Monday, July 25, 2005

Durango 100 draws 400 riders

DURANGO, Colo. - With 10 people riding under four hours for the Durango 100-mile bicycle ride on Sunday; you might think it was part of the Tour de France.

Approximately 400 cyclists started at Santa Rita Park in Durango at 7 a.m. and were treated to a beautiful ride, excellent weather and outstanding hospitality.

Riders followed the newly paved La Posta Road all the way to Bondad. With smooth, new blacktop and winding country roads, it was nearly paradise, with only a short 2.8-mile section of hard-packed, gravel road during the stretch along La Posta.

"Some people didn't like the dirt, but they took it in stride," said Bill Connelly, ride founder who has organized the Durango 100 four times. "Next year, that section will be paved."

After enduring the buzz of automobile traffic on Highway 550 for a few miles, riders veered off onto Aztec Ruins Road. Cyclists were then treated to a road without any traffic, stop signs or noise all the way to Aztec. One, steep 1/4-mile climb caught a few cyclists off guard, but no one complained after being treated to 20-miles of downhill.

Ten miles into Farmington on Highway 516 went by quickly for riders and with many motorists off the road on Sunday morning, there were probably more cyclists.

Some riders turned north in Aztec to cutoff a few miles and turn a century into 84 miles, some riders stopped at the Farmington Sports Complex for a rest stop at an even 50 miles into the race, while most cyclists rode Pinon Hills Boulevard all the way through as they geared up for the finish to the 100-mile course.

Beatle Abshagen, of Durango, opted for the 84-mile loop.

"My son coerced me into riding this," Abshagen said. "He's doing the 100."

Abshagen is fortunate to still be riding a bicycle. After back fusion surgery two years ago, all Abshagen could manage was a tricycle.

"This year I'm back to riding a recumbent bike," he said. "I usually ride my mountain bike more than a road bike."

Many cyclists stopped at the red schoolhouse aid station in Red Mesa, Colo., while making the long climb up La Plata Highway.

Riley McGovern, 13, a student at Tibbetts Junior High in Farmington, stopped to take a breather at the schoolhouse.

"My parents finished in Farmington," McGovern said. "Two years ago, I only did 50 miles, but I'm thinking about going whole way this time."

McGovern also had a friend who was attempting the ride.

Patti Glover, another Farmington resident, was feeling pretty tired and sore at the schoolhouse.

"I'm not sure I'm going to make it," Glover said.

It was Glover's fourth Durango 100.

"The first year of the ride, there were only about 40 riders," Glover said.

She was one of only about five women that year.

After passing Red Mesa, cyclists made a quick detour to the Marvel, Colo., Post Office aid station.

There, Margaret Pacheco hosed people down, filled water bottles and passed out cookies, bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

"This is so much fun," Pacheco said. "This is the second-most meaningful event in Marvel for the year. First is the Groundhog Supper."

After the Marvel Post Office, riders rejoined La Plata Highway before making the final ascent on Wildcat Canyon Road and back into Durango.

Ben Madden, from Albuquerque and developer of, was pleased with his finish.

"Century rides are popular because you get all of the workout and intensity of a race, but there is more camaraderie and team spirit," Madden said. "When I heard about this ride three years ago, I couldn’t believe some of the finishing times, so I had to come and see it for myself."

Connelly was happy for some cooler temperatures.

"If it was 100 degrees like it was last week, we might have been in trouble," Connelly said.

Connelly rode the 100-mile course in an even five hours this year.

All riders were treated to sandwiches and carrot cake at the ride finish.

"Yes, I'll be putting the ride on again next year," Connelly said. "Some folks had cramped legs at the end of this ride, but that's part of riding a century."

The pack of eight riders that crossed the finish line first in a time of 3 hours, 57 minutes were: Durango riders John Seibert, Robby Robinette, Ivan Unkovskoy and Ben Kniller; Sante Fe riders David Schulhofer and Waz Warsa; Mike Dietzman, of Ely, Minn., and Dave Kinsey, of Farmington.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Athletic lifestyle boosts local cancer survivor

Leanne Jordan is many things - an athlete, doctor, wife and mother. She is also a cancer survivor.

