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Low key event big hit with trail runners

Simple choice - short course or long?

© Copyright - 2017 - Victoria Sports News

It used to be called the Gutbuster Series – a four sometime five trail race series that was not for the faint of heart. Mt Doug, Royal Roads, Mt Washington, Mt Tzouhalem – have you noticed the number if Mt’s in there? The terrain was challenging with elevations that took your breath away. To widen its appeal it changed its name and morphed into the Vancouver Island Trail Running Series with the same great trails (with a choice of a long and short course), but expanded into six locations on the Island. In 2016 it sold out and this year the ‘season pass’ for all six also sold out (a seasons pass get you six races for the prices of five), with individual registrations going the same way.

What? Another hill?

So with the third race of the six looming – at Royal Roads in Colwood – what the heck, I said, let’s see what the fuss is all about. Signing up for the short course – 7km – I thought would be manageable not being a trail runner, although I did look the part in my spanking new trail shoes. The first thing you notice on arrival is how low key it is – where are all the nervous runners lining up at the port-a-potties? They are hanging around, chatting either at the coffee tent or buying VITS shirts or just …hanging around.  Warm up? What is that? Not today thank you.

The long course runners lined up at 10:45 am ready for their 11km challenge and after the usual announcements (including a warning that saboteurs had removed some of the flagging tape that marked the course, but all was fine as volunteers had remarked the route).  The rest of us in the 7km started 15 minutes later. Conditions were fantastic – a light rain shower made it cool and the trails were perfect – slightly damp, but not slippy or soggy.

Myke LaBelle, the race director, said this course was a good ‘entry level’ run for those new to trail racing, and he was right – for the main part the trail was wide, soft under foot with few tree roots. There were narrow sections of course, some steep up hills and downhills but nothing that was so tough you thought you should have rolled over and stayed in bed. The trails at Royals Roads are beautiful – and so quiet. My only company were the panting runners passing me and the birds happily singing. When I heard and then saw the finish line ahead I was actually disappointed my run was coming to a close (and secretly wishing I had done the long course). The actual length was 6km not 7km and the advertised 11km, was actually just over 10k – but this is trail running, it’s not a certified course so nobody really cared that much.

French toast anyone?

LaBelle is in his second year as race director and says the community aspect of trail running is why it is so popular. “People tend to run in groups and you look around here and they stick around after the race. We give it an event feel with the food, music and the sponsors who donate great prizes.” It is the post-race food that makes this trial series special. “One thing I wanted to do when I took over the race was provide good, nourishing food,” added LaBelle. French toast was the menu item at this race, and pancakes at the last race at Mt Tzouhalem, but according to LaBelle the grilled cheese sandwiches at the first race in Cobble Hill was the most popular to date.  OMG what does the fourth, fifth and sixth races have? I guess I will have to do them to find out!

LaBelle is anticipating that the last three races will sell out so check out www.islandtrailseries.ca for more info.  Transfer Beach, Ladysmith is the next race on July 22, followed by Mt Washington on August 12, and the finale at Burgoyne Bay in Salt Spring on October 21. Apparently there is a pasta banquet after that one – better get signed up.

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