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GR A1
FKT

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STATS
Distance: 650KM
Elevation Gain: 30,000 M 
Duration: Under 7D 12H 4M

The International Appalachian Trail in Quebec covers more than 650 km of trails. It starts at Matapedia, then heads towards the Valley to Amqui before reaching the Matane wildlife reserve. It crosses the Parc de la Gaspésie including the Albert and Jacques-Cartier mountains, then descends towards Mont-Saint-Pierre where it follows the sea, from village to village, to Forillon National Park. Ranging from a rural setting in an agricultural setting to the steep cliffs of Forillon which overlook the sea, passing by the summits of the Chic-Chocs of the McGerrigle, the trail offers several possibilities for hiking. 

The current record is held by Mathieu Blanchard who ran it in 7 days 12 hours and 4 minutes in August of 2020. 

TIMELINE

2019

In 2019, I jumped in to the Ultra scene, by signing up for the Edmonton 100km, Squamish 50 Mile and the Golden 120km.

I quickly fell in love with the training, being able to test my body and prove to myself that these physical feats were far from impossible, if trained and conditioned properly. 

Come June, I ended up winning the Edmonton 100km. July, I placed 5th in the Squamish 50 Mile then another 1st in September at the Golden 120km and holding the course record

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2020

When the pandemic hit in March, I had to cancel an FKT attempt of the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. A 230 km trekking route that circumnavigates the Annapurna massive of the Himalayas. I knew I had to do something with all my hard training, and quickly came up with the idea of running the 230km Icefields parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper. After successfully finishing the run I completed the 230km in 31 hours. Being the first person to run the entire length of the parkway and setting the new FKT

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2021

With races still not 100% full capacity, and travel still not reliable. I decided to look for another local project that would continue to push ultra long distances. The 1,130km Great Divide Trail was always on the back of my mind, and I thought this would be the year to do it. After completing 240km in 3.5 days, and in the middle of a 200km solo section through remote rockies wilderness. I was relentlessly charged at by a cougar, to the point where I almost emptied my entire can of bear spray can on it. When I finally got a clean shot of the cougar I began to retreat, twisting my ankle as I ran backwards and sideways (knowing you can’t turn your back to a cougar) and ended hopping 30km out to the nearest exit, ending my GDT journey. (Read full story here)

2022

I started the year off heading south for three months starting in Oregon, running a 100km in Forest Park. Then to Arizona where I trained in the desert surrounding Sedona, and finally Utah finishing off the trip placing 2nd at the Zion 100km. The rest of my summer is I have a few other smaller FKT attempts, all building up to the GRA1. The grand finale of my 2022 season

THE PROJECT

The goal is to take a step back from the Great Divide Trail and regain confidence after a cougar attack in one of the most remote areas of the Rockies. This will happen best by finding a difficult project that will inspire me to train hard while simulating the GDT for my return to it in 2023. And that trail is the 650KM GRA1 in Quebec.

Attempting the FKT of the GRA1 will simulate the average daily distance that I’ll be attempting to run on the 1,130km GDT of nearly 80 - 90km / day. Maintaining this daily distance will allow me to finish the GRA1 in 7 days, shaving off 12 hours of the current FKT.

Myself and the crew will be flying into Montreal where we will be picking up an RV and heading to the beginning of the trail in Matapedia, for my attempt in Mid September. Fall temperatures will be less hot and humid, allowing me to train in a similar environment where I live in the Rockies. This will also allow me to train hard all summer and be as fit as I possibly can before attempting FKT.

Calendar 

September

19th 

Leave Banff and Fly to Montreal

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20th

Pick up RV and Drive 7 hours to Matapedia (Beginning of GRA1)

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21st

Begin the 650km GRA1

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22nd - 29th 

Aim to complete the run in 7 days

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30th

Buffer

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October

1st

Drive 7 Hours back to Montreal 

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2nd

Buffer day for weather

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3rd 

Fly From Montreal back to Calgary

CREW

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Luke Pitaszynski

Luke is a very close friend of Sam's. He's been there for Sam during every major running event in his life and has seen his highs and lows and knows exactly what to do when things get tough. The two of them have also been on many expeditions together, including climbing the NW Face of Mt. Assiniboine. Projects like the GRA1 are primarily mental, you need the people who know you best and how to keep you motivated and moving forward.

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Miya

Miya, is a  2 y/o border collie with the title Crew Chief is one of the most important additions to the crew. Miya is Sam's #1 adventure buddy, running mountains and ultras by his side through the Canadian Rockies with boundless energy. On top of leading the way on the trails, she's also Sam's support dog, and the two of them are rarely seen without each other.  

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Nic Groulx 

Nic and Sam started working together back in 2020 during the 230km run from Lake Louise to Jasper. Through his lens Nic has witnessed Sam push himself to the point of hallucinations, black outs, and blood and of course tears, while being able to bring the story to life through his images. Nic is a talented photographer in both the climbing and running world having his photos in both climbing books and running magazines. On top of Nic being a talented photographer, him and Sam are also very close friends. Nic knows the right thing to say at the right time to keep Sam motivated and driven until the job is done. On top of his talents, he has also been dubbed the team translator.

TRAINING

My training plan is to use local FKT's to focus on that will act as spikes in my training for the GRA1. By choosing FKT's that simulate the GRA1 will narrowing my vision and allow me to focus on the training spikes ahead, and longterm set me up as best as possible for the GRA1. My original plan was to attempt these FKT's in July, but due to an unusually high snow year, I've been forced to push these back to potentially August. So for now I have been building up milage simulating the pace of the project on long remote and snow free trails in the front range of the rockies, and my body and mind couldn't be feeling better.

MEDIA

Aside from the run, shooting media is our top priority. I've been lucky enough to have so many talented friends in the field of filmmaking and photography who have documented my journey well. The GRA1 is apart of a bigger story- Attempting the FKT of the Great Divide trail, getting attacked by a cougar and bailing, bouncing back in 2022 by finishing my season with the GRA1 and returning to the GDT in 2023. We have been currently shooting for a documentary based on this story so the GRA1 will be documented well. 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Throughout the project the crew an I will be posting tons to our Stories, Reels and Feed Showcasing my training, preparation, travel and of course the project its self. My approach to posting product shots is to always make sure its a very organic and natural so it never looks forced to my followers. As well as portreying the goal and lifestyle I live to achieve them.

STORIES

REELS 

FEED

DOCUMENTARY 

Short film produced by Pat Hoffman and Philip Forsey with footage showcasing my training for the GDT FKT last year 

Building up to the GDT FKT attempt last year, I was working closely with two talented local filmmakers Pat Hoffman and Phil Forsey for a documentary of the expedition. Since the cougar attack that finished my first attempt, we have continued the story shooting my recovery and return in 2023, and part of that return is the GRA1. The two filmmakers have the goal of creating a documentary (Which will be over three years in the making) to be submitted in the Banff Film Festival. We also have local bars in Banff who have asked us to use their venue as the local premier of the film. 

BUDGET

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Summary

Mathieu Blanchard set an incredibly competitive time on the GRA1 in 2020, and I know that even training alone for this is going to be some of the toughest days I've ever had in the mountains. This is why I'm so attracted to it; setting goals such as this only motivates me more to push harder than I ever have, and be the best I can possibly be by the time I toe the beginning of the GRA1 in Matapedia. 

Want to be apart of the story? 

Stories & Articles on Sam

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