Race Review: Gunner Shaw XC 10k Classic

Dirty trail shoes, which were a lot muddier before running through the lake at the end of the race.

Dirty trail shoes, which were a lot muddier before running through the lake at the end of the race.

If you’ve ever wanted to slog your way through a mud pit, splash through a smelly swamp and bound through an ice cold lake during a race–and also NOT get electrocuted/bruised shins/etc. in the process (a la Tough Mudder)–then Gunner Shaw is the race for you. Not only is it affordable with a $25 registration fee if you sign up early, Gunner Shaw is also a fun, friendly, no-frills local race that’s a blast for newbie and experienced trail runners alike.

This was my third time doing this race, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had at it yet, despite the rainy, gloomy and cold weather on the day of the race. If the weather gets too cold, as it has in previous years, the race course bypasses the swamps as they can sometimes freeze over (unlike the organizers of other off-road obstacle events, the local running club who organizes this event DOESN’T want participants with bloody, cut-up shins). Luckily for the 300-ish participants of this year’s event, that wasn’t the case.

Me trying not to bail in the lake at the finish line.

Me trying not to bail in the lake at the finish line.

The race starts at 1 p.m. sharp on a Saturday, which is a nice change from the typical early morning Sunday race start. Participants start near the main parking lot at Thetis Lake and run along to the entrance of the second parking lot near the boat launch before heading off on the trails of Upper Thetis. There are a few short climbs where you usually end up walking in single file as there really isn’t room to pass until you loop back around to Lower Thetis Lake (if you’re a speedy runner I’d suggest start near the front of the pack), but otherwise most of the trail is undulating.

The trails just off Upper Thetis are the most fun, and where you’ll find the swamps and mud puddles. This year, the swamp almost came up to my waist. You’re not running through it for very long, but when you exit, you pretty much can’t feel your legs or feet (well, at least I couldn’t) for a good five minutes.

The course is usually pretty slippery, so I’d highly recommend good trail shoes for this race — I witnessed several participants bail hard on the trail by losing grip on the slick roots and rocks covering most of the trail.

Enjoying the post-race hot chocolate!

Enjoying the post-race hot chocolate!

While the swamps are a highlight, the real fun is at the end, when the last few metres of the course is through Thetis Lake before you cross the finish line at the other side of the beach. Some participants like to dive in and swim at this point, much to the delight of the spectators gathered on the beach.I’m definitely NOT one of those participants. I managed to finish this year in about 51 minutes, a three minute improvement over last time. Not too shabby.

Another one of the highlights for me is the chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate that are served at the finish line, along with the usual post-race snacks of orange slices and cookies. Hot chocolate after a wet and muddy race is the best. I would definitely recommend bringing a towel, spare pair of socks and shoes and some warm clothes for the drive home.

Sad you missed out this year? Well, you’re in luck — the Stewart Mountain 10 / 5 miler is coming up on December 14th at 1 p.m. at Thetis Lake. It’s basically the same course minus the swamps and with the addition of a big climb, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s not as muddy and mucky as Gunner Shaw, but it’s a fun race, too.

Bri’s Race Rating (out of five stars)

Gunner Shaw XC 10k Classic
I haven’t had a chance to upload my Garmin details but here’s the official course map if you want to check out the route.
Course: ★★★★★
Organization: ★★★
Post-race food: ★★★
Race Garment: N/A
Awards: ★★★
Race Expo: N/A
Volunteers: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★★