I’m going to endeavour to keep these small race reports short. I won’t go into detail about fighting our way out of Vancouver traffic Friday afternoon as rush hour started, or the uneventful drive up to Whistler in beautiful, sunny weather. I won’t even write about checking into our room at the Delta Suites or Connie and I having a pub dinner with Greg and Siobhan. I assure you, though, all those things happened.
I’ll start with a little background info. The snow pack on Whistler forced the organizers to switch gears pretty late in the game and move this puppy over to Blackcomb Mountain. I don’t have last year to compare this to, but from what I can tell, the move only resulted in positives for participants. The forecast for race day was to be 28 celsius in the village and the post-race afternoon temps surpassed this. I’m not sure what the upper alpine temperature was, but I’d guess it was low to mid-twenties by race time at 11.
I had one of my somewhat typical pre-race sleeps. Since these are relatively short and pretty low key ‘races’, I don’t get much in the way of nerves, but I sure found I was waking up every hour or two. Nonetheless, I felt pretty fresh on race day. Since the race started at 11 and we couldn’t get a late enough checkout time to come back and shower first, we had to check out prior to leaving for the race. It was really no big deal, as the front desk held our luggage securely, allowed us to remain parked underground and let us use the pool, hot tub and adjacent showers after we returned.
The first advantage to be had as a result of the move to Blackcomb was that, since the Blackcomb gondolas were not in operation, we got to ride the Peak2Peak gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb. Having never taken it before, I wasn’t disappointed. If I had half a brain, I’d have taken my phone up in my checked bag and there would be a lovely photo right about here in my report, but you’ll just have to believe me if you haven’t ridden it, the trip rocks. The gondolas opened a half hour early to take racers up and the ride was calm and uneventful. Skies were clear and blue and we got to the Rendezvous about 45 minutes before race time.
There really isn’t a lot to say about the run itself. The views were spectacular though and, on the enduro course, there were two pretty good climbs of close to 1000ft each, whereas the sport course skipped the second climb and hooked up again as we came back down. I guess I seeded myself a little further back than I should have, because while I only recall being passed once I probably passed 20-30 runners myself. I’m not as strong on the trails as I am on the road, and I’ve ended up right in the middle of my age group in all the 5 Peaks races this year, and at 21st of 39 in my M40-49 AG, it was the same thing this time.
If I have one disappointment with seeding myself here it probably comes from complete unfamiliarity with the course. With the exception of short sections of some of the descents, most of the time was spent on very narrow single track. While the climbs were steep enough that there wasn’t much point in passing, I may have lost a couple minutes caught in single file lineups of racers unable to make their way around those in front of them. Most folks were pretty good, but the occasional participant was a little unclear on the etiquette involved when there’s a big gap in front of them and 20 people crawling up their backside. It was too risky to pass aggressively. Given the terrain and grade, hardly a big issue, though. My splits ended up being pretty slow, but I fared pretty much the same as in previous 5 Peaks events. And, did I mention the views? The pace was such that I really took the time to enjoy them.
There was a little snow in places, but conditions were, for the most part fairly dry and dusty and we finally got a nice leg of rapid descent for roughly the final half mile down a ski run road to the finish. My allergies flared up like crazy for about five minutes at the end of the race, as I couldn’t stop hacking the dust out of my craggy, dry throat. Instead of the return Peak2Peak/Whistler gondola trip, we opted for the cooling breeze of the quad chair down to the base of Blackcomb; a really wonderful way to end our great time up top.
This was my wife’s first trail race and she did great on the sport course. She went in with no expectations and had a blast. I somehow doubt this will be her last off-road event. I think she might even do the sport again at 5 Peaks Buntzen Lake, when I do the half. Barry had a great race, with a 1:18, while, in typical fashion, Greg ran neck and neck with me and we both finished in 1:29 and change. We’ve been within a minute of each other on all 5 Peaks so far, save for the Seymour run that my wrist merked, in which I unfortunately DNF’d (officially, but shortened to the sport unofficially).
After our chair down the mountain, our pool, tub and shower time was very short lived as we were ravenous. A quick caffeination and snack break, followed by chow mein, tofu and Sleeman’s at the Chinese Bistro and we were on our way home around 4pm.
If there’s one additional benefit to hitting Whistler last weekend, it’s that I got two drives to preview the RBC Whistler Granfondo bike ride I’ll be doing on September 10th. All I can say is that I’m glad I’ve been hitting a few hills in my Saturday rides this summer.