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

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Cyclists are RAAM tough

They started in Oceanside, Calif., on Sunday at 10 a.m., and they'll keep on biking 3,043 miles until they reach Atlantic City sometime around June 20. It's the 25th Anniversary edition of the Race Across America (RAAM) and riders started passing through Durango on Tuesday afternoon.

It's a traveling three-ring circus of endurance masochists, support vehicles and media.

Val and Robin Phelps, time station captains and Durango Wheel Club members, are hosting a checkpoint at Santa Rita Park. The Durango stop is 815.3 miles into the race.

"It's sort of the fringe of cycling," Val said.

Jure Robic, two-time defending champion and last year's RAAM winner in nine days, eight hours and 48 minutes, was the first one to the Durango checkpoint this year, arriving at 12:30 p.m.

According to Robin, Robic was a little unsteady getting off his bike and went to sleep in his support crew's motor home almost immediately.

Marko Baloh was the second rider through at 2:12 p.m.

"It's going OK for now," said Baloh, while devouring a plate of risotto prepared by his support crew.

Marcel Knaus arrived only three minutes behind Baloh. Knaus brushed his teeth, lay down in the grass at Santa Rita Park and propped his legs up against a pole. While Knaus rubbed a wet cloth across his sweaty face, his crew massaged his legs.

Drew Bourey, Durango business owner, watched the riders as they arrived and tried to do a little work at Boure Sportswear in between.

"We have a couple of sponsored riders doing RAAM," Bourey said.

Jonathan Boyer arrived at 2:40 p.m. He dismounted his bike, got into his support crew's car and zipped off to a hotel for some rest.

Boyer was the winner of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in 1982. Ned Overend, who was wrenching at the Outdoorsman (now Mountain Bike Specialist) at the time, raced and won as a Cat. IV racer that year.

"I didn't get to race against Boyer much, but we're the same age (50), and I've been following the guy's career forever," Overend said. "Boyer was one of the early riders in Europe, and he paved the way for a lot of Americans to race there."

Ed Zink, Iron Horse Bicycle Classic organizer, remembers Boyer's 1982 visit to Durango well.

"Boyer came here because he was using it as a tune-up for the Coors Classic," Zink said. "After Boyer won the IHBC, he stopped for a few interviews before turning back around and racing back to Durango. He was on top of Molas Pass while the Cat. III racers were just getting there."

Overend was back and forth at the aid station trying to see his friends Ken Souza, Boyer and Tinkler Juarez. He was also hoping to ride a little.

Martha McClellan, 59, lives in Durango and was expecting to see her son, Zach Bingham, early on Wednesday. Bingham is riding on the four-person Beaver Creek-Vail team, last year's winning team.

"I'll have Zach's favorite food, tuna noodle casserole, ready when he comes through," McClellan said. "I worry every year about Zach, and I just want him to be safe."

Paul Skilbeck is the RAAM media director. He was accompanying the lead riders through Durango, making sure that they were safe and following the RAAM rulebook.

"Durango is a slightly mad cycling town, and this is the best stop of the entire race," Skilbeck said. "We're starting to see some real fatigue set in on the riders right now."

Rose Juarez, Tinker's mother, stopped in Durango while crewing for her son and waited for him to arrive from Cortez.

"This race is hard on everybody, but I'm just taking it day by day," Rose said. "Between cooking, cleaning and driving, there's so much to do."

Her son has visited Durango many times while racing in NORBA and Iron Horse events. He was looking forward to passing through Durango again.

"It's one of my favorite places to race," he said in a pre-race interview. "I see Ned around sometimes, and I keep in touch with Myles Rockwell (Durango rider)."

Meanwhile, Juarez was having his share of difficulties in Cortez on Tuesday. He had some problems with his bike fit, and was not in a good mood.

"This is not fun," said Rose, repeating her son's words.

At 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Robin Phelps was getting ready for a little nap as she wasn't expecting any more riders for several hours.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Steep, twisty trails offer new challenge

The Mountain Park Classic, with 1,500-feet of climbing over 6.6 miles of twisty, steep, nasty trails, was held Saturday morning under sunny skies.

The mountain park is city-owned land on the west side of town. The race start was at the Southwest Conservation Corps headquarters in the Durango Tech Center. While Hogsback is the centerpiece of the mountain park, runners, thankfully, only climbed halfway to the top before making a wicked descent on the opposite flank.

