Five Peaks raises the bar 

Race course designed to be the toughest in Canada

If you’ve lived in Whistler for a few years, you’ve probably made the trip from the base of Whistler Mountain to the Roundhouse Lodge a hundred times.

Now try it without the gondola.

The third installment of the Nike ACG Five Peaks Trail Running Series takes place in Whistler this Saturday, July 19, with a run from the base of Whistler to the Roundhouse via singletrack bike trails, lift lines, and cat tracks. The course is considered to be the most difficult in Canada this year, almost12 kilometres in length with an elevation gain of nearly 1,200 metres.

"The idea was to make it the toughest race in the country," said Paul Vacirca, who is organizing the race for Nike @ Whistler in the Pan Pacific Lodge.

"We have the highest vertical climb, the longest distance, the steepest grade. One of the events was cut short this year by snow to around seven kilometres and all the runners were complaining that it wasn’t hard enough. We decided to give it to them with both barrels."

The course starts off in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, up the road to the Ho Chi Min trail, The Golden Triangle, and the new beginner trail Easy Does It to the top of the Fitzsimmons Chair. From there it’s an uphill grunt up Bear Paw, Papoose, and Upper Whiskey Jack to the Roundhouse.

"You’re going to be running through mud and into the snow," said Vacirca, who estimates that the fastest runners will come in at around 55 minutes. "Most people are going to take about two hours to do this. It took us three hours to walk down the other day, and it is steep. We also saw three bears on the course."

The Whistler race is a qualifier for the World Mountain Running Championships, with the top two male and female participants earning the right to represent Canada at Innsbruck, Austria, in the fall.

There will be prizes for the top competitors in each age category, plus draw prizes and T-shirts for all participants.

All proceeds from the race, which costs $30 to enter, go towards Sunshine Dreams for Kids. Sunshine Dreams helps to make dreams come true for children who are severely challenged or coping with life-threatening illnesses.

To register, stop by Nike @ Whistler in the Pan Pacific Lodge to get your entry form. You can register on race day at Nike @ Whistler starting at 8 a.m. The race starts at 10 a.m.

The first two stages of the Five Peaks Series have already been held, at Golden Ears Provincial Park and at Mount Seymour. The Whistler-Blackcomb event will be followed by two more races: Cypress Bowl on Aug. 17, and Buntzen Lake on Sept. 14.

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