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