Breck Crest runners brave fall blizzard
BRECKENRIDGE – Runners in the 10th annual Breckenridge Crest Mountain Marathon and trail races didn’t think to bring their skis or snowshoes Sunday. But those with enough layers broke trail through shin-deep drifts and 40-mph winds to tough out the high-alpine course that was every bit a test of resolve. The route took competitors from Breck to Frisco and back, via the top of the Tenmile Range, where conditions seemed more like January than September.”I was thinking of the hurricane in Florida, thinking, ahh, so this is what those people are going through … only it’s 50 degrees warmer,” said Dillon’s Danelle Ballengee, who won the women’s race with a time of 4 hours, 11 minutes and 58 seconds – more than 50 minutes faster than her closest competition. “The trail would get these little drifts of snow. It was eight inches in places. A few times out there, seriously, we could have used snowshoes. You weren’t thinking about the pain inside your body. All you were thinking about was, wow, this is quite a storm. I have to survive this thing.”
Ballengee, whose time was less than 20 minutes behind course record holder Anita Ortiz’s 2001 mark of 3:53:33 (in far more ideal conditions), didn’t speak for everyone regarding her numbness to bodily pain.Many of the top runners were so miserable they turned around at the 13-mile mark, including this year’s Leadville 100 Trail Run champions Paul DeWitt and Anthea Schmid.”I stopped at the aid station and there was Paul DeWitt,” Schmid said. “He said, ‘I’m going down.’ It was just so cold. All I can say is, usually I tough it out through cold, but you have to play it smart. I had to think, A) is this fun? No. At that answer, going down might be the option. At that point my body was so tired from fighting the cold and wind, I thought, there’s no way I’m going to finish.” Schmid, despite running a few miles beyond the turnoff for the Tenmile Trail Run course, still took third for women in that race (which was actually a half marathon at 13 miles long). Summit Trail Running Series champion Kim Eytel won the Tenmile for women with a time of 2:12:51, and Butch Wilson won for men in 1:57:13.Sunday’s overall marathon winner, Dave Mackey, who finished in 3:43:23 (short of his 2001 record of 3:25:48), said the secret to battling Sunday’s elements was wearing proper attire.
“I had the right clothes,” he said at the finish line, where he stood drinking hot chocolate while blood dripped off of his hand and knee from a couple of stumbles on the snow-covered rocks. “If everybody’s bundled up right, they’ll be fine up there if they just keep moving. It was really brutal because you’re going downhill into the wind, running through drifts.”Mackey took it upon himself to break trail, much to the relief of second-place finisher Bernie Boettcher, who finished four and a half minutes back in 3:47:55. Boettcher will turn 42 years old this week. Crossing the finish line with a tear in his shirt from a fall, Boettcher said that despite his freezing extremities, he never thought of turning back.”I was following him,” he said, indicating Mackey. “For most of it he was breaking trail. There was no way I could have found the trail if he wasn’t leading it. It was a whiteout. I couldn’t see anything. The wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t open my eyes. I was just watching his feet.”Frisco’s Bob Mayer took third in the marathon for the second straight year, about 11 minutes back of Mackey.
Stories of missed turns, big drifts and narrowly avoided frostbite characterized the crowd of purple-legged finishers, all of whom seemed to agree that simply completing the race was a feat unto itself. Helen Cospolich, spokesperson for the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center – which organizes and benefits from the race – said she gave no thought to the possibility of canceling the event, despite the sight of blustery snow when she woke up early Sunday morning.”It’s such a grassroots event, I didn’t think there would be any chance we would call it off even with the horrible, crazy weather,” she said. “We’re kind of a stickler group.”Other notable local finishers included a pair of youngsters: 17-year-old Patrick Neel, a Summit High School nordic skier, took second in the 5-mile race; and 9-year-old Garrett Finn of Colorado Springs, the day’s youngest racer, completed the 5-mile course in 1:24:23.Local doctor Jim Oberheide, 59, was the oldest marathon runner. He finished in 5:33:22.
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