A quartet of runners from the Nicola Valley took part in the first event of the Dirty Feet trail running series on March 23 in Kamloops.

Conditions at the Bachelor Heights run site were challenging with cool, sub-zero temperatures and muddy, slippery terrain.

Leading the way for the Merritt contingent was 40-year-old Marie-Josée Bedard, who placed second in the women’s 21-kilometre race in a time of one hour, 57 minutes and 50 seconds.

“It was very muddy,” said Bedard, “and almost treacherous at times — even for a trail run. By the end of the race, my runners felt like platform shoes.”

Mark Nendick, 36, of Merritt finished fourth overall out of a field of 29 runners in the men’s 10-kilometre race with a time of 52 minutes and 12 seconds.

Mark Nendick Photo courtesy of Jesse Winkiewicz/Wild Mountain Kelowna

Mark Nendick
Photo courtesy of Jesse Winkiewicz/Wild Mountain Kelowna

“It went well. I was pleased with my result,” said Nendick, who had competed in one other Dirty Feet trail run two years ago. “These events are always well-organized.”

Also competing at the 10K distance were a pair of first-timers from the Nicola Valley area — Erika Strande and Christina Pehr. They finished 19th and 20th respectively. Strande’s time was one hour, five minutes and 53 seconds, while Pehr was two seconds back in 1:05:55.

The women’s 10K field was a large one with 69 finishers in total.

“It was definitely chilly,” said the 26-year-old Strande. “Saturday night, it had snowed, so it was very slippery Sunday morning. You really had to watch your feet.”

“It was harder than we expected,” conceded Pehr, 27. “I almost fell three or four times. We’ve been running on roads all winter. We weren’t really in trail form.”

Both runners thoroughly enjoyed themselves, however, and are confident they’ll be back for more.

“We didn’t even know that it was a series until we got up there,” said Pehr.

All four local runners took part in the Dirty Feet run on March 23 as part of their preparations for more major events in the weeks and months ahead.

Bedard is competing in the Okanagan half-marathon this weekend in Kelowna, while Nendick has his sights set on the BMO Vancouver half-marathon on May 4.

“I’ve been training with Kevin Black,” said Nendick. “We’re into week 10 of a 14-week program that’s preparing us for Vancouver.

Erika Strande and Christina Pehr. Photo courtesy of Jesse Winkiewicz/Wild Mountain Kelowna

Erika Strande and Christina Pehr.
Photo courtesy of Jesse Winkiewicz/Wild Mountain Kelowna

“We’ve put a lot of work into getting ready for that race. I’ve never followed a program before. I’ve always sort of winged it. It’s a whole new world.”

As for Strande and Pehr, their end-game is a little different. The pair of MSS graduates are looking to compete in the ‘Mud, Sweat and Tears’ endurance challenge at Crystal Mountain above West Kelowna in the middle of May. The event involves a 12K off-road run with a whole mess of strength and agility obstacles along the route.

“It’s kind of like the Tough Mudder and the Warrior Dash,” said Pehr, citing two other versions of the very-popular pastime.

To get ready for the Mud, Sweat and Tears (gotta love the name), the two young ladies have been getting together for runs a couple of times a week and also doing a substantial amount of pylometrics (a series of explosive exercises focused on having muscles exert maximum force in as short a time as possible, with the goal of improving both speed and power).

“It should be fun,” said Strande with a laugh.