Endurance athletes will converge in Kaslo this weekend for the third annual Sufferfest.
The three day festival features cross country mountain bike and trail running events, ranging in length from 14 to 100 kilometres for the cyclists and 10 to 200 km for the runners, along Kaslo’s legendary single track mountain trails.
In longest running event — aptly named the Loonie Toonie — is a new three stage event added to the roster this year. It goes Friday to Sunday with runners covering 60 to 80 km per day and sleeping in the Retallack cabin.
Seeing what the event has grown into in just three years, organizer Janis Neufeld can’t help but laugh when she thinks about how originally she was only asked to create a fun run.
“The business community in Kaslo wanted an event to attract people here in the shoulder season,” recalled Neufeld, owner of Kootenay Mountain Sports. “Originally we were thinking something small, like a fun run and it kinda took off there.”
What started as four event in its first year, grew into seven events last year, and now boasts nine events, which will draw over 450 participants over the weekend — some of whom will participate in multiple events back to back.
“There’s some hardcore participants who like to really push themselves and live up to the name of event with their suffering,” Neufeld said. “But there’s shorter events for people who just want to try it out. We have a 10 km run, and we added a new 14 km bike route this year.”
Bike events run mostly Saturday, with one on Sunday, and all the runners, besides Loonie Toonie participants, take off Sunday. Neufeld said the event attracts high caliber athletes from across BC and Alberta and a few from further afield.
“We have a lot of people come from cities, and it’s a real treat for them to be out in the wilderness all day,” Neufeld said.
Though she’s always careful to remind the city folk that they’re in bear and cougar country.
“There are lots of signs of wildlife out there.We always have to double check our trail markings before the events because often animals will tamper with them,” she said.
This year she ran into a black bear sitting in the middle of a trail she was GPSing and she had to back off and wait for it to leave before continuing down the path.
“On race day there’s so many people, there isn’t as much risk of coming up on bears. But it’s always a possibility and we tell people to be prepared,” Neufeld said.
It takes about 200 volunteers to put the event on, including a team of first air attendants prepared to transport people out of the back country if they get injured.
Event fees are paid to a non-profit society that donates any proceeds to youth recreational programs.
“The Kaslo Sufferfest Society, through this event, supports local business district, youth recreation programs, maintance of trails and developing recreational opportunities,” Neufeld said. “It’s a great event and it’s great for our community.”
Online registration for Sufferfest is now closed, however late registration is available at the Kaslo Legion prior to events. For details see kaslosufferfest.com.