Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Trail runs open to newcomers, oldtimers alike

Take seven men, five women and five dogs, put them together on a Thursday night, show them a rocky trail on a gnarly mountain on the north end of town, and what do you think will happen?

In the "World According to Nick," of course, they will probably run to the top.
Nick Nichols has been organizing weekly group trail runs for four years.

"I want to emphasize that these runs are for everybody," Nichols explained. "Doesn't matter if you are a walker or runner, fast or slow."

The time is always 6 p.m. but the trail location changes every week. Animas City Mountain was last week's flavor but other runs have included Haflin Creek, Telegraph, Chapman Hill, Colorado Trail, Dry Fork and Smelter Mountain.

Animas, however, remains a favorite for many.

"It's the most bang for your buck in Durango," Nichols said. "It's close to town and it's real simple (to find your way). Just run up and run down."

Animas City Mountain trailhead is located two blocks north of 32nd Street and West Fourth Avenue. A round-trip will take most runners about one hour. There is no water along the trail and you might consider bringing along a hand-held bottle.

Irene Rooney, 48, enjoyed her first trail run last week. She's only been in town for three months but after visiting a local running store, she saw information about the Durango Motorless Transit running club.

"I picked up an application and I figured running a trail with the group would be a good way to check it out," Rooney said. "I have never run trails before."

Gordon Rhodes, a remodeling contractor, runs twice a week.

"I usually go once on my own and once with the group on Thursdays," Rhodes said. "It's different running with a group because I tend to push myself harder."

Besides the camaraderie of running with a group, there still remain competitive types.
Hawaii Ironman veteran Brett Sublett is preparing for the Hard Rock 100, July 8-10, in Silverton. Last week, Sublett was the first runner to reach the spectacular northwest Animas overlook.

"I threw down the gauntlet while running uphill," Sublett explained. "The runner just behind me was suffering."

While all of the runners regrouped on top, took in the views and paused for some conversation, it wasn't long before they all zipped downhill.

Be careful. Don't trip over that rock. Stay light on your feet. This trail is steep.

Animas City Mountain is also the site of the annual Mug Run near the end of October. Rick Callies, who works for Durango Parks and Recreation, has been the race director for three years.

Mike Sulkosky had a big smile on his face during last week's run.

"Animas is kind of tough, but it's a good place to work on downhill running," Sulkowsky said. "It's always fun and it's a great way to enjoy friends."

A group trail run would not be complete without good food and drink. Most runners only punish themselves so they can enjoy unlimited caloric options.

This run ended at the new, nearby Zia Taqueria.

For a complete trail run schedule, see

See you there.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Going for the gusto

The festive holidays are over and you've long since finished the eggnog and leftover fruitcake. Time to get serious about fitness again, take the leap and complete an Ironman distance race this year. The task of finishing a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile run can be intimidating for the most seasoned athletes. But it doesn't have to be.

There are many considerations while trying to figure out a good strategy of race preparation for an Ironman-distance race. What kind of shape are you in today? I will assume that you’re already riding, running and swimming at least once a week. Do you have a minimum of 12 hours per week during which to work out? Do you have understanding family and friends who won't mind when you spend all of your time training?

Enter a race and give yourself at least three months to prepare. Ironman entries are in high demand, but if you pay attention to the race calendar and figure out when registration opens up for each event, you'll be ready to sign up. Before sending in that registration fee, though, pay attention to the course layout. If you’re not a strong swimmer, don't sign up for a race that has an ocean swim. Some courses are "criterium style" and you might be intimidated by laps on the bicycle and run portions.

Other things to consider before signing on the dotted line are what is the race’s refund policy in case you get injured and aren’t able to make it to the start line. Race fees can run around $450. First-time Ironmen should consider entering a race where they can drive rather than fly. Packing and shipping a bicycle is one pressure that you don't need during your first Ironman.

Gather an equipment list and make sure that your budget will allow for a wetsuit, an upgraded bicycle, if necessary, several swimsuits, running shoes and workout clothing. Flippers, pull buoys and a watch with a lap timer are also helpful for training. Do you have good access to a swimming pool? It might be difficult to train for a spring Ironman in the middle of winter unless you enjoy running endless miles on a treadmill and watching Tour de France videos while logging in miles on your indoor trainer.

Many would-be Ironmen come from a strong background in one sport and only need to polish their skills in the other two disciplines and build some endurance. Cathy Tibbetts, Durango resident and Montrail ultrarunner, has been running and racing for 20 years.