Besides the long course, there was also a shorter 4-mile course and a 1-mile fun run. This was the second race in the Alpine Bank Trail Series. The first race was the Telegraph 10K on Mother's Day, and the final race is the Animas Mountain Mug Run on Sept. 24.

Marty Brenner, 37, worked a long shift at the La Plata County Sheriff's Department on Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but that didn't stop him from winning the men's long course.

"This course was absolutely nasty," Brenner said. "I took a wrong turn and the person behind me called out and pointed me in the right direction."

Brenner has been in Durango since January after moving from Santa Cruz. At the finish line, he was nearly breathless.

"I'm going home to take a nap this afternoon because I have to be back at work for 5:30 tonight," Brenner said. "The course was beautiful and fun and I hurt so bad, but I loved it."

Sarah Slaughter won the women's division. After climbing the road out of the Tech Center into the mountain park, Slaughter's heart rate climbed immediately.

"I thought this race wouldn't be too hard but I was wrong," Slaughter said. "Thankfully, the course was well-marked."

With two children at home, ages 5 and one and a half, Slaughter is ready for a busy summer. But, she's also planning to do all of the area mountain runs including Kendall, Kennebec, Imogene and Pikes Peak.

Slaughter enjoys training on Hogsback.

"I'm planning on doing Animas Mountain Mug Run, but I'm not real good about planning things out," Slaughter said.

Besides blaming yourself for running so hard on a nice Saturday morning in Durango, Harry Bruell should also shoulder some of that responsibility.

Bruell, executive director of the Southwest Conservation Corps, marked and set the course.

"I did the Animas Mountain Mug Run last year, and I thought that we should have a race in the Mountain Park that would showcase Durango and some of the work that the SCC does," Bruell said.

SCC did trail maintenance and conservation work after a fire ripped through part of the area two weeks ago. While the trail was clear and safe through the burned area, there was still a strong smell in the air.

"We'll employ and train 300 young people this year who will do thousands of hours of work on public land throughout the region this summer," Bruell said.

Livi Kurmano, 7, and her brother, Nathan, 9, both students at Needham Elementary, completed the 1-mile run.

"That was fun," Livi said. "Maybe I'll run again but I don't know."

"People keep telling me I need to run longer distance and I agree," said Nathan, matter-of-factly. "I've never run here before."

Mike Burns of Alpine Bank, race series sponsor, was working the finish line.

"It's great to be involved in a community event like this," Burns said. "Everybody had smiles on their faces today."

After a feast of doughnuts, bagels, fruit and granola bars, awards were presented for winners and "Best Blood and Best Mud."

One couple at the finish line had a busy day in front of them.

"We're going to get married at Andrews Lake and I need to get my hair done first," the young lady said.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Sage, Nelson lead way at Narrow Gauge 10-miler

With perfect weather conditions, more than 240 runners participated in the 29th annual Animas Surgical Hospital Narrow Gauge 10-mile and 5K runs Sunday morning.

For Sampson Sage, 24, a former Fort Lewis College cross country standout, the race was a little different, but the result was the same: Sage won the 10-mile event going away in 58 minutes and 53 seconds.

"The course was on the Animas River Trail instead of West Second Avenue and the short, steep climb up Richard Avenue just before North College Drive was tricky," Sage said.

While Sage ran the first mile in five minutes and 30 seconds, he thought that he might have gone out too fast.

"I let up a little, and I didn't take the lead back until we made the turn on 32nd Street," Sage said.

Brianne Nelson, another former FLC cross country star, won the women's 10-mile event in 1:07.15.

"This is one of my favorite runs of the year," Nelson said. "It's also a great kick-off to the mountain running season."

Nelson heard the runner-up woman breathing behind her for the first few miles, but by the time she started climbing North College Drive, no one was in sight.

Nelson is racing in the Vail USA Track and Field Mountain National Championships next week. After that, Nelson will probably make room in her schedule for Kendall Mountain, Kennebec Challenge, Imogene Pass and Pikes Peak.

J.W. Ragsdale, 54, a Durango psychologist, ran the 10-mile race for his 15th time.

"That hill on Richard Drive was a new, fun twist," Ragsdale said.

Next weekend, Ragsdale is running the Estes Park Marathon.

"I've done at least one marathon a year for the last 22 years, and this one won't be any different," Ragsdale said.

