My name is Jacqueline Windh, and I live on Vancouver Island, Canada. I am a PhD scientist, and I work mainly as a freelance writer and photographer, as well as sometimes as a wilderness guide/naturalist. I am a proud Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. You can find more about those aspects of my life over here at www.jacquelinewindh.com
I am an endurance athlete – but I definitely excel more at being mentally tough, and pushing myself to achieve, than at being fast!
I’ve always been active and outdoorsy (backpacking and kayaking especially), but I wasn’t much of a competitive athlete until I ran my first marathon in 2007, at age 43.
Training to run that first marathon was one of the toughest challenges I have ever faced: the physical training was hard, yes, but keeping up the motivation and discipline to make it to that start line was even harder.
When I hit that finish line I swore “never again.” But I realized a few weeks later (once the muscle pain dissipated) that it is only the first marathon that is so tough, because you must work hard to build your running base.
After that, you just need to do enough to keep it. “Training” doesn’t have to be so regimented – in fact, you can make it fun!
Ultramarathons were very clearly my next progression. (An ultramarathon is any running race longer than a marathon, which is 42 km/26 miles).
I’ve never liked pavement, and nearly all ultras are on trails. I actually prefer the multi-day races, because they require much more mental toughness and smarts (race management and body care) than single-day races, where being fast is more important.
Here are some of my ultrarunning highlights:
The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica (a 230 km 6-day race up and down the coastal mountains – typically with cumulative elevation gain of 10,000 m), was the first ultramarathon I signed up for.
My first attempt was in 2008, only 3 months after completing my first marathon. However, I simply did not have the distance running base yet, and I didn’t finish. (Attempting such a big run too soon in my running career is also what triggered my chronic knee injury).
But this felt like unfinished business. So I returned to finish strongly in both 2009 (racing with the Project Athena team), and again in 2016.
I completed Guadarun, a 5-day 150 km staged ultramarathon race over the islands of the French territory of Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean twice: once on my own in 2010, and again with my partner (now husband) in 2013.
No photos of me though! I was photographing for SleepMonsters and for RunningUltramarathons.com – here’s one I took of Dave.
In August, 2014, I ran the mountainous Squamish 50k, British Columbia, Canada, with my new husband, Dave. Yes – were just married the week before!
This race had been booked long before our wedding – so it kinda defaulted into being our honeymoon!
In October, 2015, I ran the Golden Ultra, a 3-day 150 km mountain ultramarathon in and above the town of Golden, British Columbia, Canada, while reporting and photographing for Trail Run Magazine in Australia.
In November, 2015, I “raced” the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon, a one-week 250 km race through South Africa’s Kalahari Desert, with my husband, Dave.
A record-setting heat wave, with temperatures as high as 52°C in the shade, resulted in course changes (for safety reasons). Some sections were changed to run through the night to avoid the heat of the sun.
This ended up not being a race to try to win or even just get a personal best (or even actually run). The goal was merely to survive – and we were both very proud to make it to the finish line!
I’ve completed several one-day ultramarathons in the mountain range known as the Cascades, Washington state, USA, including:
- Sun Mountain 50 km
- Sun Mountain 50 mile (80 km)
- Angel’s Staircase ,60 km
I’ve completed two extremely challenging runs in southern Patagonia, Chile: the Torres del Paine 45 km trail marathon in 2014, and then the gruelling Ultrafiord 70 km run in 2015, across and over some of the most challenging (and not really very runnable) terrain – including up and over a glacier – that you will ever see.
Ultrafiord had a nearly 50% did-not-finish rate. Not only was I one of the finishers – I placed first in my age group (I was also the only entrant in my 50+ age group!).
I completed the Himalayan Stage Race, a 5-day 160 km race along and over the ridgelines that form the border between India and Nepal (altitudes up to 3200 m, with views of Everest) twice: once on my own in 2013, and again with my husband Dave in 2016 – both times while photographing and reporting for the adventure racing website Sleepmonsters.com