Race: Whistler Alpine Meadows 55kwhistler alpine meadows 55k

Runner: Stephen

Date: 9/23/17

Location: Whistler, Canada

Results: 9:13:30, 60th out of 175 runners

3 Bests –

  • The absolutely beautiful terrain. I likened it to running the crystal mountain marathon mixed with a run in the enchantments. Gorgeous. Absolutely amazing.
  • Whistler provides lots to do for family and friends, and a mini vacation
  • You get to meet some amazing people – Gary Robbins is the race director for instance! And there were volunteers at EVERY single turn on the course to ensure no one got lost. They were all very friendly and cheerful.

Not so much –

  • When the pre race email and the pre race briefing discuss issues, take them seriously. Wasps and ice was mentioned in both. Lots of people slipped and fell on the ice at the top (very small section) (I didn’t fall) and lots of folks got stung (I did – twice)
  • Pay attention to the locations of things, the start is in a different place than the finish, I provided some feedback to Gary that us Americans don’t have working cell phones for directions and he promised to improve the instructions in the emails.
  • Did I mention I got stung? Seriously though – that was my only complaint for 34 miles.

Weirdest thing –

I think it is more cool than weird, but the top aid station is helicopter dropped in. Who wouldn’t want to drink coke and eat chips in the presence of a glacier… twice ☺

Highlights

I took this race as an opportunity to travel to whistler during the summer (I had only been for skiing). So I did not “race” as much as use it for a supported long run. Plus the idea of running to a glacier twice sounded cool as hell. I am a bit of a sucker for hard, very vertical oriented ultras, so this fit the bill. I managed my nutrition very well, and stayed relaxed the entire time. I ended up running a lot with a lady training for the Moab 200 and thus picked her mind for my upcoming Javalina Jundred. There are a lot of highlights:

  • The cushy trails leading up the first climb were really nice.
  • There were funny things all over the place like someone wrote “Don’t hate Gary” on the last trail down to the finish (at that point most folks had quads blown to smithereens).
  • Jared Campbell (the only 3 time Barkley finisher) was there too – which was neat to simply be in the presence of an athlete like that.
  • Lots of the volunteers had puppy dogs that kept licking my knees. (it was awesome)
  • The first time popping out of the tree line and seeing the whistler mountain line was fantastic
  • Running through the actual alpine meadows was really pretty and the very small part of the race that was not crazy vertical.
  • The weather was perfect, couldn’t have asked for better.
  • Did I mention that we were mere feet from a glacier at the top?
  • The climbs and descents were uber technical which I think actually helped prevent worse leg damage.
  • The swag is pretty good, a finisher medal, a shirt, free bbq food, and free Hammer nutrition recovery drinks.

Lessons for others

  • BRING A CAMERA, and plan to lose some time to taking pictures.
  • If you run the 25k, you see the same route as the 55k, just doing the climb one time rather than twice, for those that think 55k is too much, that option works. The 12.5k does NOT see the awesome stuff.
  • Prepare to hike, a lot. My time was about 2-3 hours more than my normal 50k time. Partially due to the terrain technicality and partially due to the pure vertical nature of this course.

Lessons for next time

I will probably do the 25k so I can enjoy the race more and reduce my likelihood of being stung. Plus I will get to see everything I want to see!

Most Important Course specific knowledge

  • Easily the most important is to be sure to have the required gear.
  • The top portion is heavy on the Granite type rocks and boulders so shoes with really good grip are paramount, and then the lower sections are largely dirt and rooty, so again good grip is paramount since there is so much vert.

Aesthetics

If you haven’t picked up on the fact that this course is stunning, then I don’t know what to tell you. This course is absolutely phenomenal, the effort is worth it.

whistler alpine meadows 55k

Difficulty

  • Yes this is probably one of the toughest courses out there for a 55k. 12k ft of gain and 12k ft of loss. It is no joke.
  • I can see this course being even worse if it were wet, but we were lucky and it was mostly dry.

Organized and well run

Very well run. Gary puts on a great event.

Competition

There were some serious competitors out there. As I mentioned before Jared Campbell was out there and he placed top ten, but didn’t win it, and that dude is a BEAST!

Logistics

  • It is about 4-5 miles from Whistler village. That is where we stayed and it worked out great.
  • There was also a camping option which many people I chatted with used, and like it.

Aid Stations

Great aid stations, my recommendation is to check out what is on the website. I didn’t and when I got to the first one and realized there was no PB&J (my staple) I went to other stuff like potatoes, chips, pretzels, and some gels.

Weather and typical race conditions

This is only the second year of this race, and it already has grown, but the two races that have happened have had great weather. It is in BC and it is almost fall at race time, so nothing is guaranteed. It is usually 15 degrees cooler at the top.

Gear

  • Yes there was mandatory gear listed on the signup sheet. MUST BRING IT.
  • I would plan on poles. I ran without them and did fine, but quite a few times I wish I had them.
  • I would also suggest at least a vest or something. The aid stations are far enough apart that I used two bottles and never felt like I was lacking anything.

Spectators

  • This is not a spectator friendly course.
  • They can only see you at the half way point and the finish.

Awards

Everyone of the 55k finishers got a medal. It’s a nice medal.

Overall Score

I give this race a 11 out of 10. I love gritty, hard, woop your butt kind of races, and this was exactly that. The fact that they heli drop an aid station is really cool too.

whistler alpine meadows 55k