Christine Suter has done her share of marathons and triathlons over the years, including the Ironman distance on eight separate occasions. But one of her biggest challenges yet is on Nov. 5 when she will attempt to the entire Whistler 50 Relay and Ultra course solo. That's 50 miles or 80 kilometres, completing a 20 kilometre loop four times.
"I wanted to do a 50-miler this year, that was my goal," she said. "I was thinking I would do the Squamish STORMY but they cancelled it, and when this one came up I thought it would be good - not realizing at the time how much pavement running is in it.
"But it's very runnable. A trail run would have a lot of power hikes and climbing, where you can run the whole course."
Suter actually likes the idea of running four laps of the same course on her first ultra. For one thing, she'll pass by her support team - husband Paul and her ultra-running sister from Vancouver - every eight or 12 km, depending on where she is on the course. That means easy access to food, power drinks, spare clothes, Band-Aids and other things she'll need over the course of the day, as well as regular encouragement.
She also likes knowing where she is on course - how far she's come and how far she has left to go.
"I think that comes from my triathlon background, a lot of courses are lapped courses and I like knowing where I'm going. After four laps I might be sick of this course, but right now it seems like a good thing. I know a lot of ultra runners don't like that."
Suter is a trainer and coach by trade and her company C2Sky Multisport has worked with Sea to Sky locals to train for everything from Ironman to their first five-kilometre run. But for this run she's getting some coaching from a family member.
"My sister in the city runs 100-milers, so this is half of what she usually does. I've been talking to her and she's been giving me good tips for training, for eating, for my feet, and everything. It's kind of great to have that advice."
Suter's only goal is to finish the run within 10 hours, crossing the finish line before 4 p.m. after a 6 a.m. start. (Relay teams start at 8 a.m.).
Her other goal is to raise $1,000 for the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program,
"I chose WASP because this was the first year that Chris Kennedy trained a group of adaptive athletes from here to do the (Whistler Triathlon Club's Try-a-Tri), and I thought that was really cool," she said. "I've been inspired over the years by athletes with disabilities who compete in triathlons or running or whatever - watching John Ryan on his hand pedal bike at the GranFondo. It's so inspiring, and WASP offers an amazing program so that anybody, regardless of their ability, can try new sports and participate in something new.
"I've been gifted in that I have arms and legs and I can do these things. There was a point in my life that I took that for granted, but when you see what other people are doing it's really humbling."
If you wish to make a donation to WASP, visit its website at www.whistleradaptive.com. You can make a contribution in Christine Suter's name on their donation page.
The Whistler 50 Relay and Ultra is a new event for the resort, replacing the popular Haney to Harrison Relay and Ultra on the B.C. Athletics Calendar. Participants can do the event solo or as part of a team of up to eight runners.
The course is divided into two loops, one measuring 12 kilometres, the other eight kilometres.
The first course, measuring 12 kilometres, will start at the Whistler Conference Centre and follow the Valley Trail around the Whistler Golf Club and all the way to Alpine Meadows before heading back south via the Nicklaus North Golf Course and the far side of Lost Lake Park before handing off to the next runner at the Whistler Passive Haus. The next runner will take a different route through the Lost Lake Park and out to the campground and Spruce Grove to the valley trail that leads back to the conference centre. The map is online at www.bcathletics.org/whistler50/.
Registration for the ultra run is $70, and the relay is $560 or $70 per person. That includes a ticket to the after party at the Whistler Conference Centre.
At press time some 144 teams of eight were registered for the relay, with a maximum of 250 teams. Some 42 athletes had registered for the ultra distance.