Holy moly, talk about the hardest race you’ve ever done! Nimble Bear would be it. 25km. 1125m ascent. 1125m descent. This was our first ever trail race experience, and it was memorable. This race recap is also super late, but better late than never. There are plenty of pictures to enjoy with this race recap.
Would we do this race again?! Read on and see! This race is part of the Pace Trail Series, put on by Race Director Rene Unser. In my opinion it’s the Kelowna equivalent to Vancouver and area Coast Mountain Trail Series put on by Race Director Gary Robbins. With the Nimble Bear race, medals are home made, and top finishers win home baked apple pies! You had a chance to win a pie through your package pickup, but sadly neither of us “won” any pies.
Nimble Bear 25km was the same weekend as Justin’s birthday. So our family had come in for the weekend to celebrate as well as spectate. You can bet we did the usual wining and dining. We tried to make sure we were eating a lot of carb-rich foods, and stuffing our faces with Haribo gummy candies. They are honestly some of the best food for carbo-loading because they pack so many grams of carbs in such a tiny size!
Since there was a 50km, the 25km runners didn’t have to start the day until 9:30am! This is probably one of the latest morning starts we’ve ever had. We got to wake up at a normal hour, and proceed with our standard morning routine. We decided to have eggs on english muffins, with a slice of back bacon. It was so delicious, and kept me full all morning and about 3/4 of the race! We had coffee, and then walked over to the race start for the race briefing.
This part makes me the most crazy. The announcer was warming up the crowds and talking about how this was the first race of the season for many, and asking how many people were prepared. Everyone was laughing about how underprepared and undertrained they were. Well guess what, when the gun went off and we finally cleared the congestion from a bunch of runners trying to squeeze through a tiny gap in the fence separating Rose Valley Park from the elementary school, I was left in the dust!! And left in the dust for most of the day, I was! I would be muttering about that a lot when I was alone on the course.
The race course in Rose Valley for Nimble Bear is absolutely stunning. Rose Valley Park is a great place to hike or mountain bike, as well as trail run. It’s a lot of single track, and there are tons of great trails and views. The course start was congested at the beginning because the starting area is adjacent to an elementary school, and then you go through a formal opening in the fence to head into the park. It created quite a bottle neck because people with broad shoulders had to turn sideways and shuffle through.
For the entirety of the race, there would be plenty of 50km runners zip past us since it was a 2-loop course for them. It was incredible to see how fast they ran! I never passed a 50km runner once.
There was a lot of up at the beginning of the race, and we got to run towards this gnarly tree on the top of this hill that always catches my eye. It was a little steep there and I personally felt myself scrambling a bit at times. Weirdly enough, there was a family of 3-4 coming towards us from that area, and I wondered how they had got there as one of them was wearing flip flops!
The course eventually flattened, and then there was a there-and-back/lollipop towards the first aid station. The best thing about trail races are the real food at the aid stations! We’re talking slices of watermelon, candy, chips, pretzels, muffins, ugh the best!!
I recall The City of the the Edge of Forever was the most insane climb ever. This was one point on the race where we were “running” up double black mountain bike trails! Like how insane are trail runners?! While I was struggling to just keep my feet moving up and onward on the million switchbacks, I could hear the sound of clicking approaching behind me. The sound got closer and closer, until I could see it was a 50km trail runner with poles who was RUNNING this ascent. I need to train harder, because I could barely made this hike up, let alone run it! It was amazing to see the sheer strength of trail runners.
Justin waited for me at the second aid station, and we finished the rest of the race together. It was a suffer fest at this point, and we were both getting tired. But it was really enjoyable to run together as we we kept each other entertained, and I managed not to full out cry even though I was on the verge of tears at one point from fatigue and frustration. Eventually we recognized some of the trails we’ve hiked together before, so that was a glimmer of hope that the race would soon be coming to an end.
There was a band playing at the finish line, and the noise was the sweetest sound after 25km of trampling through the woods. We ran the descent and headed towards the flags and Solomon finisher arch. We got hugs from the Race Director, Rene, and chatted with her for a couple minutes before we hobbled away.
We definitely need to put in serious training to give this another go. Way. More. Training. For many years our first race of the year was in May, and Nimble Bear was an entire month earlier. I refused to run outside all winter and since our move, we ran all winter indoors on a treadmill. Kelowna has real winters with snow that sticks around, unlike Vancouver with the rain. I am just not interested in running in snow or icy conditions.
I would like redemption at this race, so we definitely will need to have a structured training plan for when we tackle this race next time. Nimble Bear 25km was hard as hell, but super rewarding because of the effort required as the views that were earned. The snacks/aid stations are also infinitely better than road races which is another great motivator. I’m a little annoyed that the shirts we got with registration run super small, so I’m not sure how much we’ll wear them. But overall, it was a great race. Grass roots, local, well-organized, with a challenging route and awesome views.