The Inaugural Elk Valley Ultra – Fernie, BC
When the planning of Fernie’s new 50km trail race began back in the summer of 2016, there were a few key boxes which had to be ticked, for such a race, in such a town. High-vert, challenging, beautiful and personable – in a nutshell, all things Fernie. Following a successful inaugural race day on Saturday July 29, with positive feedback across the board, the inaugural Elk Valley Ultra managed to tick all the boxes and bring the fascinating and gritty sport of ultra running back to the Elk Valley.
The route was key, and surprised both out of towners and locals. Starting and finishing in the Annex Park, alongside the Elk River, the route encompassed some of Fernie’s best and beautiful, yet un-raced trails. With the choice of running 50km as a Soloist or on a Team of 3, it gave the chance for the novice to the pro to tackle the course and be a part of the fun. Type-2 fun.
Leg 1 took racers up Mount Fernie to Windy Pass, down to Island Lake Lodge, exploring stunning high alpine trails and vistas. 20.5km and 1,480m ascent later, racers arrived with wide eyes and big smiles at the base of the Old Growth Trail. Leg 2, although easier on paper, took many racers by surprise, with temperatures as punishing as the climbs! Taking Rail Trail down, then up Lazy Lizard and P9, then further up Stumpy onto Stupid Traverse – unanimously declared stupid by all – finishing with the flowly fast fun down S*Bomb, Brokeback and Lazy Lizard Connector to the Elk Valley Nordic Centre. 16.5km and 720m ascent never felt so hard!
Leg 3 was a final and fun hurrah, with a root strewn, fast loop in the Provincial Park, on Woody, Old Goat and down Gorby, before tackling the last couple of climbs of the day, up Stove and Mushroom Head, before taking Red Sonja back home to the Annex. A comparatively easy 13km and 600m ascent shocked many, as the heat of the day took its toll up the relentless and exposed Stove trail. Luckily cold Fernie Brewing Co. beer, Fernie Physio massages, the Elevation Showcase Eno hammock lounge, the Elk River and scrumptious meal from Good Grub Catering awaited racers at the finish line, along with 300+ cheers, high fives and extremely sweaty hugs. A total of 50km (or 51.2km in fact) and 2,800m elevation gain, in 35+ degree heat.
Dubbed by one soloist as the Barkley 50km (except with flagging and aid stations), the route planning proved a success, with over 95% single track, no roads, no outs and backs and views for days. A route as challenging as it is beautiful, steep as it is rewarding. Pretty much 50km of #ferniestoke.
Leading up to the event, the million-dollar question was how fast will the fastest be? Well, the answer is 5hrs 57mins and 45 seconds, for Ron Ellis of Salmon Arm, who had a 20-minute lead over second place finisher young Jayden Dalke from Alberta. A the sub-6 course record is now in the books. Meanwhile the strong women’s field battled it out with Becky Bates from Kimberley finishing 1st women and 6th overall, in 6hrs 59mins and 36 seconds.
Aaron Glover was Fernie’s fastest local in 7hrs 6mins and 41 seconds, with Helen McAllister taking first Fernie female in 7hrs 53min and 59 seconds. A huge congrats to all soloists and team racers near and far, for laying it all out, (quite literally), on the trails!
Aside from the challenging route being all things Fernie, race organisers Abi and Mike Moore, of Stag Leap Running Co., wanted the race atmosphere, Aid Stations, volunteers, sponsors, awards and finish line atmosphere to represent all that is awesome about the small mountain town. Luckily the whole of Fernie supported the event, and as such the race that was so long in the works, proved as awesome as they hoped it to be.
Leading sponsors were Giv’er Shirtworks, Elevation Showcase, Evolution Health & Fitness, Fernie Physio, Ski Base, Good Grub Catering and Altra, alongside many amazing Fernie businesses who helped make racers have the best race experience and well-deserved awards imaginable. Last but not least, the volunteers who came on board and dedicated their whole day (and more!) to the event, proved that Fernie truly is one amazing, supportive, quite badass town.
Abi and Mike would like to give a huge thank you to the Fernie community and beyond. “The support from local racers, sponsors and volunteers was utterly amazing – without the generosity, kindness, hard work and hours of time that was donated we couldn’t have made our dream of a race come true. So much positive feedback has been given online since the race for our volunteers, and we can’t thank them enough.
A year of planning came to fruition on Saturday and it was worth every minute. Local racers did amazing (100% finish rate), and seeing local teams come together and battle it out created an amazing atmosphere. Meanwhile the high number of visiting racers had a fantastic experience – with endless love (shock!) and support for the course, our mountains, our outstanding trail network, volunteers and our amazing Fernie community.
Many will undoubtedly be back. Thanks to anyone and everyone involved. We have memories that will last a lifetime and we are so grateful.”