Elk Luv Day at Love Me Tender Qualifier

Video: Love Me Tender Snowshoe Adventure and the Colorado High School Snowshoe State Championships – http://youtu.be/GDde6wxLSkQ

Warm weather, great competition, tasty food, and the best door prizes in the state brought 70 participants to this year’s Love Me Tender Snowshoe Adventure located at Summit High School in Frisco, Colorado. Temperatures were in the low 30s, the sun was brightly shining, and the “epic” powder that has dumped over 3.5 feet of snow at the race site made this year’s race a memorable one. Post race, the chili lunch fueled the largest field ever assembled for Love Me Tender.

Unlike last year’s course of deep untracked powder caused by the blizzard that ravaged Summit County, CO, this year’s 2 km/ 5 km/ 10 km races had a packed/semi-packed powder course that was two runners wide in most spots. The event hosts had packed the course down: the Summit High School Girls’ Rugby Team, Summit HS Athletic Director’s children on snowmobiles, and the elk herd that live behind the school. The race started at approximately 10:05 AM with a conservative effort (Photo) . Darren Brungardt of Dillon and Tim Hola of Highlands Ranch, both wearing Atlas Racers, sped off to an early lead in the 10 km. On the women’s side of the race, Helen Cospolich of Breckenridge wearing her Redfeathers and a red RedfFeather racing suit, was followed by 16-year-old Samantha Skold of Evergreen.

In the 5 km Mitch Kayson, the 2010 Colorado High School Snowshoe State Champion sporting a pair of retro Atlas snowshoes, and Jake Fox (racing a pair of Redfeather hikers), both of Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs leapt out to an early lead. They were followed closely by Samantha Lewis (Photo) of Boulder, CO, the 2010 Colorado High School and 2010 USSSA National Junior Champion. ‘Sam’ was wearing Atlas racers. The beginning of the race takes runners on a 300-meter lap around the backside of Summit High on a hard packed snow/ice road to get out to the deep powder.

The first obstacle runners faced was a three-foot jump over an ice block to get onto the eventual packed powder of the racecourse. Racers then raced along the Summit County Rec Path for approximately a half mile before ascending Gate Hill into the Iron Springs Open Space. At the top of the Gate Hill, the 10 km course turns right and runs on top of the Iron Springs Mesa and then drops back down to the Summit County Rec Path. Brungardt, the LMT race director (see photo), noticed the elk herd that had been ravaging the course all week had destroyed the flagging set up the night before. He stopped and fixed the flagging as Hola passed him. He quickly caught up to Hola and the two battled it out for the remainder of the race.

The 10 Km leads the runners up St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, an unforgiving steep hill that ends at an elevation of 9425 feet. Luckily, the elk did not trash this section of the racecourse but created a nice passing lane on the hill directly next to the stomped trail. Racers shoot back down towards the rec path again for their first aid-station. Runners were greeted by three friendly workers with plenty of gel packs and a great tasting energy drink. From here runners snake through the Iron Springs Open Space and end up meeting with the 5 km course as the 10 km racers head up the next hill: Power line Hill. The elk had made encampments all along the race trail. The weight of their massive bodies created snow forts all along the trail in the Iron Springs Open Space. It was quite comical to see their hoof prints stamping out the snowshoe trail that was made the previous two days. What would those poor critters have done without the Love Me Tender crew making such a nice trail for them? Luckily no elk were harmed in this adventure, but Brungardt warned the runners before the race to watch out for the big beasts. He advised that if anyone saw them, “push down the runner in front and run like crazy, so the elk would eat the fallen comrade instead.”

At the Gate Hill the 5 km course continues to go up at a steady rate until runners reach the actual Iron Springs, a natural hot springs behind Summit High(Photo w Smoky Hill in background). Here all snowshoers must tackle the Power line Hill, though it is a short one. On the way up the runners passed the last of the elk snow forts. The elk would not interfere with the race the rest of the way. This is the highest point in the race and provides the best view at the top. Runners are now 300 feet above the start and can see the Blue River converge into Lake Dillon, the two 13ers in Breckenridge —  Mt Guyot and Baldy Mountain — the high school complex, and Hoosier Ridge separating Summit and Park Counties. Quite the vista view! At the apex of the Power line , runners now face a new challenge: Zombie Ridge.

