After two years of COVID-19, races have begun to fill Roberts Creek running wonder Shaun Stephens-Whale’s calendar once again.
On Oct. 17, Shaun competed in the famous and notorious Squamish 50 mile. Downtown Squamish was dark for the 6 a.m. start – a hundred headlamps bobbed and swayed up the main street. There would be seven aide stations throughout the 6,000-foot elevation of single-track trails. As he reached station two, Shaun was six seconds behind in third place. Thirty miles in, Shaun had a five-minute lead and was four minutes off of the record.
Besides the Squamish race, Shaun was also trying to win the Canadian Spartan Series – completing two demanding obstacle course race events on opposite sides of the country. Winning a race in Red Deer in Alberta five weeks previously, he was looking good to take the series lead in the Blue Mountain race in Ontario on Oct. 23. The deal was if things went downhill in the Squamish 50 (a less important race), he was to step off and conserve his energy and fitness. Shaun’s not one to concede in a race and he pushed to the limit. Then, at 37 miles, he was done. Too fast a pace in the torrential rain and wind took its toll.
Oct 23, race day at Blue Mountain, turned out glorious after a week of wet weather. The course was muddy, the grass-covered ski hills were steep for a total of 21 km. Six times up and down and 6,000 feet climbing. Thirty-five obstacles strategically placed on course would test all the elites – 80lb uphill bag and bucket carries, barb wire crawls, monkey bar obstacles, spear throws – all of these sapping strength. Still, endurance is king, the best uphill runners will always prevail. Shaun kept himself in third place the whole race, jumping over the fire-line in two hours and 27 minutes, behind Jessie Bruce in two hours 20 minutes and the world champion himself, Ryan Atkins, in two hours 16 minutes.
Shaun had won the Canadian Spartan Series, a combined first and third place with a large payday. A knee injury during the Squamish 50 was aggravated during the Spartan race but after two weeks of rest, Shaun started mountain biking again with a bit of running thrown in.
The Worlds Spartan Race Championships in Abu Dhabi, U.E. take place Dec. 3 and 4 and if he is fit enough, Shaun will attend with the Canadian Team.