Two up-and-coming runners from the Sunshine Coast blasted the competition at the 2019 Deception Pass 50-kilometre ultra marathon last month.
Halfmoon Bay’s Katherine Short, 29, took first place in the women’s division with a time of 4:39:50 – the sixth fastest time for women in the race’s eight-year history.
Nick Duff, 32, who lives in Tuwanek, placed second in the men’s division with a time of 3:52:42, hot on the heels of first place finisher Eric Sauer, who finished in 3:49:18. Their times were fast enough to break the men’s course record.
“I ran well. I did what I set out and planned to do,” said Duff. “Between me and Katharine, there was a pretty solid Canadian contingency out there.”
The Washington State Park after which the Deception Pass race is named is famous for its rugged coastline, dense forests and grand views. This was the first time Duff and Short had competed in the race, and both are relative newcomers to the sport of ultra marathons and trail running.
Short, who works as a massage therapist, transitioned to running less than four years ago from competitive mountain biking. “I didn’t really want to get hurt anymore,” she said.
She picked up the sport of trail running only last summer, and has already taken home several podium finishes. Her coach, Josh Vanderwiele, noticed her after she won Kill Bill’s Oyster Dome Challenge in Alger, WA last July. “He was like, ‘you set a course record, and you’ve never been on the trail scene before. Who are you?’” Short said.
The Oyster Dome Challenge was her first trail race, but running trails “feels like home” for Short, who grew up building trails with her father in the forests of the Sunshine Coast. “I feel at peace in the trails. It’s a beautiful place to spend time. You’re out of traffic, out of sight... It’s kind of my happy place.”
Short is training to compete in races more than 160 kilometres long – for which it takes years for the body to properly prepare.
Duff’s 2020 goals are equally personal: “Show up consistently and ready to race fast.”
To get there, both put in training that can exceed more than 100 kilometres per week. For Short, that means “doubling,” putting in two runs a day – to and from work. Duff quit his day job two years ago to prioritize training and also often puts in two runs a day, on top of cross training. “I just knew that it was time to do it. I thought I had potential and it’s either go for it and give it your all or else you never know.”
Duff worked with coach Sean Clark in his first year of competitive racing, but for 2019 took a solo – and successful – path, taking home a first place finish at the Whistler Alpine Meadows Triple Wammy three-day stage race, and the Deception Pass course record.
While neither are affiliated with any Sunshine Coast clubs, they have both raced the Sunshine Coast April Fool’s half marathon.
This Saturday, the racing continues. Short will be competing in a marathon in Maui, Hawaii and said she’ll be happy with “anything under three [hours].”
Duff, meanwhile, will be working on speed in preparation for a series of shorter races before he takes on the 2020 Canadian Mountain Running Championships in May.