Dave Shively: Gettin' primal

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His toenails have grown back and the cracks in his feet have healed. He has regained the 15 pounds he lost during the eight days taken to complete the course.

The race took place seven months ago, but Russ Garrity has now recovered from the 2006 Primal Quest expedition-length adventure race and is looking ahead to another summer of racing.

But the 47-year-old Oak Creek resident won't have another shot at the world-renowned race that puts coed teams of four in a grueling multi-sport painfest across 400 miles of torrid Utah sandscape.

The 2007 race was canceled this week. Primal Quest media director Gordon Wright explained that the race was, "too big of a ship to pull into port on time." Big means network television coverage and a $250,000 purse.

"It's like going to the Olympics," Garrity said. "There's only three or four huge races in the world and it's the one that brings the elite of the elite."

Garrity got into adventure racing on a "slow, slippery slope" of gradually upping the ante from half marathons, to marathons, to 100-milers, to multi-day/sport events. His first taste, a 2003 Eco-Challenge, found him at the whim of the course, stuck in a swamp for 51 hours - not the worst-case scenario, considering Australian Nigel Aylott's tragic death in the 2004 Primal Quest.

Citing the "hugely satisfying" feeling of finishing Primal Quest, Garrity said he wouldn't mind trying a similar one in the right locale with the right team (although his wife Clay will tell you different).

For now, he's scaling back with a few "smaller" 24-hour and 50-mile races.

This downsizing from the hyped up mega-races seems to be the trend in the competitive endurance world. First Red Bull quit last summer on Divide and Conquer, hands-down the coolest adventure race Colorado has ever seen. It involved a 4,125-foot run from Silverton up Kendall Mountain, a paraglide flight to the banks of the Upper Animas for a 2,075-foot kayak descent, followed by a grueling 27-mile bike ride.

Now this. The movement is toward more user-friendly lengths and team options.

Look at the growth of the statewide Adventure Xstream race series (12- and 24-hour courses) or more locally at the Steamboat Pentathlon's capped participation or the addition of the Steamboat Springs 50 ultramarathon.

"I think the trend is to make races more accessible," Garrity said. "You can do anything for one day - you burn 500 calories an hour, 20 hours, that's 10,000 calories."

The epic appeal of a one-day athletic binge explains the growth of the North Routt Coureur des Bois. Returning Saturday for its third year, race director Dan Smilkstein has seen out-of-state entrants in the 90K ski race jump from three to 13 to 22 racers.

"People realize you can't do that race anywhere else in the country," returning racer Allen Belshaw said. "It's you and the other racers out there versus the course to finish."

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