Mark O'Connor's first time racing the Squamish 50 turned out to be a successful one.
In the 50-kilometre event on Aug. 19, O'Connor pulled out a fifth-place finish, wrapping the course in five hours, 46 minutes and 46 seconds (5:46:46).
O'Connor's goal was to finish in the top five in under six hours, both of which he managed to pull off on a challenging route that meandered from Alice Lake Provincial Park to downtown Squamish.
"It's a tough course. It's my first time doing Squamish, but I've done a few ultras before," he said. "It was just relentless ... Even at kilometre 46, there was a pretty big, steep climb. It wasn't too long, but at kilometre 46 of a race after five hours, it doesn't take much to get you cursing the race director."
In terms of strategy, O'Connor said he tried to establish a consistent pace in the early part of the contest, and it paid off in the latter half.
"At the start, I was just trying to take it easy because that's generally how I like to start my ultras. I go easy for the first half," he said. "I was around eighth or ninth and after the first 10 km, then we started climbing. On the descent down to Quest, I made quite a few passes."
O'Connor made it to Quest, roughly the race's midpoint, in fourth, and went head-to-head with Colin Miller to retain it in the second half, but ultimately finished 4:20 back.
In terms of the course itself, O'Connor enjoyed the first half for its breathtaking beauty.
"The first big climb up Galactic Trail and the descent down into Quest University is a really fun part of the race and it's beautiful. We're so lucky to live in this area," he said.
On race day, O'Connor recalled the lingering smoke from forest fires around the province was a factor.
"It was significant, for sure. It was one of the worst days for the smoke in the last couple weeks. It was really noticeable, especially up in the higher elevation," he said. "Obviously, conditions weren't ideal, so we weren't setting records out there."
O'Connor said he was affected by plantar fasciitis earlier in the season that impacted his training, though he was able to get a few weeks of running done before the race itself.
Next up, O'Connor will tackle the Whistler Alpine Meadows 110-km race on Sept. 22.
"It was positive, for sure, and it'll definitely help give me some confidence going in. But this is a whole new distance for me," he said. "I've never gone that far, so I'm just going in with (an attitude of) just going out there and having some fun, enjoying the view and having a long, long day of running around."
In terms of other locals, Vicky Romanin was the lone runner to complete the 50-mile (80-km) race on Aug. 18 and the 50-km event on Aug. 19. Claire Daniels also completed the 50-mile event, while Charlotte Paul, Louise Oliver, and Cindy Bonnell all ran the 50-km event. There was also a 23-km event on Aug. 19, which Jimmy Barrett, Mackenzie Irwin, Lisa Smart, and Maridee Fitch all completed.
Full results are available online at racedaytiming.ca.