Monday, November 27, 2006

FLC grad builds career as PGA caddy

Imagine "Caddyshack," Bill Murray and Fort Lewis College combined and you're part of the dream that Brendan Vahey is living.

Vahey, 25, who graduated FLC with a degree in Exercise Science in 2005, is a PGA Tour caddy for Jay Delsing.

Vahey started caddying at age 13 before he was even 5 feet tall. He began carrying one bag at Boone Valley Country Club in Augusta, Missouri. For 18 holes and four hours of work, Vahey was excited to bring home $14, plus tips.

After he grew a couple of inches, Vahey was ready for doubles (two bags and twice the money).
Before he got serious about caddying, Vahey was involved in his share of hi-jinks.

"We just thrashed the golf carts," Vahey said. "One of the guys in the cart barn made a trail in the woods, and we'd race those carts laughing our heads off."

The work was fun, but it could be difficult. Hackers were tough because they didn't hit the ball very far, and it was impossible to forecaddie (scout in front of the golfer and follow his ball).

Weather could be problematic and Vahey struggled while carrying monster bags, keeping umbrellas perched above golfer's heads and trying to keep the duffers' clubs clean. Sometimes, Vahey's frustration resulted in a kicked ball that kept things moving along a little faster and saved a stroke.

Vahey's fellow caddies bet on everything under the sun, and tickled each other with fuzzy golf head covers.

"We just giggled. It was hard to keep a straight face," he said.

Vahey's social skills were also a little lacking.

"We were supposed to speak only when spoken to, but I just wouldn't shut up."

After caddying at the Nike Tour for two years and the U.S. Open Sectionals at Boone Valley, Vahey started thinking about the PGA Tour. By chance, during a break from Fort Lewis College, Vahey met Delsing in 2003 at Boone Valley.

Delsing mentored Vahey, and showed him a few ropes.

"I realized that caddying on the PGA Tour was entrepreneurial, and I did some more research after graduating from FLC," Vahey said.

Traveling back and forth between St. Louis and Durango, Vahey finally hit the tour full-time in 2006. Delsing presented Vahey with a nice year-end bonus, and a handshake between the two served as an invitation for 2007.

Working the tour has been challenging and exciting for Vahey. During six months of travel and while logging 20,000 miles in his automobile, Vahey has seen a lot.

"Caddying can be cutthroat for the newer guys like me."

Vahey has also brushed elbows with greatness.

"Tiger Woods has an aura about him, and all of the other golfers defer to him," Vahey explained. "The other pros can be cocky when Tiger's not around, but when he shows up, everybody just puts their tails between their legs."

And where will Vahey be next month and next year? He's working on the side as a manufacturer's sales rep for Tom Wishon Golf Technology, a local company, The Drip and Health FX.

"I have so many different chapters I want to write, but right now I'm just focused on giving all of my energy to Jay and helping him win."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Squawker crowns two locals

At Saturday's Squawker Cross Classic up at Fort Lewis College, Todd Wells fell while running up the amphitheater steps and broke his chain ring guard.

Sarah Tescher took a fall at the start of the first lap of the Elite Women race.

Joe Burtoni fell, peeled his tire off, snapped his handlebars and suffered some road rash.

But after all of the mangled bicycles, carnage and wounded egos, local riders Matt Shriver and Sabina Kraushaar emerged as Colorado state champions.

The race was a criterium-style event on a course set up using rebar, plastic safety sleeves and miles of white ribbon throughout the FLC campus.

Shriver had a good start on his race, but quickly ran into trouble on the run-up near the beer tent.

"That off-camber side hill was the toughest part of the race," he said. "I was just trying to be smooth and not make too many mistakes."

After the first few laps, the elite men's event turned into a four-man race between Shriver, brothers Todd and Troy Wells and Joey Thompson.

The lead switched several times, but after Todd changed bikes in the pit area, Shriver pulled ahead for good.

On the elite women's side, Kraushaar held off Shannon Gibson.

Kraushaar, 18, an FLC freshman, was competing in only her second cross race.

"Before we started the race, I was just kind of hoping that I wouldn't get lapped," Kraushaar said. "This race was a lot of fun, and I'll probably do more of them."

