The sun came out on Sunday for the annual Comfortably Numb Trail Run, which added another challenge to runners who have been training in rain and cool weather for several months.
In the end, Graeme Wilson of Vancouver reached the finish line first, covered in dirt and scrapes after a few crashes on loose rocks. He was still smiling at the finish of the 25km run, amazed by the course he had never seen before race day.
"You know what, it was a lot more rolling than I expected, the hills weren't really that long — you gain a lot of elevation, but it was pretty gentle actually, and up and down for the whole course with no long climbs," he said. "It's wonderful, just a great trail."
Wilson and Derek Vinge from Victoria kept pace until the water station, but both athletes raced the previous weekend and Vinge started to fade.
"We got to the water station together, but then he started flagging a little bit so I turned up the pace a little, kicked things up a notch," Wilson said.
"I was surprised how soft and cushy the trail was. It was wonderful for your foot plants, if you kept your eye on the trail ahead you could really bomb down some of the downhills, which was great."
Wilson typically runs road marathons, but has been getting into trail runs and signed up to race the 50km Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run in July. Given the distance and vertical he's preparing for, he said Comfortably Numb was a great warm-up.
Wilson finished in 1:58:16, the only runner to break the two-hour mark this year. Vinge claimed second in 2:03:27, followed by Whistler's Alex Katzer-Dunn in 2:08:33.
The top female racer, placing fourth overall, was Anne-Marie Madden of Vancouver in 2:18:59. It was also her first time on the course.
"I hadn't trained on it (the course) so I wasn't too sure what to expect with the footing, but it was perfect," she said. "There were definitely a few places that were a bit technical, very bike trail, but you could run through everything."
Madden said she kept pace with another runner for the first 10 or 11km but he dropped off and she was on her own for the entire second half of the run.
She has taken part in trail runs in the past, but took a break to race road. She's only gotten back into trail running in the last few years, starting with trails around Victoria, and she's made it her goal to race more off-road events.
"It's a great trail and it's nice to stay local," she said.
"I love the forest around here. It was my savior after running through those unsheltered rocky areas, the sun was so hot, but then I'd be back in the shade in the forest and I'd be happy again.... I never do too well in the heat."
Darbykai Standrick of North Vancouver was the second female and ninth overall in 2:23:11. She was followed by Whistler's Tara Gorman in 2:25:00.
The trail will be featured again in another run at the end of the summer, the second annual Meet Your Maker 50 — a 50-mile ultra run and relay where roughly 90 per cent is on singletrack. For more, visit www.meetyourmaker50.com.
There were over 150 runners in this year's Comfortably Numb.
Male Under 40
1. Derek Vinge, Victoria — 2:03:27
2. Alex Katzer-Dunn, Whistler — 2:08:33
3. Jesse Booi, Vancouver — 2:20:13
Female Under 40
1. Anne-Marie Madden, Van. — 2:18:59
2. Darbykai Standrick, N. Van — 2:23:11
3. Tara Gorman, Whistler — 2:25:00
Male 40 to 49
1. Graeme Wilson, Vancouver — 1:58:16
2. Kevin Hodder, Whistler — 2:21:12
3. Wesly Feagan, Whistler — 2:28:21
Female 40 to 49
1. Susan Shalanski, Squamish — 2:36:44
2. Emma Haggerty, Whistler — 2:49:42
3. Susan Bentley, Chilliwack — 2:56:58
1. James Griffiths, Vancouver — 2:46:13
2. Paul Quinn, Vancouver — 2:53:26
3. Brian Hughes, North Van — 2:58:11
1. Tina Buchan, Texas — 4:05:20
Complete results are online at www.webscorer.com.