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Narayana, Powell win Whistler 50 Ultra

MacNairn captures Canadian title at distance race
ULLAS REJOICES Whistler 50 Ultra winner Ullas Narayana raises his arms as he crosses the finish line. Photo by Dan Falloon

A new Canadian resident overcame some chilly weather to take the 80-kilometre Whistler 50 Ultra on Oct. 15.

Ullas Narayana, who moved to Vancouver just four months ago, blazed to the title in a time of six hours, 30 minutes and 46 seconds (6:30:46) to best Ian MacNairn by over 10 minutes.

However, because Narayana is not yet a Canadian citizen, the Canadian 50 Mile Trail Championship went to Calgarian MacNairn.

Lauren Powell took both titles on the women's side, finishing sixth among all competitors with a time of 7:04:00.

Vincent Pagot was the top Whistler finisher, taking seventh among men.

Narayana explained he attempted to pace himself better than he did, but it certainly didn't cost him in the end.

"I wanted to take it easy. I always get carried away with races, going really fast. I repeated that in the second loop (of four)," he said. "I slowed down and realized I had a bit of a gap on the second guy, so I took it easy and kept the lead and finished the race."

Narayana, who is originally from India, lived in Singapore for the past 12 years before moving to Vancouver to advance his career as an animator. After running in toasty conditions for many years, he acknowledged a chillier Whistler 50 was a little out of his comfort zone.

"I'm still adjusting to the cold and figuring out what to wear and how much to wear, so maybe I got a little hot this morning because maybe I was wearing too much," he said. "On the last lap, I dropped off my gloves and things, so that kind of worked out."

MacNairn, meanwhile, has also done some globetrotting, though his most recent sojourn was on a little more compressed timeline. The 29-year-old competed in Andorra the weekend prior and spent much of the week on planes getting back to Canada before this weekend's race.

MacNairn explained the first half of the race went well before some aches and pains started to catch up with him.

"The pounding on the paved pathways and the hard-packed trail took its toll. I got through the third lap to 60 kilometres on schedule, and then it was trying to hold on as long as I could and luckily, I did," he said. "The first half was fairly even and then my plan was to see if I could hold that for the third lap as well, and I did that with a couple-minute error. The fourth lap, there was only 20 kilometres left, so I pushed myself as hard as I could.

"I really liked, also, testing myself to see how fast and for how long I could push myself at that high intensity," said MacNairn.

Getting to Whistler was a wild ride for MacNairn, as he had to travel four consecutive days (from Andorra to Barcelona to London to Toronto to Vancouver) to even get to the area and after a rest day, drove to Whistler the day before the race.

"Feeling the jet lag and being in an airplane, my feet were quite swollen," he said. "I was really surprised at how well I felt for the first 20 kilometres, and even the first 40, and then the pounding and exhaustion kind of caught up to me."

As for Powell, the Vancouverite by way of Toronto pushed herself this year, having never run further than a marathon distance before the year started. She made a jump to her first 50-kilometre race earlier this summer and after success there, decided to register for her first 50-miler. Weeks later, she's the national champ in the discipline.

"It was awesome. It was not expected, so I'm really happy with the results," she said. "It definitely makes me want to keep going and see how far I can go."

Powell explained that she just wanted to finish in under eight hours, a bar she far exceeded, though it wasn't always easy.

"It was my first 50 miles, so I didn't really know what to expect going into it... My legs felt pretty good until about 50K, and then it was just pushing it to the end from there," she said. "It was painful for sure, but at that point, it's all relative. There's only about 20K to go and you just have to remind yourself of that."

Powell has raced Ironman in the past, so she's gone the distance before, but had never jam-packed a day with exclusively running. She explained the course, due to its lack of elevation changes and loopy nature, was a relatively easy one.

Powell also noted she decided to do the race about a month before it was set to take place, registering after doing her first 50-kilometre race. She didn't change her training much, however.

"My test to see if I could do it was a 40K run one day followed by a 40K run the next day and that went well, so that was basically my training apart from my usual three-to-four runs a week that are about 10K or so," she explained.

Full results are available at