Gibson, 40, splits her time between El Paso and Durango while toiling as a professional mountain biker/rolfer/massage therapist.

"A lot of these girls are in great shape after just coming off of nationals, but this sport is about endurance and that gives older women more of a chance," Gibson said. "This was my first cross race, but I've been sitting around and getting fat and lazy since the end of mountain biking season."

Todd Wells, last year's cyclocross national champion, finished second to Shriver, just seconds back.

"I was chasing hard, but there just wasn't enough time to catch Matt," he said. "This race was super fun, and the crowds were great."

After all of his racing travels this year, the older Wells brother was happy to have such a high-caliber race in his hometown.

"It was nice to sleep in my own bed," he said

Younger brother Troy - who was the U23 national champion last year - finished third.

"I was going the whole race pushing my VO2 maximum, but it was a little easier with all of the people cheering," he said. "I'll be heading to Nationals in Providence in a few weeks, and I hope I can do well there. But I've still got a lot of work to do."

Todd Wells will also race at the National Championship, while Shriver will finish his cross season with races next weekend in Portland and Seattle.

Rick Crawford, the FLC cycling coach, was pleased to host the first state cross championship in Durango.

"We've got some of the best cross racers in the world living here," he said. "I hope we can get this race here again next year."

Ned Overend, Steve Owens, Chad Cheeney and countless others had their share of falls and horror stories on the course.

"The start of these things is pretty hectic," Overend said. "Power and accelerating are my weakness, so these kind of races are good for me to work on that."

Jeremiah Bouchard, an FLC student, was participating in his first cross race. There were a lot of first timers, but none as courageous as Bouchard. He has one leg amputated at the ankle.

Despite his disability, Bouchard races on the cycling team and hopes to give skiing a try this winter as well.

Jade Goh, 24, raced in the Women's B event. After a birthday four days ago, Goh wanted to try something different and give herself a present.

"I came in last place, but my goal was just to finish so I'm happy," she said.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

FLC cyclist collects national titles

Alex Hagman, 22, a Fort Lewis College exercise science major, now has a sombrero of national champion jerseys.

Adorned with an American flag, stars on the shoulders and horizontal stripes on the torso and a collegiate national emblem, the jerseys are works of art - and prized possessions in the cycling world.

It has been a bit of a dream come true for this quiet, humble, young man from Aspen.

Last summer, Hagman ventured to cycling's blue collar towns in England and Italy. Riding for the Ag-isko/Dart/-CyclingTV Pro Continental Cycling Team, Hagman shared a small apartment with other FLC students in Sansepolcro, Italy.

Besides racing and shuttling back and forth between Tuscany and the Motherland, Hagman picked up an Espresso habit.

"Italy has the best Espresso and now that I'm back in the United States, I'm not drinking them as often," Hagman said.

Having said that, Hagman still sipped on an espresso at the Steaming Bean.

Hagman will graduate this December and he expects to sign a professional contract with a road bike team around that time.

Even though Hagman's roots are in mountain biking, Hagman thinks that his chances of a lasting professional career are better as a road cyclist.

"I was hoping to stay in Durango next summer but there is a good chance that I'll have to move back East in order to fulfill my obligations," Hagman said.

Besides schoolwork, training and racing, Hagman is also keeping busy with an internship at the Durango Community Recreation Center.

"I'm learning the administration side and getting an overall feel of how everything runs," Hagman said. "I'm working with Rick Callies, and we look at safety and how everybody works together."

Hagman is also working on a sports administration option at Fort Lewis College.

Of the four national championship jerseys, Hagman is most proud of the team title that FLC won.

"Everybody was clicking really well, and no one dropped the ball," Hagman said. "In the past four years, we have won team national championships three times."

Besides concentrating on his cycling speed, Hagman is focusing on keeping a level head.

"I might be a little faster than some other riders but I'm not a better person than anybody else," Hagman said.

"If you're racing bikes, it's important to have fun, not get an inflated head and be happy and gracious that you can ride your bike so well."

It's been a long season for Hagman that started last spring and for now, he's content to sip coffee, focus on his studies and mellow out a little bit

Now, what to do with four jerseys, since you can only wear one at a time?

"I had all the members of the FLC cycling team sign one of them and I'm thinking about giving one to my parents and maybe another to one of my sponsors."

