A few years ago the Comfortably Numb trail connecting Wedgemont to Lost Lake Park earned "epic ride" status from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) - one of a handful of trails in Canada to earn that distinction.
But from the very start the potential of the trail was recognized by trail runners. The length of it - 24 km from start to finish - combined with the relatively low elevation gain of 800 metres in total also made it attractive for long runs. But most appealing is the look and feel of the trail, with spectacular views that range from rocky plateaus to old growth forests, with one long piece of singletrack winding through terrain that ranges from green to black on the difficult scale. Long, definitely - boring, never.
Saturday, June 27 is the sixth year for the annual Comfortably Numb Trail Run. Aside from a few minor course changes for construction it's the same 25 km length as previous years. It starts at the Wedgemont parking area and follows a short sequence of logging trails to spread out the group before meeting up with the trail about a kilometre in. There will be a water station just past the midway point - runners should be somewhat self sufficient - and possibly another water station on the descent if it's a hot day. The finish is outside the Spruce Grove Field House.
The big change this year is the addition of a second start time one hour earlier for slower or recreational runners. The early start is at 8 a.m., and the main group hits the trail at 9 a.m.
"We're really excited about that," said event director Kevin Titus. "It will really help us out a lot at the end with the trail sweep and making sure the awards can happen earlier when we want them to happen."
Anyone who expects to take three and a half hours or longer is encouraged to start early. By doing so, they will cross the finish line at roughly the same time as most average runners.
"It's great for people who are a little bit slower, or are running it for the first time. We hope people wouldn't avoid the race because people don't want to come in behind everyone else, but I know people can find it intimidating or worry about being pressured, and this takes that pressure off," said Titus.
Many runners will be racing with the goal of beating the record or ranking in their age category, but for most runners it's just about getting to the finish. It's a long run, but compared to other trail runs in the province, like the recent Half Knacker, there is a lot less vertical. The famous Knee Knacker has almost three times as much climbing in twice the distance.
There are two complimentary buses from Spruce Grove Park, one leaving at 7:30 a.m. and one at 8 a.m. That way your vehicle and spare clothes will be waiting for you at the finish.
Also new this year was the decision to move the race to Saturday from Sunday after runners (especially the author of this article) asked for a recovery day. Organizers have also polled racers in the past and have taken that feedback into account to make the race better.
It's not an easy race to run, with no roads from start to finish, and volunteers have to carry water and food up to the aid station before the race. For that reason the organizers are asking people to register well in advance so they know how much water to carry.
Advance registration is available at www.comfortablynumb.ca for $50, which includes a shirt, or your choice of a hat and water bottle. It also includes a donation to the trails, with all proceeds going to the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association's trail fund. Package pickup is on Friday, June 26 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Escape Route in Whistler Markeplace, or until 8:30 a.m. on the morning of the run.
For more information on the run, as well as a look at the course, visit www.comfortablynumb.ca. The organizers are also still looking for volunteers, especially first aid volunteers on the course.
Comfortably Numb Trail Run is the second event in the Sea 2 Sky Trail Running Series. Visit www.s2srun.com for details.