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Past champions cozy at Comfortably Numb

Madden, Sammon earn crowns in legendary race

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What's old is new again.

Two past champions captured the titles at the Helly Hansen Comfortably Numb Trail Running Race on June 10, as Peter Sammon defended his crown while Anne-Marie Madden took hers back from runner-up MK Cirelli after a year away.

Madden, who ended up sixth overall, came back from an early deficit and ultimately bested Connecticut's Cirelli by 33 seconds. Vancouver's Laura Bestow took third.

However, Madden acknowledged she wasn't at the fitness level that she's been in the past, so getting through the 23-kilometre course wasn't the same breeze that it has been.

"It was probably tougher than it has been in the past. I've been fairly busy with work and school so I didn't have the same base of fitness and trail runs under my belt," she said. "I thought it was going to get easy once we hit the downhill, but the uphill felt reasonable.

"The downhill was maybe harder work than usual so I'll have to spend some time now getting the quads used to being on the down."

Madden, a Vancouverite, explained she was content to let Cirelli get out ahead early as she established the way she needed to tackle the course.

"I went at my own pace and ran my own race. I didn't really try to match her pace," Madden said. "I passed her around 3 or 4K. I wasn't very far behind her for the first part, but I found my legs.

"I could occasionally see her behind me, but I didn't really how much time I had ahead. I was just trying to make sure I didn't slow up too much."

Sammon, meanwhile, was the lone runner to crack the two-hour mark for the second year in a row, crossing the line with 55 seconds to spare. However, Sammon's winning time was roughly four minutes slower than in 2016, which he couldn't quite understand.

"I trained quite a lot and I kind of expected it to feel a bit easier, but I think the truth is when you're racing, it's easier because you're pushing yourself just as hard and there are always other people who are super good," he said. "In terms of the effort, it was probably similar to last year."

Still, his time placed him four minutes ahead of runner-up Craig Fowler and third-place finisher Mike Sidic, both of Vancouver.

Though Sammon got off to the lead, his two rivals later found themselves in front before the eventual champion ended up reclaiming the advantage for good.

"I like to start races from the front so I got off pretty quick just off the line. Within a kilometre, two guys caught up with me and on the road section, a few other guys overtook me and I tried to hold it back a little bit," he said. "It wasn't really until the lookout, which is about 15K in, that I caught the two guys at the front again. They were going super hard and keeping up a pretty good pace until then."

Sammon will take on the Squamish 50 in August, but doesn't plan to do many other events unless something really grabs him.

Madden, meanwhile, has her eye on the Coast Mountain Trail Series and Squamish 50. However, she back-loaded her season as she plans to race in Scotland and France in October before heading to The North Face 50-Mile Championships in San Francisco in November.

"It's a later season for me this year in terms of building up over the summer and doing lots of racing in the fall," she said.

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