Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mammoth NORBA a Durango affair

Mammoth Mountain, Calif., hosted this weekend's USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in a new winner-take-all format, but if you blinked you might have thought you were in Durango.

Alex Howard, 18, a 2004 Durango High School graduate, drove 15 hours. Ned Overend and Todd Wells flew to Reno and drove to Mammoth together. Joe Burtoni, a Durango Realtor, shipped his bike ahead of time to his godfather in Reno and visited before heading to Mammoth.

When four days of racing, including cross country, downhill/kamikaze, Super D, MtnX, marathon/mini and trials, began on Thursday, around 25 area residents were ready to test their talents against the best of the best.

Overall, 1,582 riders comprised 2,147 race starts.

Burtoni spent a lot of time on rollers during March and raced in NORBA Phoenix.
"I'm excited but not really nervous," said Burtoni, en route to Reno on Wednesday morning. "I'm here because I've trained hard and those other races were stepping stones for this one."

On Thursday, Burtoni, who enlisted help from USA Cycling coach and Hesperus resident Mike Engleman prior to the race, rode a practice lap with Overend, Cale Redpath and Greg Lewis.

"No, we're not racing yet," joked Overend, who responded to his cell phone while warming up on the opening climb. "If I was racing, I'd answer the phone and put you on hold."

Wells and Overend raced cross country on Friday, Super D on Saturday and short track on Sunday.

Shonny Vanlandingham, 36, raced the same three events.

"It's a happy atmosphere here," said Vanlandingham, who makes her home in Durango. "The venue is nice, all the different team and sponsor trucks are here, and I'm a little nervous, but that's good."

Wells and Overend both started slow but passed several competitors towards the end of the cross country race.

"I attacked on the climb during the last lap," said Overend, 50, who estimates he has raced at Mammoth 20 to 25 times. "If there was another lap, I might have fared a little better. But I was happy because I started working toward this goal last year, and I wanted to have a good race when I turned 50."

Overend finished fifth, three bikes behind race runner-up Wells.

Wells, a member of the 2004 Olympic mountain biking team and the 2001 national cyclocross
champion, will be conducting the TWells CX Camp Sept. 28-Oct. 2 in Durango and will be sharing a few of his racing secrets.

Overend has a few secrets of his own.

After a long weekend and a late flight back to Durango, Overend was still able to squeeze in the Half-Valley and Lemon Lake 45-mile ride on Sunday as part of the Boure Bike Fest.
Vanlandingham was leading the women's professional cross country race on Friday, but flatted near the top of the final descent, rode her bike downhill, crashed and carried the bike across the finish line for a dramatic fourth-place finish.

"I was caught 200 meters from the finish line," Vanlandingham said. "It was disappointing, but that's part of racing, and I'll be back next year."

Vanlandingham finished first in Sunday's short track, while Wells added his second runner-up finish in the men's pro division.

With the new one-day format, Overend thinks there will be twice as many participants next year at Mammoth Mountain. But with everyone flying and driving 1,100 miles to Mammoth, wouldn't it be easier if the races were held in Durango?

Monday, September 19, 2005

DMT helps put Roser back on running path

It might be difficult to come home again, but former Durango High standout Emily Roser is back in town, running cross country at Fort Lewis College and picking up where she left off.

Roser ran a spectacular four years at Durango High under coach Ron Keller. She set a school record in the 3,200-meter run before graduating in 2002.

After a one-year injury-plagued stint at the University of Montana, and two years of not running for FLC, Roser missed competing and decided to run this year.

Two weeks ago, Roser ran to a fourth-place overall and second-place finish on her team at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Ariz. And last weekend she was 20th overall and first for her team at the Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque.

For Roser, some things have changed about running in Durango, but others have stayed the same.

“I’m not nervous about the meets, and I don’t stress out anymore,” Roser said. “I’m new to the team this year, but I enjoy telling the girls the great places to run like Hermosa Creek, Horse Gulch and Lime Creek Road.” Last week, while running cemetery hill repeats, Roser remembered running there while in high school. And, of course, the hill is just as steep as it was four years ago.

After running by herself for the past two years, Roser enjoyed pushing the repeats with teammate Jessica Quigley.

Roser is also the first recipient of a Durango Motorless Transit/Fort Lewis College running scholarship. This endowed fund encourages local high school students to continue their running career at FLC rather than taking their talents to an out-of-town college.

