Extreme athlete completes ‘Death Race’

Sailor First Class Willem Davis of Naval Fleet School (Pacific) finished 72nd out of 244 and 102nd overall in a field of 331 male and female runners of the Canadian Death Race, held at Grande Cache, Alberta, every summer. Photo credit: Infinite Eye Photography.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

A fire instructor at Naval Fleet School (Pacific)’s Damage Control School participated in a gruelling 118-kilometre race.

Sailor First Class (S1) Willem Davies recently competed in The Canadian Death Race, one of the world’s toughest ultramarathons.

“It really takes a special type of person to compete in this race,” S1 Davies, 31, said. “Compelling yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other for nearly 24 hours while facing obstacles like high temperatures, dehydration, and discomfort takes an enormous amount of effort and willpower.”

With a skull for its logo, the race warns the foolhardy and faint-of-heart with its to-the-point slogan, ‘It’s a killer’. Held each summer near Grande Cache, Alta., the endurance contest pushes extreme athletes and their well-conditioned bodies to their limits. The race consists of a gruelling course passing over three mountain summits, diverse weather conditions, and 17,000 feet of elevation change.

“I ran through terrain so steep that some runners were forced to sit down or crawl to manoeuvre it,” he said.

Many who attempt to complete the feat within the 24-hour time limit, fail. Approximately 100 participants could not finish this year’s race, S1 Davies said.

S1 Davies has worked in the Legacy Trade of Hull Tech for 12 years of his Royal Canadian Navy service. He is currently transitioning to the Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) as a Clearance Diver, which he expects to begin on Oct. 3.

He says he always wanted to compete in an Ultra Race and trained days and nights at an elevation at Jocelyn Hill near Saanich Inlet on top of his regular training routine.

His support team included his girlfriend Sarah and parents Sharon and Richard Davies, who were responsible for transporting food, water, and other necessities to four designated transition points on the race course. First aid stations and medical assistance were available at designated course spots.

At one point during the third leg of the race, he contemplated quitting.

“I almost didn’t make the cut-off time to begin Leg 4 and felt like quitting, but my girlfriend hyped me up and got me back on the course,” he said.

The threat of complete exhaustion and dehydration was constant, S1 Davies said.

“I drank lots of liquids throughout and ate energy gels and sandwiches to start,” he said. “By the fourth and final leg of the race, I couldn’t eat anything solid and watermelon was the only thing that I could stomach by the end of the race.”

S1 Davies competed in the Men’s Solo category and with an overall time of 22:45:02. He finished 72nd out of 244 and 102nd overall in a field of 331 male and female runners.

Despite a strong performance and finishing in the top third of the field, S1 Davies wasn’t celebrating.

“I was happy to have completed the race under the 24-hour cut-off but my result also showed me that there is always room for improvement,” he said.

Next up for S1 Davies is a personal challenge to tackle a 50 km course at Finlayson Arm, which he plans on running in late September.

Race Facts

  • 1,600 racers
  • 118 km course which begins and ends on a  plateau at 4,200 ft
  • Passes over three mountain summits
  • Includes over 17,000 ft of elevation change
  • A major river crossing at Hell’s Gate canyon

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