Mark Iverson wasn't running for a Continental Divide Challenge record. He didn't even know what it was. He just wanted to finish the 16-mile course in less than two hours.
With a time of 1 hour, 57 minutes, the 23-year-old Steam--boat Springs man crossed the finish line first Sunday, setting a new record during the seventh annual Ski Haus Continental Divide Challenge. Mark Werner held the previous record of 1:57:33. Iverson and Werner are the only runners to have finished the challenging trail run in less than two hours.
Running well and finishing in less than two hours had been a goal of Iverson's all summer. Last year, he finished in 2:11 and could have counted on one hand the number of times he ran before the race.
"It's hard to find long races that aren't on pavement," Iver--son said about the appeal of the Continental Divide Challenge. "You can do a half-marathon or marathon, but most are on pavement, and I hate running on pavement."
The Continental Divide Chall--enge took runners up Fish Creek Falls trail to Mountain View trail and on to the summit of Mount Werner. From there, runners descended to the top of the gondola and the finish area.
Rachel Garton was the women's winner in 2:31:20. Marcie Glass was second in 2:39:21, and Jean Coulter was third in 2:44:11.
Nate Anderson and Andy Picking were second and third, respectively, on the men's side. Anderson finished in 2:03:47. Picking was less than three minutes behind in 2:06:13.
"Out of the start, we were all sort of together," Iverson said. "This guy, Bill (Goldsmith, who finished fourth), went out at the start, but he was never out of sight. I kind of went hard up to the Mountain View trail last year and bonked pretty hard. This year, I was trying to hang easy. It wasn't until above the second bridge that I started to pull away, because it gets steep there."
Iverson, a Nordic skier with Montana State University, trains extensively on hills as part of his dry-land workouts, so the Continental Divide Challenge suited him.
Race director Vicki Oyster estimated that the first 13 miles of the race were spent climbing from the Fish Creek Falls parking lot to the summit of Mount Werner. From there, racers had three miles to descend to the gondola.
Iverson said he still was sore Wednesday.
"It was actually the perfect day for running," he said. "It was cloudy, with the sun poking through from time to time. Overall, it was the perfect temperature for running."
The next race in the Steamboat Springs Running Series is the 10K at 10,000 Feet on Sept. 4.
Registration is available at Christy Sports or online at www.active.com.