Traveling more than 250 km through the Namib Desert on foot might sound torturous to some, but for one Lanark County Ontario Provincial Police constable, it's the kind of event that she thrives in.
Isabelle Sauve, 42, was the first woman across the finish line (seventh overall) at the Sahara Race Namibia on May 5. It was the fifth ultramarathon that she has ever completed, and the second in a desert over the last two years -- the first was the Atacama Crossing in Chile, where she placed third among all female participants.
"For me, it's a sense of pushing myself to see how I can take different situations, climates, and improve," she told OttawaMatters.com. "[Also to] learn from other races and other people, see what they're doing."
Sauve has been running for decades, as she competed in triathlons, but said she turned to ultramarathons a few years ago in order to be able to focus on one discipline and save time on training.
In order to prepare for races like the one in Namibia, she explained that she has to try to simulate the event, only on a smaller scale. Running 250 km over a week means participants are waking up and running a marathon, or a double-marathon at longer stages, every day.
Competitors have to get used to the fatigue, and that's where being a police officer helps.
"A lot of our [OPP] training, you learn to push beyond what you think is possible and to never give up," said Sauve. "In a lot of ways, it's a lot of the same attitudes which we [as police officers] try to train with and carry with us at work."
It's also the sense of community among ultramarathon runners which keeps her going during races, and keeps her registering for future events.
"It becomes a small family really quickly [at these races] because everyone has sore feet, a sore back or something is probably hurting, and the food isn't the greatest because you carry the lightest possible, so you're somewhat hungry out there and you're tired and the conditions... you don't sleep that well because it's shared tents basically, with other competitors," Sauve continued. "So everyone's going through the same thing and in the end, everyone's got the same goal of completing so we really support one another and you form a bond really quickly."
The constable's completion of the Namibia race has qualified her for her next race in Antarctica, which she hopes to complete next year. It will be her third in the 4 Deserts Series (the final one, for Sauve, would be the Gobi March in Mongolia).
She is excited to push herself once again.
"I've seen where people have put maybe a little too much in their schedule and they tend to step away for a little while before coming back [to running]," Sauve explained. "But I want to keep it going at this stage. I still feel pretty strong. I don't feel tired by it or anything like that. I still look forward to them."