A 24 Hour Run with the best people for Alzheimer's Disease

It’s only been a day since a group of us hugged and high-fived after our 24 hour journey through the Chilliwack River Valley together. After the run, I sleepily looked over at my friend Jenn with her head resting on her forearms just trying to catch even 1 minute of sleep. I thought “she just moved through the forest for 24 hours, she is so amazing”. And then I looked around, at my friend Ryan sitting in the dirt, at my friend Mike leaning on my Subaru beer in hand, at Annemarie and Zach with their arms around each other, at Jordanne who was rooting around her stuff to find a tensor bandage for my ankle after being out there for 13 hours herself….at Paul and Jenny (our crew) who had stayed up the entire night themselves asking what they could bring us. I was so sleepy but I knew what we had done was awesome. And these people, these badass, funny, smart, astonishing people - they all made it happen. They are all amazing. And I am so grateful to have these friends and this camaraderie in my life.

Photo by Ryan Shepherd

Photo by Ryan Shepherd

After a short trip to my hometown of Deep River, Ontario, to visit family in April, I came back to Chilliwack (my current home) with a sense that I needed to do something big. My Grandfather (I call him Poppa) had completely deteriorated mentally in the six months since I had seen him last and my heart felt broken. The last “real” conversation we had was in October of last year where we joked about how running in the forest would probably get me attacked by a bear one day. Because we had this conversation every 5 minutes, I could think of a new quip of how I would really escape…”I’d carry a knife to stab its eye”, “I have bear spray and would just throw the can and run away” (this is actually Jenny’s joke), “I’d miraculously take out a camping kit and dine with my new friend with cooked pasta”, “I’d let it eat me and be very warm for the rest of my life”…he thinks I’m funny. This is how I thought the rest of our time together would go: he’d ask me the same question every 5 minutes, and I could make him laugh with a stupid answer. Unfortunately, when I saw my Poppa in April, he had forgotten who I was completely. I was wrecked. After arriving home and saying hi to my Poppa while he was in bed, I could see in his eyes that he didn’t know who I was…and then he asked “Who are you? You’re a good lookin’ gal”. I bit my lip, kissed his forehead goodnight, and went downstairs to my room when I fell on the floor and wailed. I remember looking up in my bedroom mirror and seeing little dimple marks the carpet had left on my forehead. My eyes were puffy. My cheeks were blotchy,…it is the worst feeling in the entire world.

And so, I came home and told Jenny about how my trip went. I told her how helpless I felt and that I wanted to do something big to raise money and “hmm….what do you think about organizing an event for Alzheimer’s disease?” She was in. I asked my friend Annemarie about her thoughts and yeah, duh, she was in too. And so then I made an event page on Alzheimer’s BC saying that I was going to run for 24 hours in the Chilliwack River Valley and asked, pretty openly, if anyone wanted to join me on this crazy adventure. People did, pretty quickly actually, and so I knew that this thing was happening. How cool!

So, I planned an event. In total, 5 people joined for the full 24 hours and another 7 people joined for other portions of the run. You can find a detailed itinerary here if you’re interested in planning your own adventure in the Chilliwack River Valley. You can also check out my instagram story of the day here if you’d like.

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Mike Thomas

Leg #1: Glorious Flora Peak, Some Green Lakes, Boulders and Killer Wasps

The Route: Chilliwack Lake to Flora Peak to Flora Lake to Greendrop Lake to Lindeman Lake back to Chilliwack Lake

Stats: 25 km | 1544m | 7 hours

Runners: Katrina, Annemarie, Jenn, Ryan, Mike, Marcus, Paul

Crew: Elissa, Jenny, Matt, Jess

This route had the best views. Actually, we started here because Flora Peak is my favourite Chilliwack hike :) We expected cloudy, rainy, weather the whole time but the day didn’t turn out that way at all and provided some sun and no rain!

This route is a technical loop with about 8 sketchy boulder fields and some steep climbs. The reward for this hard work is the view from Flora Peak and three beautiful turquoise lakes.

This loop wasn’t total sunshine and rainbows though. One our descent from Flora lake to Greendrop lake we encountered several (maybe six?) wasp nests. Because of our big group it seemed to stir the wasps up and almost everyone got stung, some more than others (all boys!). As we looked down the trail, we knew what was ahead: more wasps. Some of us were panicky, myself included, and so our plan was to run quickly down so that we were a pack and so that the person at the back didn’t get all the stings. In one particular fast sprint, I twisted my ankle on a rock and knew instantly that it was bad. Interestingly, adrenaline does amazing things and so with a heart rate of 120 million bpm (this is scientific fact ;), I could run down and away from waspy hell.

Continuing to run on the ankle at certain angles was ok for a little while, but continuing at even a slow running pace wasn’t possible much after Leg #1, and our pace slowed significantly.

Photo by Jess Friesen

Photo by Jess Friesen

Photo by Jenn Kononoff

Photo by Jenn Kononoff

Leg #2: TCT and Slesse

The Route: Chilliwack Lake to Trans Canada Trail to Slesse

Stats: 37 km | 1450m | 11 hours

Runners: Katrina, Annemarie, Jenn, Ryan, Mike, Jess, Jordanne

Crew: Paul, Jenny, Johnny, Zach

Originally, this route was supposed to be done during mostly daylight hours. During the TCT portion where Jenny, Matt and Jess joined us, we enjoyed watching the sun come through the trees and really began to notice that fall was on its way. It was pretty.

