During Saturday's Hot Springs Short Cut Run, local racers who knew the lay of the land seemed to have the upper hand at the start line in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Without a set course, the seven-mile, free-for-all race to Strawberry Park Hot Springs awarded the most creative walkers and runners, who were allowed to take any path they chose to reach the finish. Steamboat's top marathon finisher and Short Cut veteran Andy Picking had a studied route in mind to weave through the residential streets between downtown Steamboat and the hot springs.
"The biggest short cuts are right there in the beginning, from the Rec Center to (Routt County Road) 36," Picking said.
All was going as planned for the front-runners following Picking's lead until they hit the locked fence surrounding the Steamboat Springs Middle School track, prompting an improvised climb over the obstacle. On the home-stretch climb, Picking missed his favorite bypass.
"I cut a corner and hit the wrong trail, where you end up in sarvisberry up to your elbows," Picking said.
Unfamiliar with the terrain secrets, J.J. Huie stuck strictly to the roads and to the one thing he is familiar with -- running a serious uphill pace. Huie, fresh off wins at the Steamboat Marathon 10K and Hayden Cog Run, finished in a time of 44:13, well ahead of Picking's second-place finish of 48:50.
"I'm new here, so I thought the roads would be the most direct," Huie said. "No one knew which way was the best, and I didn't know where I'd be trespassing. I was afraid someone would jump out of the woods just ahead of me, so I ran faster."
Dillon's Darien Brungardt finished third with a time of 48:52. He was held up momentarily to ask for directions.
"I was following J.J., but he got way ahead, so I had to stop an old couple in a truck in town to ask if I was going the right way," Brungardt said.
Local running series regulars Scott Kempers and Paul Sachs followed with fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively.
Greeley's Sarah Walker was the first female finisher. She finished sixth overall with a time of 52 minutes.
"As soon as you get on the dirt, it's just straight up, and then on that last downhill, you're just flying, it feels great," Walker said.
Traci Moon placed second in the women's division in 1:04:29, followed by Rebecca Davis in 1:05:49.
Alan Bradley had the fastest men's bike time of 34:02, and Annette Seiler won the women's bike division in 50:33.
Race director Bill Philip was pleased with the participation, particularly because the race took place three weeks later in the summer than it has in past years. There were nine bikers, four walkers and 33 runners.
"These Running Series races are, for the most part, all low-key, casual events," Philip said. "They all have a lesser division with a recreational component. We'd really like to see more walkers out here. Basically it's a fun event, you get to know people and you don't have to be a world-beater to do it."
The next Steamboat Springs Running Series Event is the Spring Creek Memorial on July 1.
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