Jason Saitta knows how it feels to run alone on County Road 129, so he hung on, stress fracture and all, for seven miles, pushing John Raveling to a top finish in the 22nd annual Steamboat Marathon on Sunday.
The people of Steamboat and even some of Saitta's competitors have grown accustomed to Saitta crossing the finish line first. The 25-year-old entered Sunday's race seeking his fifth straight title.
Saitta was the first marathoner into town on race day, but this year he arrived in a car, picked up by Raveling's wife, Peggy, around Mile 18 after the stress fracture above his left ankle told him to stop at Mile 11.
Raveling, running strong with Saitta from the get-go, crossed the downtown finish line in 2 hours, 38 minutes and 31 seconds with one big smile on his face.
"I want some champagne," Raveling said.
Though Raveling and Saitta didn't really know each other before Sunday's race, Raveling was aware that Saitta was the one to beat in Steamboat.
Raveling thought a 2:40 would give someone a shot at coming in first. He believed he had at least a 2:42 in his legs from training.
The Littleton man underestimated his racing ability, however, averaging just over a 6-minute mile for the 26.2-mile course.
After Raveling, Boulder's Jason Smith and Campbell Ilfrey finished second and third in the men's marathon with times of 2:45:12 and 2:51:46, respectively.
"If (Saitta) didn't have an injury it would have been a battle," Raveling said.
Last year, Saitta won convincingly in 3:39:45, collapsing from the heat after he crossed the finish line.
What a difference one year -- or one day -- makes in Northwest Colorado. Following a warm and sunny Saturday, the roughly 500 registered marathoners took off Sunday from tiny Hahn's Peak Village in heavy rain and 40-degree temperatures.
Cold spring conditions sent off 900-plus half marathoners near Moon Hill and hundreds of 10K runners in downtown Steamboat, as well.
The weather did little to change the results, however. Other than Raveling and new 10K women's champion Kim Jones, last year's winners successfully defended their titles.
Kelly Carlson of Boulder won the women's marathon in 3:01:51, finishing 19 minutes ahead of her closest competitor, Genevieve Ramos, also of Boulder. Sandy Schuster of Denver was third in 3:23:54.
Joined by her husband, Andy, and young daughter Jaden, Carlson said it's obvious she has strong support.
"I have to get done faster to see them," Carlson said.
Last year, Carlson took the women's title in 3:02:41, which race Director Paul Sachs said was one of the best results posted in Steamboat in the past decade. Despite shaving nearly one minute off her time, Carlson said she was a little disappointed she failed to finish in less than three hours.
Half marathon winners Ryan Bolton of Boulder and Jane Welzel of Fort Collins also shaved about a minute off their winning times from a year ago. Bolton finished in 1:10:49, while Welzel completed the course in 1:25:41.
Andy Bupp of Denver and Brad Pace of Fort Collins finished second and third, respectively, in 1:17:04 and 1:17:51 on the men's side this year.
Other than Welzel, Boulder's Jennifer Zaccagnini was the only other woman to finish the half marathon in less than an hour-and-a-half.
Taking third was Stephanie Drage of Denver in 1:32:41.
Bolton, an accomplished triathlete, and Welzel, a successful marathoner, used Steamboat's Half Marathon as a training run as much as a race.
"For me it was a little cold, but I love running in the rain," Bolton said. "I felt really good (Sunday). The half marathon is a good training distance for me. I don't need as much time to recover so I can be back out training soon."
In the 10K race, Steamboat's Tenadore Dean, 29, made his way through the rain first, crossing the line in 35 minutes, 14 seconds, which was just 5 seconds faster than Bill Demong, another strong local athlete.
Pete Williams of Fort Collins took third in 35:37.
Four Steamboat racers, including Jay Peterson and Davis Miller, finished in the top 10 in the men's 10K.
On the women's side, Jones won the 10K in 41:58, defeating Kathryn Bradshaw of Encampment, Wyo., who ran a 44:14. Jamie Rosenquist finished third in 44:39.
Bradshaw was the only racer from out of state who placed in the top three in the marathon, half marathon or 10K.
Dean was the only local racer to take home a title, though several men and women represented Steamboat and Routt County well.
Andy Picking was the county's top male marathoner, completing the rolling, 26.2-mile course in 3:01:23.
Betsy Kalmeyer, back in the marathon after an eight-year absence, finished fourth in the women's division and 32nd overall in 3:24:16.
"I train on trails," Kalmeyer said. "With the wet trails and snow I've had to train on the roads, so I thought I'd enter the marathon. I don't think another course equals Steamboat's beauty. You go along and you can hear the hummingbirds and cows mooing. At one point, I tried to beat the bubbles in the Elk River."
Local emergency room doctor Nate Anderson came in fourth in the half marathon in 1:22:50, while Kelly Boniface, 32, was Routt County's top female participant in the 13-mile course.
Like Kalmeyer, Anderson is no stranger to races beyond marathon distance, so he used Sunday's race to continue training for the August ultra marathon national championships near Mount Rainier in Washington.
"I thought I did pretty well," Anderson said.
The top local female finisher in the 10K was Tracey Tyson in 46:33.
Though race organizers designed the 1/2-mile Fun Run to encourage children to get out and involved in the day's festivities, a growing number of youth in Steamboat and across Colorado are entering the 10K race.
Englewood's Jared Alswang, 7, completed his second Steamboat 10K in about 1 hour, 12 minutes.
"I train one or two times a week," Alswang said.
He and his sister Daniella, 13, and brother Josh, 10, make the 10K a family event, while their father, Martin, runs the marathon.
Jared Alswang likes running in Steamboat because "it's pretty," and even though he's only 7, he "never gets lost."
The Steamboat Springs Running Series will take a break until the end of the month, allowing runners interested in competing in the area to let their bodies rest.
The next race is the 12th annual Spring Creek Memorial run June 28.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org