Thursday, November 12, 2009

H2H update

Just returned home from the Canadian Championships in Vancouver. A big thanks to Darin and Carrie for their amazing hospitality and congrats to Darin on an impressive 7hr:49 min run, 1st place overall! Another huge accomplishment to add to your resume!

Big thanks also to Greg for his stellar support crewing! I know it is tough as an athlete to crew and not be out there competing...and let's face it watching someone run for hours and hours has got to be pretty flippin' boring! The force feeding and extra motivation was exactly what I needed.

Haney 2 Harrison was the host of the Canadian 100km Championships this year. The week before leaving, the competitor list was sent out and I immediately went, oh crap...Suzanne Evans, yikes! I am definately not a 2hr;44 min marathon runner, so I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me...I figured my only hope, given her speed, was that the weather would be miserable, as I figured I likely have more experience suffering in miserable conditions...a bit sadistic perhaps, but I am an adventure racer after all, which is all about prolonged suffering...

The race started at 4:00am, and we were given about a 20 minute reprieve on the rain as in was coming down in buckets minutes before the start of the race. My plan was to run 8 minute miles, or a little faster and maintain that as long as I could. I was hoping to beat my time of 8hr:32 from the World Championships, and my ultimate lining up of the stars and moon goal, was to run a 8hr:16 min 100km, which would average 8 minute mile pace. I had run that pace in italy until about 75 km, at which point I just couldn't maintain it any longer and the wheels slowly fell off the bus. The tough thing about running this distance is the pace is fairly easy for the first half, starts to hurt a bit shortly there after, and then starts to really hurt around 80km, hence the slowing down....

I ran the first couple of hours with Gary and Tim from Edmonton and we chatted a bit on and off. These first few hours in the dark were very peaceful and I just enjoyed the easy pace and conversation. Suzanne started out pretty slow and passed me at the end of the 1st leg at a pace that I knew was too fast for me. I watched her go and thought, hopefully I'll see her again late in the race. That's the other thing I've learned about ultra running - stick to your game plan and be patient...Greg gave me periodic updates and I knew she was putting time on me. I felt the urge to speed up, but kept reminding myself it was still early and to run my own race and hope that she slowed down. By the end of leg 3, she had 9 minutes on me. I knew that was going to be tough to make up, but also knew this was only her second attempt at the 100km distance and there was a good chance she would slow down. I was starting to feel the first low spot around the middle of Leg marathon down and my legs were starting to feel heavy and sluggish....oh oh...I focused on pushing through and trying to maintain my pace. I put my ipod on near the beginning of Leg 5 and immediately felt a surge of energy. Close to the end of leg 5 I had lost the other guys I was running with and caught two more guys. One of the volunteers told me I was now in 3rd place overall, and Greg reported I was making up some time on her and was now just 5 minutes down. This gave me a huge boost and early on in leg 6 I could see her in the distance. I started battling some stomach problems, but managed to work through it and saw I was very slowly gaining on her. As we approached end of Leg 6, and I ran through the Check point, I saw her pull off to the side. I ran through and figured this would be a good chance to make up a minute or so. Greg continued his race reports and I soon had 2 minutes on her, 3 minutes, 4 minutes. I focused on just maintaining my focus and keeping my pace. I still had 20 tough km to go and knew I was on my goal pace, but was starting to feel pretty knackered.

A few gradual uphills, and some level points and I crested the top of a hill, and looked down to to see a huge downhill. I knew I had about 10km to go, and this downhill was going to hurt. I felt like I was running on 2 stumps of wood down that hill, and that it was never going to end.., give me an uphill anytime at that point in the race over a quad smashing downhill...

