Fran Ooievaar had a better story than her running partner’s following last weekend’s trail race around Cultus Lake.
Yet, she would have much preferred her friend’s experience.
Ooievaar was one of 12 runners who got lost on the trails during the first half of the ninth annual Around the Lake Give ‘r Take 30 km race around Cultus Lake.
It took approximately 45 minutes for the group to be found by race sweepers.
Despite being an experienced road runner, Sunday’s trail race was a first for Ooievaar, who has bad knees and found herself alone on the course fairly quickly.
“You get so busy watching where you’re putting your feet, because even going down you’re slipping on the gravel, rocks, and roots,” she said. “I guess I wasn’t watching as well as I should have been for the trail markers and all of a sudden I realized I hadn’t seen or heard of anyone for awhile, and I hadn’t seen the trail markers either.”
But because she was on a path that had tracks from runners, she kept following it until she ran into a group of 11 other racers.
They, too, were lost.
Heather Hibberson, race director for the event, which is organized by the Vedder Running Club, said it’s not uncommon for trail runners to get lost on the trails during organized events.
“It’s not like running on roads,” said Hibberson. “When you’re running trails, you have to look down all the time.”
Hibberson said the route was well marked with bright pink ribbons tied around trees and flour on the trails to keep the racers on track. As well, the course map, elevation grid, and aid station locations were posted on the website prior to the race. And a laminated map was also at the start-finish area the day of the race.
“We try our very best to ensure nobody goes off course on race day, but it does happen, and not just in our race, it happens at other races too,” said Hibberson.
“We’re sorry people went off the course … but ultimately, it’s a trail racers responsibility to make sure they have an understanding of the race course and where the aid stations are.”
However, Ooievaar said she would have liked to have seen better course markings.
“A lot of the ribbons were hung up high and you’re so busy looking at your feet that you’re not looking up there anymore,” Ooievaar said.
This year’s race had record numbers with 78 solo racers and 48 relay teams of two racers each. Compared to other races, though, it’s still a relatively small race.
“You run the Victoria Marathon and this wouldn’t happen, because there’s people everywhere,” Ooievaar said.
“There’s just not a lot of you on those trails … one woman who was with us had done this run five or six times and she got lost too.”
Ooievaar said that while her experience wouldn’t deter her from attempting the race again in the future, her knees might.