Betsy Kalmeyer of Steamboat Springs needed fewer than 10 days to accomplish what your average hard-as-nails mountain woman might take more than a month to complete.
Kalmeyer jogged into the parking lot of a trailhead outside Durango early Wednesday to finish an astounding trip along the 468 miles of the Colorado Trail. Kalmeyer began her odyssey 9 days, 10 hours and 30 minutes earlier at Waterton Canyon southwest of Littleton. Members of her support group said she set herself up for a relatively easy day Wednesday after covering 60 miles Tuesday.
"Betsy was just so fired. She was amazing," said Jennifer Schubert-Akin, who ran the last 21 miles with Kalmeyer. In fact, she said Kalmeyer picked up the pace in the last few miles.
The Colorado Trail Association estimates mere mortals will need at least several weeks to hike the entire 468-mile trail.
"The time for completion usually takes from four to six weeks if one wants to through-hike," the organization advises on its Web page. Most people carry a 60-pound backpack along the Colorado Trail, and because of its length, many break it into sections to be tackled throughout a year.
By 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Kalmeyer was on her way to dinner in Durango.
"Last night, I wanted lasagna at the aid station and didn't get it, so that's probably what will appeal to me tonight," she said.
Kalmeyer is known to a core of endurance athletes in Steamboat as the woman who set a record in a 100-mile foot race through the rugged San Juan Mountains called the Hardrock Hundred.
Last summer, she tackled an obscure endurance event known as "Nolan's 14" and climbed 12 14,000-foot peaks in 58 hours and 50 minutes, bushwhacking between the mountain peaks. During the trip, she reached a peak elevation of 12,440 feet at Copper Mountain, and endured 4,460 feet of elevation gain on the climb to Molas Pass between Silverton and Durango.
In a September 2002 interview, Kalmeyer attempted to explain what makes her seek out the challenge of extreme endurance events.
"When I tell somebody I've done this, they say, 'Are you crazy?' It's amazing what the human mind and body can accomplish, and the support of other ultra runners is amazing," she said. "I love running 20 miles into the backcountry, then turning around and coming back."
Kalmeyer ran track and played tennis in high school. After graduation from the Air Force Academy, she spent three years as an acquisitions officer in Northern California. While she was there, she completed a master's degree in exercise physiology.
Next, she returned to the academy, where she spent five years as a substitute biology teacher and assistant coach in tennis and basketball.
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