Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5Peaks TrailSTOKE Ultra race trip report

2014 5Peaks TrailSTOKE. The start. Photo by ©Rob Shaer 2014

When: Saturday July 19, 2014, 6am start
Where: Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC, Canada
Distance/Elevation: 48km with 3000m of vertical climb and descent (shortened from 60k due to weather)
Time limit: 10 hours
No. participants: 130 solo and 28 relay teams finishers
Full results: here*

*Our team iRunAmok placed third in the mixed division and fifth overall relay team in 6h26

Notables: TrailSTOKE was the inaugural Skyrunning event for western Canada and the 2014 Canadian Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Also, an official selection race to compete on the Canada team at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge at Pikes Peak (Colorado) on August 16, 2014.

Top Left: our team back in April, Lynn Peak
Top Right: in order Leg #1, #2, #3 at racer check-in, Revelstoke
Bottom Left: happy at the finish. Bottom Right: view from Revelation Lodge

Last Fall, I got a text from James asking if I’d sign-up to a race that went straight up a mountain for 15k, along a sketchy alpine ridge for 30k, then straight down for 15k. To this I responded “for sure!!”

When the 5Peaks TrailSTOKE 60k ultra finally became official, I badly wanted to fit it in my schedule. However knowing I’d made the Knee Knacker roster, there was no way I would race two challenging mountain ultras on back-to-back weekends. Side bar: some people did race both and a huge hi5 to them.

Luckily, my buddy Graham from iRunAmok organized a relay team, including my training partner Aran. He’s a downhill specialist and therefore was assigned to Leg #3. It made sense for me to run Leg #1, climbing is usually my strength. Graham is a solid all-round mountain athlete and so he would run the gnarly 30k ridge in Leg #2.

Nothing like a 6 hour drive for some solid team-building.

Road trip!

Revelstoke is a cute little town and the resort impressive. Our team stayed at the Sutton Resort Hotel where racer check-in and package pick-up was held. Affordable, yet the experience felt like extra luxurious pampering for a race venue. What a great decision (thanks Cory!) ie: outdoor hot tub, room decks with mountain views, full kitchen, etc., and as bonus the race start would be staged right outside our lobby.

Revy, a cute little town. Photo by Aran Seaman.

We opted to skip the speaker presentation in favour of joining other racers for a leisurely supper. A short gondola ride to the Revelation Lodge took us to where the mandatory pre-race briefing was held – also where the next day’s expo, finish line, and post-race awards banquet would be.

Mandatory pre-race briefing at Revelation Lodge. Photo by Aran Seaman.

I’d say the focus of the briefing was on safety. Much was said about the dangers: bears, weather, the terrain, mosquitos, and about mandatory equipment and mandatory check-points. Not much was said about distances, estimated times for each check-point or logistics for relay team exchanges. There wasn’t much info on the website either, and so many were left wondering how to pace for the next day. We did some broad math for our relay transitions, and crossed-fingers on best timing for our respective shuttles.

The weekend prior. Last quarter of Knee Knacker in the "hurt locker".
It takes the average person one-to-two weeks to recover from a cold. It takes me three-to-four. Because I had raced a tough ultra and trained through my cold, I was far from feeling healthy, more like strung-out and antsy. Being onsite, I was pumped for the TrailSTOKE course though equally glum that I might perform poorly for my awesome team.

Top Left: Shannon, Joel and Graham heading to the briefing. Centre: Josh and I at the start line
Top Right: Cory happy about his first trail ultra "in the bag"
Bottom: coming off the gondola, toward Revelation Lodge for briefing

Race morning! The line-up was stacked with accomplished speedsters. This start would be hard and fast. I braced myself for a storm of hurt.

Climbing started from the set-GO. Some surprises with downward dips and rollers, but mostly good steady climbing with steep burns. Apart from brief power-hike sections, the first Leg was all runnable ascending and completely fantastic. On a regular day, this would have been my heaven … and then THAT happened again. Like a déjà-vue of last weekend.  My lungs and mid-section compressed tightly, with breathing a struggle that surged-on a mini panic attack.

First-time selfie during a race ... call it "recalibrating".

I had to step out of the single track and let the train go by. Furious and discouraged, I texted Graham to expect my time to be slower for our transition exchange.

The rain, sleet, and fog descended on us, along with the temperatures. Runners were pulling on their arm warmers or jackets and slowing down. I’d started climbing smoothly again after some focused recalibration. Then all of a sudden there was the exchange check-point in front of me. “What?? I’m here already?” Had I known …

View from the warming hut, exchange check-point. Photo by Aran Seaman

Extra adventure for Jamie, Graham and Adam. "Van on fire, van on fire"

I reached out to hug Graham, bolting toward me holding a jacket to cover me with. He was out of breath and already in a sweat. He exclaimed “I just got here! Our shuttle blew-up on fire … we’re all safe though”. Off he went to run his Leg in the pouring rain.

I went into the warming-hut to text Aran. We wondered if Leg #2 would also take less time than we had estimated. Aran decided to meet me at the check-point immediately. After our ‘well done/good luck’ hug, I quickly hopped into the shuttle, to the gondola, then down to base for a hot shower. I would miss Aran’s start of the descent Leg, though would see the leaders come in, and our team finish.

Graham is flying on Leg #2. Photo by Rob Shaer.

Graham’s ridge run Leg was quick. I barely had time to gondola up to the finish before he showed up (with the sunshine!). Aran - nicknamed by Ramsey as ‘The Downhill Angel’, soon after came barrelling through, clocking our mix-team time nearly two hours faster than we’d predicted for ourselves. He'd done half the run with a rock in his shoe, otherwise, he said "I'd have gone way faster".

In the briefing they announced that the course was modified from 60k to 55k, but it was closer to 48k in the end.

Finish line area. Photo by Aran Seaman.

We enjoyed pints in the finish area, while visiting with friends who’d already finished, and continued cheering those still rolling in. Many soloists said the course was good and they would do the event again, with a few tweaks and improvements to the organization and to the course. Perhaps holding the event later in the year would help with snow melt, and give access to more terrain making it 60K, with less double-back sections and using less logging roads.

Post-race, chilling-out at our hotel. Photo by Aran Seaman.

Graham and Cory, on our way to the awards banquet. Photo by Aran Seaman.

The event promises to be amazing and definitely on my bucket list as a solo run in the future.

For more on the race, read other racer blogs below. Email your blog post if you have a story on this race at chloe_longstride@icloud.com

Joshua Barringer
Canadian Trail Runner
Nick Elson

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