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."