Victoria's Adam Campbell had the course to himself almost from the start of the 25 km Comfortably Numb Trail Run on Saturday, June 27, but had plenty of company racing the ghost of Aaron Heidt - the 2008 Comfortably Numb champion, and Campbell's partner in the upcoming TransRockies Challenge.
"I was really racing Aaron," joked Campbell. "He set a tough course record, and I thought I'd go for it today. I had a big running week, and wanted to put in a good effort. I'm really happy with my time, even if I was a little behind (Heidt's) pace."
Campbell set the course record in 2007 with a time of one hour, 58 minutes and 45 seconds, the first runner to break the two-hour mark in four years of racing on the trail. In year five, 2008, Heidt shattered that record with his time of 1:49:50.
This year Heidt was at a wedding and couldn't defend his title, leaving his running partner Campbell to try and break that barrier.
He fell short of the record by less than six minutes, finishing in 1:55:28, but it was enough to win the 2009 race and better his 2007 time by more than three minutes. That was good enough for Campbell.
"It's such a beautiful course," he said. "I stayed on my feet the whole way through which isn't always easy, but it's a tough course and it takes a lot out of you. I had a few low points out there, but I always say that it's easier to suffer in a beautiful place."
Campbell and Heidt are keeping each other motivated for the TransRockies by sending each other their racing journals, and generally pushing each other to get ready for the race at the end of August.
The top female racer this year was professional adventure racer Jen Segger, who placed 16 th overall in a time of 2:20:01. She was also on a training run in many ways, warming up with a handful of runs after injuring her Achilles tendon in February.
She was actually en route to the 600 km Best of the West adventure race in Alberta, but decided on Thursday to pull out because of some team logistics.
"I've always wanted to race (Comfortably Numb), but it never fit in with my schedule until this year," she said. "I really love this trail, it's one of the best we have out here."
Segger is familiar with the course, using Comfortably Numb for training runs. If she was healthy she might have tried to go for the women's record of 2:05:25 set by champion marathoner Kristina Rody in the first year of the race, but her only goal was to make it to the finish line without re-injuring her Achilles.
"I think it flared up a little bit in the technical sections - I haven't done any real technical running this year so that was to be expected. But overall I'm feeling really good and happy with my day," she said. "It helps when you like the course, and know what's coming next."
What doesn't help is when the tube on your hydration pack doesn't work and you run for more than two hours without any liquid. Segger said she struggled in the last few kilometres, and was close to bonking at the finish.
Next up for Segger is a stand-up paddleboard race on the coast surrounding the Great Bear Rainforest, followed by the Intermontane Challenge in Kamloops, a five-day mountain bike race with five different loops out of the city.
The second racer across the finish line was Mark Bennett, who also won the 40 to 49 category with a time of 2:02:46. Seamus Frew was third in 2:02:92.
The top 50-plus runner was Kent Williams, who completed the race in 2:21:0.
Cheryl Beatty was the second woman to the finish, completing the course in 2:24:11. Alison Taylor in third in 2:36:09. Martha Heintzman was first in women's 50-plus in 3:15:57.
Complete results and photos from the event are posted at www.comfortablynumb.ca.
Men Under 40
1. Adam Campbell - 1:55:28
2. Sam Frew - 2:03:31
3. Aaron Pitt - 2:06:56
Men 40 to 49
1. Mark Bennett - 2:02:46
2. Kevin Holland - 2:04:32
3. Roger Shirt - 2:05:21
1. Kent Williams - 2:21:01
2. Barry McClure - 2:24:49
3. Walter Wallgram - 2:28:42
Women Under 40
1. Jen Segger - 2:20:01
2. Cheryl Beatty - 2:22:22
3. Alison Taylor - 2:36:09
Women 40 to 49
1. Ghlee Macleod - 2:39:14
2. Michelle Lewon - 2:42:26
3. Nancy Watson - 2:50:15
1. Martha Heintzman - 3:15:57
2. Grace Blok - 3:16:44
3. Connie Sobchak - 3:25:53