Zombie Ridge brings runners from their beautiful vantage point of 9400 feet crashing back down to the race start elevation of 9100 feet. This ridge is most famous for its 2005 forest fire, but now has the infamous designation of making Summit High athletes feel zombie-like once they hit the top of it as their evil coaches make them do repeats up and down it. The rest of the course is primarily flat except for a short but steep hill appropriately named Elvis style, “Heartbreak Hill.” Runners tumble down the backside of this hill and race through the vast open fields to the south of the school and head north to the school to finish on the hard packed snow/ice that covers the sidewalk

Mitch Kayson dominated the 5 km field and broke the course record set by Ironman Tri-athlete Tim Hola in 2010. Mitch’s time of 26:28 crushed the previous mark of 27:59 by Hola last year on his way as a repeat state champion. Kayson’s time will stand the test of time for many years, and is the fastest 5K snowshoe time run on an altitude course. Kyle Ames of Smoky Hill High School, wearing Redfeather hikers, passed Jake Fox, also in Redfeather hikers, to finish second in a time of 31:15, and Fox finished third in 31:31. It was a close time, but not as close as the next three competitors who finished neck-and-neck, separated by a mere three seconds.

Samantha Lewis overtook Jake Fox at the half-mile mark. She did not look back and pressed the pace hard and fast early. The altitude, hills, and deep powder the last mile caught up to her slightly, but Lewis’ performance was impressive again as she cruised home to win the race in a time of 30:47, the best this year on a mountain course.

She was all smiles afterwards, earning her second title in a row, and was happy with how much fun she had. She was a mere 15 seconds off her previous course record time of 30:32 from last year’s race. She was followed by CMHS’s Danielle Grossman, in Redfeather hikers, in a time of 38:35. This was Grossman’s first year at the race and she was the only girl to brave the car ride up to Summit with the CMHS boys!

Smoky Hill’s Rachael Chacko, in Redfeather hikers, rounded out the podium with a time of 50:03. Seeing how this was her first snowshoe race, she can only improve upon this time next year to help Smoky Hill’s team score.

The men’s 10 km was a tight battle between PowerBar Team Elite athlete Hola and Brungardt most of the way. Each runner would pass the other runner throughout the race a total of seven times. Brungardt suffered from leg cramps and could not shake them off in the end. Hola’s Ironman training and Greek-like physique brought him home to win the race in a time of 58:30, the only racer below an hour. He broke Brungardt’s 2010 course record by nearly four minutes. Brungardt finished behind him in 1:00:02, three ticks from the magic 59:59. Mark Martin-Williams of Breckenridge closed in behind them less than four minutes back. Master snowshoers, Mark Rickman of Pueblo and Brent Weigner of Cheyenne, Wyoming, both familiar names in the USSSA, rounded out the top five. These Rocky Mountain Region legends have been snowshoe racing longer than most of the 5 Km field have been alive, and the LMT race officials were honored to have such high-class names race in this third annual event.

The woman’s 10 km was won by Breckenridge’s “Ultra-Woman” Helen Cospolich. She finished racing, without gloves, and looked like she was ready to take the course on again! Her time of 1:02:49 is also a new record. Other than watching Hola and Brungardt duke it out for over 8 km, she was by herself in the race. Her next closest competitor was 16-year-old Evergreen High School newcomer Samantha Skold. She finished in 1:06. It would have been an awesome race to watch Sam Lewis and Skold go head-to-head in the 10 km . . . snowshoers cannot wait to see them race each other in the senior race in two years! Lisa Mills rounded out the podium in 1:11. She won the race last year, and it was great to see her make it on the podium this year in a very challenging field. Skold’s mother, Chamane Skold, finished fourth and USSSA perennial 50-54 powerhouse Cindy Cain of Centennial, CO was fifth.

The 5 km high school team race was surprisingly close this year. Throwing in the coed dynamic of the scoring made the results interesting. The top five scores from the boys, the girls, or both determine the points. A perfect score would be 1st boy + 1st girl + 2nd boy + 2nd girl + either a 3rd place from a boy or a 3rd place from a girl for a score of 9. CMHS ran away with the title last year beating Summit handedly. This year Smoky Hill was ready to rumble. Although close, CMHS took home the state title(Photo) by edging out Smoky Hill 17-22. Danielle Grossman saved the day for the boys and hopefully they bought her a nice lunch on the way home. Without her second place finish, CMHS would have lost to Smoky Hill 22-24. The coed team score will continue next year until the race grows big enough to have a boys and girls’ team championship.

Place School Score
1 Cheyenne Mountain 17
2 Smoky Hill 22
3 Evergreen NS
4 Boulder NS
5 Summit NS

Account by Darren Brungardt
United States Snowshoe Association: www.snowshoeracing.com
Write: phillipgary@snowshoemag.com

Photos by Jim Lewis:
‘Sam’ and Mitch
Boys Champions

For a free email subscription of Snowshoe Magazine: https://archive.snowshoemag.com/subscribe.cfm.

Read: HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life by
Phillip Gary Smith, the country’s most prolific snowshoe writer:

This entry was posted in Features, Snowshoe Racing by Phillip Gary Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

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 motorsport. 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. Write to him at Phillip@ultrasuperior.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.