‘Dude, That Was Hard!’ Durango’s Winter Warrior

Coach Steve Ilg helps his winter warriors achieve transformation. One example is morphing fitness training into a spiritual practice — In Durango, that’s called the Winter Warrior Snowshoe Race.

In September of 2010, Steve Ilg commissioned one of his Wholistic Fitness™ devotees, Brad Gantt from Sherman Oaks, CA to create a logo for his new Durango Winter Warrior Snowshoe Race. “Within 24 hours, he produced and donated a killer logo, which will forever express the Yeti Man energy of this event: indomitable strength, endurance, and high mountain mystique.

Winter Warriors from New Mexico, Flagstaff, and Colorado gathered upon a fast and firm new world-class snowshoe course at the Durango Nordic Center beneath a flawless blue sky. In mid-February, the temperatures were spring-like with sunny low forties.

Discover a layout where the Yeti might lay; this is a trail descent after the initial (“oooph!”) 75 ft. climb as the competitor “begins the clockwise dance around Yeti Loop, which is the ultimate destination of snowshoeing tourists while visiting my course. Within this sacred spirit and animal-filled loop awaits pure beauty for recreational shoers, and pure pain for racers!” Beauty and the Beast convert at this altitude to something more like Pale and Prey — or pray?

Racers travel south down the well-known Powerline Connection while heading back toward the Nordic Center on a groomed track. For racers, there is a trail of approximately 500 yards of passing potential. Ilg adds, “And puking potential by the time they reach the top of the 800 meter climb.” Even more motivation to get the pass in prior to the wretching ascent.

Ride your snowshoes like a ‘cycle as the intriguing “ElectraGlide” is the main trail coming into a major “Y” intersection where the left branch takes sends the racer immediately onto either “Freefall” or the “Freefall Bypass” depending on the loop you’re on. The “Freefall” is intriguing enough to race the course just for that section. Finally, the right branch seduces one up the lung-searing final climb of “Helen’s Hit.” What are lungs for if not to burn like a roman candle?

Fortunately, as Ilg calls “this knee-cracking ascent,” the blessed finish is less than 800 meters. But wait, eager doers . . . “There is another headwall of the same steepness that lies ahead for the weary. I hate to tell you even more — actually, I love to tell you — ten km racers will need to cover this formidable terrain twice.” One note for sure: Coach Ilg sure has a spirit for adventure in this transforming race. You start as a snowshoe racer and end as jello.

As overall men’s 10 km champion and course record holder, Durango’s Andrew Ferguson said, “Dude, that was hard.”, No better description of the course by the the 49-year old, 1:02 victor was necessary.

Overall women’s 5 km champion and course record holder, Tammy Tiong, age 35 from Dulce, NM described the awesomeness of the terrain: “That was Beautiful! Thank you.”

Awards and nearly $600 in raffle prizes were enjoyed by the participants after what was universally agreed upon by the racers as a “very difficult, yet very beautiful” course. 90% of the entrants had never been in a snowshoe race before the Winter Warrior Snowshoe race. Ilg noted “(We’re) proving that this annual event is sure to gather quick momentum toward its goal of hosting a National Championship in the next few years.”

In the meantime, snowshoers have a new discovery to challenge them, testing one’s internal mettle that is pure snowshoeing theory: It feels so good to hurt so badly.

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About Phillip Gary Smith

Phillip Gary Smith, Senior Editor, published "The 300-Mile Man" about Roberto Marron's historic doubling of the Tuscobia 150 mile endurance snow run. He publishes "iHarmonizing Competition" on various forms of competition including drag racing, his favorite motor sport. Earlier, he wrote "HARMONIZING:Keys to Living in the Song of Life" as a manual for life with chapters such as Winning by Losing, Can God Pay Your Visa Bill?, and a young classic story, The Year I Met a Christmas Angel. His book, "Ultra Superior," is the first written on the Superior Trail ultra distance events. He mixes writing with his profession--the venture capital world--a dying art. He is a creator of CUBE Speakers, a group espousing themes in "HARMONIZING:Keys" in a unique way. Currently he has two books in the works. Twitter: @iHarmonizing