Whitehorse Daily Star

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JOURNEY THROUGH THE GIANTS – Thaidra Sloane makes her way uphill during Stage Five of the TranSelkirks Run, a 100-mile stage race in Revelstoke, B.C. last week. Photo by BRUNO LONG

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WORKING FOR VIEWS – Maggie MacQuarrie (right) keeps her position behind Boulder, Colorado’s Jennifer Pfeifer during Stage Four of the TranSelkirks Run. Photo by BRUNO LONG

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Maggie MacQuarrie battles to a top 10 finish at inaugural TranSelkirks stage race

Maggie MacQuarrie is used to running long distances,

By Marissa Tiel on September 8, 2017

Maggie MacQuarrie is used to running long distances, but a five-stage 100-mile race in Revelstoke, B.C. last week tested her abilities.

The TranSelkirks Run, held from Aug. 28- Sept.1 was new this year and attracted more than 100 runners from across the continent. Among them were two Whitehorse athletes: MacQuarrie and Thaidra Sloane.

MacQuarrie, a seasoned ultra marathoner had never done a stage race before.

“Even if you’re feeling it by mile 50, you know you’re going to be done that day and you can kind of pull it together and muscle through,” she said of a one-day ultra, like Whitehorse’s Reckless Raven.

“If you’re trying to be competitive it’s not like you can just take it easy on day one and then really deliver on day five. You have to maintain that constant effort.”

Sloane, 35, was racing in her third ultra.

“When you’re running five days in a row you have to think about things you’re doing on one day as benefiting you on the next day,” she said.

That meant being vigilant about all the post-run care from hot-cold therapy to refuelling and rehydrating to lots of rest.

Each day featured a new stage and challenge for the racers: Stage One was a 36-kilometre vertical challenge up the ski hill.

“We knew the first day was straight up Mt. Mackenzie at the ski hill,” said MacQuarrie, 39. “That was just a matter of looking up the gondola and going, oh yeah, we’re going up there.”

Stage Two was lighter, with less than 1,000 metres in elevation gain over 25 kilometres.

Stage Three involved climbing Mt. Cartier, covering a distance of about 40K and climbing 2,407 metres.

Stage Four was lighter again, with a distance of 21K and under 1,000 metres in elevation and the grand finale, Stage Five saw runners race 40K in Mt. Revelstoke National Park and climb almost 3,000 metres.

Sloane and MacQuarrie first met at Sloane’s first ultra last summer: the Broken Goat in Trail, B.C.

Sloane went down to the bag check at 5:30 a.m. and overheard a woman talking about “another runner from Whitehorse,” who she hadn’t met.

The two joined forces this year for some training runs and travelled together to B.C. for the race last week.

MacQuarrie discovered that Whitehorse has everything needed to train at an elite level for ultra running.

“Sure we’re not the Rockies up here, but we have in our backyard everything that we need to be competitive at these Outside races,” she said. “There’s no reason why Yukoners can’t compete just as well with the Pacific Northwest guys.”

Sloane wrote her own program to train for the TranSelkirks.

“I was hoping to have a good time, which I did,” she said of her race. “I wasn’t sure how my body would react to doing this heavy exercise for five days in a row. I was really pleasantly surprised. I didn’t have any injuries, which was awesome.”

Sloane ran a consistent race, with her best result coming on Stage One. Then, she was ninth. She continued to be in the top 20s, finishing 14th in Stage Two, 13th in Stage Three, 20th in Stage Four and 13th in Stage Five. Her overall placing was 13th.

She said she enjoyed running in the alpine on the first and third days with her speakers pumping music.

For MacQuarrie, the race began as a way to test herself.

“I have a friend, Ben Yu Schott, he once said to me, ‘I feel like in ultras, there are finishers and there are racers’ and that really stuck with me,” said MacQuarrie.

“This season, I was like ‘You know what Ben, this year I’m going to be a racer’ so I kind of went into it wanting to see what I could do.”

Being new to stage racing, MacQuarrie learned about putting in big efforts on consecutive days. With heat, altitude and nutrition playing big factors, her body crashed on the third day and by Stage Five, she had to reevaluate her race goals.

She gave herself permission to let go of the podium and made it her goal to “get to know everyone at the back of the pack on a first-name basis, to visit with all the aid station volunteers, all the guys where I had just been burning through their beautifully, incredibly well-stocked aid stations that had amazing themes like the Tiki hut and Florida Joe.”

MacQuarrie used her strength of running fast down technical trails to her advantage and, when she was feeling healthy, posted a string of top-10 results. On day one, she was fourth, Stage Two she was second, Stage Three, eighth, Stage Four, seventh and Stage Five, with her revised goal, she was 28th and finished 10th overall.

“The thing I love about ultra running is that it really does strip you raw, which means you feel all the feels. So your feet are on fire and maybe you’ve got a cramp somewhere, you’re throwing up – or I fall a lot – so you’ve tripped and your knee is bleeding, my back is torn up with vest chafe, so you’re feeling all those physical feels and sometimes you’re feeling really low,” she said. “When you’re stripped that raw, you’re feeling all the really good feels on this whole other level.”

With the TranSelkirks Run in the books, both MacQuarrie and Sloane are looking to new adventures. For MacQuarrie, that means running a leg on the Klondike Road Relay tonight and getting her body ready again for the Golden Ultra in Golden, B.C. in a few weeks.

Sloane said she is going to let her body recover and start transitioning into some other sports this winter before planning next year’s race goals.

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