Steamboat Springs Ken Brenner fondly recalls the days he and his sister Patty Brenner Hagberg used to jog up the trail along Spring Creek to Buffalo Pass.
After a tragic 1991 accident on a lower section of the trail that caused his sister's death, Brenner organized the challenging Spring Creek Memorial run in her honor.
"It's a legitimate, full-blown mountain trail with 17 stream crossings, where you run through ferns up to your neck and jump over logs, with a really rugged uphill section," Brenner said.
The grueling 9.5-mile loop sends runners up 1,300 vertical feet in a 2.5-mile section, goes through dense forests to the top of Buffalo Pass, and turns them around at the Dry Lake campground at 8,300 feet for a downhill return on the popular multi-use Spring Creek Trail.
Brenner was on hand Saturday for the 15th annual race to see Steamboat Springs' resident J.J. Huie come blazing down the Spring Creek Trail and across the finish line near the trailhead.
"That's a course record," Brenner exclaimed of Huie's time of 1:02:16. Huie beat the record by a margin of one minute and 21 seconds.
"On the 'elevator shaft,' you can't even see the trail because of the foliage, so you had to really concentrate while you were climbing," Huie said.
Huie started the race neck-and-neck with Estes Park's William Reiter. When the two front-runners cleared the dense woods and were on the open gravel trail for the steady climb to the top of Buffalo Pass, Huie said he managed to pass Reiter and then cruise to his fourth Steamboat Springs Running Series win of the season. Reiter ran for second place with a time of 1:04:21, and Steamboat's Scott Kempers placed third in 1:08:57.
Greeley's Sarah Walker kept the momentum of her June 17 Hot Springs Short Cut win going with another top female division finish, coming in at 1:19:27.
"My arms are all cut. I fell down once on a log and once in the mud, there were weeds above my head, and I had to jump over a few trees that were up to my waist," Walker said.
Walker said she used steeplechase maneuvers she learned running track for Michigan State University to bushwhack and hurdle her way up the course. Sarah Raiter of New Prague, Minn., finished second in the female division at 1:22:43, followed by Julie Lind at 1:25:43.
Race director John Chapman said of the 95 runners, the largest turnout in the last five years, there was an even split between local participants and visiting racers, many of whom registered the morning of the race.
Ridgecrest, Calif. resident Sean Malone and Denver's Emily Filippini, the male and female winners of the race's three-mile run/walk category, said they were visiting Steamboat for the weekend, heard about the event and decided to race.
The next running series event is the Steamboat Sprint, a 400-yard dash along Lincoln Avenue on July 4. After that, it's the July 9 Mountain Madness half marathon, 10K and 2-mile fun run.
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