The came into the last CP and knew I had only 8 more km...40 minutes if I could keep my pace...piece of cake..right?? It's amazing sometimes just how long 8km can seem to take some times! Somewhere through the midway of the last leg, the first relay team caught me..the guy passed me like I was standing still...I thought how badly I'd like to be that guy and how badly I'd like to be Darin, as I knew he'd be done by now! Just keep running, one foot in front of the other...Greg told me at that point, that the finish line was on the other side of the mountain in front of me. I came into town and finally started to think about the finish line. I don't like to give myself that luxury until the race is over, as I've certainly learned over the years, that anything can happen. I looked at my watch and realized I was going to be really close in making my goal of 8 hr:16 mins if I could keep this pace the last couple kilometers. I finally rounded a corner and asked one of the volunteers, how much farther. ...he answered, 300m! I felt a surge of energy and ran hard into the finish....I could hear the announcer calling my name as the new women's 100km Champion, and crossed the line in 8hr:15 min:56 seconds, which was apparently a new womens course record, which was a nice surprise. Greg was there to meet me and give me a big hug. Darin was there to congratulate me as well looking like he'd jogged an easy 5km that day...I'd like to say I looked and felt the same, but it didn't really matter at that point, I was done and had averaged 7:59 miles.....some days it comes together and this was one of those days. I changed and waited at the finish for Suzanne to come in shortly after. She ran an impressive race, and will definately be a force to watch in the ultra world.

Overall, H2H was an excellent, well run event, and is clear the organizers have done this a time or two before. The awards were later that night, followed by a post race dance. Would love to say I danced the night away and that we celebrated in style, but I think I had left it all out on the course.

Am home now and on my way to recovering. Next up for me is Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, which is a 6 day Stage race in the United Emerites. I leave November 30th and will be racing with Salomon/Crested Butte. Time to hit the paddling machine and pool for the week and ease back onto the bike.

Whitehorse star article

Denise McHale to defend Canadian 100-km Champion title

Whitehorse’s Denise McHale is off to Vancouver for the Canadian 100 kilometre Championships on Nov. 7.


LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE – Denise McHale of Whitehorse is heading to Vancouver on Nov. 3 for the Canadian 100 kilometre Championships to defend her title.

Whitehorse’s Denise McHale is off to Vancouver for the Canadian 100 kilometre Championships on Nov. 7.

The race, called the Haney 2 Harrison is a 100 kilometre course and McHale is expecting the worst weather conditions – not that that’s a bad thing.

I expect rain, rain and more rain,” said McHale. “I expect conditions to be somewhat miserable, which is fine with me.”

McHale’s adventure racing experience has provided her with the ability to get through any conditions a race has to offer.

“I think my experience in adventure racing tends to lend itself to dealing relatively well with adverse weather conditions and things that are out of my control,” she said.

Even with her experience, McHale says the course won’t be a walk in the park.

“I expect a tough race because of the weather conditions, and because the course is rather hilly,” she said. “It really all comes down to proper training and a little bit of luck that things come together on the day.”

McHale hopes to keep her title of Canadian 100 kilometre Champion.

“I am going with the hope of defending my title and running a personal best,” she said.

McHale began racing in 1996, when she joined a learn to run group at Better Bodies, where she worked.

Her first run with the group was three-kilometres.

“I still remember being thrilled with that accomplishment,” said McHale.

After a few years running, she ran her first marathon.

“ I ran my first marathon a couple of years later and was hooked from there,” said McHale.

There is no formal ranking system for adventure racing, but fellow marathon runner Keith Thaxter says she is one of the top competitors in Canada.

“She’s a pretty amazing runner,” he said.

McHale says Canada’s running team has had success nationally and internationally in recent years.

“We’ve had some success adventure racing in Canada and internationally and have had a really good 2009 so far,” she said.

The team has also joined up with members from other countries.

“We’ve expanded our team over the past year and have been racing with a couple American based teams with some team mates from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and France,” said McHale.

Racing against her teammates is what McHale is looking forward to the most for her upcoming race.

After the Haney 2 Harrison in Vancouver, she is heading to Abu Dhabi, United Emerites, for the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge with team Salomon from the U.S. for her final event of the season.

Racing has brought McHale all over the world.

“I’ve the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and race with some incredible athletes,” she said.

McHale has found that her participation in adventure racing has proved beneficial in other areas of her life.

“Adventure racing especially is so complex both physically and mentally that I find the experience I have gained flows out to so many other areas of my life and has helped me become a stronger person,” she said. “I love the challenges that endurance sports brings.”

