MEC Kelowna Okanagan Trail Race ONE – Big White Resort July 2019 Race Recap

MEC has had trail race series for a while now, but we never got around to participating in them because we always committed to our usual races. But now that we’re in Kelowna, we get to build a whole new race calendar from scratch! We’ve been big road racers and want to do more trails.. and wow is it a transition! Trail races are an entirely different game. This race is one of 3 in the series: Big White, Myra Bellevue, and Knox Mountain.

Race Morning

We were participating in the 12km race, and it didn’t start until 10am. There were other distances, like the 50km that started at 7am. I don’t think we’ve ever started a race that late in the day before, other than Rock N Roll Vegas, but it’s a night run and they shut down the Strip for that! It was nice to have our normal breakfast routine at home, before getting in the car and driving out to Big White.

There were MEC flags that marked the parking at the Happy Valley Parking Lot, and when we rolled up we saw plenty of other cars as well as a portion of the race course with some 50k runners making their way through. I wanted to race in shorts and a t-shirt, but the weather was chillier than I expected. And since we’re in the mountains, I didn’t want to take any chances even though we were “only” covering 12km with 2 aid stations, so I changed into my crops and long sleeve that I had packed with plans to wear afterwards.

The starting area was pretty low key. We waited inside the building nearby where a lot of other racers were hanging out, used the bathrooms, did our stretches, and then it was time to start.

Pre-race selfies
The 12km racers start

Race

The 12K route with 668m elevation gain (photo from event website)

For some reason, I thought we were running the course counterclockwise, so I felt so disoriented for the first little bit, thinking that we were headed toward Rhonda Lake. It took me a long time to realize we were going the other way, which is funny because I had looked at the map and saved it to my phone.

The race started with a bunch of uphill, and I was expecting to be dropped immediately by everyone to take off right away, just like what happened at Nimble Bear. But I caught up to a huge group that didn’t seem to be moving, and it was because everyone was taking their time hopping on the pallet that was positioned across a stream that was overflowing from snowmelt. Once I got across, the group started to thin out again, and it stayed pretty thin for the rest of the course.

Justin was trucking along pretty well but I felt like death by the time we got to the first aid station. I was so out of breath and my legs felt like lead. I was still pretty full from breakfast, so I didn’t have anything, other than some water. Then there was more climbing as we headed toward the top of the Exhibition chairlift.

Photo: Ty Holtan
Photo: Ty Holtan
Felt like so much climbing, and more to go.
SNOW!

After we got to the top of the Exhibition chairlift area, it flattened out a bit and there was some up and down as we headed towards the second aid station. Now, I wasn’t expecting much at the aid station since this was a pretty small race, and I thought I saw somewhere that said there wouldn’t be much either. But when we rolled up to the table, there was a bunch of different GU gels, ruffle chips, pretzels, and some other treats. That was nice surprise. I forgot to take a picture because I wanted to be done already.

Even though there was a nice spread, I didn’t eat anything and took a gel “just in case”. After we started on the descent towards Rhonda Lake, I immediately regretted not taking some Ruffle chips. Not because I was particularly hungry, but because I love Ruffle chips. A 50k runner came through while we were there and complained about how much hiking he was doing, instead of running. It made me laugh because that’s all I could manage out there, and we were only on the 12km route!

Selfie at Rhonda Lake
View of Rhonda Lake

It was smooth sailing after we left the second aid station. There was a quick descent, and we headed towards the finish. The course started to get crazy muddy. I had spent so much time trying to avoid all the mud and muck, but eventually, it was taking too much effort and I started splashing straight through. You have to be careful if you never run in these conditions because your feet can sink pretty deep and take off your shoe.

12km finishers!

Overall Thoughts

Overall, this race was super fun. The course was challenging but the views were gorgeous and made it all worthwhile. The weather was agreeable and made it for comfortable racing conditions. The course was well marked with a bunch of little neon MEC signs. You get a 10% discount in-store when you pick up your race bib. There are no race medals for distances other than the 50km distance — and we’re totally OK with that. There was an announcement that we had access to the gondola for the day, which is a nice perk. And we could have hung around the village, but we didn’t feel like it so we just headed out and got lunch downtown. We’re looking forward to the next race of the series at Myra Bellevue!

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