Nothing easy about Mount Werner Classic 50K
July 26, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Many athletes hike a trail ultra-marathon as much as they run it, and on Saturday at the 50-kilometer Mount Werner Classic, there was plenty of hiking.
The day's fastest runners ascended the 31-mile course — up and over Mount Werner — at a jog, maybe a trot, and the dozens of endurance fiends who followed in their footsteps often pulled up entirely to walk the most brutal sections, the steep or rocky slopes that left veterans gritting their teeth.
No matter how fast or slow a runner was, no matter if it was a runner's first ultra or his or her 15th, they nearly all finished the same way.
The race was capped with a sharp downhill slope and a turn into the finish line, and one by one, Saturday's champions sprinted in, inhaling the cheers from a busy base area and basking in the exhaustion of a job well done.
This year's race was the third since the Mount Werner Classic underwent a major overhaul, extending its distance nearly three times over, from 12 miles to 31, and this year it was the largest yet, drawing nearly 110 registered runners and 92 starters. Of those, about 90 answered the challenging terrain to finish, and none were faster than Dan Berteletti.
The race drew runners with various motivations. Some were training for something longer. Others, however, counted this as the goal.
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For Berteletti, it wasn't that complicated. The Denver runner said he likes to run in the mountains, he likes Steamboat, and, after winning a race in Connecticut that was his first 50K attempt, he's decided he likes the distance.
He hung with a crowd of three early in the race. He and one other runner were together at the front midway through the 9-mile climb up Mount Werner. And as the course led the racers over the top and toward Long Lake, he pulled away.
By the time he neared the ski area again on Mountain View trail, he'd built a whooping lead of 10 minutes.
He finished first in 4 hours, 43 minutes and 20 seconds.
"It was a nice course, and I liked the fact that it was a climb to begin with, then flattened out," he said. "That worked in my favor.
"Really, you're racing against yourself at the 50K distance. You're going against the terrain and you just hope to do your best."
Lucas Crespin was second in 4:51:02, and Donnie Haubert was third in 4:52:04.
Saturday's runners had fun. They played corn hole and munched on bacon at aid stations and relaxed in Burgess Creek at the finish line.
And, they ran hard, all the way to the end.
Why? It's about more than just being excited to be done, Anita Ortiz, the women's champ, explained.
Easily the most decorated runner in Saturday's field and, living in Eagle, an occasional entrant in Steamboat Springs Running Series races, she didn't initially plan on running this race. She only signed up after having to drop mid-race from an event she'd been targeting last weekend.
"I've only dropped like two races ever," she said Saturday. "So I jumped in this one because I wanted to use my fitness somewhere and prove that drop wasn't a fluke."
She proved that, dominating the women's division and finishing sixth among all racers, in 5:07:39.
Nicole Clement was second in 5:25:57, and Julia Veseth was third at 5:30:15.
Ortiz, of course, finished strong, sure, because she was excited to be done, but also because she and all the rest of the day's runners are well aware, there's nothing easy about running an ultra, and a finish is not to be taken for granted.
"It felt pretty good," Ortiz said.
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