But even 15 times at Narrow Gauge, pales in comparison to David Rakita's 29th running.

"I was 13 minutes slower than I was the first year," Rakita said. "Today's race was a lot of fun, but I was a little challenged when I heard Andy Snow's footsteps near the FLC chapel."

Snow, 46, started running one and a half years ago.

"This was my first time at the Narrow Gauge, and it was a wonderful event," Snow said.

Traeana Tripoli (20:16) and John Weswah (16:15) won the 5K events.

With a screaming downhill course beginning at FLC, many runners set personal bests.

Kathy Stephenson, 34, had a baby nine months ago and was running to get back into shape.

"I had a PR today, and I felt good the whole way," Stephenson said.

Rogan Brown, 14, son of Lynne and Brett, ran just over 18 minutes while winning his division.

"Running is just training for cross country skiing in the fall," Rogan said.

"I'm also planning to do a lot of kayaking this summer."

Leo Lloyd Sr., a Durango Motorless Transit (DMT) running club board member, was the event director.

"It was great having the events centered at Park Elementary School this year," Lloyd said. "Everybody got to hang around for the awards, socialize, eat and have a good time."

More than 40 percent of the runners were visiting from out of town.

"This race could become an institution," Lloyd said.

Art Rohr, 58, from Cortez, was pleased with the race organization. According to Rohr's GPS watch, the race course was exactly 10 miles.

"All of the mile markers were in the right places, and a race just doesn't get any better than this," Rohr said.

Marjorie Brinton, DMT president, said that the race proceeds would benefit the cross country running scholarship fund at FLC and youth running programs in Durango.

Many runners had tired legs after participating in Saturday's bike race and 16 athletes, including Rakita and Snow, will be splashing today in the Narrow Horse 1,500-meter swim while completing the Iron Horse three-day stage triathlon

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

First-timers get revved for Iron Horse

Thinking about riding to Silverton this year with the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic? Nervous because you've never done it before? This year, among the estimated 2,000 riders doing the race and the citizen's ride, there will be many first-timers.

Rich Fletcher, 49, is a professional broadcaster and has videotaped the IHBC for everyone from CNN to Inside Durango TV, but has never attempted the ride.

With a little encouragement from friends, Fletcher started riding his bike regularly, which he had not done since he was 16.

"I sold my race car that was taking a lot of time as a hobby and bought a new bike from Mountain Bike Specialists," Fletcher said.

New bike in hand, Fletcher signed up for the IHBC training program. "The IHBC program was a complete course in cycling," Fletcher said. "We learned everything from how to adjust the bike to fit your body, to fixing flat tires, proper spin technique, riding in a group and pacing."

While training, Fletcher has ridden Coal Bank twice and Hesperus twice. He'll still be filming the event this year, but he'll do it while riding the bike, using a lipstick camera and small recorder.

Peter Marshall, also 49, has been the general manager of the Doubletree Hotel for four years. Marshall is always looking for new challenges, whether it's playing in a rugby tournament or running a footrace.

After mulling over the race for a few months, Marshall decided to buy a new bike and start training for the race.

"My wife has been very supportive of me doing this," Marshall said.

"The training has been going pretty well, even though it usually finishes up at Steamworks."

Marshall is a little nervous about next week's ride, but he's also excited.

Kirk McLaughlin, 55, is a retired Bayfield elementary schoolteacher who has been inspired by his children.

McLaughlin has been riding with a group at the Durango Sports Club three days a week. While he's been having lots of fun, McLaughlin has also dropped 20 pounds since he started riding regularly.

"I didn't want to jump right into a hard training program, so I had a physical in November to make sure that everything was OK," McLaughlin said. "After seeing others in my age group complete the ride, I thought that maybe I could do it, too."

McLaughlin's training has been going well. While making gradual progress, McLaughlin started by riding to Trimble Lane before graduating to harder rides up old Shalonah, Haviland Lake and Coal Bank Pass.

"Cycling is addictive, and it's not a pounding activity, like running," McLaughlin said.

Jackie Ellis, 44, hoped to make her IHBC debut last year, but a few weeks before the race she tore her ACL while hiking in Sedona, Ariz. After surgery, recovery and a lot of spring cycling, Ellis is ready to race this year.

When Ellis makes it to the start line she'll have plenty of motivation to power her over the passes. Husband, children and parents will all be waiting in Silverton.