For more information, photos and race schedules see

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cyclocross racers begin season at FLC

Fall weather in Durango can mean snow, mud, rain and an assortment of other conditions. Perfect weather for cyclocross.

Cyclocross uses bicycles that have some features of mountain bikes and some features of road bikes. Repeats on cyclocross loop courses have pavement, grass, curbs, jumps, tight corners and other nasty obstacles that can send riders for a spill.

The cross racing season started three weeks ago on the Fort Lewis College campus. Cross guru and FLC student Matt Shriver has again organized a series of races.

While weather for the first race was miserable, last week's race featured sunny, but cold, clear skies.

Twenty riders assembled on the north side of the FLC track circling the football field. FLC students, citizens, professionals and age groupers all went off hard.

Grant Berry (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory), Travis Brown (2000 Olympian), Joey Thompson (FLC), Anthony Colby (Target Training), Ned Overend (Specialized ageless wonder) and Adam Snyder quickly pulled ahead of the rest of the riders.

Winding around the FLC campus, this course included two jumps on the lawn between dormitories where riders dismounted, carried their bikes over the jumps and got back on. There was a steep, short incline south of the gymnasium, a gravity-fighting U-turn near the football field, and too many tight turns and curbs to count.

"People were just dropping off one by one and at the end there were just three of us," said Thompson, the race winner. Colby and Berry finished second and third, just a few seconds behind.

Brown, an Olympic mountain biker in 2000 and a 1993 Durango High School graduate, loves cross.

"There are lots of lead changes, finishes are close and it is the most fun to watch," he said. "I remember doing a race in Kansas City in 2002 when the wind chill was 20 degrees below and the ground was frozen and slick."

Brown used a bright colored single-speed for the race last weekend, but will probably change to an easier multispeed bike later in the series.

Joe Burtoni, 47, a Durango Wheel Club member and age-group racer, was breathless at the race finish.

"I only got lapped by three guys, but it's an honor to race with everyone," he said.

Steve Lamont, another wheel clubber, fought with back pain as he finished his laps.

"The grass is slow and it's hard to get any speed going," he said.

"But I'll be back for the rest of the series and the state championship (Nov. 11)."

Mary Monroe, Trails 2000 director and Brown's wife, was the only woman competing last week.

Overend enjoyed himself but admitted, "My experience with cyclocross is thin."

Professional cyclists Tom Danielson (Discovery Channel) and Chris Wherry (Toyota-United Pro) were among the spectators at Saturday's race.

While local cross cyclists and events are thriving in Durango, Todd Wells, last year's national cyclocross champion continues his winning ways.

This month, Wells competed in two United States Gran Prix events in Boston, one cross race in Gloucester, Mass., the Pan American Mountain Bike Championship in Brazil and two races in Philadelphia.

"Gloucester was held in the park where they filmed 'The Perfect Storm' and it sits next to the ocean," Wells said. "This year the race was dry and warm with temperatures in the upper 50s, and it sure was nice to race cross in short sleeves and not be covered in mud at the end of it."

Cross races continue in Durango on Nov. 4, 18, 24 and Dec. 3. The state championship is Nov. 11. For more information, see

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ourada blazes to first place in Mug Run

Several runners were stung by bees, one runner took a wrong turn and ended up near Junction Creek and another runner took a nasty spill near the finish line, but, other than all that, it was still a perfect day for the 113 runners who took part in the Animas Mountain Mug Run on Sunday.

Dan Ourada, 32, took off from the start and blazed to a first-place finish in 44 minutes and 58 seconds.

This was Ourada's first footrace in five years after having broken his ankle.

"It's been a struggle getting back into it," Ourada said. "I did two XTerra races this year and since I qualified for nationals next week, I wanted to get in some good training."

On the women's side, Sarah Slaughter, 34, won the Mug Run and finished first in the Alpine Bank Trail Series, which also consisted of the Mother's Day Telegraph 10K and the June Mountain Park Race.

"I have done this race before but I didn't do it last year, and I forgot how hard it is," Slaughter said. "I think that Animas is the ultimate, fast trail run because it's technical and steep."

Slaughter is preparing for the 25K trail run in two weeks that is part of the Durango Double weekend.

