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Ex pro cyclist wins overall in her first 100K trail race

Katrina Bencsics beat the entire field last weekend at the Finlayson Arm 100K trail race

Katrina Bencsics, 48, used to race as a cyclist in Europe, but now she hits the trails. Six weeks ago she decided to run her longest run ever at the Finlayson Arm 100K race in Victoria, BC (changing her entry from the 28K race to the 100K). The course runs more like a 100 miler where runners begin at 5 p.m., running two 52K loops with 6,142 metres of elevation gain. Bencsics finished Saturday morning in 18:39:01, beating all the women and men.

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Bencsics (right) with the 50K winner Meaghan O’Brien. Photo: Sarah Baike

Bencsics thought her competitive days were behind her. But like a true pro, she ran her own race start to finish. So much so, she started the race late coming out of the port-a-potty. “My goal was to just complete it, running, hiking, whatever. Crazy thing is that once you are out in the front, you’re feeding off of everyone else’s energy and now you find yourself wanting to stay in front and not be caught.”

In 2018, Bencsics placed third in the Finlayson Arm 50K before taking six months off due to plantar fasciitis. She began running again in March, and started feeling good again just a few weeks ago. Her longest training run was 4 hours and 50 minutes, with her peak week at just 89K. Bencsics doesn’t run more than four days a week, and lives by the mantra that “less is more.”

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Bencsics at the finish line with race director Myke Labelle. Photo: Sarah Baike

Bencsics experienced adrenal exhaustion and quit cycling in 2003. Now, as a healthcare worker with four dogs, Bencsics believes in time on feet as training. “I’ve overtrained my whole life. I know how my body works. I want it to be fun and want to do it when I feel like it. Sometimes it’s going to be hard, but you don’t want to hate every step. I don’t put pressure on myself. When I decided to do this I just wanted to run under 20 hours.”

She was excited to run in the dark at the race, since “you can’t see the hills and they don’t demoralize you.” Bencsics got the full ultra-experience when she hallucinated for 30 minutes on the second loop up Mt. Finlayson. She thought someone was behind her with a headlamp, but then the light went off. She started throwing rocks at the figure screaming “You don’t want to mess with me!”

Bencsics and her crew hard at work. Photo: Sarah Baike

Bencsics decided to just keep going and never looked back. The hallucination wasn’t her only delay. The smart racer also changed her shirt five times, socks twice, and her entire outfit with 20K remaining. Seven toenails later, she was the first runner to cross the finish line in Goldstream Provincial Park. “I think it was having fresh legs. I just kept moving forward. I never thought I couldn’t do it.”

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