"I've been using a heart rate monitor during my training, and I can see when I need to gear up or down," Ellis said. "I've also practiced changing a flat tire, but I hope I don't have to do that on race day."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nelson sets three Masters Records

MaryAnne Nelson has been around for a few years, but you couldn't see that by watching her swim, bike or run.

Nelson, 55, is a fit athlete and a swimmer on the Durango Masters Team.

Two weeks ago, Nelson swam in eight events and two relays at the Colorado Masters State Swimming Championships in Denver. She also set three age-group state records in breast stroke events with times of 40 seconds in the 50-meter, 1:30 in the 100 and 3:20 in the 200. Nelson competes in the 55-59 age bracket.

"I know I'm at the bottom of the age bracket right now and probably some younger whipper-snapper will come around and break those records next year," Nelson said. "But besides setting the state records, I'm pretty pleased that I didn't drown during the backstroke."

The backstroke is not Nelson's favorite event.

Nelson grew up in a small town in Iowa in the '70s. Title 9 and equal opportunities for women in sports weren't around yet, and she didn't have many athletic role models.

"I remember playing some half-court basketball," Nelson said. "Nobody thought that women were capable of playing the full-court game."

Even though there were few organized opportunities for women in sports, Nelson didn't let that stop her. She rode her bicycle, horses and played in all of the neighborhood ball games.

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer signed up for the Boston Marathon. When the authorities realized that a woman was running, race director Jock Semple and tried to force her off the course. In a dramatic moment, Switzer's 235-pound boyfriend, who was running beside her, blocked Semple, and Switzer finished the race.

Nelson remembers the Switzer incident well. "That was pretty courageous and a real eye-opener for a lot of women," Nelson said. "We all thought, 'Yeah, we can do that too.'"

After teaching in eastern Colorado, Nelson moved to Dolores to begin a 30-year teaching stint in Southwest Colorado, where she ran on the country roads.

"Everyone thought I was nuts and pretty eccentric," she said. "They said, 'There goes that crazy girl who lives in that house on the corner.'"

Nelson continued running. She did a marathon in Steamboat Springs, finished the brutal 18-mile Imogene Pass Run four times and ran ultramarathons.

When running injuries started catching up with her, she headed for the swimming pool.

"A lot of people don't do fitness activities because they say they don't have the time, but you need to schedule it, like everything else," Nelson said. "It's so important to stay healthy; fitness is at least one-third of my life, and I know that I'd be lost without it."

Bill Palmer, who has been coaching Olympians and national champion swimmers since the late 50s, is impressed with Nelson's swimming progress.

"Swimming doesn't come natural to MaryAnne, and she really has to work at it," Palmer said. "Plus, she has very little body fat and doesn't get good flotation."

Nelson finished last weekend's Tri-the-Rim Triathlon (500 yard swim, 12 mile bike and 5K run) in one hour, 39 minutes and 35 seconds.

"I enjoy racing but I enjoy training even more," Nelson said. "I've got a great friend, Trudy O'Brien, who I've shared a lane with for three years."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Triathlon training takes teamwork

Dana Desplanques, David Fraser, Lisa Lieb and Jason Smallheer are happy to have found each other.

All are taking part in the triathlon training program offered three nights per week at the Durango Community Recreation Center with coach Arthur Razee.

At last week's session, Desplanques, 34, sat with Razee and went over her logbook. Fraser and Smallheer swam, while Lieb ran for one and a half hours on the treadmill.

Desplanques is preparing for the Fort Lewis College Tri-the-Rim (500-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 5K run) on April 15. She has been with the group for only three weeks.

"I'm also training for the Steamworks Half-Marathon while raising money with Team-in-Training for the leukemia and lymphoma society," Desplanques said. "My son, Keenan, was recently diagnosed with leukemia."

With Desplanque's two children and a full-time position in information technology at Fort Lewis College, the hardest thing about triathlons is finding the time to train.

Fraser, 27, just rejoined the training program after taking several months off. But time away didn't mean time off from training. Fraser is preparing for the Arizona Ironman on April 8, and the Las Vegas Silverman on Nov. 12. These torture sessions consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle leg and a 26.2-mile run.

"I've done several shorter races, century (100-mile) rides and marathons, and the Ironman is just a matter of putting it all together," Fraser said. "This is a fun way to train because it's motivating to have a group of people working out together and sharing a common interest."

