Talk about a run for your money.
Riley Welden, planning manager for the town, is readying to run the race of his life – the Canadian Death Race (CDR) in Grande Cache – in just three short weeks and is looking for support for the local Activettes Food Bank to push him past the finish line.
"It's ultimately about the challenge and having a goal and completing that goal," said Welden, laughing that he draws quite a reaction from others when he divulges his plans to run one of the most challenging ultra marathons in the country.
A race that only roughly half will finish, the event will see an estimated 428 runners joining Welden in an attempt to complete the 125-km trail run through the mountains with more than 17,000 feet in elevation changes in under 24 hours. Welden will be joined by four other Cochrane solo runners, as well as a relay team.
"I understand why people would react when I tell them about it," laughed Welden. "Because it is a long ways, especially when you add that it's in the mountains."
Even though Welden has twice participated in the event as part of a relay team, the solo venture is the most ambitious run he has ever taken on and because it's not every day a runner goes that distance, he felt it was an opportune time to support the local food bank – particularly during the summer months when the shelves become a little bare.
"They do such a great job at the food bank," said Welden of the Activettes. "It's something near and dear to my heart."
Motivation may be Welden's ticket to success. According to race director Brian Gallant, the journey is far more mental than physical.
"There's a million reasons you will find to quit and what you have to do is find that one reason to keep going," explained Gallant, a trail runner of some 20 years who organizes the Sinister Triple trifecta of races – the Sinister 7 Ultra that took place July 5-7; the CDR on Aug. 3-4; and the Black Spur Ultra in Kimberley, B.C. on Aug. 23-25.
Some contestants aim to run in all three, building points as they seek qualification for such events as the Western States 100-mile endurance run and other international ultra marathons.
"Know your body, know your limits and know your abilities," advised Gallant.
But Welden is no stranger to running. The 43-year-old completed his first marathon in his early 20s and in more recent years fell in love with trail running.
In the last 10 years he has run legs on the CDR as part of a relay and knew that he would venture as a soloist eventually.
He began training for the CDR some ten months ago, deciding it would be fitting to take part in the 20th anniversary of the run – since his first relay run in it was 2009.
Running around 80 to 100 km each week, Welden mixes his long runs on the weekends with lunchtime and evening runs during the week. Fueling his body with a strong emphasis on protein is critical to training and maintaining endurance.
"It's absolutely essential you're on top of your nutrition and hydration when you run ... if you're not on top of it, it's really hard to recover mid-run."
He also adds liquid nutrition, which can be easier on the stomach to digest when it is rapidly burning so much energy – this coming from advice from Mayor Jeff Genung.
"I'm super proud of Riley," said Genung, a 13-time Ironman competitor. "It says a lot about his character to undertake such a challenging endeavour. I know that nutrition is a huge part of a successful race and was happy to share with him what worked well for me."
When he's not busy working or running, Welden said he makes sure to rest.
"Your rest is as important as the amount of time you're putting into your training," explained Welden, who runs in West Bragg Creek and the Kananaskis areas for much of his endurance training as this will be his first race over 100 km.
Training will taper off by next week, as Welden focuses on being in optimal physical and mental shape to complete the race in 20 hours; all competitors must finish in 24 hours or they will be disqualified.
The weekend will draw a total of some 1,160 runners in total, including the relay teams and marathon runners.
Learn more at canadiandeathrace.com.
To donate to the Activettes in honour of Welden's journey, this can be done online at cochraneactivettes.com; by mailing a cheque to Cochrane Activettes, Box 535, Cochrane AB T4C 1A7; or in person at the Royal Bank or ATB Cochrane branch.