While travel internationally could be a strain on an athlete’s personal life, McHale travels and competes with her husband Greg.

“I’m lucky in the fact that my husband and I race together and have been able to share so many of these experiences together,” she said.

McHale has been running for almost 13 years, and the thrill she felt when she completed her first three-kilometre run is still alive and well.

“There’s nothing better than when things come together and you cross a finish line after days of racing knowing you’ve left it all out on the race course,” said McHale.
– – –

Denise McHale’s career highlights

August 2009: Primal Quest, in South Dakota, U.S. 1,000 kilometre expedition – third place.

June 2009: Best of the West, in Alberta, 600 kilometre expedition, – first place.

May 2009: 50 mile Canadian Championships, in Victoria,BC – first female and new course record.

March 2009: Rock and Ice Ultra, in NWT. 225 kilometre run – 1st female

November 2008: 100km World Championships, in Italy – first Canadian Women and 23rd female.

August 2007: Raid the North Extreme, in Prince Rupert, B.C. 600 kilometre expedition – third place.

May 2007:100km Canadian Championships, in Edmonton – first female and new course record.

December 2006: Nuevo Leon Outdoor Challenge, in Mexico – third place team.

October 2006: Extreme Adventure Hidalgo, in Mexico – second place team.

August 2006: Primal Quest, in Utah, U.S. 700 kilometre expedition – fourth place team.

May 2006: Mississauga Marathon – third place female.

2004: Calgary Marathon – 1st place female.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Klondike Road Relay

I ran with a girlz team this weekend in the 28th annual Klondike Road Relay (KRR). Our team was called, "Newbies, Pros and In-Betweenies"!. The KRR consists of 10 stages ranging from the shortest stage which was 9.3km (my stage) to the longest stage 25.6 km. The race runs from Skagway, Alaska and finishes 180km later in Whitehorse. The great thing about this race is you can be as competitive on your section of the race as you want and still run on a fun, non-competitve team, which was very cool. As I'm sure is obvious from our team name, we had a wide range of experience on our team. I have to say - it was so fun to live vicarously through the excitement of new runners! The energy and excitement from the newer runners was a great reminder to me of why I do what I do...we're all in it for different reasons, but for all of us, it's about pushing ourselves to be better than we thought we could be and the work and commitment it takes to get to the start line. Way to go girls!

As for my run, I ran the shortest section (I know, what a wimp!)....., but in my defense it was a 1500ft climb over the pass...(I know, still a wimp)... This was the second stage of the race and started around 9:55 in the evening. The great thing about running at that time in the evening, is that it was very dark, which was just fine with me, especially when you are running straight uphill and aren't that keen to see what is ahead of you. My run went quite well, but I must say when it was all over in 44min:15 seconds, it seemed like I was just getting started... Not being used to running short races like this, I think I need to work on my suffering tolerance for short distances! While I was pretty happy with my run, (I ended up 1st female/2nd person overall), it was a bit anticlimactic, back in the car, heading back to Whitehorse in less than an hour! A big thanks to my support crew - Kimmie and Shannon!

I met the girls at the finish line the next day as our team crossed the line after stage 10. Our team finished 10th/17 womens team - not too bad for the newbies, pro's and in betweenie's! Think what the girls will do next year when we're all pros!

Monday, August 31, 2009

IAU website article

Embracing the Elements and the Terrain: Story of a Long Distance Runner from the Yukon (Nadeem Khan, 01 Sep)

Long Distance Running, or ultrarunning, is difficult in itself. Now, what would you say if you had to wrestle -30C (-22F) to -40C (-40F) on a regular basis during the winter months. Furthermore, add snowy trails and icy roads to chilly weather conditions. To top this contemplate 4pm dusk and darkness that persists till 7am in the morning.

Now, combine all of the above elements and imagine an ultrarunner trekking through the trails embracing the wilderness and running a multi-day stage event. This ultrarunner is Canada's top 100km runner Denise McHale.

