On June 14th, the 5 Peaks Trail Running Series came to Canmore for the second installment of central Alberta’s race series. Consistent with the usual 5 Peaks format, the event consisted of an “enduro” distance and a “sport” distance, both 12 k and 8 k, respectively. But unlike your average 5 Peaks race, this event featured Olympians.
Devon Kershaw, of the Canadian World Cup Team and the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and teammate Jess Cockney (AWCA – NST B) took two of the podium steps on the day, finishing first in 51:14 and third in 53:17, respectively. Kevin Sandau (AWCA – NST Dev) rounded out the skiers in the top five of the enduro category with a fourth place finish in 53:55.
“It was definitely a hard race,” Kershaw told the The Cragand Canyon, who pushed the pace and ran off the front of the pack right from the start.
Cockney ran just behind Sandau and fellow AWCA skier Michael Somppi for most of the race, setting “a strong climbing rhythm” and pacing himself on the descents. He passed his teammates to take his spot on the podium with about 1.5 k to go.
Cockney was happy with his performance and felt that he “dug deep,” even though he prefers road running races to trail events.
“My preference is definitely to run road races as there’s no confusion about what pace to stick to or any descents to throw off my rhythm, but it’s good to switch it up and be uncomfortable with a new challenge,” he wrote in an email.
Sandau, who had not ran a trail running race in a number of years, also compared the race to the road running events that he is more familiar with.
“That was my first trail run in a long time, such a different feeling than road racing. The climbs are hard and doesn’t feel like I need to run my legs off. It was hard so I was happy with the race,” he wrote.
Noting Kershaw’s dominance right of the start, Sandau ran just behind teammate Graeme Killick (AWCA – NST B) until Killick took a wrong turn-off around 2 k into the event. From there, Sandau kept his position just ahead of Cockney until he “lost steam” at the 10 k mark and was passed.
While Killick, Cockney, and Kershaw made a good showing for the male Olympic skiers in the Enduro category, Heidi Widmer (AWCA – NST Dev) represented the women in the 8 k distance, posting a blistering speed of 39:27, almost three minutes ahead of the next competitor.
With the 8 k and 12 k races starting at the same time, Widmer ran with the 12 k runners until her turn-off, where the race became a practice in pacing for her.
Widmer really enjoyed the loop but was kept on her toes having not ran the course pre-race.
“The course was great! I had a general idea of where it went but hadn’t run the loop until the race. There was a long descent mid race that went to the bottom of the Georgetown trail which is essentially as low as you can get on the nordic centre trails. When I was sprinting down that hill, all I was thinking was ‘oh brother, I have to come all the way back up this,’ so the next bit of the race really hurt,” Widmer wrote.
A Canadian cross-country ski racer with the Alberta World Cup Academy, Zeke spends most of his time in Canmore, Alberta, but calls Cantley, Quebec, his home. He thinks that you can learn a lot about a person from their goals — his is to ski really fast on the Winter Olympic race course in 2018. Find him on the web: http://ezekielwilliams.ca/ and on twitter: @zek3r