Dave Heald (45:26) finished second Sunday but won the race series. After taking a nasty fall and scraping his hands badly at Animas last year, Heald was prepared this year and wore gloves.

After Ourada took off fast at the start, Heald thought that he might be running the short course, but that wasn't the case.

"I saw him (Ourada) for a little bit on the straightaway going downhill, but I couldn't catch him," Heald said.

Corey Gianniny, 12, and Alisha Whiteman, 11, finished the short course together, holding hands. Both are students at Miller Middle School.

"We had a blast," Gianniny said.

"We're getting ready for the Turkey Trot," Whiteman said.

Gianniny and Whiteman had smiles from ear to ear.

Allison Andersen, 47, ran Animas and also completed the race series. She's been living in Durango for 10 years but has not been running until this year.

"I hike, ski, mountain bike and play soccer but I set a goal for myself to do the 25K trail run in two weeks," Andersen said.

"The run (Sunday) was a great way to keep committed, but I'm still not really sure how I feel about this long-distance running stuff."

Sabina Kuss ran and hiked the long course with a brace on her knee.

After an injury while playing ice hockey last year, Kuss had both reconstructive and arthroscopic surgeries.

"My doctor said that I could go ahead and do all the things I love to do, and I'm just happy to be out here again," Kuss said.

Sabina's son, Sepp, won the short course division for the men and her husband, Dolph, also completed the Mug Run.

"We wanted to make it a fun, family day," Dolph said.

Ann Creamer, race director and Durango Parks and Recreation employee, was pleased with the race series.

With the nice weather, 53 runners signed up the morning of the race.

"Alpine Bank has agreed to sponsor the series again next year, and we'll be back starting with the Telegraph 10K on Mother's Day," Creamer said.

Zia Taqueria hosted the post-race party and runners were treated to burritos and lots of tasty Mexican food.

The first 100 runners Sunday were also given large, beautiful, breakfast mugs at the annual Animas Mountain trail event.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

3 locals qualify for Xterra USA Championship

3 locals qualify for Xterra USA Championship

Xterra races consist of a 1.5K swim, 30K mountain bike and a 10K trail run. This format would appear to be ideally suited for mountain-loving Durango athletes.

Angel, 30, a physical therapist, is a former cross country and track standout at Kansas State University. She also swam competitively for eight years. After a serious hamstring injury sidelined her for several years, Angel only started running again this year.

"The last few years I've raced mountain bikes, and it's kind of nice to put everything together," Angel said.

While Angel finished fourth in the women's 30-34 division with a time of three hours, 22 minutes and 57 seconds, it was not an easy race.

"During the swim I got walloped and kicked in the face," Angel said. "I was swallowing a lot of blood."

Besides the Ogden event, Angel has competed in Xterra races in Phoenix and Crested Butte this year. With her total points accumulated, Angel is currently ranked second in the mountain region and ninth nationally. Besides qualifying for the national championship, Angel has also qualified for the world championship Oct. 24 in Maui.

Rakita, 57, also a physical therapist, finished first in the 55-59 age division in 3:18.27.

The swim portion went well for Rakita, but he had difficulties on the bike. A pinch flat cost Rakita seven minutes, and a faulty quick valve made matters worse. Rakita finally fixed the flat, but toward the end of the bike course, he hit a rock and took a dive over his handlebars.

"It wasn't too bad, and I just skinned my knees," Rakita said. "I wasn't shaken up, but I was ticked off."

For training, Rakita swims with the Durango Masters group three days a week, bikes 5½ hours a week and runs 3½ hours.

"There's a lot of interest in this town for triathlons, and the college and city triathlons are good events," Rakita said.

Rakita has qualified for, and will race in, both the Xterra national and world championships.

Lieb, 36, a Durango property manager, decided in January to make the Xterra races a priority.

"After my first race in Mesa, Ariz. on April 23 - I finished fourth in my age group, ninth overall - I thought I might be able to qualify for the national championships," Lieb said.

With a 3:40:38 finish in Ogden and points accumulated from Bailey, Mesa, Ariz., Austin, Texas, Show Low, Ariz., and Big Sky, Mont., Lieb has reached her goal of qualifying for nationals.

