Although it was a smaller field at the start line for the 2008 Comfortably Numb Trail Run, the conditions were perfect for the almost 100 athletes who did take part in the 25 km trail race.
While there is always a chance that a previous record can be beaten, as Vancouver’s Adam Campbell did in the 2007 race, it’s hard to imagine where a runner can find even a minute of extra time on the demanding course, much less nine minutes. Yet that’s exactly what Squamish’s Aaron Heidt achieved on Sunday, posting a new course record of one hour, 49 minutes and 50 seconds — almost nine minutes faster than Campbell’s record of a year ago.
Heidt had to average a kilometre every 4:23 from start to finish on a course that features more than 800 metres in climbing and a long, technical decent. More impressively, Heidt had never run, biked or hiked the trail before and wasn’t sure where it started.
“It was a super fun course, definitely the funnest course in the (Sea 2 Sky Trail Running) series, and it fit my fitness level really well,” he said. “It wasn’t too steep at all, and I could run the whole time without any hiking. It was wind-y enough it didn’t show any cardiovascular weakness, and technical enough to slow me down. The downhill was really fun as well.”
Heidt, who set a record in the Rubble Creek Classic last year, wasn’t planning on setting a record on Sunday but knew it was possible early in the run.
“Adam Campbell is an amazing hill runner, and when I heard there was 2,400 feet of climbing I thought the record was pretty strong and would be hard to break, but when I was on the course and saw how winding it was and how gradual the climbs I saw it was a record that was breakable,” he said. “I also know that Campbell is not as strong a technical runner as he is on the climbs, and the downhill definitely favoured me.”
Not knowing the route created a few difficulties, missing turns and coming up on bridges without a plan to get down, but he said running in Squamish has helped him to prepare for anything.
“I pretty much threw myself down them,” said Heidt. “A few times I missed corners, and had to slam on the brakes and turn around, and there was one section in the middle on exposed granite where you’d run for five minutes and find yourself a few feet away from the trail you just ran on, but it was really fun. It was almost better not to know where you were going.”
Heidt’s next big race is the 48-km Knee Kanckering North Shore Trail Run, which crosses over the mountains from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. Whistler’s Kevin Titus, who helped organize Comfortably Numb, currently holds both the overall and masters records for the course. Heidt would like to try for the record, but with the snowpack in the Lower Mainland mountains he’s not sure it will be possible.
After that he has a few ultra runs in the U.S., but plans to race the Rubble Creek Classic and Lumpy’s Epic again at the end of the season.
In second place overall and first in the 40 to 49 age group was Mark Bennett, who finished in 2:00:49. Brad Cunningham was third overall and second behind Heidt in the Under 40 category in 2:03:52.
The female record set by Kristina Rody in the very first Comfortably Numb Trail Run, 2:05:25, still stands. This year the win went to Nicole Gildersleeve with a time of 2:17:27, followed by Shannon Thompson in 2:23:23 and Marieve Legrand in 2:24:30. All three were in the Under 40 group.
In the women’s 40 to 49 race, Whistler’s Arlene Schieven placed first in 2:31:51.
“I was hoping to better my time from last year, and I didn’t quite do that but it comes down to race day and how you’re feeling that day,” she said. “I felt pretty good overall, the course was in good condition. The field was also a lot tougher this year, there were a lot of really strong runners.
“It took a while to get going and get confident, and I felt really good in the middle. I ran out of steam in the last couple of kilometres where I would have liked to have that extra push. I was trying to get under 2:30, and wish I had a little bit more at the end.”
Like many locals Schieven hasn’t been able to fit in much trail running this year leading up to the run, due to the snowpack sticking around for so long. Most of her runs were 40 minutes or less, squeezed into her lunch hour.
“It’s a bit of a stretch to go from that to 25 km, but you can get through it if you have to,” she said.
Schieven was followed to the finish line by two other local runners, with Marilyn Hellier second in 2:39:06 and Patricia Jensen third in 2:29:48.
Other Whistler runners on the podium included Scott Taber, third in the men’s 40 to 49 race in 2:15:50, and Walter Wallgram, first in the Men’s 50-Plus race in 2:23:40.
Men Under 40
1. Aaron Heidt, Squamish — 1:49:50
2. Brad Cunningham, Burnaby— 2:03:52
3. Chris Downie, Vancouver — 2:05:08
Women Under 40
1. Nicole Gildersleeve, North Vancouver — 2:17:27
2. Shannon Thompson, Kelowna — 2:23:23
3. Marieve Legrand, Whistler — 2:24:30
1. Mark Bennett, Vancouver — 2:00:49
2. Kevin Holland — 2:12:10
3. Scott Taber, Whistler — 2:15:50
1. Arlene Schieven, Whistler — 2:31:51
2. Marilyn Hellier, Whistler — 2:39:06
3. Patricia Jensen, Whistler — 2:39:48
1. Walter Wallgram, Whistler — 2:23:40
2. Thomas Nykyforuk, North Vancouver — 2:44:40
1. Walli Kruger, Abbotsford — 2:46:55
2. Gail Forshaw, Port Coquitlam — 3:03:42
3. Rhonda Schuller, Vancouver — 3:58:06
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