Local Whitehorse couple Greg and Denise McHale should be married for a very long time because endurance is in their blood. However, the two did part ways a couple weeks ago to compete in world championships in two difference sports, on two different sides of the globe.
Denise traveled to Tarquinia, Italy to compete in the 100K World Championship November 8, while Greg made his way to Brazil to compete in the Adventure Race World Championship, which took him through the states of Piauí, Ceará and Maranhão between November 2 to 7.
Both finished in the top quarter of their respective fields.
Denise was hoping to be the first Canadian woman across the finish line and to finish in the top quarter. Both hopes were fulfilled.
Despite being relatively new to the sport, Denise finished 23rd overall in a field of about 160 women, representing 32 countries.
The 100-kilometre road course started with 38-km section, followed by a 14-km loop run four times and ended with a six-km section leading to the finish line.
“I ran a pretty smart race and started off nice and slow,” said Denise, who considers herself more of a trailrunner than a roadrunner. “I’m happy my body held up on the road — it’s a lot different from trail running.”
As a trailrunner, Denise had a bit of an advantage over some of her competition, who, as roadrunners, were used to flatter conditions.
“I thought it was flat — it’s a whole other world this ultra running,” said Denise. “People thought it was hilly, but they’re roadrunners, they’re used to running flat and fast, in perfect conditions.”
Denise qualified for the opportunity to be one of 11 runners to represent Canada by finishing first in the Blackfoot Ultra in Edmonton in May 2007. Although just her first ultra race, Denise set a new course record in her run.
“What they do is select the top ultra runners from each country at various qualifying events within your own country,” said Denise. “I had a good debut I guess.”
Although Greg, competing on an American team, finished 13th out of roughly 60 teams, he feels his team did not perform to their full potential.
“We didn’t do very well, it was kind of disappointing,” said Greg. “A woman on our team ended up getting sick; she was sick for two-and-a-half days. So she really didn’t come around until day three, and by then it was too late.”
The 550-km race began on the beach “in the middle of nowhere” with a 28-km run through sand dunes, and was followed by an 80-km mountain-biking section and two paddling sections.
“The second paddling section turned out to be more of a pull-your-boat (section),” said Greg of the 68-km paddling leg. “They sent us up this river and it was not much of a river, it was more of a pull-your-boat portage. I must have been in and out of the boat 400 times.”
After falling back to 22nd place Greg’s team made more headway in a sailing section, advancing to ninth place, but after the race was completed the section was eliminated and the results recalculated.
“Some of the boats weren’t as fast as others, so they took that section out and we lost a few more places,” said Greg.
“It’s not like racing in North America … When we put races together here we’re a lot more methodical about adding sections, like a sailing section where the boats aren’t equal. We’re more diligent in not allowing those variables.”
Greg has a bit of an up-and-down history with the world championships. As a part of a Canadian team, Greg finished seventh at the World’s in 2004 in NFL, and the next year in New Zealand his team had to drop out mid-race.
“It’s tough to find Canadians racing at that level,” said Greg, who was joined by an Australian on the American team of four. “We’re finding now that an international team is who we’ll be racing with from now on.”
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