"Swimming is the toughest for me, and I probably don't spend enough time in the pool," Lieb said. "I used to swim Masters a lot but getting up at 5:30 a.m. is tough."

Lieb's favorite race this summer was Austin. While competing at sea level, Lieb finished first in her age group and first overall.

"My sister lives there," she added. "I had a great run, and I was on fire," she said.

Crested Butte was difficult.

"I was tired at the race start; swimming at elevation is tough, and I felt like I was going backwards," Lieb said. "My glasses came flying off during a descent on the bike, and then my chain got stuck on the inside cog. That cost me 10 minutes."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Locals recount Hardrock tales

There were a record 81 finishers out of 130 starters at the weekend's Hardrock 100-mile endurance run in Silverton.

From the starters, six live in La Plata County.

Brett Sublett finished in 39 hours, 46 minutes and 20 seconds; Will Vaughan 42:27:43, Brett Gosney 42:35:09, Odin Christensen 43:08:40 and Rick Pearcy 46:08:59.

David Greenberg completed 90 miles before succumbing to exhaustion near Cunningham Gulch.

These are the numbers, but they don't tell the stories.

Sublett was happy to finish the race for the second time in as many tries, but it was not a pretty site. Sublett injured his knee halfway through the race and limped most of the remaining 50 miles.

"I couldn't bend my knee all the way, and I couldn't put much weight on it," Sublett said.

Sublett received a little bit of relief when an osteopath at Pole Creek treated him. Friend and adventure racing teammate Rick Callies and friend Liane Jollon also walked with Sublett and helped him stay focused.

"They were just great," Sublett said.

Vaughan knew the course, but the race was much harder than he thought it would be.

"I had done each section individually, but putting them together is a different story," Vaughan said. "Oscar's Pass was hot, and the terrain in and out of Cunningham was steep, loose and marbled."

This was Vaughan's first Hardrock but his third 100-mile run. He has also completed Wasatch and Bighorn. Despite some swelling and blisters, Vaughan felt better at the completion of Hardrock than he did at his other 100-mile runs.

Gosney is now 2-for-3 for Hardrock finishes.

"I was sick as a dog on Friday, but I had a great day of running on Saturday," Gosney said.

After arriving at Grouse Gulch, the halfway point, at 5 a.m. Saturday, Gosney thought that his race might be finished. He was nauseated, sick and exhausted. But after a 30-minute nap, Gosney felt like a new man.

"It was like Lazarus coming back from the dead," Gosney said.

Gosney's son Sam, 15, paced his father for the last 9 miles.

"Sam was psyched to be there, and I was happy to have him," Brett said.

Christensen was bothered after not finishing the race last year but redeemed himself this year by running a smarter race.

"The weather was favorable, and I didn't push too hard early on," Christensen said. "It was a positive experience, and it was a great community of people to share the weekend with."

Christensen also found two secret weapons this year. "I ate lots of pumpkin pie and potato soup at the aid stations."

Pearcy found all of the climbs difficult but was also intrigued with the beauty of the course and the remarkable sunrises and sunsets.

"There were amazing waterfalls, and I saw a herd of elk near Cataract Lake," Pearcy said.

Fortunately, Pearcy had plenty of scenery to distract him while he was vomiting during most of the last four hours of the race.

"Maybe I'll hike some 14ers and learn to kayak during the rest of the summer," Pearcy said.

Despite not finishing the race after having covered 90 miles walking and run, Greenberg had the best stories to tell.

In spite of the oppressive heat, Greenberg felt fine on Friday while going up Oscar's. After dealing with some stormy weather on Virginius, Greenberg started the climb up Engineer.

"My stomach started to turn, and I could see that flashing red light on top of the pass. But it just never seemed to get any closer," Greenberg said.

"Handies was beautiful but by Pole Creek and Maggie's, I was having trouble getting fluids down."

When Greenberg met up with a small group of runners, he soldiered up Stony Pass and over Green Mountain. After arriving at Cunningham with 9 miles to go and seven hours before the 48-hour cut-off time, Greenberg appeared to be on his way to a finish at his first Hardrock attempt. But it was not to be.

Greenberg tripped and fell backward while only 500 feet from the next ridge.

