Revelstoke’s Miranda Murphy had modest goals for her first ever ultra-marathon race — make the cutoffs. She accomplished that and then some, winning Saturday’s TrailStoke race at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in a time of 7:25:31.
“I had no concept of what I could do,” she said following her run. “I didn’t know I won until I was there. I crossed the finish line and someone told me. It was totally unexpected.”
The men’s race was won by Adam Campbell in 5:47:23, 23 minutes ahead of runner up Dean Perez of Surrey. Angus Jennings finished third in a time of 6:19:07.
“This was a really hard race,” said Campbell after finishing.
Kristina Aluzaite from Burnaby, B.C., was the runner up in the women’s race, finishing eight minutes behind Murphy. Adrienne Dunbar from Edmonton finished third.
The winning team was Hell Ya! Let’s Do This! from Calgary, who reached the finish line in a time of 6:25:51. The last runner to cross the finish line was Lake Louise’s Anna Smith, who reached the base of the resort after more than 11 hours on the mountain.
Runners were hit with a mixed bag of weather that got worse throughout the day. The forecast rain held off in the morning, and when the runners reached the alpine, the clouds parted and the sun came out for them. They were treated to the signature views of Mount Cartier, Ghost Peak, and the Selkirk Mountains; and Mount Begbie and the Gold Range across the Columbia River valley.
“It was beautiful. I had a wonderful window of weather at the top,” said Paul Every, an Australian who took time for the race during a trip to Canada. “Magnificent views and sunshine.”
He stopped to take pictures during his run.
As the day wore on, the storm system that knocked out power in the Lower Mainland hit the ridges, resulting in wind gusts that snapped trees, clouds that limited visibility to several metres, and rains that fell hard and sideways. The last runners on the mountain seemed to be taking it in stride, suffering through the final climbs from the top of the cat-ski terrain to the Stoke Chair, before hitting the mountain road for the long descent back to the base.
“Some of the course was brutal and some was really pretty, so it had everything you could want,” said Every.
The course was modified slightly from last year, with a longer ridge-run towards Ghost Peak, and the finish line at the base of the resort instead of at the mid-mountain lodge. It began outside the Sutton Place hotel and ascended to the top of the gondola, where the course then veered south through the resort and into the cat-ski terrain.
After climbing more than 1,500 metres, the runners had to face the gruelling climb up Kokanee Ridge, followed by a descent through the bowl and up another ridge before heading towards the Ghost.
“Climbing up to Kokanee Ridge is the kicker,” said Murphy. “You keep going up, then you go down a little bit, then you keep going up.”
After reversing course back to the bottom of the cat ski terrain, the runners then had to climb to the top of the Stoke Chair before beginning the long descent back to the base and the finish line
The course totalled about 51 kilometres, with 3,400 metres of elevation gain.
For some runners the difficulty of the climbs took them by surprise and a few admitted to being unprepared for the challenging alpine section, which they had to tackle as adverse weather blew in from the west.
Even for the top runners, it was a struggle.
“I knew the course, I knew what was coming up, which was great. I didn’t have to think about that,” said Murphy. “I don’t think the whole gravity of the situation really hit me until I was still climbing.”
Campbell, one of the top ultrarunners in the world (he made the headlines last year when he nearly got hit by lightning in a 160-kilometre race in the United States and still finished third) said it was a challenging course, noting that he’s finished similar distances in under four hours on other courses.
“It was beautiful,” he said. “We had some mountain weather. It was atmospheric up there but that’s part of what you get to experience.”
Attendance was down from last year, with 63 individuals and 26 teams finishing the race. Organizer Amy Golumbia said more than 220 people registered, however many people dropped out due to the smoky skies in the region in the days leading up to the race. Fortunately, the smoke cleared for race day.
For more photos, check out this gallery by Bruno Long.