• December 20, 2014

Facing Death: Director of Tourism set to take on Canada's most difficult race

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Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2007 12:00 pm | Updated: 11:12 am, Wed Sep 3, 2014.

By Monty Campbell

The Cove Herald

Despite the overwhelming amounts of rainfall in Central Texas, summertime has sprung upon the many sprawling communities in the area. With the beginning of summer, traditional family vacations become the focal point of everyone’s existence.

One Copperas Cove resident has taken the summer family vacation to an entirely different level this summer as he, his wife and his son, embark on a journey that the family will never forget.

Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce Director of Tourism Ben Davis is taking the family to Grande Cache, Alberta, Canada, for the opportunity for himself and his 35-year-old son, Chris, to participate in the 2007 Canadian Death Race Aug. 3-6.

The Death race is a 125-kilometer (77 miles) race through the Canadian Rockies on an extreme mountain trail, over three mountain summits, along a 17,000-foot elevation change and across a major river crossing.

The race begins Aug. 4 at 8 a.m. and each participant must accomplish each feat while carrying around 35 pounds of mandatory equipment, and get back to the start/finish line before the 24-hour time limit expires.

Although this, the most extreme foot race that the 56-year-old, retired Army command sergeant major has entered, it certainly is not the first. Davis has been running since 2004 and has completed five marathons as well as competing in several half-marathons.

Despite competing in several races, Davis insists that he runs for his own personal comfort as opposed to the competitive aspect of winning races. He admits that he competes to maintain his weight and to reduce health risks associated with his family.

“Both of my parents have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and I gained weight after the Army,” Davis said. “I’m only competitive with myself, running for my weight and medical reasons only.”

Despite acknowledging that he does not run to win, Davis has posted quality times in marathons. Davis’ best time of 4:20 came in his very first marathon, the Flying Pigs Marathon in Cincinnati.

The Jacksonville, Fla., native has also competed in marathons in San Antonio, Equinox, Alaska and in California, but none to the extent of what the Canadian Death March is.

“The first thing people say, when they find out about the race, is are you crazy,” Davis said.

Actually, Davis is far from crazy and his meticulous planning of how he and his son are going to accomplish this race is impressive. He has charted each of the five legs of the race out on drafting paper, which is used to study the course and potential obstacles.

His admiration of this race began about three years ago when he read about the event in an issue of Runners World magazine.

At first glance, his wife Fran absolutely refused to allow him to embark on such an endeavor, but after consideration and watching Davis’ training regimen, Fran decided to compromise with her husband.

Davis’ training regimen includes running along the tank tracks near Georgetown Road/Main Street in Copperas Cove to Gatesville and back.

She wanted Davis to eclipse the 46-mile mark before she would even consider her husband to enter in the event and once he accomplished that feat on March 10, she supported her husband fully.

Upon reaching his wife’s desires in his training, Davis and his son entered the Canadian Death Race, along with 998 other competitors. Many of the entrants are part of a relay team, with only about 150 solo runners.

Even though many people may think that running such distances may require certain meditation techniques or a heavy load of batteries for an i-Pod, Davis acknowledged quite the contrary.

“There is nothing exciting or any revelations that I make when I am running,” Davis said. “ I just start out to do it and finish. It’s just one step in front of the other.”

Simple procedures when running and training, but when faced with a race that encompasses 77 miles and also takes place in the dark, Davis may be forced to change his strategy.

A strategy that must incorporate completing certain stages of the race in the required amount of time; if not, his race is over. He also must maintain a coin that is given to each participant and haul around the mandatory equipment or else he is disqualified from the race.

“My family thinks that I am crazy for doing this but believe that I can do it,” Davis said. “There is a lot involved with a race like this. When you’re racing for 24 hours, nutrition, hydration, everything is essential.”

The first leg of the race takes participants through the downtown section of Grande Cache and up into the foothills of the mountains.

A total of 11.8 miles that many previous participants consider the easiest leg of the race.

The true test comes in the second leg as the runners cross the summits of two mountains through 16.8 miles of the course, leading to the less strenuous third leg of the race down slopes.

This third leg (11.8 miles) allows the runners to gain momentum for the fourth and most grueling leg of the race.

The fourth leg, known as the Hamel Assault (23.4 miles) is a torturous ascent up 7,000 feet and forces nearly 54 percent of the solo runners to bow out of the competition.

If runners can navigate through this portion of the race, they can count on making it through the final leg.

The final leg of the race is 14 miles and includes a Jet Boat ride across the Smoky River before setting their feet back on the ground and running the final portion of the race back to their support group.

A support group that consists of his family, George, Jenny, Katelyn and Elizabeth Covert(who will be traveling to Canada to cheer the Davises on) and Alan, Adrianne and Aubrey Waters pushing Ben on the tank trails among others.

“I have a great support group that will be helping me through the race,” Davis said. “The biggest support comes from my wife (Fran) and Marty Smith and my friends from the chamber.”

It is a lot to ask for one person to accomplish, but Copperas Cove’s director of tourism has the ability, desire and supporting cast to help him come out on top and make this a summer that he nor his family or friends will ever forget.

Contact Monty Campbell at cmonty@kdhnews.com or call (254) 547-9173

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