So many people as us how we got into running and what we’ve done so far in our running lives. This is a brief list of what races we’ve done, with a few comments about how we liked the race, how it went for us and whether we would race it again/recommend it to others!
North Face Canadian Death Race (125km) – Grande Cache, Alberta (2012)
– This was Jonathan’s first ultra marathon and unless you count a sad attempt at a half marathon a couple years prior, this was the first running race of any distance. The story of how he signed up is quite humorous but he tells it better in person. Unsure of how to train, how to fuel, and totally oblivious of what to expect on the trails, he kept the legs moving all the way to the finish line!
– This was Melissa’s competitive running debut, and we’ll leave the “how she got suckered into registering” for her to tell you all in person (also a great one!). Stabbing in the dark on what race food to carry or how to properly layer for the mountain ascent/decent, they smiled and pushed their way to the finish to spark what would ultimately turn into the “Ultra Mel and Jon” running duo!
Edmonton Police Foundation Half Marathon (21.1km) – Edmonton, Alberta (2013)
– Here is where things started to break the mold! With the harsh Edmonton winter finally pulling back and showing some grass, Mel and Jon jumped right into their newly arrived Xero Shoes and took to the cold pavement. Impressing even themselves with some quick feet all the way through, Melissa began to show her mental strength when she refused to let up even after one of her sandals slid halfway off her foot.
Born to Run Ultra Marathon (100km) – Los Olivos, California (2013)
– After reading the infamous novel Born to Run and discovering this grass roots race put on by Luis Escobar himself, they signed up in a heartbeat, and set out to finish the race barefoot! Only a few months prior to the race, Luis had emailed saying he removed the barefoot category as the ground often got too dry by the race date, making it extremely rough on people’s bare feet. An inevitable google search for huarache sandals led them straight to the shopping cart of Xero Shoes. This race is more than just a race, it’s a weekend you’ll never forget. The cattle ranch turns into a campground for some of the more interesting, fittest and yes wackiest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. Mel and Jon ran side by side every step of the way and managed to receive their handmade finishers pendant made especially for this race by the ultra running legend Aka-Bill from Hawaii. It was their first ultra running together and what better way to solidify the epic beginning than with a tattoo! (…again a fun story to hear in person!)
TransRockies Fernie Ultra (50Mile) – Fernie, BC (2013)
– A couple of harsh lessons this race had in store for us, but little did we know it would only make us stronger. Not looking into the course nearly enough left us rather unprepared for the volume of elevation gain along the course. Some scary blood test results after this race made us take a closer look into our supplements and medications before, during and after the race. While the scenery along the trails was beautiful to experience, the course seemed a bit redundant to us by the end (up a mountain, down a mountain, up, down, up down…etc). Glad to have tackled a 50 mile race under our belts, we wouldn’t recommend it too highly to fellow racers.
Lean Horse 100 Miler (100Miles) – Hot Springs, South Dakota (2013)
– After driving a total of 17 hours over a 24 hour period to arrive in Hot Springs, we luckily had planned for a day off before the race to shake out the car cramps. With the elevation of this course on more of the gentler side of the spectrum, the one thing we learned would be a factor was the heat. While Hot Springs did seem like it had more trees and scenery than anywhere else we saw in South Dakota, it still somehow provided next to no shade along the trails we were on. Striving in this race to run further than each of us had even gone before, we both struggled to keep it together having Mel gone into heat exhaustion, and Jon not too far behind. Somehow we poured enough water down our throats and over our heads, and packed enough ice into our clothes to keep trucking, and eventually the scorching sun went to sleep over the horizon. All through the night we pushed through one more painful mile, until finally emerging in the familiar streets of Hot Springs to find the finish line completing our first 100 mile race! Read our Lean Horse 100 Miler Race Report
La Ruta Ultra Marathon (100km) – San Jose, Costa Rica (2013)
– La Ruta was mentioned to us by Steven Sashen, the founder of Xero Shoes. Not only were we excited about racing in Costa Rica, but we would have the opportunity to head down the week before the race and spend time with a group of the native Tarahumara runners from Chihuaha, Mexico. These were some of the most naturally talented runners on the planet and we were fortunate enough to stand toe to toe with them at the starting line. The race itself was small in numbers but epic when it came to the extremes of terrain and humidity, as well as the beautiful back country we explored over 100km between Jaco and San Jose. The race has been scheduled for every other year and we have big intentions of returning and bringing whoever is open for an amazing experience! Read our La Ruta Race Report
Tenderfoot Boogie 50 Mile Ultra – Squamish, British Columbia (2014)
– Running from Squamish to Whistler, BC sounded daunting in itself, but to know that the elevation gain of this course was in the ballpark of 10,000 feet, we knew we had a tough run ahead of us. The course was very dynamic, changes all the time from single to double track, packed dirt trails to mossy ground coverage deep into the forests, and yes a bit of highway time (only downfall through the whole race). A section maybe a km long in the second leg easily ranked #1 as the most difficult terrain we’ve ever had to run on! With only a few hours of rain in the morning to dampen everyones clothes, the sun watched over us the rest of the race which had some knarly climbs and some steep descents. One great aspect of this race was its grass roots feel. The race director answered any questions we had prior to the race, then was all over the course himself getting each distance started and waiting at the finish line as each racer came in. Read our Tenderfoot Boogie Race Report
Racing the Planet Roving Race – Madagascar (250+km) – September 2014
This was our first multi-day stage race attempt and we had a lot of training and race preparation to do for it. Not only were we going to be running approximately a marathon each day for 7 days, but we needed to carry all of our gear and food on our bags as we ran. We researched the best vegan dried food that we could, found the healthiest energy bars and supplements that could give us the fuel we needed but weigh the least, and of course we had to find the most ultra-lightweight clothing, bags and other gear that we could.
