The Beaver Flat 50 course.

Reigning champ shares advice for finding success at Beaver Flat 50

When Saskatoon ultra trail runner Mandy Currie signed up for the Beaver Flat 50 in 2016, she figured the race would be pretty easy.

The ultra trail race put on each year by Prairie Sky Running Company snakes through Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, about 300 kilometres west of Regina.

“I had run a handful of marathons, I had done a leg of Sinister Seven, I had done the Grizzly Ultra Marathon a couple of times,” Currie recalls. “And I’d driven through there. I was like, OK, Sask. Landing, it’s hilly, but it’s not mountains … it’s in Saskatchewan, so it can’t be that hard.”

What followed was an experience Currie repeatedly refers to as “humbling.” It took her and a friend more than nine hours to complete the relentlessly hilly course and they barely finished ahead of the cutoff time. “Both of us were underprepared and I think just honestly underestimated it,” Currie says.

Despite it all, she had a blast and went on to add two more Beaver Flat 50 finishes to her resume: a third-place finish in 2019 and a win last year.

“This is a race that I can’t really miss out on. It’s so much fun,” Currie says. “It’s just really good to partake in something that Saskatchewan’s putting on that you don’t have to travel to Alberta or B.C. or into the States or out east for … it brings out a lot of people that aren’t going to be necessarily traveling 10 hours or more for a big mountain race and so it kind of brings out all of these people that didn’t know they were ultra runners or trail runners in Saskatchewan.”

This year’s event takes place on Sept. 17 and Currie will be back to defend her title. In advance of the run, Currie spoke with the Brainsport Times to share advice for others preparing to tackle Saskatchewan’s hilliest race.

Views from the Beaver Flat 50.
Views from the Beaver Flat 50.

Bring enough fluid and fuel

Back in 2016, Currie and her friend underestimated how much food and drink they needed to carry. There are five aid stations on the course, spaced out between five and 11 kilometres — which can be a long stretch on a hilly trail race.

“Eleven kilometers, if you’re talking road racing, is quite manageable. If you’re talking trail with quite a bit of elevation and exposure to the elements, it can easily be two hours to get to that 11 kilometer distance,” Currie cautions. “Carrying more fluids than you think you need is a good thing — even if you’re tracking along a little extra weight.”

Currie will be running with two 500-mL bottles of electrolyte drink or water in a hydration vest and a third in her hands. She’ll also bring enough gels to have one every 45 minutes to an hour (plus a couple extra) and an “emergency sandwich.”

Dress for success

The Beaver Flat 50 course is very exposed with no tree cover or natural water features. It can be hot and windy and there’s no protection if it rains or snows.

Currie will run with a hat and sunglasses (which can provide protection from wind as well as sun). She’ll also lather on some sunscreen and carry a lightweight jacket in her hydration vest that can shield against wind or sun.

“If you’re out there anywhere from six to 10 hours, you can beat yourself up pretty good,” Currie warns.

Consider packing a first aid kit

With so much distance between aid stations, Currie will carry a small first aid kit so she can deal with minor ailments wherever they happen. This includes some Tylenol, Tums for indigestion, Bandaids, Vaseline for chafing and pain relief gel for achy muscles.

It’s OK to walk

Sometimes it can be more efficient to power walk up a hill than run it — something new ultra trail runners don’t always realize.

“You don’t have to run up all the hills and I think that’s a huge misconception with trail racing,” Currie says. “Walk where you need to, run when you can and don’t feel bad for walking in places that you need to.”

Stay positive, be thankful and have fun

“Believing in yourself is so important with ultras,” Currie says. “If you tell yourself that you’re going to finish a race or you’re able to do it then I think your chance of success is a little bit higher.”

Regardless of whether your race goes as planned, Currie reminds everyone to be grateful for being able to toe the line, to thank the volunteers who make the event possible and to encourage other runners on the course.

“It’s always a great opportunity to make new friends,” she says. “It’s a fun little community, the trail community.”