While Durango was covered in powder two weeks ago, Fraser fled to the warmer climes of Tucson for extensive training.

"I'm excited for the challenge of the Arizona Ironman and putting my body through such a test," Fraser said.

Lieb, 36, did her first triathlon in Durango when she was only 12.

"We swam in the old city pool next to the Fairgrounds," Lieb said. "This year I want to qualify for the National X-Terra Championships."

Lieb has recently endured three knee surgeries for torn ACLs and a meniscus repair, but she's not letting that stand in her way. Her knees aren't as strong as they used to be, but Lieb is hoping they'll hold up for the upcoming races.

Smallheer, 32, who works at Durango Mountain Resort with Fraser, has been in the program for two years but missed most of last year with a broken back.

"Right now I'm just trying to get back in shape again," Smallheer said. "Triathlon is a tough sport, and it's hard to train in Durango during the winter."

Smallheer's evening workout consisted of three 800-meter swims plus a 1,500. While he is comfortable running and biking, Smallheer has a little difficulty with the swimming.

"I tend to sink in the water." Smallheer said.

Coach Razee lectured his students for a few minutes about water intake, the dangers of too much ibuprofen and measuring wattage (power) using a computerized bicycle trainer.

"I'm hoping to get my Level 1 coaching certification soon," Razee said. "I just want to keep on learning more so I can keep on helping everybody in their training."

For more information on the triathlon training program, call Razee at 385-0634.

18-mile Grand Canyon run turns into 25-year tradition

Leo Lloyd III, 44, celebrated his silver anniversary in the Grand Canyon with 30 friends last weekend.

Lloyd has returned every year since with friends and family to run down the South Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel Trail in a single day.
It has been a 25-year love affair for Lloyd, but this one isn't with his wife Susie.

Since 1982, when Lloyd was a sophomore at Fort Lewis College, he has traveled to the South Rim every year to run down the Kaibab Trail to the Colorado River and back up the Bright Angel Trail.

An 18-mile trek is typical training fare for a marathoner, but those runs don't usually include a total elevation change of 9,000 feet.

The National Park Service has posted signs discouraging hikers from trying to travel from the rim to the river and back up in the same day, but this has never stopped Lloyd and his companions.

Paul Pixler, former philosophy professor at FLC and noted author of Hiking Trails of Southwestern Colorado was Lloyd's mentor, inspiration and companion during the first run.

"Pixler had done it by himself the year before," Lloyd said. "He still went to the Grand Canyon every year until 1985 when he was in his mid 60s."

After Lloyd graduated FLC in 1985, he remained in Durango and worked as an EMT. While he settled into a routine with his new wife, who also graduated from FLC, Lloyd's love for spending part of spring break in the canyon remained.

Mayor Dale Garland, who was training for ultramarathons at the time, also accompanied Lloyd on many of the runs until the mid 90s.

"It's just been a wonderful tradition for me," Lloyd said. "I never know who is going to come along each year."

While this year's attendance saw a high of 30 individuals, Lloyd has also made the trip with as few as one other person: Susie.

Brett Gosney, who is training for this year's Hard Rock 100 Endurance Run in Silverton, joined Lloyd in the Canyon this year. Chris Nute, Outdoor Pursuits Director at FLC, was also along.

Besides many of Lloyd's friends, who came from as far away as Connecticut, Lloyd was also fortunate to have two other generations along.

"Kendall, 14, my oldest son, did his first trip this year, while my Dad, Leo, who's 68, made his fifth run," Lloyd said.

"It was perfect weather this year," said the elder Lloyd. "Couldn't have been better," agreed his son. "It was cool and clear and just magical."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

FLC racer enjoys cyclocross ruckus in Europe

Troy Wells, 21, has a few cuts on his chin and above his eye but he's still smiling.

Fort Lewis College student Troy Wells, who lives in Durango, celebrates a hard-earned winter cyclocross finish in Belgium in January.They're just the leftover scars on a Fort Lewis College senior accounting major who recently returned from six weeks of cyclocross training and racing in Belgium.

Cyclocross, a mix of road and mountain biking and running, is not normally a contact sport, but you might have a hard time explaining that to the Swiss racer who chopped Wells into the fence during one of the races.

