From Chile to Mexico with a whole lot of Canada in between.
My year in numbers:
365 Km of racing
40 hours 21 minutes of racing
4 Podium Finishes
4½ Months Travelling
2 International Trips (Chile-Mexico)
6 Months Living in a Tent
2 Months Planting Trees
84,000 Trees Planted
500+ Visitors on LifeAthlon from
30 Different Countries
4 Bear encounters while running
3200m Highest Altitude.
3 Pairs of Shoes
29 minutes 50 seconds record on the Grouse Grind in Vancouver
It’s been an UltraMarathon of a year. If exhaustion is a drug, this year’s trip to Chile was a cocktail of a lethal force, the after-effects of which shaped the year that came to follow. Three months of training-infused travel through Chile’s National Parks and Reserves, with a 100k race awaiting at the end: the Ultrafiord.
Chile was to be my first full immersion into a new style of adventure, a big game full of wonders and challenges set on a world stage, with one simple goal in mind: to breathe hard in wild places. Up dusty mountains, across glacier rivers and down volcanoes of loose rock. For the second time in my life I stood at the start line of a 100k race, feeling alone, scared, exhausted and ill-prepared. I was as far as I could be from a regular training routine and from the planting season and the base of fitness it provides. But I ran it with heart and was lucky enough to have the legs for a 3rd place finish. Suddenly the long awaited race was over and the trip was coming to an end but the difficulties had yet to begin.
When I returned to Canada, with a leg infection and a planting season looming only a week into the distance, I went into overdrive. I was exhausted beyond my capacity to recognize it. I spent most of the year trying to catch up to my hopes and expectations. I trained harder to compensate for my slower times at smaller races, and overtrained myself into a 16th position at my goal race for the summer the Squamish50. Dissatisfied and hungry for a vengeance I registered for the WAM50 that took place one month later and came away with 6th (which I considered to be par with my expectations), but more importantly, the beauty and technicality of the course as well as my time alone in the mountains, reconciled me with my passion for the sport. I crossed the finish line incredibly exhausted yet filled with an energy I had not known since the beginning of the year.
It was time to do things for fun again. So I registered for two half-marathons in my hometown and ran them with enthusiasm and a renewed love for the spirit of racing. A few weeks later when a plan to run the 400km+ Québec portion of the Appalachian Trail with Camille (a good friend and fellow runner), failed due to weather and hunting season concerns, we turned our sights towards Mexico!
Once there we seized the opportunity to train at medium altitude on incredible trails, explore distant mountain villages surrounded by stunning landscapes, interact with communities rich with Mexican folklore and tradition, and expand our understanding of ourselves as we immersed into the Mexican way of life. It was a grand old time which we chose to crown, celebrate, and conclude with the UltraTrail Chico Hidalgo, a 50k trail race in one of Mexico’s finest Pueblo Magico (Magic Village): Mineral del Chico.
As it were, our training/travelling program proved to be sufficient preparation for us both to come away with an amazing experience as well as a 1st place finishes. A powerful omen for 2017 and an incredibly positive last racing experience to wrap up the year 2016.
It’s been a roller coaster of a year. An electrocardiogram reading of my heart would probably reveal nothing but elevation profiles, with steep mountains and valleys between heartbeats. I have shed tears and yelped for joy, felt pain and great… well, pain also. By now, my blood must be more than a quarter sweet with an after-taste of GU Salty Caramel energy gels. And now the year comes to a close, and all I can think of is how many times I had to motivate myself, waking up from power naps in a soggy tent, to put on wet & cold shorts/shirt as well as grimy socks/gloves to go out it the wet & cold for a training run. A lifestyle that, in all oddness & honesty, I have come to absolutely love! Bring it on 2017!
Thanks for sharing 2016 with me. This is far from a solitary venture and I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all of those who have supported me in my adventures.
This year I leave you with this thought:
No one can ascertain the validity of a path chosen.
Run along it and you may never be sure.
Run away from it and you may never be sure.
The important thing is to run.
Follow along on Instagram: @etiennegabriel
4 Comments Add yours
Amazing! Some really exotic and challenging races you run. But why nothing in the U.S.? Don’t you like us? Come and do Run Woodstock or Dances with Dirt sometime.
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Thanks! There is no particular reason why I haven’t yet raced in the U.S., I guess I usually do races at home and then find a warm place to train & race in the winter season. You’re right though, I should look into some U.S. races soon starting with the ones you recommended!
I’m no marathon runner but it’s a fascinating world to watch and read about. Have you seen the documentary about the Barkley Marathons? Made my feet hurt just watching it!!
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Mine too! Thanks for reading my blog Amanda!