Snowshoers of all ages come out for Beaver Creek race | VailDaily.com

Snowshoers of all ages come out for Beaver Creek race

David L'Heureux

Cold temperatures and a pair of grueling courses didn’t keep area snowshoe racers from turning up in full force at Strawberry Park for the first races of the 6th annual Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series.

The event, which included a 5K and 10K race, the Beaver Creek Dash for Cash, and a kid’s 1K race, saw more than 400 professional and amateur competitors in the starting corral awaiting the opening bell.

“We really tried to get some of the more casual, non-competitive runners out here this year,” said James Deighan, vice president of Highline Sports and Entertainment, the company which puts on the series. “The majority of the folks out here are just out to have fun and enjoy Beaver Creek, enjoy snowshoeing, and enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.”

After the start, racers headed east out of Strawberry Park and immediately began a challenging climb up the Dally catwalk. Pro tri-athlete Josiah Middaugh, who won the men’s 10K race, explained his approach to a course which begins with such a demanding uphill section.

“Usually, I try to relax the first two miles of a race,” said Middaugh. “But, on a course like this one, where you start out climbing for two miles you can’t really do that. So, I just pushed it from the start.”

That strategy worked well for Middaugh, as he led the race from its early stages all the way to the finish line.

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“After two miles I looked around and I was by myself, so I decided to keep pushing it,” said Middaugh, who finished in 47 minutes, 13 seconds.

Bernie Boettcher finished second in 48:30 and Greg Krause took third in 49:19.

Women’s 10K-winner Anita Ortiz also took advantage of the uphill sections to help work her way to the front of what was a well-stacked field.

“I like that climbing right from the start,” said Ortiz, a national team trail runner in the summer. “I started near the back and had to work real hard to get to the front because there were so many people out there.”

Once in front, Ortiz would battle fellow competitors Lisa Isom, Lisa Goldsmith and Helen Cospolich, all of whom figured prominently in the final results.

“I’m just out here racing and having fun,” said Ortiz, when asked about her plans for the winter. “I’m going to do this series and the Pedal Power Series because I love to snowshoe, and it’s a means to stay in shape for mountain running.”

Ortiz finished in 58:32, over two minutes ahead of second-place Goldsmith, who crossed the finish in 1:00:56.

While the 10K was stocked with pro trail runners, tri-athletes and mountain bikers, the 5K had more of an amateur field, except, of course, for men’s winner Mike Moher, who finished in 31:51. Moher, a veteran racer and a regular competitor at the 10K distance for most snowshoe races, ran the 5K on Saturday for good reason.

“I’m running the Offbeat-Off-track Snowshoe Race in Leadville tomorrow,” said Moher, who took second at last week’s Pedal Power Four-Miler. “I guess I kind of sandbagged it this week, but that’s a hard 10K race tomorrow, so I did the shorter one today.”

In the women’s 5K, South African native-turned Vail resident Vicky Keleske, who crossed the finish line first in a time of 38:23, was happy just to be out there.

“The course was awesome, it was really great,” said Keleske. “Last year, I was hurt so I took the year off. This year, I said, “I’ve just got to get back into it.'”

The two main events of the day were preceded by the Kids K, a 1K race for kids, and the Beaver Creek Dash for Cash, a 50-yard dash for $100. Both proved to be hotly contested. Isom won the women’s heat and Brian Gunnarson won the men’s heat in the Dash for Cash. Isom would finish fourth in the women’s 10K.

Keeping it all in the family, Breeana Gunnarson won the girl’s 1K and Austin Gunnarson won the boy’s 1K.

The Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series continues January 10th at Beaver Creek with another day of snowshoe racing. The same format will be used for each competition. Registration is open to the public through Highline Sports and Entertainment.