"I should have dropped out of that one," Wells said. "My face was bleeding; I had a chipped elbow and probably a minor concussion."

Instead, Wells ran to the pit, switched his damaged bike (the front wheel was in five pieces) for a new one and finished up the race.

"I caught the guys from Zimbabwe, and I also passed a teammate with a flat tire who was having a bad day," Wells said.

This was Wells' second racing trip to Europe. Last year he was there for a week and a half.

Cyclocross is serious business in Europe. The competition is tougher, and the starts are crowded.

While racing for the TIAA-CREF/Clif Bar U-26 development team, Wells is trying to gain all of the experience he can before taking his cycling to the next level.

"I'm not a professional yet because I'm not making any money, but I'm close to breaking even," he explained.

Wells got an early start with biking and rode BMX starting at age 3. Older brother Todd, an Olympian and national champion, was leading the way.

"I got burned out from biking for a while and I started running in high school and college," Wells said.

But it was cold in Plattsburg, N.Y., while attending junior college, and after visiting Todd in Durango Troy decided to move to Durango two years ago and continue biking with Coach Rick Crawford and the Fort Lewis Cycling program.

And despite the bruises, muddy race courses and six races in twelve days, the European racing experience was good for Wells. There wasn't much time to sight-see but Wells was happy to compete in a race that finished in the historic Paris-Robaix velodrome. He also visited the medieval city of Brogue.

While in Belgium, Wells stayed in a house with his teammates that was set up like a college dormitory.

"The food is different over there. It's nothing like Tequila's and RGP's, my Durango favorites," he said.

While eating a special Christmas meal at the house, Wells was enjoying a good piece of meat only to discover that it was actually horse. But the Belgian waffles that Wells and his teammates would get from a stand while out on their training rides were spectacular.

Is it difficult riding in the shadow of Todd, who is eight years older?

"Sometimes I feel the pressure, and sometimes I don't," Troy said. "We get along great, and he helps me a lot but I also want to do my own thing."

Todd and Troy both won their respective national championships in Rhode Island last December.

Despite coming from a running background, Wells isn't quite adept at carrying his bike, which is a necessary part of cyclocross.

"I'm slow and I can't get good foot turnover," he said.

Despite the challenges ahead, Troy has the same sparkle in his eye as Todd. It's almost like he can't help but follow in his brother's footsteps.

And why wouldn't he want to?

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Tao of Tad: Life is good

Wine, women and song.

Maybe, it's more like Gatorade, Red Bull, young ladies and Nordic skiing, but, either way, it's a wonderful time in the life for Durango Nordic's 17-year-old phenom, Tad Elliott.

Elliott, Jason Cork, Durango Nordic Ski Coach, and several other high-school students from the U.S. left last week for a trip of a lifetime to Scandinavia to compete in the annual Scando Cup race series.

For two weeks, skiers from the U.S., Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia are training and competing in a series of Nordic ski races.

It's a 24-hour flight to Stockholm, and while Durangoans are reading the morning paper, it's already afternoon there.

"The international flight was awesome, and the airplane was 64 meters long and held 261 people," said Elliott in a recent e-mail.

"Each seat had a television in the head rest with a touch screen panel, and I could watch whatever movies and videos I wanted."

Accommodations aren't bad either.

"Every room in every hotel where we have been staying has a heated towel rack," Elliott said. "The U.S. needs to have that."

While Elliott was in flight, his parents, Nancy and Mike, were already lamenting.
"Tad forgot to pack his nice shirts and left them on the dresser." Mike said.

After arriving in Stockholm, the U.S. contingent practiced for two days.

"The snow conditions are awesome and everybody here just loves Nordic skiing," Elliott said.

The first race tune-up was hosted by the Jarnaspelen ski club. Elliott won the 10-kilometer event in a blistering time of 27 minutes and 53 seconds.

The U.S. boys took seven of the first eight places while the girl's team, led by Elise Moody, took six of the top eight positions.

For his efforts, Elliott was awarded a large box of cracker bread.

"This was an excellent race for us, and it was good to come over and get into an event and come out on top," said Cork, who has been keeping an on-line journal at

Next stop on the ski circuit is Falun, and then it's a ferry ride from Umea to Vasa, Finland.

Gatorade is a special European mixture, Red Bull comes in a glass bottle, and the coffee is very strong. Elliott has been having more than his share of all, but he has been disappointed with the candy selection.

