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Five Peaks runners conquer Whistler Mountain

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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 Victoria’s Bruce Deacon, Canada’s 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.

"He’s a great runner, no question. I think I had a bit of an advantage in the mountains from adventure racing, mountain biking, and races like the Sea to Summit.

"Still it was a pretty exciting race. The organizers were great, the volunteers were great, the route was challenging, and everybody finished so it was a good day."

The top Whistler finisher in the men’s Open category was Ian Goard, 31, in fifth place with a time of 1:03:03. He was followed by Nils Robinson, 28, and Peter Drysdale, 31, in ninth and 10th respectively.

John McCrank of Vancouver, 30, finished third overall in 1:00:20.

In the women’s Open category, Jennifer Walker of North Vancouver, 39, took the top spot in 1:03:26. She was almost 10 minutes ahead of 22-year-old Brooke Gosling of Orangeville, Ontario, who finished second in 1:13:14. Third belonged to Lyndsay Belisle of Burnaby in 1:15:37.

Michelle Kaminski, 27, was the top Whistler runner in fifth place with a time of 1:18:45. Allison Megeney was seventh with a time of 1:21:01, and Leah Powell 20 th in 1:30:29.

The men’s Masters race was won by, Rod Campbell, 40, of Vancouver with a time of 1:03:56. John Prins of Abbotsford, 44, was second in 1:05:53, and Dave Pattitucci of North Vancouver, 43, was third in 1:07:27.

From Whistler, Mark Hornby was fourth in 1:10:42, John Blok sixth in 1:11:11, and Hideo Noguchi in eighth at 1:12:24.

The women’s Masters went to Val Chowaniec of Edmonton in 1:00:37. Chowaniec, 45, competed in the world mountain running championships last year, finishing ninth overall for Canada.

She was followed by Whistler’s Dawn Weberg-Titus, 44, with her time of 1:14:07. May Jung of North Vancouver was third in 1:14:35.

Terry Vincent was the only other Whistler racer in that category, finishing 11 th in 1:42:34.

The men’s Junior category went to 17-year-old Geoffory Webb of West Vancouver in 1:10:18. He was followed by Eric White of Langley, 19, in 1:14:45, and Ben Thomas of Whistler, who is just 12-years-old, in 1:21:36.

The one and only Junior girl was 19-year-old Kelly Matoul of Surrey with a time of 1:09:59.

By far the loudest cheering of the day was reserved for Stewart Goumans of Vancouver, the last place finisher who literally stumbled and fell across the finish line in 2:39:34.

By the time the top racers were finished, the middle pack was somewhere on Pony Trail trying not to go backwards.

With a bit of coaxing from some volunteers I managed to start running again within a few hundred metres of the finish line, jogging through a small snow-field on the way. My final time was a middling one hour 34 minutes 52 seconds, a little behind the average pace.

The view improved considerably.

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