Six runners from the Comox Valley competed July 14 in the KneeKnackering North Shore Trail Race from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. Dubbed the Knarliest 30-mile race in Canada, the technical course incorporates 16,000 feet of elevation change and includes a climb to the top of Black Mountain, which has an elevation of 4,000 feet.
Registration for the popular race is done by lottery, with about 200 people selected each year. Local participants were Mary Bridges, a veteran of several ultra races including the 125km Canadian Death Race; Shauna Connaughton, experienced North Shore trail runner and avid ultra trail racer; Kevin Wakelin, a quickly developing force to be reckoned with on the trails; Brad Crowe, in his first race at the ultramarathon distance; and Carl Tessman. Keith Wakelin, a veteran of 18 KneeKnackers, earned a guaranteed entry for the race by winning the event in 2001.
The sudden arrival of summer made for difficult conditions on race day. While most of the snow on Black Mountain had melted, large mud pits were left in many sections of the trail. The heat was another difficulty as runners struggled to stay hydrated while running from four to 10 hours. Of the 212 runners who started, 189 endured the entire race — the second lowest completion rate in the 24-year history of the KneeKnacker.
First overall was Nathan Barrett of Vancouver in four hours 56 minutes. The first local to finish was Crowe who ran five hours 30 minutes, clinching fifth overall. Wakelin, despite some mid-race acrobatics, ran five hours 47 minutes and finished seventh overall. He also placed second in the M50-59 division. With 19 KneeKnackers under his belt, Wakelin now hungrily awaits the chance to complete his 20th and join a small but elite crew of dedicated ultra runners. His son, Kevin, finished in six hours 13 minutes, knocking almost 25 minutes off his previous best time, despite getting lost for 10 minutes during the race. Tessman finished the course in six hours, good for 15th place.
Connaughton — gearing up for the Trans Rockies race in August — ran the Knee Knacker in six hours and 36 minutes, finishing seventh in the open women’s category. Bridges ran eight hours and five minutes, earning a 10th-place finish in the competitive F40-49 category.
A substantial amount of money from this year’s race will be donated to North Shore Search and Rescue.
Many of the local runners plan to tackle the final race in the Frontrunners Gutbuster Trail Running Series Saturday at Mount Washington — a pure ascent with an elevation gain of 505 metres over six kilometres.
For more information visit www.gutbustertrailrun.com.