DMT pooled funds from the Narrow Gauge, Steamworks Half Marathon and Turkey Trot races to fund the scholarship. Many individuals made additional donations as well.

“It’s great that we have a local group dealing with local students,” said Dave Preszler, FLC athletic director. “There are limited financial resources at the college, and it’s a nice way to help keep talent here.” Ken Flint, FLC cross country coach, is happy to see good community support during the five years of fundraising.

“Besides helping runners, the scholarship is also helping to graduate high-quality students who do well in the classroom,” Flint said. “Emily is an excellent student who maintains close to a 4.0 G.P.A. in exercise science.” Roser is hoping to graduate FLC this spring.

“I love Durango, but probably at some point I should think about going somewhere else after being here my whole life,” Roser said. “I’ll probably go to graduate school somewhere because you can’t do anything with an exercise science degree, and I’m not ready for a real job yet.” Where does running fit in with Roser’s future plans?

“I could see, maybe, running half-marathons,” Roser said.

Whether it’s graduate school or a career in Durango, running 5Ks or marathons, Roser – the daughter of Craig and Katherine Roser – is certain to be successful.

“I’ve never known anybody to work harder through adversity and focus on what she wants,” Katharine said.

Additional donations for the DMT Scholarship Fund can be sent to the FLC Foundation, 1000 Rim Drive, Durango, CO 81301.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Randonneur: BMB long ride was an ordeal

Two weeks ago, I bicycled in the Boston to Montreal to Boston (BMB) 1200K randonneur (long ride).

The 750-mile BMB is the oldest randonneur in the United States and is based upon the original French event, Paris-Brest-Paris, which began in 1931.

In order to ride in a 1200K event, one must first qualify, by riding a series of shorter brevets of 124, 186, 248 and 372 miles. Robin Favreau, Val Phelps and I completed the brevet series while doing one ride each month in Casa Grande, Ariz. from January to April of this year.

I started packing my bike in its case several days before BMB, and I found my seat post and handlebar stem were frozen in place. I finally squeezed the bike into its case by removing the large chain-ring and seat.

Around 100 cyclists from 23 states and three countries started the ride equipped with lights, generators and gear at 4 a.m.

Heading west from Boston, I hit the 75-mile Bullard Farm checkpoint around 9:30 a.m. and scoffed coffee cake, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and muffins.

Guy Harris, a chemist with Merck, was about my pace; we stayed together for 200 miles.

After skirting New Hampshire, we crossed the Connecticut River Bridge into Brattleboro, Vt. The mountain climbs in Vermont are shorter than the ones in Colorado, but they are steeper. After standing in the pedals in my smallest gear while climbing Middlebury Gap, I was cursing myself for not having a triple chain ring.

Evening accommodations in Middlebury boasted an ice rink with cots. We slept from 11 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. and were on the road again by 4. We made it to Ludlow by 6 a.m.

After riding through Vermont all day, we crossed the Canadian border at Rouses Point, N.Y. at 6:30 p.m., and approached Montreal. The Royal Canadian Legion Hall welcomed us.

I met up with four other cyclists for the evening ride back to Ludlow. Their group leader said that I didn't know how to ride a pace-line, so he put me in back and told me to stay there.

With one of the other cyclists feeling dizzy, we decided to take a nap at a hotel in Ludlow. I left the room for a moment and returned to find my roommate sound asleep while still wearing his reflective vest and ankle bands.

I woke up at 5 a.m. and roused my roomie, but he shrugged me off. His ride was over.

I continued through Vermont, back over Middlebury Gap, and I stopped briefly to see the Robert Frost historical marker. "Miles to go before I sleep" seemed appropriate as I struggled with my sense of time. Was it sun-up, sun-down, dawn or dusk?

Stormy weather hit, and I met up with Tom and Mike, two physicians. They seemed to perversely enjoy shooting up each other's knees with Marcaine, a local anesthetic. After four doses, Mike finally dropped out.

While making another dark, steep climb with Tom, I pulled over to the side of the road, exhausted. Tom gave me electrolytes, a space blanket and wished me luck. After sitting dejected by the road for 15 minutes, I rode on to the Brattleboro checkpoint where I rested for several hours.

It rained all morning for the ride through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In Barre, my family met me to say hello while I slogged through the final 60 miles. I finished in 83 hours and 16 minutes, some 36 hours behind the ride winner.

I'm still having nightmares about checkpoints, cue sheets and endless miles.