Denise, a Recreation and Active Living Consultant with the Yukon Governemnt, is not your regular fair-weather runner. Living and working in the Yukon, a region that gets one of the Canada's most extreme winter weather, has made her into one of the most versatile runners from the Great White North.

It does not take a running enthusiast to ask the question on how did Denise start running, given her extreme environmental conditions. She says, "I started running when I moved to Yukon in 1996. I had always secretly dreamed of being a runner and running a marathon someday, but it seemed at the time, like a huge goal."

A hundred miles starts with a few steps. Denise agrees, "I started running by joining a running group and running just a few blocks at a time. By the end of that first summer, I ran my first half marathon and started to believe a marathon was maybe possible!¨

In March 2009, Denise ran an incredible 6-Day event covering 225km. The Diamond Ultra race treks through stages spanning from 25km-46km. Denise lays down the conditions during the race, ¡§The race course involves a series of lakes with portages in between. Some of the really large lakes can get very cold as Yellowknife is well known for being very windy.¨

Denise found the opening day of the course very challenging. She says, "The first day was the worst as the wind picked up in the afternoon across the largest lake and it was essentially a white-out. The course was marked every 100m or so with orange flagging, but in these conditions many of the flags had been blown down, tracks were filled in behind racers in seconds and visibility was limited.¨

However, she ran through the tough conditions and kept her lead through the stages winning the female division. She says, "I ran a very consistent race, stuck to my game plan and was pleased in the end with my run.¨ Always competitive by nature, Denise never lets her guard down in a race. She added, "We (another female racer) ran much of the days together and close to the end of the stage I would generally pull away and put a bit of time on her everyday, which gave me about 30 minute lead overall in the end.¨

I was intrigued to know how one copes with the chilly conditions. Denise explains, "Layering is the key and my Salomon gortex runners and gaitors are essential gear for winter running¨. Wearing several layers has always been my best friend during cool winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.

IAU World Cup 2008 in Tarquinia was Denise¡¦s introduction to international ultrarunning. At this race she finished top Canadian in 8:32. Denise recalls this race, "Overall, I really enjoyed my experience in Tarquinia and being part of the Canadian team. In general, I was fairly pleased with my race there. Because I hadn't run that distance on the road before my race plan was to run a conservative pace that I hoped I could maintain.¨

Like many ultrarunners, she has tremendous support from her family. Her husband Greg is an accomplished Adventure racer himself. The McHales have participated in several events as a team.

Denise credits her adventure racing background for her achievements in ultrarunning. The two are different yet very similar sports. She says, ¡§I find it¡¦s all about breaking the course down into sections, and just focusing on what you are doing in the moment, which I do with my ultra running.¨

It has been a busy year for Denise. She has run the Rock & Ice Ultra in Yellowknife in March, Elk/Beaver 50 mile Canadian trial running championships in Victoria in May, the Best of the West adventure race in Southern Alberta in June, the Yukon Trail marathon in August followed by a 1000 km Adventure race in South Dakota.

Talking to Denise about her training, her life in the Yukon and about her outdoor activities, I have been enlightened that the sport of ultrarunning truly transcends extreme weather conditions and terrain.

Great performances require even greater sacrifice. Numerous ultra-athletes that I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking have eluded this persona.

I am confident that this relatively new ultrarunner has just touched the surface of her ultrarunning prowess. There is more to come from the Recreation Consultant living in the heart of the Yukon.

Nadeem Khan
Director of Communications

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Team Merrell - 3rd place at Primal Quest!

Well, I am back from a whirl wind 1000km adventure around South Dakota. Our Team placed 3rd in the Primal Quest, after battling it out with Salomon Crested Butte for days. Overall, we had a good race and I enjoyed racing with my new teamates, legendary kiwi racer Neil Jones aka "Jonesy", and Aussie navigator Rob Preston, aka "Rusty". Racing with Team Merrell was a real privledge after competing and racing against them for years. A special thanks to Team captain and AR Queen, Robyn Benincasa for inviting me to step into her spot at the last minute! South Dakota'ins (is that a word??) proved to be extremely hospitable everywhere we went making us feel like rock stars throughout the course. These people were super keen to have the race in their state and help in any way they could.

