Steamboat Springs As Steamboat Springs long-distance runner Betsy Kalmeyer crossed the finish line of the Hardrock 100 race last weekend, she was overcome with joy -- and relief.
"It feels so good to stop," Kalmeyer said.
The Hardrock 100 is a grueling 100-mile race that takes runners through or near the towns of Lake City, Ouray, Telluride and Ophir. Competitors start and finish in Silverton, and the course never drops below 7,680 feet in elevation. It peaks at the 14,048-foot summit of Handies Peak. Tough climbs, steep descents and winding trails make up the treacherous terrain. Because of its dangers, the Hardrock 100 is for experienced long-distance runners only -- novices aren't even allowed to enter.
"It does take a toll on you," Kalmeyer, 45, said last week from her office at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Never stopping for more than 15 minutes, Kalmeyer kept herself fueled with water and energy drinks and an occasional piece of fruit. She was thrilled when, near the 80-mile mark, she reached the Pole Creek Aid Station and got a dose of good news. The crew there told Kalmeyer she was leading the women's division and in third place overall.
Just more than 20 miles later, Kalmeyer was kissing the hard rock on the other side of the finish line.
It was Kalmeyer's fifth Hardrock 100 win in eight attempts. She also won in 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2004.
She has run about 20, 100-mile races and holds the women's time record for running the length of the Colorado Trail.
But this year's Hardrock 100 win did not come easy. Kalmeyer said the toughest parts of the course were the steep downhill portions, where one slip can cause serious injury and even death.
Some competitors experience pain all over their body, nausea and even hallucinations. Kalmeyer said her only hindrance was a slight case a nausea that hit her near the Maggie Gulch Aid Station toward the end of the course. But she wasn't about to let that stop her. She already had conquered most of the course and spent an entire night running with nothing but a headlamp and handheld flashlight to guide her.
Early Sunday afternoon, after 31 hours, 53 minutes and 51 seconds, Kalmeyer crossed the finish line. The second-place woman finished almost an hour later.
"I just try to take it one step at a time," Kalmeyer said with a laugh.
The extreme athlete was determined to do well in this year's Hardrock 100 after being disappointed in her performance last year. Training runs during her lunch breaks and demanding weekend workouts prepared Kalmeyer for this year's race. She hiked and snowshoed during the winter, climbed some of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains and even took trips to Buena Vista to run on dry trails there while Steamboat was still covered in snow. Kalmeyer trained for between nine and 12 hours a day to ready herself for the Hardrock 100.
The preparation paid off. But how much longer will she subject herself to grueling 100-mile races?
"At this point, I'm just going to let my body tell me," Kalmeyer said.
She'll likely continue to compete until at least 2008 so she can reach her goal of being the first woman to run in 10 Hardrock 100s.