This years annual charity run, organized and sponsored by the founder/owner of P.A.C.E. Sports Fitness, Rene Unser, marked the toughest course to-date with stats showing a whopping 63km, 7500ft ascent & 8000+ft descent. It took the determined & tight-knit group approx. 12.5hrs to complete and the 20 of them raised over $8,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
The trail itself starts off Hwy 33 on Philpot Road. It starts off with a steep climb called Cardiac Hill and proceeds to climb for quite some time. The trail is mostly single track and there are pretty view points along the way. We broke the run up into segments for the day and our first goal was to run 29km to Beaver Lake Trailhead where my Dad, Joe, and son, Carter, would meet us. They picked up 5 other runners from Home Depot in Kelowna and car pooled out at 8:30am where they set up a terrific buffet of snacks and water. We are so grateful for their patience + for volunteering their time. The aid stations were such a valuable part of the success of the day for everyone.
We expected this section to take approx. 4-4.5hrs. I believe it took us closer to 6hrs as there was a lot of deadfall and trees to navigate. Not to mentioned the trail is quite poorly marked, so it required two to three of us to head in different directions to locate the correct markers. Or we would travel so far and then have to turn around as the 'markers' were lost.
We also had two very brave and strong dudes who decided to attempt to MTB the course and as you can imagine lugging their bikes up and over logs + miles of walking a few steps, riding 5 seconds, off again and repeat took time and patience.
Leaving the BL Trailhead, the fresh runners kept us all on our toes as they were anxious and ready to roll! We climbed out of the aid station and not long after into more deadfall. Once we got up the climb, however we did get into some beautiful meadows with alpine flowers, spectacular views and for the first time in the day we felt like we could actually sustain some leg turnover and run! Our next segment/goal was to make it another approx. 14-15km to the Oyama Lake Trail head where we would access our last aid station before making the final push to the finish. I believe we covered this section in approx. 2hrs and rolled into Oyama in high spirits. There was some tricky navigational areas in this section again and also some very cool areas like the Monolith. Everyone worked so well together and if you weren't helping 'scout' you were staying upbeat, positive and patient. The energy remained high, even as the heat of the day was firing up and we all knew we were going to be out longer than originally expected.
We had a solid team waiting at the Oyama trail head at the approx. 41km mark. Owen, Owen's brother in law + Claude waiting patiently as well for us to arrive. They were in high spirits, cheered us in and helped us get refueled before making a quick transition back on the trail. Not one person waivered at this point. The full meal deal runners were already 8hrs in at this point and the 30k runners were just over 2hrs in. You could tell everyone was in it together. Going to make the final push and do what it took to get this beast of a run done... as a team.
Truth be told, this last section was a bit of a blur for me. I continued to engage in more conversation with those around me. I was super focused on trail finding, keeping the group moving, reminding everyone to keep drinking + eating that I mostly recall the terrain being single track, more trees down but still more runnable sections. The navigation improved for longer stretches, but still would randomly pop out and there be no clear markings in some sections. We truthfully didn't know if we only 14km or 22km left as the trail reports and map distances didn't match. I think we all secretly were praying it was only 14km but it turned out to be 22km and took us another 4+hrs.
After our glorious group shot at the summit of microwave tower, the views and triumph of our journey thus far fueled the group for the 'final-final' push down to Cosen's Bay. The trail was steep, technical and still had numerous tress down. There remained a few tricky navigational sections but we sniffed out the trail with continued team work and eventually could see water and eventually-eventually hit the road back to Cosen's Bay parking lot. We all regrouped for the final 200m, liked arms and the volunteers set up a ribbon finish line for us to all cross. It was 7:30pm. We started at 6:30am. Approx. 13hours for the 63k runners + 7hrs for the 31k runners. This includes our aid station stops etc...
Not one complaint. Not one sour comment. There was joy. Pride. Maybe even some tears. This wasn't just a run... it symbolized how fortunate we all were to have the health and opportunity to accomplish something so wonderful in honor of those who can't. For many, we ran with family members and friends close to our hearts all day long. Every year this run holds a touch of magic and symbolizes community and a belief that our contributions are making a difference and helping those suffering from Cancer. It gives us hope and also reminds us to keep our aspirations alive and that anything is possible if we put our minds to it.
I wore Mary's favorite necklace on the run. I haven't worn it since my Dad gave it to me last September as I was saving it for this day. I drew copious amounts of energy and strength from this all day long. It was a very endearing moment for me personally, when I came into the finish at Cosen's Bay and my Dad noticed it and gave me hug. We both teared up and shared a very endearing moment. It was a beautiful sentiment of honoring as we both know Mary was with us and that she was proud of what we all accomplished together that day.
This event wouldn't have been possible without the support from our community. It was a long and enduring day for all the volunteers. Our time line was way off and it resulted in our volunteers waiting patiently and devoting their whole day to supporting us. Some baked or brought food. Everyone drove to and/or from the start, remote aid stations, the finish and back to Kelowna. The volunteer team that made up this years event was the glue that kept us rolling along our epic journey. We are all so grateful.
Cobs Bread, Hammer Nutrition, Tree Brewery, PACE Sports Fitness, Missy Blackburn, Jody Crumb & Trent Marshall all contributed in some manner to the aid station and finish line food/beverage.
The generosity from our friends, family and community who helped us exceed our fundraising goals. Everyone who donated needs to know that each participant ran with the motivation from your support and each of us wanted to make you proud and be deserving of your donation. Our run as also fueled by each of you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Our Lake Louise Mountain Running Camp has only 5 spots left before it fills. This is a 4 day / 4 night camp which explores Yoho & Banff National Parks & Lake O'Hara. The camp dates are July 31st to August 4th. If you're training for a stage race or debating trying a stage race or simply want to experience a mountain running vacation, this is the camp for you!