and ends in Grande Cache, Alberta. The five legs may be run individually or in relay teams of two to five members. Alternatively, the first two legs can be run individually as a marathon. 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.  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 without the coin and timing chip.  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 initial pavement, 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 at the start/finish line, 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 includes 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 a 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: 7:15 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 is 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, flagging tape, 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. In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the river Styx that divides the world of the living from the world of the dead. A coin is used to pay Charon for passage. This coin must be carried at all times by soloists and the runner for each leg and given to the grim reaper at the river for access to the boat. Runners who lose their coin will not be permitted access to the boat resulting in a DNF.
Last boat: 6 am       End of Race: 8 am       Course closes: 9 am


                                  AID STATIONS
                                     Two Types

i)   Full aid stations - available to all racers at the end of each leg - with various food (cookies, fruit cups, dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, granola bars, chips, high chews, gels, salt stick etc), water & Gatorade, first aid/medical equipment, wet wipes, sunscreen, and bug spray.  Full aid stations will also serve as the relay exchange and timing zones.  Please respect that these aid stations are equipped for runners currently on course or just finishing their leg and are not for spectators, support crews, or racers not currently racing.

ii)  Emergency aid stations - These stations contain bare essentials and relocated aid station food.  Please remember they are for emergencies, and due to their remote location, are difficult to restock.  Please note that crews are NOT PERMITTED at the Emergency Aid Stations.  Access is reserved for staff and emergency personnel only.  Racers are responsible for their crew's actions and will be penalized or Disqualified for receiving support outside of designated Exchange/Support Station zones (including stashing gear or food anywhere along the course).