The Red Bull 400 returned to Whistler for its second year on Saturday (July 30), drawing hundreds of challenge-seekers to test their abilities at the world’s steepest 400-metre race.
Held at Whistler Olympic Park, the event provided a unique opportunity to see athletes clamour up the ski jump’s 37-degree incline, as opposed to the typical downward route.
“We’ll be back once again next year for a third year. This is definitely going to be a staple stop in the Red Bull 400 scene now.”
“Everything went fantastic today,” said Gary Robbins, a member of Red Bull’s event organizing team. “We’ll be back once again next year for a third year. This is definitely going to be a staple stop in the Red Bull 400 scene now.”
Whistler, the steepest course and sole Canadian event of the Red Bull 400’s eight-stop world tour, has proved to be a popular draw. “We had 600 runners, which is 50 per cent more than last year,” said Robbins. “We had a world record in the men’s race, and one of the fastest ever women’s race times as well, so (the whole event was) just a resounding success.”
The record-breaker was 17-year-old Vancouver resident Kieran Lumb with his winning time of three minutes, 48 seconds (3:48), while Rachel McBride topped the women’s division in 4:56.
In addition to the two solo categories, the event also included a co-ed relay division, which saw four-person teams split up the gruelling course, with each member tackling a 100-metre portion. Whistler’s local contingent was strong in each category, with a few racers returning for the second year in a row.
The Whistler Core relay team, comprised of Paul Girodo, Rich Sievewright, Jesse Van Roon, and Dre Morel, attempted to defend last year’s first-place finish, but came up just short, walking away with second place. Their time of 2:56 was just one second behind the winning squad.
“The team that beat us came second to us last year, so they came out gunning for us,” said Sievewright. “We were 25 seconds faster than we were last year and came second, so the calibre of competition had grown.”
“After the final handover, Dre was in fourth place, and managed to pick off the third and second place,” he added. “If we’d had another 10 feet, we would’ve won.”
Sievewright, a strength and conditioning coach at the Core, took on the added challenge of competing in the individual race, achieving an impressive 30th place finish in the men’s finals with a time of 5:15. However, this meant he ran the gruelling course three times.
“Doing it three times, never again,” said Sievewright. “It’s too much. I’ve never been at the start of the race where people are not wanting to do it.”
Local runner Deidre Tully’s time of 6:51 earned her 18th place in the women’s division, and saw her shave off about 40 seconds from her 2015 time.
“Knowing what to expect was helpful,” said Tully. “I definitely went into it a lot fitter and stronger than I was last year. My training has been pretty good, but there’s not much to prepare you for the amount of pain you have to go through in a short period of time.”
“It feels like you’re climbing up a wall,” she added.
Despite the painful lactic acid build up that occurs when one tries to run up an Olympic ski jump, Sievewright said there’s something special about participating in an event alongside high-calibre athletes. “It was a lot of suffering, but there’s something amazing about it, being surrounded by some pretty spectacular athletes,” he said.
For full results, go to racedaytimingservices.com.