Here and There
by Dominique Liboiron
Could you run run Maple reek to Medicine Hat three times? Liebenthal native Karen Fogen will attempt to run that distance when she participates in the Alps2Ocean, a 196-mile or 316-km race in New Zealand. The event will be held over seven days from Feb. 25 to Mar. 3.
Alps2Ocean is a stage race, which means competitors must run a certain distance every- day within a time limit. During the competition, Fogen will be carrying her food and camping equipment in a backpack.
Fogen is an accomplished athlete who has competed in many long distance races. I have no doubt she can finish this one. Still, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to run that far.
When I asked her why she wants to participate in the Alps2Ocean, Fogen answered, “I just love it. I love the distance and the stage racing.” Fogen said she also competes in ultra marathons because she enjoys meeting new people. And she likes giving herself goals, too. In fact, she confided she’s already researching races to compete in after this one. Another reason she wants to participate in the Alps2Ocean is to experience New Zealand. “I find it’s a really unique way to see the country,” Fogen added.
Personally, I think it would be easier to see the country by watching movies like The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings or Narnia, all of which were filmed in New Zealand. The scenery in those movies is similar to what Fogen will take in as she runs from the base of New Zealand’s highest mountain to the Pacific Ocean.
This will be Fogen’s first trip to the island nation and she looks for- ward to seeing the memorable landscape. “New Zealand is supposed to be so beautiful,” she said.
The race begins in the country’s picturesque mountains. The start line is located at 2401 ft. or 732 m in elevation. Most of the course is hilly and rocky. There are a number of significant hills to climb along the way. The largest is when the runners have to climb to a height of 2975 ft. or 907 m. The finish line is at sea level.
For most stages, the athletes will have to run roughly 30 mi. or 50 km in a day. On Day Three, the stage is a grueling 50 mi. or 85 km. “I’ll be running into the night,” Fogen said. She has 34 hours in which to complete this longest stage of the entire race. On the final day, the stage is only 17 mi. or 28 km. At the end of each stage, the racers set up camp in a designated area.
Fogen has participated in a number of other long distance races. You may recall that in the Sept. 8 and the Sept. 29, 2016 editions of my column I interviewed Fogen before and after she ran the Lost Soul Ultra Marathon, a 100-mile or 160-km race that is held in Lethbridge. She completed the course in 29 hours.
The 53-year-old educational assistant has also completed a 170-mile or 275-km race in the Grand Canyon during which she had to carry her own camping equipment and food, as she will in New Zealand.
For Alps2Ocean, Fogen wants to limit her back- pack to 17.5 lbs or 8 kg. To save weight, she won’t carry a change of clothes. Although Fogen would like to pack only the bare minimum, the rules state there a certain items all competitors must carry. These include an emergency blanket, whistle, signal mirror and two headlamps with spare batteries.
In terms of food, the racers must carry at least 2,200 calories a day. Fogen will get her nourishment from dehydrated macaroni and cheese, rice, dehydrated pasta as well as oatmeal along with protein powder and electrolytes. Water will be supplied at each campsite for cooking. The racers carry their own water during the day.
To prepare for this epic race, Fogen began training five or six months ago, she said. She trains in a variety of ways. For example, she lifts weights a couple times a week and Fogen also runs up and down hills, of which there’s no shortage in Medicine Hat where she lives. On weekends, Fogen will go for long runs on back to back days followed by two hours of power walking in the evening. Her regimen also includes snowshoeing and running on a treadmill.
Fogen heard about Alps2Ocean on Facebook. This is the first year the race will be held. On Feb. 18, Fogen left Medicine Hat and travelled to Calgary. From there, she flew to Vancouver and then to Auckland, the country’s largest city. She’ll have two days to rest before the race starts Feb. 25.
Alps2Ocean has attracted competitors from 17 countries. Fogen is one of five Canadians and the only one from the Prairies. Good luck Karen. You’ll do us proud.