When you line up at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center start line, do not bring your wimpy game to play. Race director, Bruce Kelly, doesn’t allow such a thing. Why? Because the course is a hard-core, aim-to-nail-you-to-a-tree layout with one very big reward: relief when you finish.
Maybe the race should be called “bicyclist’s revenge,” as Bruce Kelly, now 15 years in the Pedal Power Snowshoe Race Series through Vail Valley’s premier bike shop goes for the gusto every championship year. 10,000 feet of altitude must give one 10,000 reasons to have attitude. Maybe that is what you have to do to attract and keep attracting tops in the country to go to altitude and go wild. No wide, packed trails here — the dominant feature is single track and untamed trails with deep snow and steep cutoffs.
Some of the tops in snowshoeing have won here like Josiah Middaugh, four-time National USSSA Champion, in 2008’s nine-mile version — every year is unique — with a minute and a half to spare over the very strong effort by Mike Kloser. Notably, Bernie Boettcher finished fourth that year behind Dave Mackey.
2010, Boettcher whose credentials include multiple USSSA National Team memberships plus a second place finish in the 2003 USSSA National Championships was runner up here behind Logan Wealing, also a past team member and about 20 years younger.
In the 2011 10 km championship version, Bernie Boettcher outclassed the entire field except one: Travis Macy, winner by two minutes. The next closest finisher to Boettcher was five minutes behind him, Mark ‘Smokey’ Burgess.
Macy, a Team Merrell racer, reported on the Merrell blog, “I took the lead at the beginning” and was initially followed by Burgess, the bearded one (see last photo), who was subsequently passed by Boettcher. “I gained a bit of a gap on Bernie, who is always a very strong competitor. The single-track — and there was plenty of it — proved to be particularly hard to handle especially when breaking trail due to a combination of corn snow, overblown trail, and a chunky freeze-up. I had to work the whole way, and the descents were particularly challenging in these conditions!”
There are rad-hard senior racers, too, such as Mark Macy, 57, providing fatherly leadership to the winner, and John Swartz, 62. Check out 60-year-old Nick Fickling in seventh overall, missing a higher ranking because two tigresses of the sport, Anita Ortiz and Cheryl Paulson, with loooong credentials beat him by a minute.
Anita Ortiz, multiple-time USSSA Team member and runner-up in the National Championships in 2004, won the women’s class over equally tough and same age (46) Cheryl Paulson. Cheryl also is a multiple USSSA Team member and championship runner-up (2010).
Behind them was Lindsey Krause — who just happened to be the runner-up in the 2008 national championship race, pushed all the way to the finish line by Colorado teen athlete extraordinaire, 16-year-old Samantha Skold.
In the 5 km race, “I run up steep mountains” Tommy Manning used that experience — and the fact he is a member of the 2010 U.S. Mountain Running Team — to win handily over a barely-teen Ethan Pence.
Terry Stimac won the women’s version by just 16 seconds over Lisa Martin. Sue Bardsley finished third at 1:00:21, and then Anne Pence and Katie Premba finished exactly one minute each behind Sue: 1:01:21 and 1:02:21. And for good measure, eighth place Kedra Hood finished 1:09:21. You can’t make up those numbers at the finish.
Bravest competitors of the day? Certainly Becky Dreyling, Patricia Tolleson, Bill Moyle (71), Diane Weaver, and Sandra Harding qualify: all won their finish at this race, lasting over two hours on the course to do it.
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Photo Courtesy: ‘Smokey pressing Macy’ by Ann E. Wibbenmeyer, Staff Writer, Leadville Herald Democrat