An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Shucking, biking and another Whistler festival

So we had the Oyster ‘Shucking’ (yes that is the actually word!) contest to see how many oysters could be downed in a minute. This was a new ‘event’ put on by one of our finest restaurants in town in part o raise good funds in the name of charity. Tell you what though, some of these boys and girls can seriously knock back and inordinate amount of those sloppy little suckers (or should that be ‘shuckers’ ??)!

This week also saw the ‘BC Bike race’ culminate its seven day stage race with a challenging route around some of Whistler’s biking single track. This now annual event starts in Victoria on Vancouver Island and winds its way along some of the finest bike trails toward Whistler. I inadvertently nearly got caught up in it out for one of my morning training runs and found myself on one of the quiet trails. Quiet, no doubt, because the route was marked out for the race – I missed that sign obviously! However, I instantly realised the need to speed through the trail when I had to jump out of the way of a speeding competitor, shortly followed by a guy on a motor cross bike. No idea what the motorbike was doing following but hey. I guess the decisive factor was when I was rapidly headed toward an on course photographer, who thought about snapping me, only to look up at me a few times, perhaps a tad perplexed, to see a runner on the course – I blame the lack of markings, honestly!

Next up is the biking mega-fest that is the ‘Crankworx’ festival. A 9 day extravaganza that draws riders and crowds from around the world. There are daily elite riding competitions, where some of the worlds finest compete and challenge each others wit and skills, concerts, free giveaways from the event sponsors and just a real feeling of good vibes.

This event really does draw the numbers in. That said, although most will come into our part of the mountains to sample all of the many flavours at hand, there are and always will be many that find themselves landing in Whistler completely oblivious to this HUGE biking festival. Most will quickly come to appreciate all it offers, but some will have had their experience perhaps soured just that little bit as they find the occasional number of crowds and volume of mountain bikers around just that little bit too much for them to take.

This event has been steadily growing over the years and as it has done so, it has pulled in bigger crowds, bigger prize money for the athletes, bigger bands and attractions as entertainment for the hoards attending and all of the very finest of the who’s who of the ‘downhill’ and ‘free-ride’ circuit. Those in the know will come to see some of their favourite bands, others to follows their ‘heroes’ and the professional athletes that they can only aspire to be. However, whatever it is that draws the thousands to this annual event, a good many of them will return year after year. So someone within the event and tourism planning around Whistler must be doing something right.

For those still seeking their adrenaline kicks on the snow capped hills, there are still ski camps going on for the next couple of weeks on the local glacier. Yep, that’s right – mid July and there’s still skiing going on! In fact, it actually snowed on the mountains yesterday and there is more forecast over the next couple of days, not much, but still…really!? July!? C’mon guys. What the heck is going on in this part of the world?! We’re supposed to be in the depths of summer – well you could have fooled us! It’s the same old sorry story up and down the west coast out here. Everyone coming into town always checks our weather and upon arrival in town always find a way of relating to any poor conditions they may encounter – mainly because everyone on this side of the America’s is still waiting for their summer. It’s coming honestly!

So with all of this going on, what am I doing this weekend? Taking myself down to Vancouver, where it’s still a bit damp but a tad warmer, to run in a trail race and take the vertical challenge of running the famous ‘Grouse Grind’. 16km’s straight up over rocks and roots and up the face of the mountain. I know, I know. Sounds like fun doesn’t it! Don’t worry; you can all join me for next year’s event. It is for charity after all! Then after a weekend of escapism or life away from the ‘bubble’ as Whistler is affectionately known to many living in town, it’ll be back up the mountains to our pad in the village, near the lakes and trails and no doubt enjoy a day or two basking in that sun…… or at least watching the extreme biking going on from a warm bar anyways!