Solo female winner Emilie Mann. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Solo female winner Emilie Mann. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Ultra racers smash records

Two new course records set at the second annual Elk Valley Ultra in Fernie

Emilie Mann is on a winning streak.

The Fernie 25-year-old was the first woman to cross the finish line at the Elk Valley Ultra on Saturday, setting a new course record of 6:32:49.7.

The win came just weeks after being crowned the “Alpha Female” at the inaugural The Lone Wolf Race, also hosted by Stag Leap Running Co.

Now, Mann has set her sights on the Black Spur Ultra – an epic 108km race at Kimberley Alpine Resort from August 24-26, which will be the longest distance she has ever covered.

“I think I have to go into that one knowing there is a very huge possibility of not finishing but it’s always nice to set that next goal,” she said.

Mann was happy with her performance in the second annual Elk Valley Ultra after feeling the heat during last year’s race.

“I had a really hard time with it last year because it was so hot but this year felt a lot better, temperature-wise and I kind of knew what to expect,” she said.

“It’s still just as beautiful.”

Asked what kept her going during the gruelling 50km race, Mann said it was the volunteers along the way and her fellow competitors, with a little help from music playing via her cellphone.

She trains during weekly group runs organized by Stag Leap Running Co. and uses Facebook to connect with other runners.

“I feel like that’s the most challenging part, a lot of alone time that goes into training if you don’t make the effort the meet up with people but Stag Leap has been awesome for creating a community,” she said.

Mann also teaches and practices yoga, which she finds helpful.

“It reminds you to breathe and just it really keeps the balance within my body,” she said.

“I’ve noticed such a change in my running since I started practicing yoga.”

This year’s Elk Valley Ultra sold out in six weeks, with 250 competitors travelling from across B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and the U.S.

They could enter as either a soloist or a three-person team to complete the 50km race, which is split into three legs and starts and finishes in the Annex Park, with 2800 metres of climbing through mountain trails surrounding Fernie.

“It’s a bit of everything, they get some high alpine, you get lots of good climbs, loads of good single track, it’s about 98 per cent single track, which is great, but that makes it hard because you don’t have double track to make up your time and get some easy miles,” said race organizer Abi Moore.

“It’s a tough course but it’s a fun one, there are some good views and it’s challenging.”

Moore said Stag Leap Running Co. has no plans to expand the race, which takes place on mostly Crown land, limiting the number of competitors.

“We don’t really need to grow it anymore, it’s just nice to see more and more competitive people get come, and the field get stronger and times get broken each year,” she said.

“Having teams is good because people get to just experience it if they can’t do 50km themselves, the whole thing yet then a lot of them come and do team one year and try to come back as a soloist the next year.”

Moore thanked the event’s sponsors and 40 volunteers for their support.

Racer reveals power of positivity

A positive mentality has paid off for an Elk Valley Ultra competitor who beat the previous course record by nearly eightminutes.

Andrew Fairhurst completed the 50km race in 5:49:48.1 and was the first runner across the finish line at Fernie’s Annex Parkon Saturday.

The Crowsnest Pass man’s time was nearly eight minutes faster than the previous solo male record of 5:57:45.4, set by RonEllis in 2017, however, he admitted he found the course challenging.

“Relentless would be a good description for it,” said Fairhurst.

“Lots of climbs, 9200 feet of climbing and every time you finished a climb you had a really fast, technical downhill that youreally had to pay attention for, so I found there really weren’t any sections where you were able to relax or gather your witsabout yourself – it was either tough it out on the climbs or pay attention and heads up hockey for the downs.”

Fairhurst tries to stay positive during long-distance events such as the Elk Valley Ultra, which are as much a mental challengeas they are physical. On Saturday, his “never, ever give up” mantra paid off.

“As much as I’m suffering I know someone else is suffering worse,” he said. “I always think ‘I’ve got a pretty good life, so suckit up and deal with it’.” It was Fairhurst’s first time competing in the Ultra after his entry last year was deferred to allow him torecover from another event.

“Mike and Abi (Moore) have done so much for the trail running community in the Valley here,” he said. “To be able to comeout and do the Elk Valley Ultra, which is a really tough event, I was quite happy to get to the finish line.”

Fairhurst is the organizer of the “Meet the Minotaur” race, which will be held in the Pass on August 25.

He likes to mix up his training, alternating between trail running, mountain biking and hiking to keep his body in peakcondition.

“I do it more for the fun than I do for the competition, I like to be in the mountains and play,” he said. “As a benefit to doingall of that, every now and then you’re able to race.”

Results

50km solo: overall and solo male masters – Andrew Fairhurst – 5:49:48.1 (new record); solo female – Emilie Mann – 6:32:49.7 (new record); solo female masters – Rhonda Loo – 7:13:57.4; solo male – Brandon Miller – 5:52:32.8.

50km team: overall and male team – 2 Young Kids and an Old Billie – 6:14:42.5; female team – LegsAway – 7:31:22.4; female team masters – Skippies – 6:35:38.7; male team masters – Bow Valley Cruisers – 6:39:23.3; mixed team – The Yoginators – 7:33:47.5; mixed team masters – The Wight House – 7:18:30.8.

 

Overall and male team winner “2 Young Kids and an Old Billie” - Calvin and Orien, 11, Domin of Sparwood and Crowsnest Pass teen Noah Schuh. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Overall and male team winner “2 Young Kids and an Old Billie” - Calvin and Orien, 11, Domin of Sparwood and Crowsnest Pass teen Noah Schuh. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Overall and solo male masters winner Andrew Fairhurst. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Overall and solo male masters winner Andrew Fairhurst. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Ultra team runner Noah Schuh hugs overall and solo male masters winner Andrew Fairhurst at the finish line. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Ultra team runner Noah Schuh hugs overall and solo male masters winner Andrew Fairhurst at the finish line. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press