‘I just dig deep’: Manitoba expat places 1st in Canadian Death Race 15 months after near-fatal accident

A Manitoba expat took first place in the women’s ultra competition of the Canadian Death Race in the Canadian Rockies on the weekend — and she managed the mean feat just over a year after nearly dying in a horrific training accident.

Lindsey Klassen, who placed eighth overall, said the Alberta race was “pretty brutal” but she persevered.

“I just dig deep,” said Klassen, originally from Cooks Creek, Man., and now a foot and ankle surgeon in San Francisco. “It’s just a lot of mental toughness, I think.”

The Canadian Death Race is a gruelling 118-kilometre slog up and over three mountain summits, totalling 17,000 feet of elevation change. Runners also have to find their way across a major river at what’s known as Hell’s Gate canyon, where the Smoky and Sulphur rivers converge.

Klassen did it all just 15 months after being impaled in a near-fatal accident. 

Lindsey Klassen stands next to a map of the Canadian Death Race in Alberta. The gruelling 118-kilometre race snakes through the Canadian Rockies and includes 17,000 feet of elevation change. (Submitted by Lindsey Klassen)

She was training on her bike in April 2021 when, while taking a turn down a steep hill, her back brakes seized up. Klassen collided with and was launched over a guard rail, landing on a pole that impaled her chest.

“I still have a fair amount of chest pain that I deal with, primarily from the hardware that’s still in my chest,” she said. “It’s something that I just block out a lot of the time to continue to do what I want to do.”

Klassen’s recovery is ongoing in some ways, but she’s already been competing for several months. She ran in the Boston Marathon last fall, six months after the accident.

Klassen said her legs were still sore from the Death Race and she expected to lose a few toenails, but overall her body was feeling pretty well recovered a couple of days on. 

Fear played a role in propelling her to the finish line, passing the woman who held the lead for the majority of the race.

“I ran a scared race the last six miles to the finish, because I didn’t know if she was going to catch up to me or not,” Klassen told Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Tuesday.

Support from loved ones also helped her get through the race; her parents, brother and niece met her at the finish line in Grande Cache, Alta.

Lindsey Klassen poses for a photo on a mountain range in western Alberta on the weekend during the Canadian Death Race. (Lindsey Klassen)

Her win qualifies her to compete in the Western States Endurance Run — a one-day, 160-kilometre race in California. Before that, she and her husband plan to do an ironman triathlon in October.

Thinking back to all that she’s gone through in the past two years, Klassen feels grateful to be in a position to continue competing.

“Being through some of the challenges that I’ve been through with my bike accident … I am so thankful that I am able to do what I am doing,” she said.

“I have big goals and I just don’t want to stop doing what I really love doing, so I just keep pushing through.”

The Canadian Death Race includes three mountain summits that Klassen traversed, as well as the crossing of a major river system. (Submitted by Lindsey Klassen)

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