Local trio sweeps podium at first-ever Breck Crest 50K ultra trail run
Breckenridge local Tracy Larson was one of two women to complete the 50K course
Local trail runners who prefer the diabolical 50-kilometer race variety had a 50K race on their home Summit County trails on Sunday, Sept. 5, for the first time.
Jeff Westcott and Breckenridge-based Maverick Sports Promotions combined their traditional 10-kilometer Breck Crest course and a 25.5-mile marathon course to manifest the Breck Crest’s 50-kilometer race. The totality of the course featured more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain as just eight racers in total — six men and two women — completed the first-of-its-kind running challenge.
“It’s great because I usually have to travel to go to races that have the ultra distances,” said Jake Skankla, 36, of Breckenridge, who raced to third overall with a time of 6 hours, 48 minutes and 3.9 seconds. “It’s nice to have a home course and getting above treeline — above 12,000 feet — in Breckenridge was spectacular.”
Skankla was joined on the all-locals men’s 50K podium by race winner Paul Steinweg, 40, of Breckenridge, who finished with a time of 5:26:32.4, and runner-up David Skelly, 36, of Dillon who finished at 6:35:19.9.
“Paul destroyed the course,” said one of Sunday’s two female 50K finishers, women’s runner-up Tracy Larson of Breckenridge. “He had a really impressive run.”
Steinweg opted to race the new 50K ultra after running the marathon every year for the past three years. Steinweg said he had to try the ultra option having talked to Breck Crest Event Director Jeff Westcott of Maverick Sports Promotions for years about “jumping into the ultra world.”
“When I saw it on the schedule I had to keep up my end of the bargain,” Steinweg said.
Steinweg was excited for Westcott’s foray into ultramarathons because, to Steinweg’s knowledge, it’s the only ultramarathon that has been based in Breckenridge with a start and finish line in town. Once Steinweg and other 50K racers left the start line at The Maggie at Peak 9, they charged up and down the Breck Crest’s 10K course, including ascending more than 1,000 feet on the brooding Burro Trail.
Steinweg said the 50K course’s first evil twist came at the 10 kilometer mark because runners like him experienced the adrenaline of crossing the finish line at The Maggie. But with the challenge just 20% complete, he and others ran back out onto singletrack trails for the bulk of their race.
“I was really excited to get the 10K portion over with because at that point on I was on mostly familiar territory,” said Steinweg, who took the lead just a half-mile into the 50K and never looked back.
Though Steinweg ran out to a clear lead, he and other runners were far from alone in the mountains. Steinweg and fellow 50K finishers Skankla and Larson said they were particularly impressed with the quality of the event’s aid stations located in remote sections of trail. After 50K runners climbed up and over Wheeler Pass to run on the Copper Mountain-facing west side of the Tenmile Range, members of the Trail Ridge Runners group provided aid in what felt like the middle of nowhere to runners.
An intimidating portion of the singletrack course comes into view during the Breck Crest trail-running races. | Tracy Larson/Courtesy photo
“I know a couple of the guys who worked the aid station and they had to get a bunch of stuff out there,” said Larson, who ran to a runner-up time of 7:22:46.2 behind women’s winner Lillie Romeiser Rodgers of Laramie, Wyoming. “Several of them hiked each way to get out there and for them to stay out there all day for each runner — the first person in the marathon and last person in the ultra is a big gap — serving people, cheering us on, it was encouraging and helpful.”
The toughest part of the run, racers said, was neither of the climbs up and over the Tenmile Range above 12,000 feet. Rather, it was the final homestretch run, as Westcott did a great job of weaving trails together from the Peaks Trail in Frisco back south — and up — to the finish line at The Maggie to prevent the runners from having to run on any pavement.
The only thing, Steinweg said, is that meant there was some solid elevation gain during the final kilometers. The race winner said it was the second of a pair of “evil twists” incorporated into the race course.
“I think Jeff found some delight in that when I told him how hard it was,” Steinweg said of the race’s finish. “It was a really fun, but hard, course.”
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