Squamish has so many trails that it can host four marathon-style cross-country races a year and every one of them is a little different.
The third local epic of the season, and the fifth race in the Hell of a Series, is the GearJammer, taking place this Saturday, July 23. It's considered one of the more technical marathons with finish times that are similar to the Test of Metal - despite 15 fewer kilometres - but if you can get to the bottom of Recycle and the Powerhouse Plunge then you can do this race.
The course is 52-kilometres from start to finish, with well over half the riding taking place on singletrack.
There is online registration until Friday, and day-of-race registration at the Rose Park parking lot opposite the Squamish Adventure Centre - also the finish line area where you can park your car, grab your bike and catch a shuttle to the start at Alice Lake Road.
The prologue heads up the road to the gravel, then out to the SORCA shelter before heading out to Ed's Bypass, Rock'n'Roll and Dead End Loop. From there, it's down the Bob McIntosh Trail to Mike's Loop and Tracks From Hell, Ray's Café and Cliff's Corners. There's another logging road section over the Mashiter Creek Bridge to Skookum, Power Smart and IMBA Smart before continuing down on George's Crossing to the other shelter. There's another climb up and around to Recycle, followed by a section of Pseudo Tsuga before cutting out to Garibaldi Park Road. Riders head off the trail to Darwin's Bridge and the climb up to the start of the Powerhouse Plunge. The rest of the race consists of Fartherside, S&M Connector, Pipeline, 7 Stitches and Summer's Eve before taking a mix of roads and doubletrack to the finish at Rose Park. The fastest riders can finish in under two-and-a-half hours, and the slowest are under six hours.
Washington racer Logan Wetzel took the win in a close race last year with a time of two hours, 24 minutes and 30 seconds, followed by Colin Kerr and Whistler's Matt Ryan within the next 30 seconds of the leader. Brandi Heisterman was the top female rider in 2:57:14.
Riders should bring food and water as the gaps between aid stations can be long at times.
The sixth and final race in the Hell of a Series is the Just Another Bike Race in Squamish on Aug. 20, 2011. The website is www.justanotherbikerace.ca.