My initial thought in creating this route was that we’d hit the top of Slesse Trail by sunset and then head down in the dark. My swollen, painful, ankle didn’t allow us to get very far and so as we ascended, things got dark pretty fast and we missed out on some views. We did see a pretty special waterfall, moody outlines of peaks in the distance against a blue coloured sky, and looked up at a beautiful starry night. We also had some fresh faces to lift the energy for the evening: Jess and Jordanne.

The night running was actually one of my favourite parts. There weren’t many views but all of the sillies came out as we talked about almost every inappropriate topic we could think of. I got to know some of my friends in ways I hadn’t before, especially the boys, and if they’ll keep me, I really think I’ve made some life long friendships because of this event.

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Mike Thomas

Leg #3: TCT and Pierce

The Route: TCT to Pierce trail

Stats: 14 km | 322m | 3.5 hours

Runners: Katrina, Annemarie, Jenn, Ryan, Mike, Jordanne, Zach

Crew: Paul, Jenny

Here I should mention our aid stations. After Legs 1 and 2, people started to become sleepy. Everyone felt pretty good but we were definitely ready to have some real food when we hit our last aid station after 2:00 in the morning. An “aid station” in this case is simply friends driving along Chilliwack Lake Road who met us at certain points along the way.

Before our last few hours on the trail, Jenny and Paul helped us fill our water bottles, brought us A&W burgers, and made us hot grilled cheese sandwiches. Here, we also had hot soup (homemade veggie pho <3), coffee, and banana bread made by Jordanne, a fire made by Zach to sit around and also, there was Johnny (!) who had worked all day at Garrison Running Co. and had been waiting to join us for hours but instead drove Jess home to help out. These aid station stops were crucial in building up our morale and getting us ready to continue on. And so, after bandaging my ankle and filling the tank, off we went for our last 3.5 hours.

We didn’t make it nearly as far as I had thought we would or hoped we could, I simply couldn’t. I tried to be positive, telling everyone I was ok, but in truth I was in a lot of pain and could really only walk. I noticed even at walking pace, I was much slower, but everyone waited and I often led the pace so we could all stay together.

We hit Pierce lake trail head with just over an hour to go. I was determined to hit a spot on the trail that I call “the second road” so I burned it up, sweating hard, and actually felt much less pain than before, and was giddy with excitement that at least we could get a serious sweat on in the last hour. We went past this “second road”, and descended to where Paul, Jenny, and fluffy butt Arya met us along the trail to walk with us for the last few minutes.

We had done it. We had made it.


Overall, on my watch, we had hiked and ran about 80 km (50 miles) in 24 hours through tough as nails terrain and with a sprained ankle.

Looking back, I am certain that the reason why everyone was able to keep in such high spirits, despite some “sleepiness” is because we weren’t pushing too hard. When you’re hiking, you can pretty much go forever if you’re relatively fit to begin with. Heck, this morning at 9:00am I got a message from Ryan saying he went back to Macfarlane (last stop from the Pierce lake trail head) for some unfinished business!! Besides being a superhuman warrior, this guy had the legs left, the drive left, and the spirit left to go back. And I don’t mind saying that maybe it was because the sprained ankle pace we were going allowed him to.

If you’ve made it all the way to the end of this, and if I can inspire you to do anything, it’s to know that you can make a difference. No, I’m not going to host an annual 24 hour run for Alzheimer’s event, but I am encouraged to do more for a cause.

Photo by Ryan Shepherd

Photo by Ryan Shepherd

One of the most dissatisfying questions I get, and I see other athletes get after podiuming a race is “what’s next”? Sure, it’s logical and a conversation piece but also, FUCK OFF! What if that next race isn’t just as amazing? And what if I need to soak in what just happened? And also, the big one: race results do not matter. At all. It’s something Jenny and I have been telling our athletes and each other from the start. The part that does matter is that you challenged yourself along the way, that you had fun, and that you worked hard to get there. The result part is more interesting than anything else. And race results will never give your life meaning.

And so, what I want to end with, besides thank-yous, is to encourage you to challenge yourself and to use your gifts and your hobbies and your life-loves to make a difference. I am an extremely ordinary person who watches TV in the evening, who loves pizza, and who likes running and so I used one of those things to raise money for something that was impacting my life and made me feel good. TV watching marathons and pizza eating contests wouldn’t raise as much money I think…but who knows?

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Mike Thomas

Photo by Ryan Shepherd

Photo by Ryan Shepherd

And now, the thank yous.

Thank you to Jenn, Annemarie, Ryan, and Mike for sticking with me for 24 hours, for supporting this cause and sharing it, and for being so positive and bright on this journey. The time went by SO fast!

Thank you Marcus, Zach, Jess and Jordanne for joining in on the run and just being there when I needed you. Jordanne was the major person who took care of my ankle all night. Jess walked with me at the back when I needed her. Marcus took most of the wasp stings <3

Thank you Matt, Elissa, and Johnny for being there as crew and for offering to do anything. You helped so much!

Thank you Jenny for helping me create this event, for staying up for 24 hours with us, for fixing my feet, for making 2:00am grilled cheese, for just knowing what to say at all times, for being my partner in everything…my love for you is big - you know this.

Thank you Paul. Ugh, for everything. For taking the wasp stings, for running and crewing, for late night A&W runs, for knowing not to say anything when I wanted to keep pushing despite an ankle sprain…and for being my Martha over the next few days while I recover and sit here as an IPOS (injured piece of shit).

And of course, thank you to those of you who donated to this cause. Matt from Kintec donated gels, Matt from Fraser Valley Trail Races donated a table, water jugs, and tents for us…Jenny always said “Matts” are the best, and I agree.

Almost everyone accomplished a new milestone on this run whether it be distance, time on feet, or number of calories consumed. I am proud to call these people my friends and I plan to remember this day for the rest of my life.

Thank you.