After 19 years, it's getting more difficult to find a creative way to win the Hot Springs Shortcut race.
Last year's winner, Damian Wells, found a way to cut a corner by plotting a course through his back yard in the Butcherknife co-housing project, but the list of available shortcuts between the downtown hot springs and the one in Strawberry Park definitely is getting shorter.
"There are maybe three or four routes to follow at the bottom," said Bill Philip, the event's race director. "There are also a few more once you hit the switch-backs."
But Philip admits that most of the routes in this unique event, where there is no set course to follow, have been attempted before. Organizers discourage routes that cut across private property and Philip said the winners of the shortcut tend to be runners who can maintain a steady pace along the climbing seven-mile trek between the two hot springs.
Still, Philip advises new runners to stay close to veterans such as Wells or Paul Sachs to find the shortest route to the finish line. It's good advice if the new runner happens to be a mountain goat like the two runners who have made a habit of winning this race in the past.
"The veterans have a home-course advantage in this one," Philip said. "Knowing how to get to the finish line is a huge advantage, but the winners also tend to be very strong runners."
The Hot Springs Shortcut is the third race of the Steamboat Springs Running series and also features divisions for mountain bike racers and walkers.
It will begin with the walkers at 8 a.m. Saturday. The race starts at the Health and Recreation Center and finishes at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs at the top of Routt County Road 36.
The runners will begin at 9 a.m., and the mountain bike division (the only division in which the competitors are required to follow a preset route) begins at 9:30 a.m.
Runners, walkers and mountain bikers can register for the event at Christy Sports in advance, before 4 p.m. today, for $20. The fee includes entry to both hot springs as well as a post-event lunch catered by The Smokehouse at the finish.
Athletes also can register Saturday at the Health and Recreation Center for $25.
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