Jordan, 45, grew up in North Conway, N.H., an idyllic setting similar to Durango.

She played field hockey, rooted for the Red Sox and prepared for the rigors of attending medical school.

During college, Jordan started rowing competitively. She enjoyed it, and honed her skills enough to join the U.S. national team from 1985-87.

After delaying entering medical school, Jordan lived in Boston, woke up early to row on the Charles River and raced in national competitions including the Pan Am Games.

Jordan graduated from Brown University in 1989. After spending four years in the Air Force to help pay back her medical school loans, Jordan settled in Durango and started her OB/GYN practice.

She has delivered around 500 babies, and says she's just getting started.

"I'd like to deliver their babies too," explained Jordan, while telling her story of cancer survivorship.

In March 2003, while doing a breast self-examination, Jordan noticed a strange lump.

After a mammogram, the doctor recommended ultrasound and gave Jordan an 85 percent chance the growth was benign.

She wasn't taking any chances.

"I didn't want it there, and I got it removed immediately," Jordan said. "When the doctor called after the surgery and asked to come to my office, I was petrified."

The tumor was malignant.

While still training for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Jordan began eight weeks of radiation treatment.

She also went back for a second surgery to have her lymph nodes removed to prevent the spread of cancer.

Jordan tried to take the 10-minute daily radiation treatments in stride and kept busy with work, Iron Horse training and parenting when she wasn't exhausted. Her children were scared and confused, so Jordan took them with her one day during treatment.

"Emily, 13, and Kelsey, 10, watched my radiation treatment through a television monitor and talked to me," Jordan said. "Kids imagine things are worse when they can't see it, and after seeing the treatment, they understood."

Jordan's husband remained incredibly understanding and supportive, and her brother from Rhode Island visited in May. Together they rode the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic; it was a major victory.

"Doing sports while going through treatments helped so much," Jordan said. "Biking was great for my stamina and psyche and being an athlete is an advantage."

Jordan is cancer-free today but her experience was a life-changing event.

"The cancer could come back, but I was fortunate that I detected it early," Jordan said.

Keeping active and positive is important for Jordan, who was heading up to Log Chutes for a bike ride right after our Thursday-morning meeting.

She makes it a point to avoid negative situations and negative people.

"I don't want to be encumbered by bad thoughts. There is just so much that I have to be thankful for," she said.

Durango 100 set to ride

DURANGO, Colo. - While the Tour de France is winding down the Champs-Elysees this weekend, area cyclists will have an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy a classic bike ride of their own.

On Sunday, Bill Connelly and Velo de Animas will host the fourth annual Durango 100 Century.

This fun, fast and scenic ride begins at Gateway Park in Durango at 7 a.m., follows the Animas River on the newly-paved La Posta Road, and enters Farmington via Highway 550, Aztec Ruins Road and Highway 516.

Once in Farmington, cyclists will go across town on PiƱon Hills Blvd. before making the ascent back to Durango on CR 170, known as the La Plata Highway. After quick turns into Marvel and Breen and a quick descent on Wildcat Canyon, cyclists will finish where they started at Gateway Park.

Riders will also have the option of riding an 84-mile loop or 50 miles, one-way.

Four years ago Connelly sent an e-mail to a few friends and ended up doing the ride with 50 others.

“It was bare bones,” Connelly said. “I had my wife and daughter help and we didn't have a timer.”

The next year, Connelly decided to make the ride “official” with permits, road sweeping, aid stations, a timer and ride insurance. The event has continued to grow, and Connelly expects 400 riders this year.

“Feedback from riders in past years is excellent and keeps us trying to live up to their high expectations,” Connelly said. “Local governments are very supportive, Marvel is gearing up to be the best rest stop in the world and riders tell me the they feel like professional cyclists when they stop there and the volunteers fill water bottles, hold bikes, peel bananas and hose off riders.”

Drew Bourey, owner of Bourey Sportswear in Durango, has been a sponsor for the ride since its inception.

“I think it’s a fun, community event that is attainable for most cyclists,” Bourey said. “Century rides have a different feel to them than races and cyclists tend to splinter into smaller groups and ride together rather than try to hammer each other.”

