Hundreds on hand for Vail Daily HillClimb |

Hundreds on hand for Vail Daily HillClimb

David L'Heureux
Hill Climb1 SM 7-4 Vail Daily/Shane Macomber The start gun is fired and participants of the Vail Daily Hill Climb run through Vail Village and will end at the top of Vail Mountain.

The top trail runners in North America were in Vail Sunday for the 26th annual Vail Daily Vail HillClimb. Close to 400 competitors toed the line with sunny skies above and perfect racing temperatures on the ground. The racers celebrated their Independence Day by undertaking a grueling 7.5-mile course up the front of Vail Mountain en route to Eagle’s Nest. The field wound up eating the dust of 22-year old Western State cross-country team member Tim Parr, who crossed the finish line in just 47 minutes, 48 seconds. Parr took the lead after the first mile and never looked back.”At the start I was just trying to stay with the lead group, which was about six people, and feel things out,” said Parr, who will be trying to help Western State in its bid for the national cross-country title this fall. “After about the first mile, I put a little surge on one of the first climbs.”Also battling in the lead group were Parr’s Western State teammate Matt Levaiffiur, and four U.S. National Trail running team members, Paul Low, Simon Guttierez, Peter De La Cerda and Mark Werner. Levaiffiur would outlast Low taking second place in a time of 48:28. Low, an Amherst, Mass., native, was just seven seconds behind in third at 48:35.

While Western State won the day on the individual side, it was Team USA who would take top honors in the team competition. Team Canada took second in the race, which served as a qualifier for their national team, as well.”We are trying to determine who we are going to send to Italy to compete for the World Mountain Running Trophy,” said Team Canada manager Kelvin Broad.Also competing in the event was Ryan Sutter of bachelor fame, who is continuing to make good on the Vail Fire Department’s commitment to getting in shape this summer.”I didn’t walk at all,” said Sutter. “That was my goal, to have fun and to run the whole way. It’s tough, though. That’s not the easiest direction to run in.”Sutter, who finished with a time of 1:09:26, was relaxing with family at the finish, and said that life has “returned to normal” after his brief stint with fame.Haefeli top woman

Woman’s national trail running team member Laura Haefeli set the pace for the women with a time of 57:32. Haefeli lead wire-to-wire in her winning effort.Eagle-born Lisa Isom came down from her home near Tennessee Pass on a whim and snaked her way through the field to finish second in 59:49.”I wasn’t even going to do this race at this time yesterday,” said Isom, who has been focusing on her off-road triathalon career. “Then last night I decided to do it. I’m glad I did. Last year, this race really hurt me. This year, I just started slow and worked my way to the front.”Isom used her strength advantage on the switchback sections to move from 11th at the halfway point all the way up to second.The women of Team USA beat Team Canada to win that portion of the competition.

A family affairHigh-fives and congratulatory handshakes greeted the rest of the field of 386 as they trickled across the finish line at Eagle’s Nest. The awards ceremony had a sort of reunion feel as the close-knit Vail trail running community said hellos to friends new and old.”We are so excited about the turnout for this race,” said Vail Rec District’s race coordinator Mike Ortiz. “To have this size and caliber of a field come out on the Fourth, it’s just awesome.”Winners of respective age groups, ranging from 13-year olds to 60-year olds, were given certificates for free footwear from Teva, which sponsors the race series and the men’s and women’s national teams.The Trail Running Series continues July 17 with the Nike ACG 5K/10K at Beaver Creek. The race is one of the featured events in the 2004 Beaver Creek Adventure Weekend. After that is the Vail Half Marathon, perhaps the most grueling race in the whole series. The course for that race, which was won last year by Ironman triathelete Tim DeBoom, is a 13-miles and has a vertical gain of over 3,000 feet.Racers get ready. When asked if this year’s half-marathon course would be as tough as last year’s, Ortiz had only two words.”Oh yeah.”

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