In Peter Armistead's short history of competitive running, he'd never completed anything quite like the 50-mile (80-km) solo distance of the Whistler 50 Relay and Ultra.
So one could imagine the Whistler resident's surprise when he stepped onto the podium on Saturday, Oct. 19, finishing four laps of a 20-km course in third place overall.
"(Placing third) blew me away," Armistead said after finishing his run in seven hours, 34 minutes, 11 seconds. "I don't think I deserved it. I was just lucky on the day. I just kept running at the same pace, looking at my watch and thinking, 'I've never ran past four hours before,' then looking at my watch again saying, 'I've never been four-and-a-half hours before.
"I was completely in the unknown."
Armistead's first race came just 18 months ago when he competed in the 2012 Mosquito Lake Trail Run in Pemberton. The 41-year-old's finish on Saturday was the best local result in the ultra distance in the Whistler 50's three-year history.
"I was only intending to do two laps then call it quits," he said. "I just couldn't physically run that far. But a couple of days ago I thought, 'No, no, I'm going to run that whole thing, even if it takes me 12 hours.'"
Vancouver's Barry Young and North Vancouver's Hassan Lofti-Pour battled it out for top spot on Saturday, with Young taking the victory in a time of 6:11:05. Lofti-Pour reached the finish several minutes back at 6:18:48 but well ahead of the rest of the field.
Young said he was "running scared" for the entire race, knowing that he had to maintain a gap over Lofti-Pour, who had hit the podium during the inaugural Whistler 50 two years ago.
"This morning when we were running in the dark, I could turn my head a little and see his headlamp bobbing behind me," said Young. "I knew he was a really strong runner, so I took a bit of a gamble early on just hoping I could hold him off. But running scared for six hours takes its toll."
Lofti-Pour improved his time from 2011 by several minutes and said trying to track down Young probably helped him achieve a quicker pace.
"I had to chase him and he knew I was chasing him," said Lofti-Pour. "It helped on both sides... because it was tough — so undulating, just all these rolling hills."
Vancouver's Liz Miyashita finished in seventh place overall to post the top women's time, reaching the finish in 8:08:44. Vicki Mann (8:57:26), also from Vancouver, edged Saskatchewan's Jennifer Ruland by a minute and change to earn the second spot on the women's podium. Ruland finished her race in 8:58:44, 50 minutes exactly off Miyashita's winning time.
Just 31 runners completed the ultra distance on Saturday, but the field had a wide range of participants representing three countries and four different Canadian provinces.
The 20-km loop that made up the course was unchanged from 2012, starting and finishing at Whistler Olympic Plaza and mainly following the Valley Trail for the entire route. Runners were taken along the Village Stroll and north from the Whistler Golf Club, over to Nicklaus North and through the Lost Lake area before returning to the Village through Spruce Grove and White Gold.
The relay was divided into eight legs, and even though Vancouver's Point Grey Man Toilets team had just seven runners, the squad had the top time overall for the third year in a row. The crew, made up of former athletes who ran for the UBC Thunderbirds, was nearly a half-hour ahead of everyone else by finishing in 4:33:30 on Saturday.
Ryan Brockerville wound up running the opening and closing legs of the relay for Point Grey Man Toilets, putting his team in the lead right off the start and breaking the tape for the victory.
"The second one was definitely harder, but I was faster," Brockerville said of his two turns on the course, which were needed due to one team member being out with an ankle injury. "We had been looking for someone to jump in, but it never happened. Because this is my third year on the team, I decided I would own up and take the two legs."
No other team managed to break the five-hour mark in the relay. Handsome 2 Hungover (5:02:00) placed second overall and in the open men's race, while third place belonged to the Vancouver Falcons Athletic Club (VFAC) social team (5:16:51).
Dave and the Dirty Pickle took top spot in the fire, paramedic and emergency services division with a time of 5:30:32, while BAC won the open women's race at 5:37:00. Other relay division winners included the LGRR Mixed Nuts (open mixed, 6:01:03), Vintage VFAC (mixed masters 40-plus, 6:14:29) and North Shore Ironman Wannabes (recreational, 6:26:47).
Visit www.bcathletics.org/whistler50 for full results and details.
—with files from Quinn Bender—