With only an elevation gain of 4,091-feet and lots of downhill sections, the Durango 100 is becoming well-known as a fast course. Many cyclists ride personal records.

Bourey thinks that the course is fast for another reason.

“There’s a tailwind in both directions,” Bourey said. “The wind seems to change just as you make the turn in Farmington before heading back to Durango.”

With dramatic scenery that changes from mountain to desert, rest stops and a sag wagon, the Durango 100 promises to be a popular ride again this year.

Organizing the ride, getting all of the special permits and insurance policy can be a daunting task. Proceeds from the ride, if any, will go to the non-profit Velo de Animas Cycling Club of Farmington and help with a variety of programs, including bikes for needy kids. Connelly will also bike the 100 miles.

“I wouldn’t go through all this trouble if I wasn’t going to be able to ride,” Connelly said.

Pre-ride registration is $20 while the race-day fee is $25. All riders will receive a specialized water bottle with a map of the course printed on the side.

For registration or more information, log on to or call Connelly at (505) 330-7374.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Meltzer makes new tradition

Karl Meltzer, 38, has some new traditions at the Hardrock 100-mile Endurance Run, and they have nothing to do with kissing a massive boulder.

Meltzer, who won the race for his third time, in 28 hours, 29 minutes and 15 seconds, ran up and over the Hardrock three times, did a few push-ups and promptly celebrated with a cheeseburger and fries specially prepared by the chef at the Grand Imperial Hotel.

"The early miles in the race were tough but I felt better after 50," Meltzer said. "Virginius (climb) wasn't that bad but the Wasatch Saddle and Grant Swamp were brutal."

In Ouray, at the 57.7-mile mark, Meltzer was only in third place, trailing Nate McDowell and Paul Sweeney, last year's winner. McDowell dropped out of the race at Chapman (82 miles) with "frozen legs" while Sweeney finished second in 30:02.28.

Meltzer, who ran without a pacer, opted to pass the time listening to music by Strangelove, a band from Vermont.

The 2004 Hardrock 100-mile Endurance Run champion, Paul Sweeney, crosses the finish line in Silverton in second place on Saturday. Sweeney's wife, Betsy Nye, the 2003 champion, finished fourth for the women. Karl Metzler, 38, won the men's race in 28 hours, 29 minutes and 15 seconds. Sue Johnston won the women's race in 32:07.41.

"I think I listened to the tape about five times," Meltzer said. "I almost felt like doing a little dancing out there."

Even with three wins and course records running the race in both directions, it has not been easy for Meltzer, who has also dropped out of the race twice.

On the women's side, Sue Johnston (32:07.41) outpaced a strong women's field for her second win in three attempts.

Johnston, 39, from Waterford, Vermont, was running near three other women, Betsy Nye, Betsy Kalmeyer and Emily Baer, until Cunningham (9.1 mile mark) before she broke away.

"I never knew how close the other runners were," Johnston said. "Usually I have my husband crewing for me but he wasn't there this time helping me out."

Johnston had a difficult time running between Telluride and Oscar's at 3:15 a.m. on Saturday, but she was comfortable not having pacers with her.

"I tend to get whiny with others around," Johnston said.

Training for Hardrock was not difficult for Johnston; she doesn't follow a specific plan but rather runs how she feels.

"I'm a low mileage runner and I only average 30-40 miles per week," Johnston said.

While Meltzer and Johnston were cruising to victories, many of the other 125 runners who started the race were having their share of difficulties.

Jigger and Paul Staby, five-year veteran volunteers from Durango, were working the aid station at Grouse Gulch (44.1 miles) and it looked like a MASH unit.

"There were runners (lying down) everywhere," Jigger said.

Paul worked the communication side of things.

"We had two runners missing and that kept us up all night," Paul said.

Back at race headquarters, Pete Lewis and Mike Hirshman, from Steamboat Springs, who are part of the medical rescue crew, and Chris Nute, from La Plata County Search and Rescue, were already mobilizing efforts to find the lost runners. Both were found quickly.

Brett Sublett (32:57.48) from Durango worked his way up to third place at one point but eventually dropped to tenth.

"I couldn't keep any food down," Sublett said. "My pacers were practically force feeding me but it wasn't enough."

