From August 21 to 22 the Black Spur Ultra race will once again take place in Kimberley — an intense single track of either 54 or 108 kilometres taking participants up and down rugged terrain, hosted at Kimberley Alpine Resort.
The Black Spur Ultra is one of six different endurance events that Alberta-based Sinister Sports is hosting this year.
“We created a few smaller events, just because we weren’t sure what would happen with COVID and whatnot, so we decided to try and mix it up a little bit,” said Brian Gallant, owner and director of Sinister Sports. “We thought that we would have lower capacity just because of the pandemic regulations.
“So we thought if we have a bunch of extra smaller events, our competitors have more options to work with so they can hopefully be there in a different way. Now that the restrictions are largely gone, it’s looking pretty good.”
In addition to pandemic restrictions, race organizers also need to pay attention to fire and smoke conditions in the days and weeks ahead of the race.
“We don’t tend to panic too much about it. The smoke is kind of like the weather, you’ve just got to watch it. It’s one of those things where you have to make choices close to race day, because we don’t know what the smoke situation will be in any given time.
Gallant hopes that come race day the smoke will be clear, but said he sent an email out to the competitors, essentially saying that this is a reality now.
“We all have to accept that there is a reality of smokey weather in this part of the world in July and August and some years are better, some years are worse, some days are better some days are worse,” Gallant said.
“We just have to try our best to manage that and watch and make sure that we’re making good choices for the sake of our competitors.”
When planning for the inaugural Black Spur Ultra, Gallant explained that Kimberley itself was the driver for the place to hold it, and Kimberley Alpine Resort the natural choice for the specific location.
“It’s a great venue, there’s really just a helpful attitude from everybody at the resort,” he said. “They want to get things done, they want to see things happen, so it’s just a real pleasure to do business with them.
“The onsite services are really good, so it’s easy to get things done. If you need something they have a lot of it there, they just have good resources.”
Registration is open now and will remain so until early August, however they will try to accommodate people as best they can outside of that window. A lot of people tend to register a bit late for the race, so late registrations are somewhat expected.
If you are interested in ultra racing but or unsure or just want to get a feel for it, a good place to start, according to Gallant, is to volunteer at the race.
“It’s good fun and you get to meet a lot of athletes and it’s really inspiring,” Gallant said. “You have a lot of amazing people out there.
READ MORE: Kimberley Black Spur Ultra race results
“And I think we’re really fortunate that trail runners are, just in general a really good group of people. They really want to see everybody succeed in the events, they really want to see everyone thrive as a runner.”
He added he feels very fortunate to be able to work with the community of runners that come out to Sinister Sports events.
In terms of preparing for a race of that magnitude, it’s best to start small and accept that training can take a long time.
“If you have a good base of training it’s largely mental to get up into longer distances, but we have a lot of people that start off with some small runs and then they branch out,” Gallant explained.
If you’ve ran a five-kilometre trail and feel comfortable and confident, next time try a 10 kilometre trail, and gradually work your way up from there.
Finding people in your community, like a local run club, is also a good place to start.
“If you’re not an active trail runner right now, some people are intimidated by running on trail, just because it’s something new and it has this perception of being something dangerous,” Gallant said. “It’s not, it’s a fun activity and it gets you outside in the fresh air.”