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West Kootenay runner takes top spot at Kal Park Ultra trail race

Rossland’s Eva Gifford wins 25-k event at the ultra trail running race at Kalamalka Provincial Park
Rossland runner Eva Gifford was the fastest female runner in the Dirty Feet 25 kilometre trail race May 7 at Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park near Vernon. (Allan McVicar photo)

Rossland ultra long distance runner Eva Gifford finished first in the 25-kilometre trail race Sunday, May 7, at the Dirty Feet Kal Park Ultra at Kalamalka Provincial Park near Vernon.

The 31-year-old Rossland native ran to the top of the podium in the trail race posting a time of two hours, 33 minutes and 22.7 seconds.

“I’ve actually never done their race series,” said Gifford.

“So it was good. I was coming off a winter dealing with injuries, so it was nice to put together a few weeks of training with my coach.

“The goal was just to see whether I was going to re-injure myself, or will I be fine?

“So it actually worked out really well.”

Dirty Feet is a trail race series that hosts 8, 25, and 50-km races throughout the Okanagan in the summer months, as well as biking, skiing and snowshoe events in winter.

The Kalamalka course boasts 25-km of forested trails, highlighted by amazing views of Kal Lake and the Okanagan valley, enjoyed after several challenging climbs.

“I don’t normally race 25-ks, but it’s always kind of nice and humbling to jump into something a little shorter, faster and harder and see where you end up,” said Gifford.

“It’s definitely a challenging course, in terms of elevation gain for 25k, but the trails are just gorgeous.”

A memorable incline for Gifford, came at the 12-km mark where runners climbed the next six kilometres, gaining 1,200-ft in elevation before reaching the peak at the 18 km mark, and beginning a welcome descent.

“That one got me. When I was going up, I was like ‘oh no’, and continued to go up and up and up and up. That was a surprise and I definitely felt the lack of fitness there.”

Gifford has competed in several 50-km races and the 108-km Black Spur Ultra race in Kimberley in 2021, which took her running to the next level last year, when she raced to third place in Mountain Lakes 100, a 160-km (100 mile) trail race at Olallie Lake, Ore., last September.

Running along dozens of lakes, the race features the best trail running Oregon has to offer, with technical and rocky sections, views of mountain peaks in every direction, and 60 miles of luscious sections of the Pacific Crest Trail.

“In a longer race, you have to pace yourself, because you can’t go hard all the way, because a 100-mile race can be just under 21 hours, so you can’t run hard the entire time,” she said.

Gifford also won Rossland’s Broken Goat 25-km race last July, a challenging 1,000 metre ascent over the Seven Summits trails at an elevation of over 2,000 metres (6,550 ft.).

She was the fifth fastest among all 150 runners.

The Rossland runner plans to compete in the 50-km Wy’East Wonder in Parkdale, Ore., June 24, and then the Oregon Cascades 100 mile race in Sisters, Ore., at the end of August.

“I kinda like the long stuff. For me it just felt like a long breath, and it wasn’t that mentally hard, so I am going to do it again this year.”

Gifford is also a member of the Rossland Running Club, says as a local chiropractor she has invested her time and effort into the health and well-being of the community.

She hopes to bring more trail running/mountain bike racing events to the Golden City in the near future.

“There are some things in the works, definitely,” Gifford said.

“Looking at hopefully bringing trail races to the Trail-Rossland area, at the end of this year maybe next year, but we’d like to bring the combination of trail running and mountain biking together.”

Nelson runner Connor Sherman also finished third in the men’s race at Kal Ultra.

Gifford sent out a big thank-you to their coach, Nelson-based Dave Stevens, for his distance running guidance and expertise.

Read: Run Club hosts challenging Rossland to Nelson run

Jim Bailey

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