Like a shot gun went off, I woke up and looked at the clock. It was 1:30am and my sister called. “He died”. I heard her deep breaths on the phone and my heart sank. We were both speechless and miles apart. In 2019 Kristyn Carriere’s partner decided he would face his biggest life goal of conquering Everest. I remember hanging out with him previously and he was confident.

“I see it, I feel it, I am going to summit. I just know it’s in me,” he would say.

Robin and Kristyn loved going on adventures together. They would climb, run, and ski together pushing each other to achieve great things in their lives. We would follow their journey through social media and be in awe of what they set out to achieve together. I remember the last chat I had on the phone with Robin, where we joked that when he returned to base camp, he might run the Everest Marathon if he was feeling okay after summiting.

I said “Robin, you are crazy. But you’re out there anyways, so you might as well run it”.

Over the weeks whilst on the mountain, Robin prepared for his summit attempt by acclimatizing to each of the high camps, practicing his skills, using his sheer grit to survive each of the challenges he faced. He was intelligent and everything was well-planned. On May 25th, Robin Fisher did accomplish his goal of summiting Everest. Unfortunately, on his way back down, 100m from the top, he collapsed and never woke up again.

At this point, my sister’s life blew up. Along with our other sister Nadia, we immediately went to be with Kristyn and helped her move back home to Edmonton. She maintained her composure throughout, still achieving her personal goals that she had set out for herself that year. Her goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and at the Edmonton Marathon, she did.

I had taken over her training program to get her Boston Qualifying Time (BQ) at the start of 2018 when Kristyn committed to the goal of obtaining her Abbott World Major 6-Star Medal after completing the Berlin Marathon in 2017. It took her until the 2019 Edmonton Marathon for her to achieve her major milestone, with adjustments for health set-backs along the way.

It’s hard to talk about marathon training without talking about grit.

Grit is being able to dig deeper than you ever though you could.

Grit is what I saw when I watched my sister, Kristyn run in Edmonton.

There were two moments that I witnessed during the YEG Marathon demonstrating grit. I was a half-marathon participant, and Kristyn was in it for the BQ. The 3:30 marathon pacer crossed my path and Kristyn wasn’t far behind at what would have been the 27km marker for the marathon runners. I thought “holy crap! she’s on pace!”. We epically high-fived as we crossed paths on course.

Being on the back half of the race myself, I finished the half-marathon portion of the race and was able to get back on the marathon course to cheer her in. This decision came after a quick round of calculations where between myself and other family members cheering Kristyn on, worked out that she was running a fine-line in terms of actually obtaining her BQ. Perhaps the panic was stronger in me than it was in Kristyn, but I made sure that I was in a visible distance at the last mild uphill kilometre to ensure she reached her goal. I shouted at the top of my lungs “every second counts” as Kristyn ploughed through to the finish, obtaining what would be a Boston Qualifying time for 2020.

As big of an achievement it is for some to obtain their Boston Marathon entry, because of Robin’s passing, we were motivated to push our boundaries to another level. Naturally, the 2020 Everest Marathon was the new goal post. Myself, Kristyn and our new, yet running-experienced recruit, Kate joined the challenge

The preparation for this event is an excellent exercise for me as an athlete and a trainer. We looked up past Everest Marathon results, the terrain, and set a goal of breaking the 8 hour mark. How in Edmonton where we going to train for this?

We fortunately all have running backgrounds. I was the newest to the longer events, but have raced 70.3 Ironmans. My sister has a wealth of altitude experience, and Kate is a runner who loves to run 24/7. With Jasper and Canmore on our doorstep, we are also taking advantage of the mountain running each month in the run up to the Everest Marathon.

As a trainer, there are a few things I need to make sure of over time.

  • We have the endurance capability to go for 9 hours plus … even if the goal is under 8 hours for completion, you never know! And preparing the body for more won’t hurt! Get strong and build mobility. Mountain terrain is unforgiving. There are big ups and downs. Your hips move through all ranges of motion. Your core needs to be so strong to support the uncomfortable bounces you will confront on the journey.
  • I have no doubt that Kate and Kristyn will finish as they have both a great VO2 capacity and endurance ability over time. I want to make sure they finish strong with nothing left on the table. What does this mean? Let’s go back to grit. My job is to push them beyond what they thought they could do, so when they race, and race in the moment, they will drop a faster-than-expected time and feel empowered by everything that surrounds them. My goal is just to survive and support. Ha!.

Here are our focus areas while training for an event like the Everest Marathon:

  • Build VO2 as much as possible
  • Get strong in every range of motion
  • Believe no matter what! Left-Right-Left-Right will get you to the finish!

By Leanna Carriere