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Grizzly Ultra Marathon 'special' 10th milestone

CANMORE – When the first runner's step was taken at the Grizzly Ultra Marathon last weekend, more than one milestone was achieved.

After a turbulent past 16 months, race director and local Tony Smith took some brief moments to reflect on his journey to get to this point among the most-ever Grizzly Ultra participants at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 10-11).

"It was a very special moment," said Smith, owner of Grizzly Mountain Events (GME). "Just with all the uncertainty over the last year-and-a-half. Myself, personally, I didn’t collect a single dollar of income from Grizzly Mountain Events. I haven’t paid myself a single dollar for a year-and-a-half because there was no income from events."

Last year was supposed to be the mega 10th anniversary celebration of the Grizzly Ultra Marathon, which takes place on the trails in sun, rain or snow at the nordic centre.

But with COVID-19 shutting down the world in March 2020, many sports endurance events were halted as race directors anxiously waited for any government announcements. Livelihoods were at stake and famed and beloved races were in jeopardy of going away forever.

GME has a palatte of races throughout the year that suddenly stopped running, including its biggest event of the year.

"Last year was supposed to be the Grizzly Ultra's 10th year, so it was extremely disappointing that we couldn’t even just celebrate last year aside from all the other challenges and disappointments because of COVID," said Smith. "Having to hold off on that 10-year anniversary, it made this year that much more special. One of the big reasons why it was as successful as it was is a lot of my paid crew have been with me along for the journey and we've learned year-to-year.

"This past weekend was a combination of all that experience and learning over the last nine events and we kind of just brought that all together for this event."

Due to high demand and COVID-19 safety, the event was held over two days for the first time.

Smith was thrilled with how the weekend turned out and would like to keep the two-day format moving forward. He also teased a big announcement from GME events coming soon.

"Sunday was [the original] event day and that sold out very quickly this year so then I had a long waiting list and I was getting phone calls and emails and texts because people wanted to join the event but it was sold out completely," he said. "Just based on all the feedback we’re getting this year, I’m quite certain two days will sell out again for next year and it actually worked out really well so we’re going to repeat that in future years."

Team Adam – Ben Adam and Lindsay Adam – won the mixed two-person race at a time of 4:09:14.2 on an updated course. The quick couple, who also won the category in 2019, spent most of the summer at their Canmore home familiarizing themselves with the home town course and other local mountains.

They came close to challenging for the Grizzly Ultra's mixed team's record of 4:03:07 set in 2017.

"We were hoping to go a little bit faster, but given the fact that it’s snowing and I think we were a little bit over 50 kilometres, I think we were pretty close to our last performance." said Lindsay, who ran the second leg of the race when snow started falling.

"We knew what [the course record] was. I'm not sure though, it’s a different course, so is there a record? We’ll be back and we know that we’re close."

After two years since their last gold medal at Grizzly Ultra, the mixed winners were cheery to be back racing.

"I’m just really happy it was able to go forward," Ben said. "Tony puts so much of himself into these events and they are really good events. So I was really hoping for his sake it would go through and I’m really glad he was able to pull it off in the end and keep it COVID safe."

Over the two days, in the solo categories, the top overall male was Calgary's Chris McNamara at 4:15:16.2.

The top local was Canmore's John Burroughs in ninth at 4:49:02.8.

The top overall female was Edmonton's Priscilla Forgie at 4:32:44.4, breaking the course record by more than four minutes.

The top local was Canmore's Alexandra Stukator in seventh at 5:27:02.7.

For a full list of results, visit www.zone4.ca.

Smith, who ran a succssful grizzly bear wood carving business during his time away from race directing, said the return of GME and its main event, the Grizzly Ultra Marathon, was a celebration of getting outdoors and being healthy.

"I think everyone was just ready, mentally, so it was good for everyone to just get out," he said.


Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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