Anyone who wonders what impact heat might have had on the third annual Comfortably Numb Trail Run on Sunday only had to watch athletes at the finish line gulping down water and Gatorade or looking for somewhere shady to lie down.
Temperatures climbed over 30 degrees Celsius by late morning for the second straight day, surprising a few runners who have been training in cool, wet conditions for most of the spring.
Only the fastest athletes managed to beat the heat, finishing the 25 km-plus course in just over two hours and making the best use of the cooler morning temperatures.
First across the line this year was J.F. Robert in a time of two hours, three minutes and 27 seconds.
According to Robert, the race was challenging and at times a little lonely.
"The trail is epic, and it’s hard – really, really hard," he said. "You have to stay sharp and pay attention to your footing or fall flat on your face. I mostly focused on being steady on the climbs, and then going faster on the downhills."
Robert, who is from Quebec but now lives in Port Moody, has ridden Comfortably Numb twice before and had a strategy. On the first climb he turned back once and saw the second place finisher and Kristina Rody on his tail, but after the first descent to the bridge over Wedge Creek he was on his own.
"I’d look back at every switchback to see if someone was coming up behind, but there was never anybody there. It’s kind of hard compared to a marathon where there are a lot of people – you have no idea if you’re fading compared to the competition, or what kind of gap you have."
This was Robert’s first Comfortably Numb race. Last year he did his first two marathons with some success and plans to enter a marathon at the end of the summer with the help of sponsors at New Balance and the Runner’s Den. That leaves him to spend his summer trail running other Sea 2 Sky Running Series events, of which Comfortably Numb is part. He also plans to enter at least two of the 5 Peaks Trail Running Series events.
Comparing marathons to trail runs like Comfortably Numb is like comparing apples to oranges said Robert, but said he felt that the 25-km trail run is as hard as any marathon.
"It’s more intense and it does take all your attention. The ups and downs kill your legs," he said. "That said, being at kilometre 35 in a marathon and feeling your legs die on you is just agony. They’re both really hard, which is why I really like to mix it up between the two."