This race allowed us our strategic strengths to come out. We learned that pacing was very important during such a long race. We discovered that our natural, plant based diet, as well as our simplistic running footwear (Xero Shoes) were helpful in a race that eliminated many runners with foot care issues or digestive problems. We finished strong and with smiles on our face, and will never forget this amazing experience running and exploring through the back country of northern Madagascar. Read our Madagascar Race Report or learn about travelling to Madagascar.
Ultra Fiord Ultra Marathon (100km) – Patagonia, Chile (2015)
This was the first year of this race and as to be expected there were a few kinks in its operations. More of an adventure race than an ultra marathon, it was like so many other runners have experienced in the dreadful year of 2015, our first DNF (did not finish). Now going into this race, we scaled back from the 100 mile to the 100km distance, as Mel suffered from potentially a fractured foot and was having problems running on it for the few weeks leading up to the race. After a shockingly brutal package pickup and drop bag drop off, and oddly uneventful starting to the race (at which the RD was nowhere to be found) then a rough first 30 kilometres in the race, we decided that it was best for us to call it quits. It was tough to swallow, but we learned some valuable lessons, met some cool people and of course experienced Patagonia in its rawest form! Read our Ultra Fiord Race Report or learn from our mistakes by checking out our list of 5 Things to Remember for an Ultra Marathon.
Bruce Peninsula Multi-Sport (Adventure) Race (100km) – Wiarton, Ontario (2015)
This was our first adventure race – and we loved it! The 100 km course consisted of a 16km kayak to start, followed by a 32km mountain bike, 16km run, 30km mountain bike, and a “brisk” 5km run to the finish line . Unlike our race early that year, we were blown away by the organization of this mass event, the involvement of the race director (he was there to greet the runners at the finish line and help them get food), and the unbeatable scenery! The course took us through stunning outlooks, uber-technical Bruce trail (admittedly I was terrified at first when biking this section…but go figure, I guess that what happens when you choose this as your 1st time ever mountain biking!), crystal clear waters, and rocky beaches. With placing on the podium in 3rd for the Co-Ed Long Course Category; we realized not only do we really enjoy this style of racing, but we aren’t half bad at it either! You can bet we will be having more races like this on this page sooner than later! Check out our Bruce Peninsula MultiSport Race Report and see why this is a race all ultra-Canadians should do.
Zolkan 4 Days Trail Chile (4 Day stage race) – Santiago, Chile (2016)
This race was a unique one. We went into it with pretty minimal training (our wedding was less than 1 month prior, so had lots of family and friends to entertain in the weeks leading up to this race. When we heard it was just over 100km in total distance, split up over 4 days, we weren’t too worried that we could cover the distance. What we didn’t know was the extreme elevations it would put us through. Being almost our first serious mountain ultra, we started the race off by getting a few blisters and some worn our quads after only the first day. The race was unbelievable in a bunch of ways. You were pampered, from gifts waiting at your tent each night, to fully prepped meals three times a day (including alcohol!), individual tents and air mattresses waiting for you at each camp, and amazing body care, including ice baths at each finish line and massages every day. This is a new spin on stage racing, and we have to say, it’s an amazing option to all the multi-day races out there. Full Zolkan 4 Days Race Report
Tahoe 200 Ultra Marathon – South Lake Tahoe, California (2016)
This was by far the most nerve-racking race to sign up for, train for and of course run! We had never run anything longer than a 100-mile ultra before, so doubling the distance and going for a mountain ultra (which we were not the most experienced on) was quite a daring goal to set. We switched up our training quite a bit for this one, focusing on long days of training, lots of fast packing, and of source tons of hills. The race itself was epic in so many ways. The scenery was spectacular, the race was tough from mile 1 to mile 205, and the people running, volunteering and anyone else helping to put this race on, were second to none. We finished in just over 90 hours with brutally aching muscles, a desperate need of quality sleep and a massive calorie deficit. It was definitely one of our most memorable races, and one we would absolutely recommend others to run!
Read our full Tahoe 200 race report
Still wondering what is an ultramarathon??