Now.., back to reality...sigh...

Not sure what's up next, as have decidedto re-naig from the Commonwealth 100km team due to my lack of road miles, and limited recovery time before the Sept 18th event. Feeling good overall though and heading out for my first post race run this afternoon. Definately not done for the season, decision time now....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Media from Yukon trail marathon

McHale wins River Trail Marathon
Mon, Aug 3, 2009
By Tom Patrick
Having just accepted a spot on a team competing at the 1,000-kilometre Primal Quest in South Dakota two weeks from now, Denise McHale decided to skip Saturday’s Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta, and just take it easy—by running a marathon.
“I had a change of plans because I got a call to race the Primal Quest,” said McHale. “The Death Race was a 125-kilometre mountain run and I thought having not even two weeks to recover—I’m racing with three other guys—I thought it wouldn’t be fair to show up at the line not fully recovered.”
Not only did McHale run the full 42.2 kilometres in the River Trail Marathon on Sunday in Whitehorse, she was first over the finish line, completing the course in three hours, 18 minutes and 34 seconds. She’s the first women to be the top finisher in the race.
McHale and husband Greg, who will be on the same team in the Primal Quest, have competed in ultra marathons and adventure races throughout the world. And McHale topped the women’s field at last month’s Dry Tri held at the Takhini Hot Springs.
Last time McHale ran the full marathon in Whitehorse was in 2003, when she finished second overall with a similar time of 3:18:21.
“I’m happy with my time,” said McHale. “I didn’t really focus on training specifically for this; I didn’t do any speed work or anything. So I just wanted to have a good, solid run.”
Numbers were down in the full-marathon division, but up overall with 280 runners spread over the full-marathon, half-marathon and relay teams categories.
“We have 280 runners, so this is a record year,” said Keith Thaxter, president of the Boreal Running Association that hosts the marathon. “But last year was the record of full-marathon runners (with 57), usually we have around 40.”
Four continents were represented in the marathon with runners from Germany, Spain, Mexico, Gambia, plus over 20 Americans and about 30 Canadians from outside the territory.
“So we have a splattering of people from all over,” said Thaxter, who finished fourth overall with a time of 3:44:56. “We’re quite happy with the turnout.
“We might have to cap it in a few years if it keeps growing. The thing is, if it gets beyond 300 or 400 people you almost need more volunteers or to have a paid person to manage it.”
Some who travelled farthest were the last to register, with eight South Koreans signing up the night before the race.
“There were about 20 guys hanging around SportLife yesterday and apparently we convinced eight of them to come participate today,” said Thaxter. “And they were having a blast. They were out there running all around and now they’re sitting there teaching people to write their names in Korean.”
Unlike previous years, no bears made any appearances to help motivate the runners along the way.
“I saw two squirrels and a very big dog—no bears,” said Teit Groth from Copenhagen, Denmark, running in his 27th marathon and finishing 16th overall.
“Coming from Denmark, which is very flat, it was really hilly. But the scenery was beautiful, although you have to look down to where you place your feet.”
Full results can be found at
Contact Tom Patrick at

Yukoner Denise McHale finishes with top marathon time
What began as a training session ended in a record-setting achievement for Denise McHale at this year's Yukon River Trail Marathon.
By Jon Molson on August 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm

