Frisco Hill Climb: 1,500 feet at 8:30 a.m. | SummitDaily.com

Frisco Hill Climb: 1,500 feet at 8:30 a.m.

Janice Kurbjun
jkurbjun@summitdaily.com

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

On a morning that brought out the hats and jackets in the early morning frost, a group of nearly 50 runners gathered outside the Frisco Community Center, stretching and warming up for the inaugural Mount Royal Hill Climb in Frisco, part of the annual Fall Fest.

Some gazed up at the mountain they were going to climb, others chatted as they jogged in place.

Saturday’s 5k left from Third Avenue and Granite Street, wound through the streets shadowed by Peak 1 and then began the ascent to the summit, where the finish line was set up. Mount Royal is just a short, 1.5-mile hike to the summit, but the 1,500-foot gain in that short distance makes it a tortuous climb to the 10,500-foot summit.

“It looks fun. It’ll definitely be challenging, but it will be rewarding at the top,” said Jessica Jortberg of the University of Denver’s Nordic Ski Team, which looks for various runs as fall cross-training. A teammate saw the listing and emailed the rest to gauge interest, gathering five teammates on the way.

As Jortberg and fellow teammate Makayla Cappel chatted, another runner interjected his thoughts about the climb, which launched at 8:30 Saturday morning.

“It’s like hitting yourself over the head with a hammer. It feels good when you stop. That’s how I feel about running,” he said.

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Many of Saturday’s competitors hailed from outside of Summit County, something race coordinator Linsey Kach couldn’t explain. Volunteer Nikki Arcieri, who competes in many Summit County events throughout the year, said she recognized about 20 percent of the runners.

Kach speculated there was competition with other events, locals’ desire to preserve their weekends in the waning warm weather and her advertising efforts along the Front Range – which seemed successful. Many runners in the inaugural hill climb hadn’t hiked Mount Royal before, so perhaps it’s also locals steering clear of one of the most difficult 5k runs in Summit County.

That didn’t change Jill Sorensen’s attitude about the climb. She has never done the hike in her eight years of living in Summit County, and her enthusiasm about tackling it overflowed onto other racers.

“It’s fun. It’s a straight hill climb. It tests your ability to fun uphill. It’s fun!,” said the woman who has competed in a handful of half marathons (Breck Crest, Hunky Dory) this summer since her shoulder surgery.

“It’s great to see Frisco doing new races and Linsey getting after it after doing such a good job in Breck,” Sorensen said.

Starlet Wright, who came in with Steve Warner from the Fort Collins-Loveland area, was a little less pumped for the race, but still eyed it as a challenge.

“It’s so short and so much elevation gain,” she said as a reason she wanted to give it a try.

Rusty Smith came in from Alma after a Summit resident suggested he check out Fall Fest during the Burro Races in Park County earlier this summer. He surfed the web and found the race, and wanted to give it a try. With the support of wife Martha, he has been using races to recover from a surgery a few years ago and thought the hill climb might be fun since they planned to attend to Fall Fest anyway.

First place women and men received $150 gift certificates to Wilderness Sports for new running shoes, second-place finishers received Mountain Smith trekking poles and third place received a photograph of Mount Royal from Todd Powell Photography in Frisco. Wilderness Sports also sponsored an aid station at Zach’s Stop, 1.5 miles into the race and at the intersection of the flat section and the start of the climb.

“I’m excited to add events to Frisco and I hope to see it grow with more locals for next year’s event,” Kach said.

Look for event results in Wednesday’s Summit Daily News.