"I already swam and biked a little but when I decided to try my first Ironman in Arizona this spring, I just made a commitment to add in more miles in those areas," Tibbetts says. "I joined a Master's swim program, took my turbo trainer out of the closet and started riding as many centuries as I could fit in on the weekends."

Not all would-be Ironmen have much experience in triathlons or in one area, though. Gabe Wheeler is a manager at a landscape company in Thornton. Wheeler chose Ironman Arizona as his first triathlon.

"To tell the truth, I never really gave much thought to doing a shorter distance race," Wheeler says. "My first exposure to triathlon was the media coverage that Hawaii receives so I have always associated 'triathlon' with Ironman. When I committed to doing a triathlon, I committed to doing an Ironman because that was the obvious thing to do."

Finding the time to train for an Ironman was the most difficult thing for Karen Rudolph, who did her first Ironman in California in 2002.

"It was a lot of time away from my husband," Rudolph recalls. "But if you are committed and dedicated to your training schedule, you can train your body to do anything."

Sander Rigney, product manager for RockShox, from Colorado Springs, is racing his first Ironman in Arizona this spring. Rigney also found it difficult making time for training.

"A large percentage of my travel involves testing bicycle products and while I was in Spain, I did a two-week ride camp, riding each day with various European bicycle manufacturers," Rigney says. "That gets one sport out of the way, so I just have to squeeze in a little running or swimming before or after work."

Spend a little extra time on your weakest event but don't get too bogged down by this. The bicycle is the most important part of the Ironman because you'll be at that the longest. You don't need to set any world records during the swim. It's a warm-up for the rest of the day and you only need to complete the swim without drowning and within the cut-off time. Everybody is tired during the run portion and unless you’re a top competitor, get used to taking frequent walking breaks. Running is important but it’s also the discipline where you’re most likely to get injured while training. Better to get to the start line healthy rather than suffering a running injury.

Treat yourself to occasional races during your training weeks. You may want to complete an international distance (1-mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run) or a road race. Training is the hard part and racing is fun so enjoy these events.

Don’t forget to incorporate brick workouts, one discipline right after the other, especially biking and running. The cement-feeling legs go away after you run for a mile or two.

Find a training partner if you can. This is helpful for the run days when it’s raining outside or mornings when you’re tired and would prefer to sleep in rather than going to a pool for endless laps. You’re more likely to complete a tough workout if you have a friend to share it with. Master's swim programs are available in most cities. Join a running club so that you’ll have some company, especially for the long runs. Club rides are beneficial but can also be intimidating if you’re not used to riding in a tight pack.

Make training fun. Do a two-day self-supported bicycle tour by picking a destination 60 miles from your home. Ride there Saturday, get an inexpensive hotel and ride back Sunday. This only requires half the thought process of two long workouts. Once you've biked the first day, you don't have much choice but to go back on the second day.

Take a break from pounding the pavement on your runs and drive to a scenic destination for a soft, forgiving trail run. Most people don't have access to open water on a regular basis but for a treat, take a vacation to a beach or lake and practice some open-water swimming. It's not difficult but you’ll need to practice lifting your head out of the water so you can sight the course. If you’ll be wearing a wetsuit during the Ironman, get accustomed to wearing it. Many people chafe and it’s important to figure out where you need to put lubricant.

Don't be afraid to schedule a day off. You can take up to one day off per week and still fit in your training. If you’re a compulsive Type A personality and you can't stand the thought of taking a day off, do yourself a favor and mix things up a little. Play pick-up basketball for a workout, hit some tennis balls with your favorite partner or pull a rowing ergometer.

On race-day, have fun, regardless of the outcome.

Katie Baker, National Teams Program Coordinator for Tri-Fed in Colorado Springs, did her first Ironman in Lake Placid in 2001.

"The day before the race my family and I had a nice hike in Adirondacks with a little picnic in the forest to keep my mind off the next day," Baker said. "Race day I had no goals for myself other than to finish and feel good. I had no idea what to expect regarding time."

Baker finished in 12 hours and 3 minutes and, after losing site of her family during the finish, she enjoyed a post-race massage while her family enjoyed pizza. Baker will be racing her fifth Ironman in Arizona.
The cornerstone to any successful Ironman is the necessary training. There are numerous books written on the subject and there are many websites and coaches available to help you devise a program. The following is intended to be a guide.