Sublett wants to come back next year and try the race in the other direction.

"It's almost a shame that it has to get dark out because it's so beautiful out there, and you have to miss some of the views," Sublett said. "I think if I could get this thing figured out a little better, I could work my way up (to a higher finish)."

Emily Baer, 29, (36:11.43) from Silverton was the third women's finisher and twentieth place overall. It was Baer's sixth time at the Hardrock and her fourth finish.

"This was my fastest time by about 45 minutes but it was still one of the harder years," Baer said. "I had a difficult climb out of Ouray and Virginius with all the snow and slippery footing."

Rickey Denesik, former race winner, from Telluride, paced Baer.

"He reminded me to keep breathing, and I started taking longer and deeper breaths," Baer said. "I caught about seven people going up Grants Swamp."

Nye (36:58.25), 41, who finished fourth for the women, had a baby in September and is the wife of Sweeney - last year's men's champion.

"I had my ups and downs but Handies was the toughest part of the race for me," Nye said. "I ate too much food before going over the pass and then my stomach went off."

Brett Gosney, from Durango, who finished Hardrock two years ago, was one of the many casualties at Grouse (44.1 miles).

"I was on a 39-hour pace when I left Sherman (29.2 miles) but I fell apart going up Handies," Gosney said. "I was suffering from fatigue, nausea and a headache. It's just the nature of this type of event."

Gosney took baby steps and gutted it out over Handies but the suffering and dehydration caught up to him, and he dropped out after the descent. After being taken to race headquarters, Gosney was administered two liters of IV fluid to help him recover.

"It was just a bad day for me at Hardrock, but maybe I'll come back next year and try it in the other direction," Gosney said.

Odin Christensen, a six-time Hardrock finisher from Mancos, also dropped out at Grouse.

"My stomach went sour, and I couldn't keep any food down," Christensen said.

Richard Hayes, 54, was the 71st and final race finisher in 47:54.13. He finished six minutes before the 6 a.m. race cutoff on Sunday morning.

"I've done 22 other 100-milers and no question about it, this is the toughest," said the exhausted but happy runner. "I was on all fours on the last climb."

Runners, pacers, crew, families and communications staff were treated to a banquet and awards celebration following the race.

Complete race results and registration information for next year's event is at

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Local couple prefers to see Europe by bike

Courtney Barr and Chuck Eppinger returned two weeks ago from their latest bicycle trip in the Czech Republic, Germany and Denmark.

Barr, 78, and Eppinger, 75 - who have been together for 21 years - started taking bicycle vacations in 1990.

When they first met in the 80s, he wasn't riding. Barr, who had already been on bicycling trips to China and the Columbia Icefields in Canada, persuaded Eppinger to get a bike.

"I hadn't ridden since I was a kid," Eppinger said. "We started riding together in Winter Park, Empire and the mountains surrounding Denver."

In 1995, they took their first cycling trip to Europe.

"We went to Holland while they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe)," Eppinger said.

It has been a learning process while traveling abroad.

"We rented bikes the first year," Barr said. "We didn't know any better. Now we always box up our own bikes and bring them with us."

There are always many people around speaking English so language usually isn't a barrier. If they can't understand the menu in a restaurant, they'll point to a dish.
Navigating roads, paths and backcountry roads can be problematic, but Barr and Eppinger are amazed at the kindness of strangers who always seem to appear at just the right time to help point out directions.

With visits in 16 countries including Holland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France and Italy, some of those strangers have become friends and have visited the couple in the United States in return.

Choosing the right time to travel is a learning process too.

"We usually go in the springtime because the weather is nice and we are able to avoid the crowds," Eppinger said.

"Sometimes we are the first cyclists through for the season and the places give us a glass of champagne to celebrate," Barr said.

Barr and Eppinger ride hybrid bikes which have upright handlebars but are lighter weight than mountain bikes. Hybrids ride well on mixed surfaces.

Many times the trips follow river valleys. It's a little bit easier biking especially when the couple is carrying lots of gear with them.

On the most recent trip, Barr and Eppinger followed the Moldan River near the North Sea and Hamburg.