"It's not very good," Elliott said.

So much for the diet of champions.

Besides lots of skiing, racing, training and enjoying the food, Elliott also has enjoyed meeting lots of people.

"The girls here are beautiful," Elliott said.

It's a wonderful life.

Elliott will be returning to Durango Wednesday, Feb. 8, and then it will be time to catch up on two weeks of missed schoolwork.

It's an expensive trip, according to Mike, but well worth it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A plethora of local races set for 2006

Maybe you've just started running, or perhaps you're a grizzled 20-year multisport athlete. Either way, there is a perfect race for you in the area in 2006.

The Snowdown runs are Feb. 4 and 5.

"One-hundred people from six different states are already signed up," said Matt Kelly, head hasher.

The Animas River Trail 5K and one-mile fun run on Feb. 25 form the first event of the Fort Lewis College race series. These events raise money for the FLC running program and scholarship fund.

The Durango Parks and Recreation Department is also putting on a series of races this year. The first event, a Valentine's Day 5K, is Feb. 11.

"This race has great raffle prizes," said Ann Cramer, recreation supervisor.

The High Altitude Snowshoe Race and Alley Challenge cross country ski race, part of Silverton's Snowscape Festival, are Feb. 18 and 19.

Wiggy's 12th annual Fun Run begins at Cascade Village on Feb. 26. The 19-mile route follows Highway 550 over Coal Bank and Molas Pass before finishing at the Explorer's Club in Silverton. New Belgium Beer is helping out with beverages this year.

Hozhoni Days 5K on March 25 is the second race of the FLC series and the Screaming Downhill Race from the college mesa to Your Running Store on April 15 is the third.

The Pueblo to Pueblo 11-mile and 2-mile fun run is on April 29. This course leans downhill and travels on beautiful rural roads between Dolores and Cortez.

Shiprock, named for the ancient volcanic plug west of Farmington, hosts its 23rd annual marathon on May 6. For those who do not want to run 26.2 miles, there is also a five-person relay.

At Tri-the-Rim, on April 15 at FLC, competitors will swim 500 yards, bike 12 miles and run 3.1 miles.

The city-sponsored South Rim Duathlon, a combination mountain bike and trail run, is May 7. There is a long course, a short course and a kid's race.

The Telegraph 5 and 10K take place on Mother's Day, May 14. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory provides treats for moms. This is also the first event of the Alpine Bank trail series.

The 29th Annual Narrow Gauge 10-mile and 5K is May 28.

"This is a classic route that goes up North College, does a loop around the college and comes back down Goeglein," said race director Leo Lloyd, Sr. "It's part of a great weekend of events that also includes the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic and the Narrow Horse 1500-meter swim."

"There were 51 swimmers last year and seven people who completed the three-day triathlon," said swim director and Durango Motorless Transit president, Marjorie Brinton.

The Mountain Park Classic, a new race this year, is June 10.

"We are encouraging all runners, walkers and hikers to participate," Cramer said.

The Steamworks Animas Valley Half-Marathon is June 17.

"We'll have finisher medals this year and a big barbeque at the race finish at the Durango Sports Club," Kelly said.

With the Blue Ribbon 10K on the Fourth, Hard Rock 100 Endurance Run, July 14-16 and Kendall Mountain on July 22, Silverton is the place to be for runners in July.

"July 4 is a big camping weekend, and we'll have the rhubarb festival, ducky races, marching brass band and fireworks too," said Amy Gass, Chamber of Commerce director.

The Hardrock 100 might sound like a difficult task, but race director Dale Garland said, "It's not tough at all as long as you can run from sea level to the top of Mt. Everest at an average elevation of over two miles above sea level."

In August, there's the Durango Parks and Recreation Triathlon, Kennebec Challenge and the Durango Sports Club Femme 10K.

The Animas Mountain Mug Run is September 24.

The Durango Double, part of the Rocky Mountain Festival for Runners, is October 7 and 8.

"We had 106 people do the Double last year, and there were people from 34 states, Japan and Canada," Kelly said.

The Journey of Hope 5K, also in October, raises money for women to get mammograms.

Thanksgiving Day, November 23, brings the annual Turkey Trot 5-mile and one-mile fun run.

"In 2005 we had over 450 runners," said race director Nick Nichols.

Found the races you want to do this year?

Check for updates and the latest information.