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Racers brave slick, muddy conditions at Comfortably Numb

Whistler's Pete Sammon, Connecticut's MK Cirelli top the podium



Whether he's hitting the trail or the pavement, Whistler's Pete Sammon has yet to meet a race he doesn't like.

You could say the 29-year-old is something of a running Renaissance Man, a theory he proved on Saturday, June 11 after winning the 2016 Comfortably Numb Trail Race in a time of one hour, 54 minutes and 58 seconds (1:54:58) only a week after placing second in the Whistler Half Marathon. But Sammon's greatest athletic feat may have come over a decade ago when he set the European record at an invitational beer race — which asked racers to chug a brew every mile — as a precocious (and underaged!) teen. "That was done completely to the appreciation of my parents," laughed a sarcastic Sammon, who said he's always looking to test his limits in different ways on race day.

"I guess I enjoy a challenge, and I enjoy some variety in running," he added. "I used to do a bit of road running recreationally, and found it a bit boring and I thought I would do some more interesting styles and try to mix it up."

Sammon topped the podium on a day when chilly, rainy conditions hampered much of the field, beating out Squamish's Eric Carter by over six minutes. North Vancouver's Jesse Booi narrowly missed out on second place, finishing just two seconds behind Carter with a time of 2:01:18.

MK Cirelli of Wallingford, Conn. was the day's top woman, clocking in at 2:19:56, improving upon her second-place finish in 2015. Laura Bestow earned silver with a time of 2:26:36, while fellow Vancouver native Laura Beamish claimed third in 2:27:45. The top local was Angela Shoniker, whose 2:41:19 was good enough to land her as the fifth-place female finisher. An avid downhill rider, Shoniker is no stranger to the 23-kilometre course, which doubles as an internationally renowned mountain biking route.

"I loved every second of it, including the rain," said Shoniker, who was competing in her first Comfortably Numb.

The 41-year-old, like the rest of the field, had to contend with a slick, muddy course that left some racers — Shoniker included — struggling to find their footing.

"I had to be careful to watch my footing and just be really aware of the fact I could easily go down. Actually I did go down," she said. "It's a very technical, rooty, rocky course. It was good, but it was definitely on my mind not to fall."

The challenging conditions didn't deter registration, however, with race director Chris Colpitts confirming there were about 170 people signed up — up from 95 last year. Colpitts said the strong interest is indicative of long-distance running's recent popularity.

"The running demographic is leaning towards longer distances, so the pool of people interested in this type of race is growing," he said, adding that running is enjoying something of a boom in the resort.

"Trail running, road running, there's a huge running community that's grown in Whistler," he said. "Running is probably the most affordable sport. All you need is your running shoes."

Looking ahead, Colpitts said he wants to continue growing the race and reminding people what a special trail Comfortably Numb is. "It's great to ride, it's great to run, and it offers many different aspects of being out in the mountains. You're secluded not that far outside of Whistler and running back towards the town and different terrain — it gives a good challenge."