AND THEYĆ¢€™RE OFF - Runners in the marathon category begin the 2009 Yukon River Trail Marathon, which began and ended in Rotary Park on Sunday. STAR photo by KIERAN OUDSHOORN
What began as a training session ended in a record-setting achievement for Denise McHale at this year’s Yukon River Trail Marathon.
On Sunday, the Yukoner and ultra marathon runner became the first woman in the 11-year history of the event to finish as the overall marathon winner.
Her time of three hours, 18 minutes and 34 seconds was less than five minutes faster than her closest competitor.
“It’s great, I’m very happy,” McHale said about making history. “I felt pretty good. I ran, I think, pretty consistent.”
Some last minute sign ups pushed this year’s marathon total to around 280 people, which was a record. More than 40 people signed up on Friday and Saturday.
Besides Canadians, individuals came from United States, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Gambia and Korea.
Runners had the option of signing up for the the full marathon (42.2 km), half-marathon (21.1km), or run the full marathon as a four person relay team.
Even the weather co-operated with cooler temperatures and overcast conditions, making for optimum running weather.
McHale registered for the River Trail Marathon on Friday after she found out there was an opportunity to race on Team Merrill in the 2009 Primal Quest
The 2009 Primal Quest is a more than 965-km adventure race in South Dakota. Her husband, Greg, is also a member of the four-person adventure racing team.
As a result of being selected to race in the Primal Quest, McHale changed her weekend plans, which originally were to compete in the Canadian Death Race, a 125-km mountain run in Alberta, to signing up for the Yukon marathon.
“This is a good warm up for sure,” she said about the Yukon River Trail Marathon.
The last time McHale entered the marathon category in this race was in 2003 when she placed second overall.
Her time in 2003 was faster than her mark this year and is currently the best women’s marathon time in the event’s history.
“The thing with Denise is that she beats most guys anyway,” said Keith Thaxter, president of the Boreal Adventure Running Association. “She’s in a whole different league amongst everybody else.”
Yukon River Trail Marathon Category Results: Top Three
1. Denise McHale, Whitehorse, (3h18:34)
2. Fawn Holland, Kamloops, B.C., (4h27:17)
3. Melissa Head, Fairbanks, AK, (5h07:32)____
Marathon-Masters[40-49] - Women:
1. Fran Mackellar, Haines Junction, (4h09:39)
2. Rebecca Pohlman, Coon Rapids, MN, (7h18:07)____
Marathon-Master Plus[50+] -Women:
1. Janet Green, Courtenay, B.C., (4h31:21)
2. Polly Thorp, Whitehorse, (4h46:21)
Lynda Churchfield , Lake Charles, (5h44:45)____
Marathon-Open[14-39] - Men:
1. Simon Lapointe, Whitehorse (3h22:27)
2. Ben Seale, Skagway, AK, (4h09:33)
3. Joseph Inverariy, Victoria, (4h26:10)____
Marathon-Masters[40-49] - Men:
1. Keith Thaxter, Whitehorse, (3h44:56)
2. Ken Rutland, North Vancouver, B.C., (4h02:30)
3. Doug Mayr, Whitehorse, (4h20:25)____
Marathon-Master Plus[50+] - Men:
1. William Scott, Whitehorse, (3h41:48)____

Monday, August 3, 2009

PQ bound....

Has been a crazy couple weeks! Was suppose to run the Death Race on saturday and had been super psyched about it, as has been on my 'to do" list for several years. Was signed up and ready to go and then I received a phone call from legendary Adventure Racer Robyn Benicasa from Team Merrell Zanfel asking if I would be able to take her spot in the Primal Quest. After much deliberation she has decided to step back from this years PQ due to a hip injury. This was a super difficult decision for her, but as it turned out a wise decision once the doc's got a look at her xrays. The good news is, she's already been in for surgery and on her way to recovery already.

So now what - For me, it meant a quick change in plans and getting my head wrapped around running, biking, climbing, paddling, canyoneering 1000km in South Dakota in 2 weeks...and some big shoes to fill! I'm looking forward to racing with Team MZ which includes; my husband Greg McHale - team motivator/pack horse extraordinaire, Aussie Rob Preston - Navigator extraordinaire, and another legendary Adv racer, kiwi Neil Jones -paddler extraordinaire. Now I just have to find my extraordinaire role may be?

Did a little warm-up yesterday for PQ and my last long run at the Yukon River Trail marathon. Was really happy with my run overall and surprised myself by running only 13 seconds slower than the last time I ran the race in 2003 when I was on my way to running a pb at niagara falls marathon...and also just a wee girl of 29 =) Feeling good today, hamstrings are a little guitar stringish, but not throwing myself down stairs like I usually do after a road marathon!

The bigger and more surprising news for those who know me well is...I have a blog!! and managed to post my picture on it - wow technololgy, who knew??

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ist day new blog

First day of my new blog.