My legs burned and my lungs ached as I jogged up the steep dirt road, somewhere in the middle of a pack of more than 200 racers. Sweat was pouring down my face as a result of the effort and the intense heat of the day, which was approaching 30 degrees Celsius when the start whistle finally sounded.
And then I looked down. Although the view of the valley from Whistler Mountain can be breathtaking, it looks pretty much the same from an altitude of a few hundred feet. I was exhausted although I had run less than a kilometre. And there were still almost 11 kilometres to go.
At the front of this column of people, still going strong, were Ryan Ervin, an accomplished adventure racer from North Vancouver, and Victorias Bruce Deacon, Canadas entry in the 2000 Olympic marathon. They would jockey for the lead all the way to the finish line area outside of the Roundhouse.
The group ducked off the dirt road onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. From there it wound up to the top of the Fitzsimmons Chairlift via Crabapple and the Golden Triangle trails. It also included an incomplete section of a new bike trail that required competitors to claw their way through wet moss and roots to a service road.
After the water station, the race was all uphill with the exception of a few flat sections you might have been stuck on once or twice on your snowboard. The course then climbed gradually to up Expressway to Bear Cub and the bottom of Orange Chair.
From there the course went up Pony Trail, Papoose, and Upper Whiskey Jack to the finish line.
The Whistler race on July 20 was the third in the Nike ACG Five Peaks Trail Running Series. It was also one of two qualifiers to join the Canadian team for the World Mountain Running championship this September in Austria.
The top male, female and junior athletes were invited to compete.
While the top finishers managed to run most of these sections, for the rest of us the run quickly became a fast hike uphill, with spurts of jogging in the few flat areas between the uphill sections.
It took the 26-year-old Ervin 56 minutes 13 seconds to reach the top, 1:11 faster than Deacon, 35, who dropped slightly off the pace over the last few kilometres.
"It was a good battle between Bruce and myself," said Ervin. "I was actually behind him for about three kilometres but I always kept him in sight, and with about two kilometres to go I pulled ahead.