Many exercise programs are scheduled by time considerations. For example, bike two hours or swim one hour. This may work for some individuals but I prefer to measure my workouts by distance. When I race, I'll need to go a certain "distance" rather than a certain "time" so I think it's better to think in those terms. Get a logbook and make daily entries for all of your workouts. This will hold you accountable.

Gradually build your weekly mileage in all three disciplines so that you’re covering one to one-and-a-half times your race distance over a week's time. Swimming 3.5 miles, cycling 168 miles and running 39.3 miles during your longest training week would be ideal but this may be a difficult goal to reach, especially since biking 168 miles takes most people 8-10 hours to complete.

Practice each discipline two to four times a week. Do a long workout that’s at least half the race distance each week, do an interval session, and do one or two other workouts of middle distance for each discipline. For example, running workouts for the week would include a 13.1-mile run, a track workout consisting of a warm-up, several quarters, halves and three-quarter mile pieces, and one or two runs of between five and eight miles. Complete similar programs for biking and swimming.

If you can, pick three different weeks to do a time trial for each complete race distance. One week, swim 2.4 miles, one-week bike 112 miles and one week run 26.2 miles. These workouts will build significant endurance and confidence.


For a schedule of races trademarked by Ironman USA, visit Currently, there are events in Arizona, Canada, Florida, Coeur d'Alene, Lake Placid and Wisconsin. There are other Ironman-distance races in the U.S. but they’re not put on by the same organization. Check out event sites like for listings.

There are hundreds of Ironman training programs available online as well as a myriad of training guides. Here are a few places to start. — offering online coaching as well as camps. — resource for everything triathlon, including training and gear reviews. — training and coaching by six-time Ironman winner, Mark Allen.

Going Long: Training for Ironman-Distance Triathlons (The Ultrafit Multisport Training Series). Joe Friel and Gordon Byrn. VeloPress.

Start to Finish Ironman Training 24 Weeks to an Endurance Triathlon. Paul Huddle, et al. Meyer & Meyer.

Triathlete Magazine's Complete Triathlon Book: The Training, Diet, Health, Equipment, and Safety Tips You Need to Do Your Best. Matt Fitzgerald. Warner Books.

Starting Out Triathlon: Training for Your First Competition (Ironman Edition). Paul Huddle, et al. Meyer & Meyer.

Be Iron-Fit: Time-Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness. Don Fink. The Lyons Press.

Durango-based writer Marc Witkes completed his first Ironman in 31 hours in 1996. It was a "double" (4.8 mi. swim, 226 mi. bike and 52.4 mi. run) in Huntsville, Ala. Marc missed completing the "triple" in Lake Anna State Park, Va. in 2002 by 10 miles on the run. Ironman Arizona will be his first "single."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rakita smashes record in Narrow Horse swim

Going into Monday's Narrow Horse 1,500-meter swim, the final part of the three-day stage triathlon which included the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic race to Silverton and the Narrow Gauge 10-Mile Run, Branden Rakita and Michael Hagen were tied with an accumulated time of 3 hours, 32 minutes and 2 seconds.

Rakita was 13 seconds slower than Hagen on the bike, but was 13 seconds faster on the run.

Chance occurrence? Maybe.

But Rakita and Hagen were familiar with each other after having competed in the same masters swim program in Colorado Springs near where they both live.

Hagen, 42, pretty much knew what the end result of the triathlon would be.

"Branden swims in a faster lane than I do," Hagen said.

Rakita, 24, a Durango High School graduate, not only swam faster than Hagen but he also swam faster than any other person who has ever competed in the Narrow Horse swim.

Rakita's outstanding time of 18 minutes and 13 seconds was a new meet event record and a personal best.

"I was happy with my time," Rakita said. "All of the training I have been doing really paid off."

That's 20,000 to 35,000 yards per week.

Rakita is training full time in his quest to become a professional triathlete. In two weeks, he'll be competing in the gnarly Escape from Alcatraz, a triathlon with a difficult ocean swim.

"The current in the bay might be a little bit sketchy and the field is so stacked but I'll just do the best that I can do," Rakita said.

On the women's side of the swim (there were no female triathletes this year), Erin Brinton, 19, also a Durango High School graduate, won with a time of 19:52.18. Next year Brinton will be a sophomore at Occidental College in Los Angeles where she is on the swim team.

