Tips and recap from last years Sinister7 team champs

With a week to go before the Sinister 7 I reached out to the defending champs and course record holders the Bow Valley Harriers/Strides Running Store. They were kind enough to offer advice and pass along some tricks and tips to help the runners at this year’s Sinister 7 perform at their very best. All seven men on this team have been performing at an elite level for many years so I suggest reading on and taking there advice to heart. These swift gentlemen from Calgary will be back to defend their title so when you see them be sure to wish them luck, they’ll need it to surpass their last year’s time of 13:29:31!

Leg 1 Frank Slide 16.5K with 502m elevation 1:07:28 –  Nathan Kendrick

You’ll start the race with a good send off from the crowd in Blairmore and have about two blocks before you turn into the ditch. With waist-high grass in some areas, you’ll have to balance looking up to find the next flags or the runner in front of you with looking down to secure your footing. After 2.5K you’ll jump onto the roads of Frank and head away from the highway. This next 7K or so is where you can open things up… it’s slightly downhill on good terrain and this is the fastest pace you’ll be able to hit on the leg. Try to keep a quick pace without going past your limits as you’ll still need lots in the tank for the last 7K (or, heaven forbid, 150K!). Around 9.5K you’ll start your climb. Try to keep the same turnover but shorten your stride. Think about standing tall so you don’t lean too far forward, and keep your arms going as your legs will follow. After a couple of K you’ll leave the road and jump on the single track, the most fun and picturesque part of the leg. There are twists and turns, hills and bumps to keep you on your toes. The terrain will sometimes force you to slow down to stay safe, but this can be a welcome rest! Let it refresh you so you can pick up your pace when you’re back on a straightaway. You’ll eventually get a bit of a downhill at the end of the leg, so push hard and bring it home! The first leg has its challenges, but with people relatively near to you and the varied terrain, it’s a lot of fun!
Leg 2 Hastings Ridge 16K with 937m elevation 1:31:16 – Darcy Bell
The day starts early and I found it tough to get going. At least until we arrived at the start line. The positive energy wake you up fast! Then before you know it the race has started and everything is calm again. Everyone doing leg two then hopped on the school bus for the drive up to the end of
leg 1 and the start of leg 2. Then we hang out for the runners to arrive with little to no idea as to when leg 1 runners would arrive. It made for a tough warm-up but I thought that I’d play it safe and stay close so that I would for sure be there. Before I knew it Nathan had arrived and I was off
on my leg. A little too fast to begin with but quickly settled in. It’s a long uphill and we had a large enough lead at this point that it was just a matter of putting my head down and just getting one foot in front of the other. It took a bit but eventually I was able to look up and around and enjoy the views. Near the top of the leg it flattens out a bit and gets a bit more enjoyable. Turning the corner you look back down on town and the eventual end of the leg. Downhill!! Sounds like a relief on the legs but for the first bit it’s so steep that I wasn’t able to get going and really let the legs go. Instead I found myself grabbing for trees in order to stay slow enough that I could stay in control. I heard the second place runner coming up on my and luckily at this point the downhill was flattening to a point where I could really get going. This is where I excel and was really able to fly. Through the mud and through a nice cold creek and back into town where my leg was done. Onto the grass to a cheering crowd and some delicious refreshments. Able to find some shape and enjoy the rest of the day before the heat really set in! A great leg, not without its challenges but all-in-all very enjoyable.
Leg 3 Willoughby Ridge 35K with 1327m elevation 2:52:24 -Ryan Twa
The course is a loop but more like a light bulb in shape as you come back on the same path that you started on. The first few k’s are what I found the most difficult. There are some tough climbs and steep downhills from the start to the first aid station. Watch for small rocks and boulders on the path that can result in a few ankle benders. Also note that leg 4 overlaps leg 3 for about 1km so don’t take the wrong turn!

From the first aid station to the summit it’s pretty straightforward on good wide singletrack and fireroads. You’ll be in and out of the trees for most of this stretch so exposure is not a big concern. This is the part where you can diesel it up the hill and get in a pretty good rhythym. Feel free to push it hard through this stretch because you’ll have time to recover later. Near the summit it opens up and this is where the sun started to get to me. Take your time at the 2nd aid station to recover, hydrate and fuel up (you’ll need it for the next stretch).
From the 2nd aid station it’s a pretty wide open downhill back towards the start. Take your time and resist the urge to hammer down this hill. You’ll only pound your quads into a pulp and there are still some good hills left. This is when the sun and heat starts to make an impact on the body. Drink, drink, drink and drink some more. Footing gets a bit trickier but nothing too technical. This stretch is hot, dusty and dry. Did I mention to drink lots?
From the 3rd aid station back to the junction can get pretty muddy. I’m talking knee high swamp mud here. You can do it two ways, take a lot of time and try and stay dry or hammer through it. I recommend hammering through it. It’s only mud and if you wipeout just the crows will laugh at you.
Reaching the junction turn right (unless you are really motivated to go around again). Remember that downhill you did 20+k ago? Now you get to go up it. Be happy that you took it easy on the downhill stretch. Even though it’s only a few k’s until the end it’s not easy. Take your time, focus on just maintaining effort and grind it out. It’s almost done.
Get to the finish. Drink, eat and relax. You did it.


