How far would you be able to run in 12 hours, 44 minutes and 17 seconds?
Agassiz trail runner Marina Striker cleared a 76-kilometre stretch of the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) Trail from Tulameen to Peers Creek in Hope through the Cascade Mountain passes, all in an effort to break the only known fastest female supported record on the trail.
The previous record was set three years ago at 12 hours, 50 minutes and five seconds, according to Fastest Known Time (FKT), a trail running site dedicated to archiving record times for trails around the world.
Striker’s time means she shattered the previous record with roughly six minutes to spare.
“To beat the record was super, super humbling,” Striker told the Observer. She said she faced a true challenge as other strong athletes took on the east to west route with respectable times. The trail climaxed in a treacherous, steep climb up Manson’s Ridge, which Striker said was a true test of her abilities.
Stirker’s attempt began on Sept. 28; James Galipeau, Erik Bird and Ryan Shephard joined her on the trek.
I can’t thank them enough for trusting the process and following me through to the finish,” Striker said of her support team. “I’ll agree it was super fun and entertaining, but wow, that was no easy feat!”
Everyone carried their own packs of food, water and extra layers. Though due to the remote nature of the trail there was no practical way to refill on food, they were able to use three running creeks for additional water.
Striker and her support crew started at Tulameen at 9 a.m. They crossed the Tulameen River about three kilometres in, which made their feet wet all day long.
The day was warm and sunny with temperatures hovering around 15.
“The views along the way were astounding and autumn colors were in full action,” Striker wrote in a journal entry recounting the trial run.
Night fell as the group approached the final 25 kilometres. The fall’s bountiful rainfall in the area had lingering effects along the trail, making an already tough effort even tougher; Striker called the trail “much more challenging as it was saturated, slick, and mucky due to recent rainfall after a dry summer.”
The muck and mire did little to dampen spirits, but the final climb was still ahead of them – the dreaded Manson’s Ridge. Striker called the climb “super technical and steep.”
“Being fueled and hydrated was definitely key all along as well as a strong steady pace, however, when your effort is already maxing out, it’s that much more challenging to push through all you’ve got left to persevere,” Striker said.
“On tired and heavy legs, the final two climbs felt like forever,” she added in her journal entry. “The challenge and struggle became real and I knew I had to persevere if I wanted to be successful.”
The climb seemed to go on forever, but before she knew it, the literal uphill battle was over.
“Adrenaline kicked in, and it was the final steep 10 km descent to the finish,” Striker wrote. “We put the pedal to the metal, busted out the fried quad muscles and finished with 6 minutes to spare.”
“It’s always amazing to learn how there’s that wee bit more in the tank even when it’s on fumes,” Striker added.
Striker said she was training for weeks prior to the attempt and was recovering from minor injuries, making her record-breaking run even more rewarding. She usually follows a 24-week training plan and a specialized exercise program to ensure she’s in top shape for the run.
Striker has been a trail runner since 2016; she ran half-marathons and marathons before taking on the challenge of trail running.
“Hiking locally was something I found super enjoyable and soon realized it was much more gentle and fun than pavement,” she said. “The soft surfaces, strategy, and slower speeds required for trail running became a great fit for my strengths as a runner and seems much more forgiving to my body.”
For anyone who wants to get into trail running, Striker recommends training and starting small without pushing too hard, increasing distance by about 10 per cent weekly. Depending on the remoteness of the trail, there’s a risk runners could get injured in the outback and they should always be prepared with a pack of essentials.
“Having a Garmin InReach or Spot device can really make you feel so much more equipped in case of emergency. Have a safety plan in place and always let your loved ones know details of your whereabouts,” She said. “The elements out there can change within a few hours and if you are unprepared you’re setting yourself up for huge risks not only for yourself but also for those who have to come out searching for you.”
“Second, remember to find the fun in your run and do it for you,” Striker added. “Do what you enjoy with appreciation for health and the ability to do so.”
In 1849 into the 1860s, the HBC Trail was a key route for trading furs, salmon, tobacco and other valuables, according to Striker’s research. It was traveled mainly by horse.
“Today, we are very lucky to be able to hike or run these trails that were once used in a completely different manner,” Striker said.
There are commemorative boards further detailing the trail’s storied history all along the route with several camps where hikers can rest or stay overnight.
Striker put the challenge out to the FKT community.
”I challenge anyone who loves steep climbs and super steep downhills to get out there and challenge my time!” she wrote.
She said her next challenge for 20201 will be Fat Dog 12. Considered one of the toughest ultramarathons in the world, the race spans 120 miles and is known for its elevation of 8,682 metres. For perspective, Mount Everest is 8,848 metres. The trail for the 2021 event runs from Keremos to Manning Park.
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