While traveling through small villages and seeing lush countryside of red and yellow fields of sunflowers and poppy seeds, Barr and Eppinger have enjoyed the sights and the food.

Barr remembers a meal of honey-crusted chicken with almonds and hazelnuts surrounded by cranberries on a bed of greens while staying at the Osted Kro Inn in Denmark.
This lovely inn was built in 1521.

Eppinger enjoyed pannenkoken (Dutch pancakes) while traveling through Holland.

"It's all about the food," Barr said.

When they are riding in Durango, a couple of their favorite rides also revolve around good meals.

"We like riding to the Aspen Cafe near the Needles Store on Highway 550, and the Kennebec Cafe on Highway 160," Barr said.

While Barr and Eppinger have also bicycled in New England and Canada, their European trips have been especially enjoyable.

"The towns are close together, there is good signage and everybody rides in Europe," Eppinger said.

While still putting the finishing touches on the photo album from this year's trip, the couple hasn't discussed next year's itinerary. But they are certain that they'll be traveling somewhere.

"I love waking up to a new day whether it is sunshine or rain, enjoying the countryside and smelling the flowers while on a bicycle," Barr said.

Hardrockers test limits of blisters

It's going to be ugly this year at the Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run.

As if running, hiking and crawling 100 miles in the mountains around Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, Telluride and back to Silverton is ever a walk in the park, this year Hardrock veterans and wannabes will face heavy avalanche debris throughout the course, copious amounts of snow and fast-moving creek and river crossings.

The race course, arguably one of the world's most difficult, boasts an elevation gain of 33,000-feet, average elevation of 11,186 and a high point at Handies Peak of 14,048-feet.

Dale Garland, race director and mayor of Durango, was so concerned last week that he was considering rerouting the course to avoid the high water.

"The runners' safety is the bottom line, and if I've got to make last-minute changes, that's what we'll do," Garland said. "We'll have ropes across the most difficult sections."

The water levels have subsided a little bit and major course changes will not have to take place but that doesn't mean there aren't any problems.

"We eliminated the Uncompaghre River crossing outside of Ouray," Garland said. "Instead we'll use a bridge below the dam that was built by a Ouray trail crew.

On Thursday morning, race participant and Durango local Brett Gosney was helping Hardrock board member John Cappis and race medical supervisor Leo Lloyd reroute a particularly dangerous creek crossing below Ice Lakes outside of Silverton.

Gosney, who completed the Hardrock in 39 hours and 9 minutes two years ago will be going for his second finish this year when the race begins at 6 a.m. today.

"I expect to have wet feet the entire race," Gosney said. "But my support crew will have a large medical kit with them, and we'll be ready for blister management."

Gosney, 46, an administrator at the Animas Surgical Hospital, was able to get in some good training this spring although it was difficult to get to the highest elevations due to the snow coverage.

Emily Baer, 29, a Silverton resident, was busy making last-minute drop bag preparations on Thursday afternoon. Baer has finished Hardock three times in four attempts.

"There're going to be tough conditions this year, but I'm looking forward to it," Baer said. "My training has been good, and I've been racing a lot."

It's not the last supper, but Baer was preparing a dinner of mashed potatoes, broccoli, bread and Tira Misu to help get her through the race.

The race winner will finish in Silverton and kiss the "Hardrock" around noon on Saturday.

The Hardrock is a large boulder that is moved to the finish line every year using a bulldozer.

Racers will continue to finish throughout Saturday night and the race course will close at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

Other local race participants include Durangoans Brett Sublett and Rick Pearcy.

This is Sublett's first Hardrock attempt. He will be paced and supported by local runners Nick Nichols and Vic Rudolph.

"I'm kind of excited," Sublett said. "I've done all of my other 100-milers alone, and I've never had any kind of company.

It has been a busy two months for Sublett. Three weeks ago he qualified for the Hawaii Ironman in October with an age-group win at Buffalo Springs Half-Ironman in Texas.

Pearcy and his family moved from Colorado Springs to Durango last month.

Weather at the Hardrock shouldn't pose any problems this year. Temperatures at the race start should be in the 40s and there isn't any rain in the forecast. Daytime temperature is expected to be in the high 70s.