Exhausted, dehydrated and perhaps hypothermic, he was not able to get back up and resume walking.

Greenberg said he considered crawling but after thinking about the long-term effects on his body and the worry and anxiety he would put his family through, Greenberg knew that his race was over.

While his pacer gave him extra clothes and went back to the Cunningham aid station to get some help, Greenberg reclined and waited.

After being escorted back to the Cunningham aid station, Greenberg was administered an IV and was on his way to a complete recovery.

"I'd like to give Hardrock another try, but it probably won't be next year," Greenberg said.

Race director Dale Garland, who said he is amazed at the tenacity of all the runners, will be directing the event again next year.

"I can't run anymore, but this is one connection that I still have," Garland said. "I enjoy the challenge of putting on such a big event and watching it all come together. Hardrock has a lot of meaning in people's lives, and I enjoy being part of that."

Harriers start Hardrock 100

While it rained Monday, six local runners made their last-minute preparations for today's 13th annual Hardrock 100-mile endurance run, which begins in Silverton and proceeds in a clockwise direction through Telluride, Ouray and Lake City.

The race starts at 6 a.m. and will finish Sunday at 6 a.m. The Hardrock course has 33,000 feet of elevation gain.

Rick Pearcy, 53, spent the week in Silverton. On Monday, he duct-taped his Camelbak while fastening down all of the straps on his pack.

"This way, I'll have lots of duct tape handy in case I get blisters during the run," Pearcy said.

Pearcy, a retired policeman from Colorado Springs, was scheduled to start last year's event, but, instead, paced a friend.

"I knew I wasn't prepared for the race."

Pearcy is well aware of the monumental task at hand.

"A million things can go wrong, like getting sick, lost or bad weather," he said. "But I'm excited about seeing an incredibly beautiful course."

Odin Christensen, 58, a Mancos geologist, has started the Hardrock 10 times and has finished the event six times.

Last year, Christensen dropped out of the race at Grouse Gulch, near the 40-mile mark.

"Getting sick while running through the night is tough to deal with," Christensen said.

Christensen is hoping to redeem himself this year.

"I know that the pain and stiffness from the run only lasts about a week, but the real agony of not finishing lasts all year."

Will Vaughn, 34, is attempting the Hardrock for the first time. Since suffering a back injury in March, Vaughn's training has gone well. In the past few months, Vaughn has been able to complete five training runs of 30-40 miles.

"I think the toughest part of this race is eating and hydrating correctly," Vaughn said.

"It's also hard staying focused while you haven't slept for 40 hours and you've got all of these aches and pains."

With monsoon season arriving early in Southwest Colorado, Vaughn is expecting to see spectacular wildflowers.

Brett Gosney, 47, is the CEO of the Animas Surgical Hospital. Juggling a high-pressure job, family and training can be difficult, but Gosney is hoping to make it for his second successful try in three attempts.

On Monday, Gosney was in Silverton waiting out the rain and hoping to continue his high-altitude training by reading a book, Last of the Mohicans while spending time on Stony Pass.

"I climbed peaks in Alaska, Asia and South America for 15 years, but what I really love is moving quickly through the mountains," Gosney said.

"The Hardrock is the premier 100-mile trail race in the country. It's well-organized, and it's an honor and privilege to run this event in my own backyard."

Brett Sublett was the 10th-place finisher in last year's event in 32 hours and 42 minutes. Hardrock starters are determined by lottery, and Sublett was placed on the waiting list for this year's event. He only found out that he had been accepted to run a few weeks ago.

"My training hasn't been the greatest, but I have been able to get in a few long runs in the mountains," Sublett said.

David Greenberg, 41, lives in Durango but is a family-practice doctor in Shiprock, N.M.

It is Greenberg's first try at the Hardrock.

He qualified to run the Hardrock by finishing the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run last year in 35:42.

"My training has been going well, and I've been walking and running in the mountains," Greenberg said. "With family and work it's always challenging finding time to run."

Dale Garland, city councilor and former mayor of Durango, has directed the race every year since its inception.

"Last year's winners, Sue Johnston and Karl Metzler, are both back this year," Garland said.

"We'll also have runners from 33 states and Finland, Germany, France and Italy."

All of the runners' progress can be tracked at