Leg 4 Saddle Mountain 17K with 675m elevation 1:46:48 – David Chafe
This leg started near the softball fields and immediately began to climb a very tough ski hill, the first couple K’s were ran on narrow dirt trails. During the first half of the course there were other legs that crossed over one another, and I was lucky enough to run with some other runners. After the ski hill the majority of the course was ran on ATV trails and back roads, while crossing through ponds and fresh water streams.

My advice to running this leg would be to walk some of the steeper hills, save energy and get fluids. The final third can be ran quickly, as it is flat or rolling with the final section being downhill to the beginning of leg five.

Leg 5 Mount Tecumseh 29.6K with 763m elevation 2:22:52 – Travis Cummings
If it is hot out, make sure you have enough water for this leg, it gets pretty hot the last half as it is all exposed. Leg 5 starts on a gravel road then follows ditches/ATV trails beside a road. It then starts to gradually climb on some double-lane off road trails, which is fun but challenging. Once the trail goes off-road you end up under canopy covered trail, it can be quite wet, rutted, and there are some puddles that look more like sinkholes than small depressions. Eventually the leg turns downhill (a gradual, long downhill where you can pick up your stride), leaves the forgiving canopy cover and turns into a wide, gravel, ATV trail. I started to suffer here (about 18-19km). I had run out of water and the support stations are few and far between. The leg at this point is pretty much just undulating hills, you are either going up, or going down; if you aren’t trained for it expect your quads to be thrashed by the end. That being said, the scenery is pretty nice and knowing I had teammates with ice cold brewskies at the end of the leg waiting for me got me through the final 10k or so. I find up and down courses more challenging than big climbs, the stress seems to be more on my legs have to alternate rather than just pounding up. If you are similar to me then make sure you have lots of water and get some fell running in prior to attempting this leg. Total distance is 30km but it feels much longer if it is hot; good luck, it’s definitely a good challenge.
Leg 6 Crowsnest/Seven Sisters 36K with 1093m elevation 2:57:35 – Jeff Krar
The penultimate leg is challenging.  The entire leg is on wider ATV trails.  Participants immediately begun running up a gradual incline that doesn’t relent for nearly 20 kms.  After running through the campground the ATV trails begin.  In spots a nearby stream jumped the banks and ran down the middle of the ATV trail.  The trail bed also has plenty of loose rocks in the first 20 kms so paying close attention to your foot placement is imperative.  The last 2-3 kms to the summit are steep and rough.  Save some energy on this ascent as you’ll need it later.  The final 10 kms after the aid station are very runnable and almost all flat or downhill.  My advice is to save some energy for the last 1/3 of this leg as a lot of time can be gained in this section.
Leg 7 Wedge Mountain 10.7K with 390m elevation 51:05 – Allan Brett
This leg may be the shortest, but it definitely has small dog syndrome. It’s doesn’t look the meanest by any means at first glance, but it’s feisty and packs a punch. This being my first trail race ever, I honestly didn’t quite know what to expect going in. Well, I can say Leg 7 holds the illustrious title of being the first race which forced me to walk. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no shame in aggressively hiking up the first hill. If you can register a flight phase the whole way going up, find me after the race, and I will give you a high five and hand you a beer. After dragging yourself up the first hill, feel free to pat yourself on the back, but know you’ve still got a ways to go. Be prepared for many a steep downhill’s which your quads thoroughly enjoy. There is little opportunity to get into a groove as you are constantly occupied by ups and downs, twists and turns, and roots and rocks. Thanks to the many steep downhill’s the next day when I dropped some change on the ground, I just stared at it because I knew my legs wouldn’t let me bend down to pick it up. I was sad, one of the coins was a toonie.
At the tail end of the race you can look forward to what was probably my favourite run into the finish of any race I’ve ever done. You will have a smooth, clear, slightly downhill trail as you enter town. There’s something to be said about just letting gravity do all the work while dodging in between trees which just makes you feel fast.  Have fun out there, but make sure to give Leg 7 the respect it deserves!

Jeff Krar, Nathan Kendrick, Allan Brett, Ryan Twa, Travis Cummings, Darcy Bell, and David Chafe


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