For Peter Armistead, Saturday’s (June 25) Tenderfoot Boogie Ultra was supposed to be a training run.
“I’m training at the moment for a 120 mile race in Manning Park called the Fat Dog 120,” he explained.
Armistead’s strategy was to complete the 50 km leg of the course in about seven hours.
That all changed when, with a yell of “Let’s Boogie!” racers crossed the starting line, and it quickly became apparent that the Whistler resident was leading the pack.
“Within about a minute or so after starting running, I looked behind me and no one had come with me,” he said. “At that point I thought, ‘this might be the first ever race I could actually win, so forget the training run, I’m just going to hammer it and try to see if I can get a win out of this one.’”
Armistead, who’s sponsored by The Creekside Athletic Club and has competed in about 10 gruelling ultra races, finished first overall, crossing the finish line in approximately five and a half hours. Though he’s won his age category in previous races, this is the first overall ultra win for Armistead. He credits his success to ultra coaches Eric Carter and Gary Robbins, who he calls, “two of the world’s best coaches.”
For Jennifer Black, Saturday’s race was a redemption of sorts. The Whistlerite had trained to compete in her first ultra race in Zion, Utah, this spring, but wasn’t able to finish when that race was rained out midway through. Black, along with friend Deidre Tully, finished the 50 km Tenderfoot Boogie course in nine hours and 24 minutes.
“My goal was to have fun, and focus on the journey,” said Black.
Tully, who has competed in over a dozen ultras, had a different goal in mind. “I signed up for this race for Jen. I knew that she had worked so hard for the past 12, 18 months to get to this point … My only goal was to get Jen across the finish line, and to make her have a really amazing day.”
“She exceeded her goal,” said Black. “No matter what happened, I knew I would have Dee with me to lift me up. Most of the race she ran 10 to 20 metres ahead of me … She played Justin Timberlake on her phone, so if I wasn’t close enough I couldn’t hear it.”
The Tenderfoot Boogie follows a 50-mile (80 km) course, and offers competitors the choice of racing four different distances. This year’s race was the event’s seventh, and drew 32 starters for the 50 mile distance, 51 for the 50 km, 29 for the 28 km distance and five for 13 km. “We had many runners actually from all over the world — Hong Kong, Holland, Costa Rica, the U.S. and of course eastern Canada,” said race organizer Gottfried Grosser, adding that there was, of course, a strong contingent from Whistler, Squamish and the rest of the province.
The 50 km portion of the point-to-point race followed the Sea to Sky trail northwards from the Tenderfoot Creek Fish Hatchery, except for a couple detours — some unintentional.
“It’s an amazing course, but some of the sections could have been marked better; a lot of the runners got lost yesterday,” said Tully, who, with Black, found themselves lost early on in the race.
The pair, realizing something seemed off, called Armistead to ask whether he’d followed the same path. “He said, ‘No mate, you’ve gone the wrong way,’” laughed Black.
“We ended up running 57-and-a-half K,” added Tully.
The risk of getting lost is just one factor distinguishing ultra trail races like this weekend’s from typical road races. “This was like starting fresh. It’s an entirely different animal,” said Black, who has run 23 marathons and followed Jen Segger’s Challenge by Choice coaching program to train for the Tenderfoot.
“At the end of the day, we all finished, we’re all healthy, we’re all happy — and we got bonus kilometres,” said Black.