Fog, mud, sun at 2012 Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf
Record participation meant record levels of energy, excitement and fun at the 30th Annual Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf.
Sunday morning brought low visibility to the peak of Mount Washington, where the race began at 9:30 a.m. Spectators dressed in shorts and straw hats, despite the 1.2 degree temperatures, in the true spirit of this trans-seasonal race.
The slushy spring snow didn't slow the competitors too much. Racing past the base of the Eagle Chair, the transition to the nordic ski went smoothly, with junior team Strathcona Domination in the lead as the relay moved into the run stage.
The Westerly Hotel Brian McLean Banzai team soon resumed their normal place up front. Banzai went into this 30th anniversary race with 17 wins to the team name.
One ambulance went screaming up Strathcona Parkway, to the aid of a competitor with a suspected arm fracture and a few motorists got caught in the crowd, apparently unaware of the closure at the Duncan Bay Main Logging Road, at the base of Mount Washington.
Recent wet weather had left the logging road slippery and muddy but soon the mountain bikers had reached Comox Lake, for the kayak leg.
Banzai was already half way through the road-bike stage, while the rest of the pack were still in their kayaks.
With around a 10 minute lead, Banzai was the first team into their canoe at the Courtenay Airpark and team captain Bill Brett was easily the first to jump out at Comox Marina to ring the bell at the finish line, completing the race in 3:17:19.
"One of our guys is 71, I'm 53. We're not getting any younger, but we've got some experience," panted Brett, seconds after ringing the bell. "We were really strong at the end of this relay and the guys gave us a great start, getting the lead after the ski, so everybody did their part."
Ski Tak Hut Tsunami came in second, six minutes behind, with a total race time of 3:23:31.
The real race was for third, with Strathcona Domination and Men's Masters team Strathcona Park Lodge paddling into Comox Marina at exactly the same time. It was a sprint up the ramp, to the screams of the crowd, and the bell was rung with a jump by Strathcona Domination. The youngest team in the race, with a total age of 119 years, Strathcona Domination completed the race in 3:34:37. Strathcona Park Lodge's time was 3:34:48.
The top-placed military team was 9 Guys 1 Heart, comprised of SAR techs from 442 Squadron in Comox. 15th overall, their time of 3:57:59 was enough to win the Base Commander's Trophy.
"The SAR tech team is always the one to compete against," smiled Ryan Palmer, a senior test pilot at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, which is part of the Canadian Flight Test Centre in Cold Lake, Alberta. Palmers team covered their own costs to travel the 15,000 odd kilometres to compete in the Snow to Surf.
"Fitness is a big part of the military and we promote it as much as we can, so when opportunities like this come around to build morale and participate in a fitness event, we take advantage of it," explained Palmer, who'd previously been posted in Comox. "Comox is a special place. People get here and they don't want to leave. It's always great to see military folks and reunite."
Buffalo Soldiers V3.0, of the fixed-wing faction, were just happy to have beaten the Rotor Heads.
"There's more energy here than in all the rest of Canada right now," proclaimed a grinning Liz Tribe, race spokesperson. "Our volunteers have done tremendous work and we can't thank them enough."
The beer garden was buzzing and music pumping long after the race was over. On the roofs of cars packing the streets of downtown Comox were canoes, kayaks, bikes and skis: symbols of the days adventures.
Click here for full race results.
Photo: Bill Brett of winning team Banzai rings the bell at the finish line, making it 18 victories in 19 years, while Andrew Davis of 98.9 Jet FM emcees from above.
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