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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Comfortably Numb 25km Trail Race

My training partner Peter Watson (manager at North Shore Athletics- they sponsor the event) has done Comfortably Numb ever since it began 5 years ago. It is located in Whistler, B.C and after a few mixed messages on the weather over the last week (and some rain on the drive through Squamish); it turned out to be a very nice day. The race starts at 9am, a little later than most. This allows people commuting from Vancouver a chance to drive up. There were a lot of recognizable faces. The same faces you see at most of the local trail races.

I agreed to do the race a few months back and had kind of forgotten about it. As I am in the middle of my training I did not taper for it. My training partner and I are on a periodization training program and this was a “down” week in mileage. We used it as a great training tempo run. I have been feeling like I had a cold coming on and was unsure of how I was going to perform today. I really had no intention on racing it but once you get out there, that competitiveness simply takes over.

This race was very challenging in the sense that it was extremely run-able. I have grown accustom to running in the North Shore Mountains. Here you will find very steep up-hills and very steep down-hills, with some fun flats in between. The steep slopes means that I am usually power hiking up, not running. Having to run all of the up-hill sections of this race meant that my heart rate was quite a bit higher than it normally would be if I was power hiking. The race starts out with a short climb up a logging road and the rest of the first half is single track undulating switchbacks. As I said earlier, all the hills were very run-able with short descents. In fact you are only climbing for 800 meters, with zero net elevation gain. This back and forth up hill with little down seemed to go on for a long time. There would be times when you would think to yourself “ok this has GOT TO BE the top”, but it never was. I conserved my energy going uphill for the first 30 minutes and finally had some fun going down, passing 2 women and placing myself as the 5th female. I slowly caught up to the 5th place female. She was struggling a bit on the long uphill section and let me pass her politely. Near the top of that large climb I ran into the 4th and 3rd place females. I had raced against one of them before last year at the Knee Knacker 50km. I knew I was a bit quicker than her and I exchanged some friendly words (a sarcastic comment about how easy the course was- which it is not) and passed the two ladies. I kept climbing and finally saw the ½ way mark and the first and only aid station. It was right after this that I spotted the 1st place female. She was holding a good pace with another gentleman and we were playing the back and forth game. I would pass them on the downhill and then they would pass me on the up hill. Lucky for me, this undulating back and forth ended when the course became all downhill.

Once I had passed the lady in 1st, I tried to really push the pace. I did not want her to pass and just focused on getting the next person in front of me. Downhill running has always been my favorite, especially if it is technical. This course was very technical and I had a lot of fun with the footing. There were a lot of open areas with stunning views where I was running across big slabs of rock. It is also a mountain bike trail and there were lots of ladders to run across. The race finishes back down a logging road and you end up at the Spruce Grove Field House (approximately 2km north of Whistler Village). I finished the race with a time of 2 hrs 17 minutes. The men’s course record was broken by 10 minutes by a man named Aaron Heidt (1:49). We all sat around for an hour or so, had some food, caught up, soaked my legs in the glacier river, and watched the awards ceremony.

I would recommend this race to anyone who enjoys trail running. Keep in mind you will be out there from 2-31/2 hours. You will see beautiful views and spectacular trails. It is also a mountain biking trail, which is an excellent alternative if you enjoy that more. The trail is accessible from the Wedgemont Lake turn-off, which is approximately 12km north of Whistler Village.

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