Cool running

Rain welcomes half-marathon winners to finish

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— Most of the runners at Sunday morning's 28th annual Mountain Madness Half Marathon weren't too mad about the weather. The overcast 8 a.m. Howelsen Hill start turned into a rainy downpour as lead runner Scott Kempers made it to the turnaround point on Routt County Road 14, just south of Steamboat Springs city limits. Kempers was excited to maintain a healthy lead as he reached the soggy cardboard sign marking one Mile until the drenched finish line.

"It was nice to be on that home stretch all alone," Kempers said after finishing the race first in one hour, 28 minutes. Enjoying his first 2006 Steamboat Springs Running Series victory after a string of close calls, Kempers jokingly added that he couldn't let a guy with a stroller beat him -- referring to fellow running series regular Andy Picking, who finished second in 1:30:43 while pushing his 11-month-old daughter, Sophie, along the rolling 13.1-mile course.

"The rain would've been a bummer at the start, but it was awesome how it hit once you were all warmed up," Picking said, catching his breath and noticing his daughter calmly drinking from a bottle in her covered stroller. "After the first couple drips, I thought she could hang, but I had to put the (stroller) cover on. She cried for a couple minutes at the end, so I slipped her the bottle."

Although Glenwood Springs' Jenny Barsness stuck with Picking's pace to finish third overall at 1:31:15, the top female finisher did not share his enthusiasm for the rain.

"It was perfect weather, absolutely ideal for the first half, but on the way back, it was hard to see," Barsness said. "It was getting in my eyes, and I thought my contacts were going to fall out."

Kristin McLaurin-Litt finished second in the women's division with a time of 1:38:16, followed by Tandi Hodges at 1:44:25. Erik Baum finished third in the men's division at 1:33:40.

With half of this year's 14 series events completed, Kempers and Picking weren't the only local runners adding to their accumulated point tallies. J.J. Huie, first-place finisher at four running series events this year, took home a fifth win in Sunday's 10K race with a time of 34 minutes and 24 seconds and then ran home to avoid the rain. Chris McDonald took second place at 39:04 and Doug Duffy took third in the men's division at 40:42.

Visiting for the weekend from Florida, Ironman triathlete Heather Gollnick took top female honors in the 10K field of 32 runners, finishing in 40:28.

"Everyone said this race was flat -- well, for someone from Florida, this is hilly, in the first mile, I really felt the altitude," Gollnick said.

Monica Umana finished second in the female 10K division at 40:42, and Kelly Carlson was third at 41:48.

Saturday's Howelsen Hill 8 Miler is the next running series event.

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