Sixty kilometres. 3,000 metres of elevation gain. Endless climbs followed by beautiful ridge runs between towering peaks and around alpine lakes, with no trails in sight.
That’s what’s in store for the more than 200 runners who are signed up to take part in the first ever TrailStoke ultra-marathon race in Revelstoke on Saturday.
“I could see people probably having a hard time with their footing up there because they’re looking at the view rather than where their feet are going,” said Rory Luxmoore, one of the local runners who helped put together the race course.
TrailStoke is organized by 5Peaks, a company that organizes trail races throughout Canada. The Revelstoke race is their main event for the year as they add the ultra-marathon to their normal offering of five and 10 kilometres races that will take place on Sunday.
The event is based at Revelstoke Mountain Resort and the weekend will also include a speaker series on Friday evening and a trail running expo at the mid-mountain lodge on Saturday during the race.
“We like to encourage people to get into trail running and be outside and be in nature. The more manageable, shorter distances are what our runners are looking for,” said Maggie Scallion of 5Peaks. “As we’ve seen over the years, people are running more and longer distances and to offer a challenging, long-distance trail run, it’s really good to provide as a goal for our runners.”
The main event is Saturday’s ultra-marathon — a 60-kilometre route with 3,000 metres of elevation gain that will be mostly off-trail.
The exact course was not set out as of press time, but the general plan was to have runners ascend Mount Mackenzie via the resort, then gain the long ridge that leads from the top of the resort out towards the basin between Mount Cartier and Ghost Peak. Runners will then return to the resort, travel through North Bowl and then descend back down the mountain.
Luxmoore and Travis Hunt explored the course route last year when they hiked up Cartier and Ghost, before hiking towards Mount Mackenzie, where they had mountain bikes stashed for the ride back down. They described the terrain as open ridges covered in heather and dotted with alpine lakes.
“There will be a couple of points along the course where you really get that sense that ‘Wow! I’ve done it. I’m up in the alpine,'” said Luxmoore.
Runners will ascend along cat roads, but once they gain the alpine, they will be running through areas where there are no trails; the course will be flagged and First Aid attendants will be stationed along the route in case there’s any trouble. The wild nature of the terrain is part of the allure of the race.
“I think for people that sign up it’s part of the challenge,” said Hunt. “They know it’s not going to be a super fast run in spots, but that adds to the adventure and the wild feel.”
The race starts at 6 a.m. and the first runners are expected to finish at the Revelation Lodge at around 11 a.m. The gondola will run for free so people can go out and cheer on the racers as they finish, and take in the trail running expo.
Revelstoke will be well-represented at the race, with Luxmoore, Hunt, Anne-Marie Gill, Michael Fallaise and Sarah Newton signed up for the individual race; and two teams signed up for the relay.
The Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club is providing volunteers to help with the organization in exchange for a donation to the club; and Search & Rescue will be on standby in case someone needs to be evacuated, said Scallion.
“It’ll be quite challenging to keep all the bits together. We have a really great crew and there seems to be great support from the Revelstoke community,” she said.
On Sunday, there are five kilometre and 10 kilometre races starting from the day lodge, as well as shorter distances for kids.
The weekend kicks off Friday evening with a speakers event featuring local runner and ski mountaineer Melanie Bernier; Adam Campbell, one of Canada’s top ultra-runners; and Americans Max King and Adam Chase — two of the world’s elite ultra-runners.
For more information, visit trailstoke.5peaks.com.