An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Barenaked excitement...

Barenaked excitement from all who attended the free concert in Whistler Olympic Plaza this weekend as the Canadian favourites, Barenaked Ladies wowed the masses that seized the opportunity to party with them.

This Canadian band has proved themselves a hit here in Whistler on more than one occasion. The band, perhaps best know for their songs, “If I had a million dollars” and “Brian Wilson”, have been around now for over 20 years and are known for their live performances with their improvised banter and songs and humour as they interact with their crowd. I first saw them live when they performed here last year during the Winter Olympics and the town square, bars, roofs and anywhere you could find space, was rammed full as they had us enjoying their unique brand of flavour and humour. Evidently, this latest performance here was no different, and, after all, who doesn’t like a free concert?

Saturday saw over 500 runners ascend Blackcomb Mountain for the race series organised by Salomon. There were both a shorter ‘sport’ course and a longer ‘Enduro’ route that took runners across many of the great hiking trails strewn along the dizzy heights atop of the mountain. This race had already been moved from its ‘normal’ spot upon Whistler, due to the unusually high levels of snow still around and its close neighbour, Blackcomb, seemed the obvious replacement. What a stunning replacement though!

This was no ‘easy’ race I can tell you. Everyone taking part will no doubt have their own take on it and of course, be relative to their own training, but personally, having spent the last couple of months focusing on endurance training for Ultra running races, this relatively ‘short’ Enduro race, presented its own challenge due to the speed required (something I will be focusing on once this weekends 80km trail race for charity is over). The terrain was defiantly challenging, not least because of its incessant climbs that all too often turned into power hikes as the lungs were about to combust and the walking became as fast as trying to run. The loose, unstable rocks, narrow trails and the snow...oh yeah, there was still enough snow to cause problems. I can remember at least one spot where I was on all fours simply trying to get some traction, fed up with slipping backwards, hoping that those behind me were experiencing the same problem I was. Fortunately, they were!

This was also the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures hitting close to 30 Celsius, combined with a high humidity, this was warm!! Albeit slightly cooler some 1200 meters above the village and valley, it was still warm, perhaps a little too warm for those in the ‘Enduro’ race. The heat, the exertion, all combined with the often unrecognized effect of racing at altitude, certainly did nothing to make it any easier and I’m certain that a good many racers found this very, very tough.

So what’s for the coming weekend? Well, yep, there are more concerts of course! This weekend also sees the ‘official’ opening of the Whistler Olympic Plaza where the free concerts have been taking part so far. This time round, though, the ‘permanent’ stage should hopefully finally be completed and the new huge stage available to hold the number of acts due to perform. The weather forecast is kind yet again and you can bet that this event will be jam packed once more.

Other than this, there are two main endurance events being staged. One is a female only mountain bike ride ‘Betty versus Veronica’, which will see scores of committed ladies climb some craggy ascents and smile and purr with glee as they descend some of Whistler’s purest single-track. T’is true, you really don’t get to appreciate the pleasure here without first putting in some real graft climbing the trails and mountains first. This promises to be a hugely popular event, although I know of a few ladies eager to get it ‘over and done with’! Now that’s not that attitude is it now girls?!

The other HUGE event is the Sears Great Canadian Run. Billed as the relay event to help end kids cancer, this will see around 60 teams work their way over 80 kilometres of road and trail between Squamish and Whistler. The terrain will be challenging and I for one will be interested to hear if anyone can calculate the total elevation gain. I’m going to guess it’ll come out at somewhere over 2000 meters. So it’s all for a great cause, and the teams participants will all take it in turns to support each other and provide company and encouragement to each member out their doing their bit. I on the other hand, have taken it upon myself to run the whole 80kms solo – an Ultra marathon by anyone’s standards and I can’t wait to tackle it. Should only be a gentle 8-9 hours pounding away…whom I kidding?!!