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Marla Zucht second in age group at 2024 Wildhorse Traverse

The Whistlerite performed well despite nursing a broken wrist
Marla Zucht proceeds through the 2024 Wildhorse Traverse, cast and all.

The Wildhorse Traverse Ultra Trail Race is not an Ironman event, covering a “mere” 50 kilometres as opposed to the famous 226-plus kilometre triathlon format. Even so, Marla Zucht had to be tough like iron to reach the finish line in silver medal position. 

Ten days before the contest, Zucht slipped on an icy patch during a run through Emerald Forest. It was an inopportune time to break her wrist, but she didn’t want to give up. She got through a few more days of measured training and felt her eye-catching, multicoloured cast was not going to hold her back too much.

Thus Zucht headed for the Wildhorse on May 4: a point-to-point race beginning in Kelowna and terminating in the small unincorporated community of Naramata. Before her lay a rugged route along the shores of Okanagan Lake featuring more than 1,900 metres of elevation gain, technical singletrack descents and a final stretch through the Kettle Valley Railway. 

More than 268 athletes showed up, and 10 were unable to finish. Zucht herself did so in six hours, 28 minutes and 42 seconds: enough for second place in the women’s age 50-59 division. 

“I've spent a bunch of time in the Okanagan, but this is a pretty remote area so I hadn't been on these trails before,” said Zucht. “It was a unique adventure, a unique challenge and a unique opportunity to see some beautiful new terrain.” 

A well-organized event

Zucht knows Ironmans like the back of her hand, having completed her fifth World Championship in the discipline last October. The Wildhorse presented a different task: while she didn’t have to worry about swimming and biking, she did have to navigate winding canyons and all kinds of uneven terrain. Only three aid stations were located along the course, one of which had to be deployed to the Okanagan Lake’s western shore via boat.

Thanks to her cast, Zucht couldn’t make use of trail running poles. The injury did not present an undue hindrance beyond that—although she did exercise caution on each of the more arduous descents. Another fall on the same wrist might have been overwhelming. 

“There was one section where we had to drop down a pretty steep canyon to access this aid station [on the lake shore], then turn around and come back up,” Zucht recalled. “At this point in the race, which probably lasted 20 minutes or 30 minutes, the racers were passing one another on a pretty narrow singletrack trail. I wanted to just make sure I wasn't hitting another runner—as we were brushing shoulders, pretty much.” 

Admittedly, racing on unknown ground instilled some degree of trepidation in Zucht. Visualization is a key part of how she prepares, and familiar venues like Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (the site of the Ironman Worlds) allow her to take mental stock of the obstacles ahead. The Whistlerite studied maps and video clips of Wildhorse as best she could, but that’s no substitute for boots-on-the-ground experience. 

Having said that, the element of surprise also created intrigue. Zucht nearly stopped in her tracks on multiple occasions when she rounded a bend and discovered a new view: be it a breathtaking canyon, gorgeous waterfall or picturesque vineyard. 

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I thought it was a really well-organized event. It had only come onto my radar last year. The camaraderie of the other racers was just amazing, with everyone having the chance to chat to one another. All in all, it was a pretty great ultra trail running experience.” 

Full results from the 2024 Wildhorse Traverse are available at