An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Championships, cougars and an earthquake?

Yet again it’s been an active weekend for some here in Whistler. Firstly on the Saturday, we saw the ‘Xterra’ off road championships. This competition had its roots formed among the triathlon series across North America and Europe as its success has spread. The one quirk to this format is that it’s centered on ‘off-road’ courses around stunning trails, mountains and wooded areas. The last two years in Whistler have seen the Canadian championships, with a couple of the respective age group winners being granted access to the World Champs in Hawaii.

So this year, the Whistler event had been expanded to also include a duathlon (biking and running) and a pure running trail race. There was an early start for the triathletes as normal as they had to prepare, get their bikes ready for the transition from one discipline to the next, get marked with their respective numbers and time chips and into their wetsuits. Evidently the lake where the whole stage started from was visited by a cougar in the early hours of dawn – a fact that the race compare chose to share with the racers and athletes at their start time. So glad I wasn’t around to hear that inspiring speech, no doubt putting the fear of god into anyone who listened!

These have become heavily marketed and sponsored events, culminating with top placers being recognized in their age groups and evens with the offer of the very appealing excuse to hop across to Hawaii as ‘fall’ and early winter weather descends upon us – Great excuse! There was much talk of the super technical bike and running trails, particularly those from outside of British Columbia, Canada and not accustomed to our terrain, but everyone agreed that despite the super tough course, that it was a blast!

This following weekend saw the 2nd annual Granfondo event roll into town with a hugely increased participant number of around 7000 riders. Some were mad / athletic enough to ride the 122 scenic back down to Vancouver from where the race had started several hours earlier that very same day!! For the rest however, many decided to stick around town for the night and relax in various bars, patios, hot tubs, etc. The hope is that this event will swell even further next year, but this year was already massive. There were highway lane closures all the way from Vancouver to Whistler and although some riders amazingly managed to race and complete this lengthy and hilly course in a little over 3 hours, for others, it was a little more leisurely, with some even stopping off along the way for lunch or a coffee!!.

Now, something of a rarity, but this article couldn’t go without at least a mention of the small matter of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Vancouver Island (about 2 hours drive south and an hour ferry ride across from the mainland from Whistler) that hit last week. The aftershocks were felt down in Squamish, the lower mainland around Vancouver and by a few in buildings here in Whistler. Needless to say all are OK and no structures were damaged. This author certainly didn’t even notice anything and had to be told by guests around one of the local hotels – I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of feeling a minor ‘shake’ before when I’d spent a week or two in Japan and when you realise that you’re not living on a railway line, it’s pretty obvious what’s happening. Also damn concerning when it’s your first!!

So as we try to cram everything we can out of the remaining summer days, some thoughts have already turned to winter. The various ‘summer’ lift and gondola operations close on October 10th at which time there is also the annual ‘Turkey Sale’ – so called because this huge ‘tented’ sale of all goods ski and snowboard related, falls on Thanksgiving weekend. This really marks the end to summer tourism as the visiting numbers trickle in, barring the odd conference or party in town.

So let’s make the most of it and try and ‘live in the present’ a little. No point in waiting for life to happen. Summer won’t stick around forever. It’s here right now and won’t stop for any of us!