Queen of Emerald: Boniface leads the way in Stinger weekend
Steamboat Springs — The logic for Kelly Boniface went like this: If you’re of the athletic mindset, and there’s an awesome event in your hometown, you’d better do it at least once.
There may have been times during Sunday’s Steamboat Stinger trail marathon on Emerald Mountain that logic didn’t seem so logical, but when it was over, Boniface was plenty pleased to have started it.
In the sixth year of the Stinger, she took on the full race for the first time. She rode Saturday in the 50-mile mountain bike race on Emerald Mountain.
That was nothing new for the mountain bike maven, who dominated the local Town Challenge Mountain Bike series in years past and now punches onto the podium regularly in regional races.
Then, she returned Sunday for the 26.2-mile running race, something that was, at least in her Steamboat Springs life, entirely new.
She was third, overall, among the women in Saturday’s bike race and eighth in Sunday’s marathon, adding up to a win in the combined Saturday-Sunday results, which made Boniface the Queen Bee.
Fast times on Emerald
It was a “new experience” kind of weekend for plenty of locals, and Sunday, Dr. Allen Belshaw was one taking advantage.
Belshaw is an avid trail ultra-marathon runner, so on paper, Sunday’s trail marathon may have seemed like a walk in the park. What’s 26.2 miles when you can knock off four times that?
He’s been a regular in the annual Steamboat Marathon, on pavement. As it turns out, 26.2 miles on dirt singletrack is an entirely different animal, and it’s still a lot running.
“For me, a 26 miler is harder,” Belshaw said. “The intensity is there the whole race. I have to red-line it right out of the gate, and I’m working hard the whole time. In a 100, you can stop at the rest stages and regroup a little bit.”
He went on to finish, placing second in the men’s 40-49 division in 3 hours, 48 minutes, 17.74 seconds.
There were plenty of fast times Sunday, starting with the men’s marathon. There, Matthew Kempton came in only 60 seconds ahead of Andrew Biglow. Kempton finished at 3:12:02.91, and Biglow was in 3:13:02.48.
Steamboat’s Gabe Small was third at 3:25:55.85.
Emily Harrison won the women’s marathon in 3:30:53.31. Kaci Lickteig was second, and Blair Doney was third.
Sarah Pizzo won the women’s half in 1:39:39.70, ahead of Chelsea Bolton, second, and Jennifer Russell, third.
Jordan Jones won the men’s half in 1:27:04.70. Andrew Auer was second and Scott Loomis, of Steamboat, took third at 1:31:43.10.
Taking the crown
Boniface used her expertise on the bike to establish a huge lead among those athletes pursuing the Queen Bee title, which was available to competitors who competed both days.
She had a nearly a two-hour cushion and was intent on using it. She focused Sunday on finishing, slowing when she worried a cramp might come on and spending plenty of time chatting at the aid stations.
“Even though I’ve been running a couple of times a week, I certainly haven’t logged enough miles to race a marathon,” she said. “Knowing I had a big lead going in, I knew I didn’t have to race. I just had to run.”
A collegiate track athlete, she handled the running part just fine and did a lot more than survive.
In the end, she finished her marathon in 4:37:40.97. That time actually proved not only good enough to preserve her lead, but also to pad it. She was first the day prior among women competing in both events, and she was first among them again Sunday.
Boniface’s combined time of 9:38:18.97 left her nearly two and a half hours ahead of her nearest competitor. She was fourth in the combined time category, overall, with the men factored in. Huybert Groenendaal was tops for the men with a combined time of 8:44:53.95.
“It’s a great event and a great idea. It always felt like I should do it some day,” she said. “It’s tough on a bike, and it’s tough running, but it’s an awesome course, and this is my backyard. These are my trails, so I felt like I needed to do this.”
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