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Whistler athletes on top in adventure race

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Two Whistler athletes were among the first competitors down the mountain at the annual Sea to Summit adventure race last weekend, winning the co-ed Teams of Two race, and more significantly the Teams of Two race. One half of that team, Nikki Kassle, was also the top female competitor, while the other half, Dave Burch, finished eighth overall – against some of the biggest names in adventure racing.

Kassle has raced the Sea to Summit twice before as a member of a co-ed team of four. Burch raced solo last year, finishing ninth overall.

"It went as good as it could have went," said Burch. "We’re always training hard, whether it’s the Sea to Summit race or not, but we paddled together to practise our technique, and did some runs up to the Roundhouse together to get ready. I train on my bike all the time and Nikki rides about four hours a day, and we knew we could do well on the bike sections."

The hardest part of the adventure, according to Burch, was the climb up Whistler on day two (Sept. 9).

"Physically, for me, the constant uphill was tough. It was getting to the point where my legs were getting to be pretty rubbery. I was pretty happy to see the Red Chair."

The orienteering earlier in the day was tough, and at one point Burch says he was wading in a swamp up to his waste to cut down on time. They ran to the end of the orienteering section, just ahead of the one hour cutoff point where teams are assessed time penalties.

Coming down Whistler Mountain was no picnic either, but with the finish line in sight, the pair got their second win.

"Every time we passed people they were cheering because Nikki was the first woman. That gave us a huge boost," Burch said.

Burch and Kassle were sponsored by the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and the Glacier Shop for the Whistler race. They want to represent Whistler at the last race of the four race series at Mont Sainte-Marie on Sept. 29, if they can find the sponsorship.

In the meantime, Burch and Kassle are back in training for the Samurai of Singletrack mountain bike race in Whistler this weekend, and the 19 th Annual Cheakamus Challenge Fall Class Mountain Bike Race from Squamish to Whistler on Sept. 22.

"I could barely walk up the stairs yesterday," Burch said on Tuesday. "I went for a ride though. Nikki’s already running again and riding her bike. She doesn’t stop."

Burch and Kassle finished the two-day, multi-stage race in 13 hours three minutes 58 seconds, over an hour ahead of the next team of two, Mark Gosney and Alan Anderson of Yelm, Washington, at 14:04:14, and almost an hour and half ahead of Diego Marchese and Denis Fontaine of Burnaby at 14:27:52.

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