Casey Thivierge is the founder of weULTRA based in Ontario. His passion for trail and ultra running combined with this initiative and community engagement is growing the sport in a big way in their region.
Casey takes on the brutal 68 Mile course with 40, 000ft of elevation gain Georgia Death Race tomorrow. We chatted with WeUltra’s fearless in the days before this this event about the community he is forging, the Malden Death Run event he recently hosted and what makes him tick.
Where are you based?
CT: I live in Belle River, ON but do most of my running and training in Windsor, just south of Detroit. The weULTRA group consists of runners from all around the Essex County area, the southernmost part of Canada.
What is weULTRA and what is the vision for it?
CT: weULTRA is a group consisting of ultra, trail runners, their supportive family & friends as well as those aspiring to try ultra and trail running.
I started the group two years ago as a private group with a few local friends as the only members. It was created as a place to help share information between each other and to provide motivation, encouragement and support. While there were other running groups in the area, the “ultra-scene” was almost non-existent and ultra runners were few and far between. I felt that there was an opportunity to create something that could help grow the sport in our area. We then decided to make it a public group and slowly, one by one people started joining.
My vision for it is pretty simple. I want it to be a fun group that helps support and encourage others to get involved in the trail and ultra running community. My intent is to provide local runners with challenging hill workouts and quirky group runs. I want people to challenge themselves, have fun with running and define new personal limits on what they can achieve. It is very rewarding to see others improve, especially when they finish with a smile on their face.
Of course I have a vested interest in growing the sport of trail and ultra running specifically in my own community. However, I would like the page to be bigger and broader than that. I am willing to let it evolve as it may.
Do you have members whether unofficial or official for weULTRA?
CT: Membership is free and open to all. The only requirement is a commitment to run, support, volunteer, crew or pace an ultra marathon or train with those who are doing so. We are a group who want to focus on running with our friends, striving for and achieving new goals, and most importantly, helping others.
We currently have 390 members in our Facebook group.
What is Malden Death Run and how does the format work?
CT: The Malden Death Run (MDR) was an idea conceived this past December by my friend Derek Mulhall and myself. We have both signed up for the Georgia Death Race (GDR) and agreed we would have to step up our vertical game throughout training. In one of our early training workouts on our local hill nicknamed Big Bertha, we kicked around the idea of doing our 40-mile training run entirely on the 1 hill. Up and down, over and over again. We did the math and figured it would take 120 repeats to achieve the desired distance. The monotony of running up and down a hill that was 1/6th of a mile long would help sharpen our mental game and the physical test of running 40 miles with over 25,000’ of elevation change would help gauge our fitness towards the end of our training.
Having had success with hosting several “Fat-Ass” events in the past, we decided to reach out to our local running community again and see if people were interested in joining us for a few repeats on the hill.
I made a Face Book event for Saturday, Feb 25th and named it the Malden Death Run, paying homage to the Georgia Death Race but specifically designating it as a “run” and not a “race”. The event would take place in Malden Park on the Big Bertha hill. We announced our lofty intentions and invited people to come out and join us any time they could throughout the day between 8am and 5pm, our estimated finishing time.
The event was free of charge and unsupported. It evolved as time went on and the event date drew closer. I started to hype it more and it gained more interest. I then decided to make some “awards” for all participants as a token of our appreciation. Derek and I, along with some help from my Mom and Dad made 75 awards to hand out that day. We hoped it was enough and luckily it was. Everyone who showed up and did at least 1 hill repeat got an award.
30 repeats (about 10 miles worth) got you a different award, and the top 5 finishers in number of repeats completed (excluding Derek and myself) got a different award. All the awards were handmade and also paid homage to the GDR finisher awards. We ended up having 4 people complete the entire 120 repeats for 40 miles and 12,795’ of ascent: Derek Mulhall, Daryl Flacks, Randy Troyer and myself.
The highlight of the event to me was handing out the “MDR Runner of the Day” award. A week before the event I announced on the event page that there would be 1 special award handed out. I stated, they can be fast. They can be slow. They can do a lot of repeats, or maybe not so many. That’s not what matters most. It was a pleasure to hand the award to Karen Hutt. She went there with a previous best 15 repeats and ended up doing 45 on the day…and most importantly with a smile on her face the entire time. She was very deserving and a great example of what the day was about: Smiling, laughing, suffering and having a great time.
How many runners did you get?
CT: Even with the less than ideal weather we had, we ended up getting 72 people to participate in the event throughout the day. It was amazing. Our community of friends and family are truly supportive and they often rally together and help support one another. If the weather would have been just a bit nicer that day, I really think we would have had over 100 people show up.
