The vertical distance from Mountain Square to the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain is 3,816 feet (1,160 metres). Climbing to the top is the equivalent of climbing to the top of a 375 storey building, or more than twice the total height of the CN Tower in Toronto.
Its a long way up, but more than 200 people, including 30 locals, have already signed up to compete in the annual Five Peaks Trail Running Series on Whistler Mountain this Saturday, July 17.
Event organizer Kathryn Stanton is excited about the turnout. If enough last-minute people sign up and they always do she expects as many as 250 to take part in the race, which will wind its way up 11 kilometres of trails, access roads and ski runs. In addition, others are expected to sign up for a shorter 5 km race that will likely take place in the high alpine on Whistler Mountain.
"Were hoping to cause a lot of commotion this year," said Stanton.
Not only is the Whistler event part of the Five Peaks Coast Mountain Series, its also been the Canadian team qualifier for the World Mountain Running Championships for the past three years. The course that will be used in the world championships determines what the Whistler course will look like. As in 2002, the 2004 event goes straight uphill. In 2003 the world championship course was longer and more rolling, and that was mirrored by the course that was chosen for Blackcomb.
This years event starts at the base of Whistler at 9:30 a.m., giving the runners time to clear the Whistler Mountain Bike Park before the lifts start turning at 10 a.m.
The course goes up Coming Home, Lower Easy Does It, Golden Triangle and Upper Easy Does It before joining the Expressway service road up to the Red Chair. From there it will follow Franzs Run "were calling it Heartbreak Hill because its so steep," said Stanton to Papoose and Upper Whiskey Jack.
Despite the climb, the top athletes are expected to complete the climb in under an hour, while average runners will take closer to an hour and a half.
According to Kevin Broad, who will help to select the six athletes that will represent Canada at the world championships, "the Whistler race will almost certainly be the most competitive mountain race ever held in Canada. Men from Alberta, Manitoba, the Yukon and B.C. will be in attendance to try and snare a spot . Currently we have 12 to 15 men who would be capable of making the team."
Most of the top Canadian competitors have already competed in Vail this year for the North American, Central American and Caribbean Mountain Running Championships, which is also a qualifying event for the worlds.
The list of competitive runners includes:
Jason Louttit of Winnipeg, the top Canadian finisher at Vail he has been training for mountain running exclusively by using treadmills and altitude tents.
Graham Cocksedge of Vancouver. Cocksedge is the current points leader in the B.C. Five Peaks Series.
Colin Dignum of Vancouver was a member of the Canadian Mountain Running Team in Alaska last year, and trains on the Grouse Grind. He won the Whistler event last year.
Lanny Mann of Canmore, who completed a half marathon in just 67 minutes this year. Whistler will be his first foray into mountain running.
Phil Villineuve of Canmore was a member of the Canadian Mountain Running Team for events in Alaska and Austria, and was the fifth Canadian in the Vail event.
Steve Osaduik of Nanaimo is a maybe. He is the current Canadian half marathon champion at 66 minutes, and recently started competing in the Gut Buster trail running series on Vancouver Island.
Ryan Leef of the Yukon was a member of the Canadian team last year, was the sixth Canadian at Vail, and was third in Whistler last year.
Ryan Ervin, the winner of the first Whistler Mountain race in 2002, and a veteran of the World Mountain Running Championships.
There is still time to register for both the full race and the shorter 5 km event. Sign-up is available at the Nike Store in the Pan Pacific Lodge from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, and on the morning of the race between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. during the athlete check-in.
For more information on the race and the B.C. Coast Mountain Series visit www.5peaks.com.