"My swim wasn't bad today but I've really only had two weeks of good training," Brinton said. "I had a concussion at school, and I wasn't allowed to swim for a month."

Brinton's best time for a 1,500-meter swim is 17:54.

This summer, Brinton will be living with her parents, Scott and Marjorie, the Narrow Horse meet director, swimming on her own to keep in shape and working at the city's recreational program, Gametime.

There were 51 participants in this year's 14th annual event. Ages ranged from 10 (Hattie

Dahlberg, 36:20.46) to 63 (Jean Smith, 32:23.58).

According to Bill Palmer, Durango Masters swim coach, swimming would be good for so many people because it's nonimpact and doesn't beat up their bodies.

"You can pretty much do it forever," Palmer said.

Hannah Chapman (36:20.46), also 10, and a member of the Durango Swim Club, was expecting to swim 30 minutes but didn't quite make it.

Christopher Meyer (26:11.15), 53, did better than he anticipated.

"I missed the swim last year for the first year in quite a while," Meyer said. "I've done it about 13 times, and I just try and swim according to my current fitness level."

Cathy Stevenson (26:43.40), 33, is a dental hygienist, and six months pregnant.

"I usually swim twice a week between 2,000 and 2,500 yards with my friends in the morning," Stevenson said. "I'll swim until I deliver because it's a nonweight-bearing activity, it feels good and I don't feel the extra weight."

Stevenson is also participating in a prenatal yoga class.

All swimmers received sweatshirts created by J.T. of Steamworks.

"They were one of our sponsors," Marjorie Brinton said.

Age-group award winners received fleece blankets while overall male and female winners received red earth pottery plates.

Michael Carter is first over Molas Pass en route to Iron Horse Bicycle Classic victory Posted by Hello

FLC alumni run away with Narrow Gauge 10-Mile titles

Sampson Sage, 23, put a surge on Branden Rakita near 32nd Street and that was all he needed to cruise to a win in the 28th annual Narrow Gauge 10-Mile Run on Sunday morning.

"The hills (North College and Rim Drive) weren't as bad this year because I didn't have a specific time goal," Sage said. "I just relaxed and took it smooth."

Sage, a Fort Lewis College graduate, ran cross country for five years and is now doing an internship with the Center for Southwest Studies.

Brianne Lippoldt, 24, another FLC alumni won the women's 10-mile race.

"I ran by myself the whole way," Lippoldt said. "I was in good shape for the hills, but the flats were pretty tough."

This was Lippoldt's second Narrow Gauge.

"I love this race," Lippoldt said. "I really just love the whole weekend."

David Rakita, 55, continued his streak by finishing the Narrow Gauge run all 28 times.

Rakita has been suffering a foot injury this year and felt fortunate to be able to run.

"I haven't had much training," Rakita said.

"This was more of a race just to finish rather than compete."

Over 28 years, Rakita has only lost 15 minutes from his 1977 time. Bobbie, David's wife, has also been part of the race for most of the 28 years as a volunteer.

"She's always been by my side," David said.

John Weswah won the 5K (3.1 miles) event in 16:51 while Molly Marquez led the women with a 23:20.

A total of 120 people ran the 10-mile event while 80 people ran the 5K.

Keith Baker juggled three balls while running the 10-miler.

"While juggling it's harder running downhill than it is up," Baker said.

"Especially when I drop the balls."

Baker estimates that he is only about one minute per mile slower while juggling.

Lori Elliff, 24, was trying to lower her 5K times since moving into an area with higher elevation.

"I used to run between 19 and 21 minutes, but today I ran 23:40," Elliff said.

A portion of the proceeds from the Narrow Gauge Run will go to the Durango Motorless Transit/FLC Cross Country Scholarship Fund.

With an endowment of $13,000, scholarships will be awarded to local high school seniors who wish to run cross country at Fort Lewis College.

Sunday morning's run was sponsored by Morehart Chevrolet, National King Coal, Steamworks and the Four Corners Heart Clinic.

Complete Narrow Gauge race results are posted at www.

Many individuals who completed the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race and the Narrow Gauge 10- Mile Run will be swimming today in the Narrow Horse 1,500-meter Swim at the Durango Recreation Center beginning at 9 a.m. today.

Shonny Vanlandingahm, Karen Kingsley and Ann Trombley lead Iron Horse over Molas Pass Posted by Hello