When did it start and how many have you had?
CT: 2017 was our first MDR. There was never any intention to do another one or make this an annual event. However, the positive feedback I’ve received since the event has me at least thinking about future possibilities.
Is it purely a prep event for Georgia Death Race or more than that?
It was intended to be but people really enjoyed it and used it to set their own goals and set their own new personal records. It was very inspiring to see how motivated people were and how they used the event to push beyond what they thought they were capable of.
I never wanted it to be only about our training for GDR. I wanted to create another reason for our local runners to get together and have a fun day. Their enthusiasm, smiles and support is a great source of inspiration but I have to admit, it became much bigger and better than I thought it would.
Here’s a few stats about the event:
– 72 runners
– 8hrs and 45min from start to finish
– 4 people completed 120 repeats (40 miles and 12,795’ of ascent)
– Group total of 1,693 hill repeats
– Group total of 361,032’ of elevation change (Over 6 x up and down Mt Everest)
What events have you got coming up in the community there?
CT: March 18th: We’ll participate in the “40 miles for 40 weeks” charity run to help support a friend and his worthy cause. He’s running across our county for the local charity “Eyes Wide Open”: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/40-miles-for-40-weeks/
There’s a few local races like the Blue Heron Blitz and The Beach Bash Dash along with several others around the county that the W.R.A.C.E organization puts on. Across the border into Michigan there are some great trail races put on by RunningFit such as TrailWeekend and RunWoodstock that take place in the Pinckney and Hell, Michigan areas.
Also, I have a friend that is running a 100-miler in the Fal. So I’m currently kicking around some ideas for a Fall FatAss Forty that will be similar to the race he is going to run, yet still be unique and feasible for runners of all levels to participate in. Like all of our events, it’ll definitely have a twist to it.
Have you done Georgia Death Race before?
No. This will be the first time for both Derek and I and I don’t personally know anybody that has run it before.
How long have you yourself been running for. Whats Your background and how did you get into ultra running?
CT: I’ve been running for about 10 years now.
I’m currently 42 years old. I was never a runner as a kid. I never ran track, cross-country or anything like that. I started running in the fall of 2006 on a bet from my sister in-law Janine. She had just returned from watching her friend run the Detroit Marathon and was very impressed with what she witnessed throughout the day. I jokingly teased that it was no big deal. She bet me that I couldn’t run a marathon. I placed a friendly wager with her that I would run the 2007 Detroit Marathon.
Then I went home and typed into my web browser, “What is a marathon?” The next day I went for a long run. When I returned home I got in my car and measured the distance, 2.4 miles. Oh god.
It was a long year with a lot of training, but I couldn’t lose this bet. Well, at least it seemed like a lot of training. I ran and finished the 2007 Detroit Marathon, the first race I had ever entered. It was a miserable experience and I swore off marathons forever.
Three years and after a couple half-marathons later I ran my 2nd full marathon. With smarter training and more mileage it was a much more enjoyable experience and my results improved dramatically. Then I started having thoughts of Boston.
In 2012 I qualified for the Boston Marathon but something else happened that year. I heard about a race in California called the Western States Endurance Run. A local runner by the name of Denis Chenard was doing these crazy 100-mile races. To say I was interested would be an understatement. I went and ran the last few miles with him at RunWoodstock 100 in Michigan that year. I was instantly hooked.
2013 saw me run my first 50k, followed by two more 50k’s and then my first 50-miler at the JFK 50 in Maryland.
In 2014, along with my friend Derek Mulhall, we ran our first 100-miler at Burning River in Ohio and earned our first qualifying tickets to enter the Western States lottery. My friends Francois and Gord, along with my wife Jenn helped crew and pace us that day. We had a great time and loved everything about it. We met great people along the course and throughout the weekend and really fell in love with the culture of the sport. I didn’t know it at the time, but weULTRA was born that weekend and I’ve been enjoying the journey ever since
Are you married and have kids?
Yes. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart Jenn and looking forward to celebrating our 19th year of marriage in May. We have two teenage daughters that are the world to us. Lexi is turning 16 in May and Chloe just turned 14 in December.
Outside of running & family my interests include camping, travel, amateur astronomy and of course…craft beer.
What races are you personally taking on this year?
Georgia Death Race on April 1st and The Barkley Fall Classic (BFC) in Wartburg, Tennessee on September 16th are my primary races this year. I left my soul on Rat Jaw in last year’s BFC, so I’m going back to get it.
Check out the weULTRA Face Book Group and Casey’s blog below to see how things progress off the back of his great initiatives that are doing wonders for our sport.