Tears & Gears

With the prospect of rain, slippery roots, steep climbs and aggressive grizzly bears, why would you ever want to trail run? Because, despite all of the reasons that scream not to, it feels good to be outside, to do something new, and to challenge yourself.

When Abi Moore and Krista Turcasso asked me to join the Tears & Gears race last fall, I hesitated. I've never been a trail runner and races make me nervous. But true to form, I couldn't say no, and I found myself at the start line.

The pair created the event seven years ago, combining two of their loves – running and biking – into a race meant to inspire people to try both sports within Fernie's beautiful trail system. Competitors of all ages run, jog and bicycle, and then sip beer and eat cheeseburgers afterwards.

The race can only be described as an epic mountain duathlon; an 11-kilometre trail run paired with a 12-kilometre cross-country mountain bike, competed as a solo athlete or within a team. I invite my Swedish friend Emma to join me – she will bike, I will run.

The rain is relentless on race day – an otherwise scorching summer seems to have transformed overnight. The wind chills our faces, the rain seeps into our bones. I meet Emma at her house, both of us hidden beneath raincoats.

“You wearing your socks?” she asks, pointing to her feet.

“You bet I am.”

The socks are white and turquoise with the Tears & Gears logo wrapped along the tube. It's what excites us most – matching socks.

The running route meanders along Old Stumpy, up the steep ascent of Oh Dear, to R-Trail, Kush and then back to the Aquatic Centre where the bikers begin their pedal. The previous week I tackle my first trail run up and down Lazy Lizard near Island Lake Lodge (a nine kilometre loop). I've been training for the half marathon and the run isn't nearly as unpleasant as anticipated. It's actually quite refreshing.

When the whistle blows and the race starts I take a steady pace. The first portion along Old Stumpy is rocky, not slippery. I follow behind other runners, some of whom have already disappeared into the forest ahead of me.

I reach the Oh Dear trail and slow my run up the steep, muddy climb. I slip on the saturated earth and begin a steady walk, soon finding pace with a few other girls. We pick up our run again and I pay no attention to the tiredness in my legs. Trail-running has proven a delight – a challenge, of course, but a delight.

I leap between roots and around puddles at hidden corners. Mud splashes up my legs and into the whites of my prized socks. Trail running is certainly not mundane – there are so many curves and obstacles to be mindful of that there is no time to wallow in runner's woe.

I hear a fellow runner, Heather Mong, behind me.

“I love trail running,” she says, to no one in particular. We chat about running and I realize I agree with her wholeheartedly.

When the finish line comes into sight I pick up my pace. Emma waits for me, her bike at the ready, and as I reach her we high-five before she cruises into her 12-kilometre route. I finish in 1:23:28. It's not my fastest time, but trail running is technical. I'm soaked and so very satisfied.

I warm up with a drink and wait for Emma to roll across the finish line an hour later. When she does we hug it out, grab our Tears & Gears pints and fill them with Fernie brew. Fernie Mountain is capped with snow, and though the sky is dark with rain, the drops feels like liquid sunshine.

“The mud, it's the best part,” says Emma, her face speckled. “I love mud.”

When the winners are announced we learn we've placed third in the Women's Classic, totalling a time of 2:32:18. We celebrate with more beer and cheeseburgers, followed by steaming hot showers.

Admittedly, there is no better feeling than discovering yet another reason to get outside.