The longer the race, the better the odds something will go wrong.
That was the case for Whitehorse runner Denise McHale, competing in the third annual IAU World Trail Championships in Connemara, Ireland, on Saturday.
For McHale, who finished the 70-kilometre course in eight hours, 48 minutes and 35 seconds for 10th overall, things went from bad to worse.
“I could barely get any food down – I don’t know why, I barely get that,” said McHale. “I was kind of sick midway, and then I couldn’t keep anything down. So I was kind of running on nothing.”
With McHale’s placement, along with teammates Melanie Bos and Bernadette Benson finishing ninth and 17th respectively, the three times were quick enough to earn Team Canada a bronze in the women’s event. (Finishing in first for women’s teams was France, narrowly ahead of Italy in second.)
“It was a really tough day for me,” said McHale. “I ended up quite ill, but I’m happy considering the circumstances. I kept going and gutted it out.
“I’m not over the moon; it wasn’t the best race of my life. But I’m happy I made it through some difficult times and still managed to have a respectable finish.”
Even though it was a slow course with four big climbs up two mountains, McHale, who prefers trails to roads, likely could have shaved a lot of time off had her stomach co-operated.
At the 100 Kilometre IAU World Championships in Gibraltar last November, McHale broke the eight-hour mark and surpassed the Canadian record by more than six minutes. However, she was stripped of the record after the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) remeasured the course and found it 90 metres short.
“Gibraltar was pretty much flat and on pavement, this was climbing mountains,” said McHale. “We were running through bogs and mud and slop up to your knees. I was up to my waist one time.
“There were great technical downhills where you’re running down and you wipe out, and you’re sliding down on your butt. I like that kind of thing, so it was a really good course.
“It was a really tough course. I wish I was feeling better because it would have been a good course for me.”
Nonetheless, McHale still holds the open women’s record at the Yukon River Trail Marathon, running a 3:18:21 in 2003. She then ran just 13 seconds slower in 2009 to be the overall winner at the marathon.
Last September Denise also set a record at the Klondike Trail of ‘98 Road Relay in the ultra distance division.
After running the River Trail Marathon next month, her and her husband Greg will be racing in the TransRockies Run August 21-26. The couple will enter the 195-kilometre, six-day stage race as a two-person mixed team.
In the Yukon Arctic Ultra in February, the two both won and set records for their divisions. Denise finished the marathon distance in three hours, 14 minutes for first, while Greg – the first Yukoner ever to attempt the 430-mile category – came first, beating the previous record by more than 20 hours.
The two have also twice won NWT’s Rock and Ice Ultra in their divisions.
“I feel really good,” she said. “I’m quite recovered and ready to start running again.”
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