Once again this year, Squamish’s Nick Elson was the first person up to the Gondola for this year’s Sea to Sky Scramble.
This time he came in a little ahead of his 2015 time. Last year, he finished Run Squamish’s six-kilometre trail, which includes a kilometres of vertical ascent, is 46:00.3. This time he crossed the finish line in 45:29, even though conditions were described Saturday morning as muddy.
Elson thinks his strong start helped him, as he was able to lead for much of the race, getting out ahead of a couple of other strong candidates to win, Eric Carter and Shaun Stephens White, who both started at the front of the pack with Elson.
“I definitely took it out a little harder this year,” he said. “I thought I was going to be a little faster…. I pushed the pace going up the stairs of the Chief.”
Carter came in at 49:03, slightly behind his second-place finish from 2015 of 47.21.7, while Stephens White finished with a time of 50:02.
Elson says he prepared for the race primarily by training close to home, with runs up to the Gondola or the Chief.
“Most of my running these days is uphill or downhill,” he said. “We’re definitely really lucky in Squamish.”
Among the women’s competitors, the top three of Brooke Spence, Meggan Franks and M.K. Cirelli were said to be close together for much of the race. Spence says she was able to open up a lead over the last third of the race, though she was not exactly sure where the other runners were.
“I really didn’t look behind too much,” she said.
In the end, she finished a time of 1:01:55, besting Zoe Dawson’s time from last year by more than three minutes.
Spence came into the race hoping for a top-five finish as her goal. She spends her time training near her North Vancouver home or competing at events like the Grouse Grind. Saturday was the first time she had done the Scramble.
“I’ve done the climb but not the race,” she said.
Co-organizer Sean Verret asked at the start of the race how many of the runners thought they could finish in under an hour, with perhaps 30 to 40 putting up their hands this time.
“Last year we had 30 people think they’re going under an hour, and only six did,” he said.
This year, 20 runners reached the Gondola in less than 60 minutes, with a couple of others less than 20 seconds over the one-hour mark.
Last year’s inaugural event attracted 93 runners, and this time approximately 125 signed up for the race, with some coming from across and the U.S.
As well this year, the Sea to Sky Scramble is part of the Canadian Mountain Running Championships, which means some of the top finishers could qualify based on criteria such as where they finished in their age category. Runners can potentially qualify for the 32nd World Mountain Running Championships to be held in Bulgaria in September.