Doug MacIsaac likes to describe himself as “a jack of all trades, master of none.”
He is one of those life-long athletes who played multiple sports growing up such as football, rugby and soccer.
Over the years, the now-53-year-old added running, speed-skating, snowshoeing and mountain biking to his recreational repertoire.
He took to running fairly easily and he turned out to be pretty good at it – running Boston three times, soloing the Canadian Death Race and competing in the 200m, 400m, 8k cross-country, 10k road race and half-marathon events in the 2005 Summer World Masters Games in Edmonton.
“I prefer running the longer events like marathons,” says Doug. “The shorter distances “hurt” too much due to the implied faster running paces. I also prefer trail running to road running – better aesthetics and less pounding on the joints.”
I called Doug to chat about the Comrades Marathon, the largest and oldest ultramarathon in the world.
Doug and some friends will challenge the 90K-race, Pietermaritzburg to Durban in South Africa on May 29.
This historic race is on my bucket list.
But as I got to chatting with Doug, I realized his story is much more inspiring than someone simply running an ultramarathon on another continent.
The story begins on April 30, 2014, when Doug was taking advantage of the hot weather in Arizona to train for a six-day mountain race in July. Doug is a firm believer of crosstraining to stay healthy and reduce injuries.
On the final day, Doug was on a new bike because his was getting fixed. The riders, whom he only met at the beginning of the trip, were taking it easy and without warning Doug took a fall.
“We had just gone through a creek,” said Doug, who works at Nova Chemicals. “Things were wet. I was clipped in with my shoes. I had a lot of sand and grit on my shoes. When I started falling, I tried to unclip but my foot got stuck in it. When I fell, my inner groin fell on the end cap. I basically impaled myself with the handlebar.”
Just missing severing his femoral artery in his leg, Doug lost two pints of blood on the trail.
“I actually thought this is it, ” said Doug. “That’s my femoral artery. You got minutes and we were not in a minute response. It took an hour for emergency to get there because we were so embedded in the maze of trails. The four other people basically saved my life.”
The other riders were from Quebec and English is their second language.
But when it came to a life or death situation, everyone understood what they had to do.
One rider called 911 and communicated with the dispatcher and rode out to meet the search and rescue teams.
Another used a rubber glove and applied direct pressure to his wound to help stop and control the bleeding. They used a jacket to block the sun and placed an emergency blanket over him.
Today Doug is completely recovered save for a scar on his leg. He went through counselling and rehab to deal with the physical and emotional trauma.
Most people may tend to “slow down” after such a life-altering experience.
“The hardest thing was dealing with people who say you’re not 25 anymore but it had nothing to do with age,” said Doug. “It was circumstantial. The bike accident was a freak accident. The stars all aligned with a bunch of things. That was just something that happened.”
As Doug trains for Comrades, a race he had planned to run in 2014, he is re-learning what his body can do and testing his limits. He is running long and slow.
“Running is more of my passion than the other sports,” he said. “In order for me to be a lifelong runner, I realize I should only run three days a week. By doing some mountain biking and inline skating, some speedskating, it allows me to keep doing the running. It also keeps things fresh by trying other sports.”
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