Photo submitted by Meagan Hayashi
Meagan Hayashi won the Black Canyon ultra race and placed third overall at 5:36:49.
Local ultra runner, Meagan Hayashi, became the first-place female and third overall runner to finish the 60 KM Black Canyon Trail on Feb. 15 in Arizona, US.
Hayashi and fellow local ultra runner, Matt Davies, both went down to participate in the race.
Hayashi clocked in at 5:36:49, while Davies ran across the finish line at 7:34:14 in 59th place overall.
The Black Canyon Trail features a mixture of single track trail, jeep roads, and pieces of an old stagecoach route.
Along the way, runners cross through Black Canyon and the Agua Fria river multiple times.
Both runners admitted that running in the desert and training in the Canadian winter was a challenge.
Since the Black Canyon Trail is very technical and footwork practice is hard to come by in the winter in Hinton, Hayashi relied on exercises and drills to improve her balance and agility.
Davies explained that he did a lot of treadmill running with long sleeves and sweatpants to try and simulate the expected heat.
Hayashi and Davies both noted the net downhill course and forced themselves to not start too fast in order to save steam for the hills in the final stretch.
Hayashi added that it was one of the best places she’d ever run.
“Winding technical singletrack nearly the whole way, with glorious mountain views to keep you distracted when the trail did get easy in sections,” she said.
Hayashi had no idea she was in a tight race for the lead the entire way and thinks she passed some women at the first aid station without knowing it.
She spent 40km thinking she was somewhere around fifth place.
“I was simply enjoying a nice day on some fantastic trails, following the pace plan I laid out for myself,” she said.
The heat in the second half slowed her down slightly but she pushed hard in the last 10km towards the finish line with the next runner two minutes behind her.
The Black Canyon trail is Hayashi’s first ultra marathon win.
She explained that the feeling of being chased with no idea if they’re gaining on her pushed her as fast as she could go.
“The best part about it was that the other two women I shared the podium with also ran a faster race than the third place male, putting us all in the top 5 finishers,” she said.
The significant endurance component closes the gap between male and female competitors in ultra marathons, she explained. It becomes more about diligence and willpower, rather than sheer physical strength, she said.
“I’ve done tougher courses and trails in terms of elevation gain etc. But this one is definitely unique. It’s tough to run fast in the heat and on technical rocky downhills,” she said.
Hayashi said the most unexpected aspect of the race was how easy the hills were in the second half.
Due to an injury in 2019, Hayashi spent a lot of her winter cross country skiing, which she believes gave her an advantage as she glided up the hills.
Davies knew going into the race that his fitness level was lacking from what it had been in December, due to being sick in January and losing three weeks of critical training time.
He spent as much time on his feet as he could and then flew to Arizona with Hayashi a week prior to the race in order to run part of the course as their final training.
“I was really impressed with how beautiful the course was and it’s undulating hills. Very rocky though, I had never before run in this kind of terrain,” he said.
Davies finished his race with a few more battle scars compared to his running and training partner.
He started off with a small group of people for his first 20km, averaging about 5:15 per kilometre.
Somewhere around the first 20km mark, another runner attempted to pass Davies on a narrow winding patch of singletrack when their feet got tangled up. They slid off the course and both were left with some flesh wounds from the rocks.
He didn’t think much of the cuts and kept running towards the only crewed aid station around kilometre 31.
His pace had begun to slow and he had taken on a slight hobble, but his wife and Hayashi’s husband cleaned him up and sent him on his way.
He knew he would be finishing later than he planned as the pain in his knee grew to the point where he couldn’t run anymore.
“I debated briefly to DNF but knew I was well within the time cutoffs to finish and decided I’d walk it in however long it took. The last 22k took almost four hours,” he said.
Mentally not giving up was a tough hurdle, he said, but he pushed through the thoughts of giving up.
He soon caught up to a group of walkers from the 100km distance race and they kept each other company while sharing stories until the finish line.
Next up, Davies has his eyes set on the Canadian Death Race but thinks he’s still a few years away before attempting it.
His first goal is to stay injury free during his next ultra.
Hayashi’s next race, the Antelope Canyon 50 mile race, is less than one month away.
Depending on her competitors, she believes she could place well again.
“However, as long as I finish, and maybe get some cool race photos running through the canyons, I’ll be happy,” she said.
To read Hayashi’s full race report, check out her blog drugrunner.wordpress.com.