Yesterday I competed in the 5 Peaks Whistler Blackcomb 6.5K Sport Race. From Whistler Village we took a gondola up to the top of Whistler Mountain, and then from there, another gondola, the Peak2Peak, across to Blackcomb Mountain. The journey took about half an hour all told, and the views were spectacular! It had been warm down below, but at the top of the mountain it was still quite chilly.
At 10:30 AM they started the 200 meter toddlers' race, which had about 15 participants, and after this they had the Children's Challenge 1K, which even had a climb and descent in it, and about 30 eager runners. We cheered on these young athletes who the announcer rightly said are the future of our sport. They clearly had a great time finishing the races and collecting their ribbons at the end, even though a few were understandably a little tired afterward.
We were up next, together with the people doing the 10.6K Enduro race, and they sent us off in waves to try and avoid congestion. I was in the first wave, and we hadn't gone 200 meters before we hit the first steep hill. This is when I experienced the worst start to a race that I can remember, as my legs immediately felt sore as I went up the hill, and my throat felt raw like I had a severe cold, so it wasn't much fun breathing. I think this was a result of the chilly, thinner mountain peak air, and it was something I'd never had happen to me before.
When we were on a little more level ground it was single track through brush and you were constantly running on and over rocks so your footing was precarious. Quite a few young runners passed me here, I kept hearing "On your left!", and then "Thank you!" as they went by. Finally I settled in behind a young woman running my pace. I followed her for awhile before she stopped to let me pass, but I told her to keep going, as I wasn't going any faster than she was at the time. After a few hundred more meters of running up and down on the rocky single track, some more runners signaled that they were going to pass me, and I now had a little more energy and decided to follow them when they passed my pace bunny. I said "I think I'll give it a whirl now!" as I went by her, and she laughed and said "Go for it!".
It wasn't too long after this that we hit the super steep uphills, and for the next couple of kilometers everyone mostly walked. The odd time we'd hit a less steep or level patch, but after about 10 meters it was back to tromping our way uphill as best we could. We had to pick our way over rocks of various sizes, and I still have a bit of a burn on my right wrist where I tripped once and braced myself with my hands to avoid a faceplant. A couple of racers behind me asked if I was okay, and I said that I was fine, but thanked them for their concern, and we plodded onward and upward.
There was one point where we were actually able ot run about 100 meters before hitting the steep climb again, but then all of a sudden after we climbed up a steep incline composed solely of gravel and huge rocks, there was a road with a volunteer to greet us.
He said "Way to go, all downhill from here!" I thought "Great, now I get to trash my quads!". It was down a wide gravel road, but the gravel was composed of fairly large sharp rocks, and it wasn't easy going. I had to watch every step and constantly brake myself to keep from wiping out, but I managed to keep ahead of the fellow who'd been with me as we hit the road. We hit the "1K to go!" sign, and I sped up as fast as I could. The footing was a little better as I went along, so I was able to increase my speed. There were more volunteers along the road now cheering us on, and I could still hear my pursuer behind me when the mountaintop buildings and gondolas came into sight.
We sprinted in and through the finisher's chute, and finally I was across the line, and never before so happy to be there! The other fellow was close behind me and we shook hands and exchanged congratulations with some of the other runners, and then went to get some refreshments.
They had water and energy drink for hydration, and bananas, oranges, watermelon, honeydew melon, cantalope, chocolate chip cookies, bagels with cream cheese, Nutella, peanut butter and jam to spread on them, plus some granola and sliced chocolate energy bars for refueling.
They had results up fairly quickly, and I couldn't believe it, I'd won my age group, and finished 24th overall! I went back a few times to look as they updated them, to see if I'd get bumped by someone who finished faster in another wave, but my ranking stood. I told Willi Ribi, who'd finished 2nd in our AG and who I met while looking at the results, that I didn't think I'd done that well as I'd found it to be such a tough race. He reminded me that it was tough for everyone, we were all in the same boat.
The first 10.6Ker came in, he was a fellow from Boulder, Colorado, and Chris Barth came in 4th, 8 seconds behind another fellow, but results show him in 3rd, so he must have been in a different wave.
The sun was out and it had warmed up, and I chatted with some of the other runners, while continuing to cheer the runners in as they finished the grueling races. When most of the runners were in they started the awards for our Sport race right past the finish line. This resulted in anyone still finishing getting the biggest cheers of the day as they came in. They came to our category, and myself and Willi went up to the podium, along with 3rd place finisher Tony Espeut, and Willi's son Marcus graciously took our picture. After the age group awards they had the overalls, and Marcus went up again, as not only had he won his age group, he won the whole race!
A reporter from the local paper did an interview with him, and I learned that he's been on a tear, winning a few of the 5 Peaks Sport races this year! His dad is no slouch either!
I was going to wait for the Enduro awards too, but there was some type of computer glitch delay. It was a bit of a journey back to Vancouver, so I said my goodbyes and headed home.
Results are posted, with Marcus winning it in a time of 34:23. Myself and Dad were a little slower at 46:23 and 47:58 respectively, with Tony rounding out our age group podium boys, stopping the clock at 52:27. Brenda Stratton won the women's race with a time of 43:21.
Here's the Enduro results for anyone who's interested:
My next race was today at 9 AM, the MEC Summer Classic 10K. at Jericho Beach Park.