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Husband and wife top 50-miler

Jakub Sumbera, Nadyia Fry win on tough Meet Your Maker 50 course on Saturday

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If they were this fast to the finish line, you have to wonder how long the engagement was.

With perfect racing conditions on Sunday, a married couple from Invermere claimed the men's and women's solo titles in the second annual Meet Your Maker 50, a 50-mile (roughly 83km) trail run around Whistler. There was also a relay category.

The course was tough with around 4,500 vertical metres of climbing over seven stages, including most of Comfortably Numb, a climb up to the alpine of Blackcomb Mountain and, after five stages of ups and downs, all of mid-Flank from Function to the Rainbow Park hiking trail.

Jakub Sumbera, the husband in the team, got off to a fast start against the likes of Adam Campbell (first in the Squamish 50 two weeks earlier and the Whistler 5 Peaks run the previous week), Aaron Heidt (record holder on the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run), American 100-mile champion Jorge Maravilla and Squamish's Jason Louttit (first in the 2012 Squamish 50, second in 2013).

Even more impressive, neither Sumbera or his wife, Nadyia Fry, had raced a solo ultra before, although the two traded legs at the 148km Sinister 7 race this year.

"That was hard," said Sumbera after the race, drinking pop to get his blood sugar levels back up.

"I chose this trail run because of Phil (Villeneuve, the second-place finisher in last year's event) after he wrote a pretty good article on his blog last year about the experience."

Sumbera said the best part of the race was the singletrack, he wished there was more of it. "Comfortably Numb was definitely my favourite part, there were a lot of rocks to jump down and lots of twists and turns," he said. "I also liked stage seven, the first part of it anyway, because of all the trails. I'd pick trails over the road section at the end any day, you just don't feel as tired."

His worst section was stage six, which was mid-Flank. "I just walked up the whole climb, I was feeling pretty bad by then and regretting not eating more at the last aid station. I only grabbed some water, when I should have grabbed a few gels."

Sumbera said he was running his own race after the third leg, the climb up Blackcomb Mountain.

"It was a fast start and I was running in the second group with Aaron Heidt, and then on Comfortably Numb I caught up to Adam Campbell, and later I caught up to Jason (Louttit). I saw a few people climbing up the ski hill, but after that I was on my own except for the Salomon relay team."

Sumbera said that he enjoyed the experience overall, and while he isn't certain whether he'll switch to ultra running from shorter distance races he's already planning to run the Squamish 50 next summer. "I've heard good things, that there's a lot of singletrack on that one as well, and it's a chance to see some different trails."

Sumbera finished with a total time of seven hours, 38 minutes and 19 seconds, which is a course record and almost an hour faster than the time posted by Mike Murphy in 2012. He was fourth after the first leg, posted the fastest second leg by over two minutes and built up a huge lead over the next few stages — another 30 seconds on the third leg, then close to five minutes on the downhill run from the Peak 2 Peak gondola on Whistler Mountain to Creekside. He put another three minutes on the completion on the fifth leg, up Big Timber and over Kadenwood into the Interpretive Forest.

Sumbera had close to 14 minutes on Adam Campbell heading into the sixth leg, but Campbell gained back almost six minutes and finished in 7:46:07.

For Campbell, who won the Squamish 50 only three weeks earlier and raced 5 Peaks last weekend, it was hard to find the energy it would have taken to bridge the gap with Sumbera.

"I'm tired, that's for sure," he said. "That's not to take anything away from Jakub, he ran a beautiful race — that was some world-class running. You never know what it is, but some days guys will just run a perfect race and there's nothing you could do about it. I don't know if I could have beat him on my best day, much less after a few hard weeks of racing."

Campbell had a lot of praise for organizers and the race in general. "The course was well-marked, and everything went really well," he said. "I'm going to do what I can to promote this event and get more world-class runners here. This race has everything — you get into the alpine, there's the Peak 2 Peak Gondola section, lots of good singletrack. It's another beautiful day in Whistler, which in my opinion has some of the best trail running in Canada."

Third place went to Aaron Heidt in 8:28:15, followed by Jorge Maravilla in 8:51:28 and Jason Loutitt in 8:53.47.

On the women's side, Nadyia Fry placed sixth overall and first among women in 9:00:38.

She agreed with her husband's assessment of how hard the race was, but for different reasons. "I spent a lot of alone time on this one, I maybe raced with one or two people out there for a short time, so it was really hard mentally. It was a long day with your thoughts."

Like her husband she also enjoyed the singletrack, and was fast on the downhill sections as well. "As long as it's not too steep I love it, and the forests here are so incredible," she said.

While Fry normally races road, her trail running resume is growing. As well as Sinister 7, she also entered the six-day TransRockies Run in Colorado this year, winning the open women's category by almost 45 minutes after 188km.

"I like both the road and trail running," she said. "I like running road for setting goals and measuring paces, and focusing on specific events. I like trails because the events take you into the forest and get you out enjoying nature. It's more physically challenging, but it's less mentally challenging than the road."

Darbykai Standrick was the second female ultra runner in 9:52:10, with Abi Moore placing third in 10:07:27. Lisa Polizzi, who once lived in Whistler, was fourth — and first in the 40- to 49-age category — in 10:10:49.

In total, just 75 runners would finish the solo run out of the 103 racers at the start line. The last time was just over 15 hours.

In the relay, the top team was the Salomon Flight Crew #1, which featured a few Salomon athletes and managers. They finished the course in 7:57:49. Team Running Wild was second in 8:21:43, followed by the Hilton Herd in 8:41:04.

Complete results are online at www.meetyourmaker50.com.

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