Steamboat Springs Bernie Boettcher has rounded the globe for the last 265 weeks, running - and often winning - a different race each weekend.
You'd be hard pressed to find another person in the world who's seen more mountain running courses.
But after Sunday morning's 23rd annual 10K at 10,000 Feet run at Rabbit Ears Monument, Boettcher came away impressed.
"This is hard to beat," he said. "It's hard to find such variety of terrain. You can get into the middle of nowhere - getting spooked where you could see a bear."
Boettcher is a Silt-based La Sportiva Mountain Running Team member and two-time USA Track & Field Masters Mountain Runner of the Year.
Sunday, he was just as hard to beat as the course.
Moffat County High School cross country coach Todd Trapp took the early lead of the 6.8-mile trail run starting from the monument near the East Summit of the Rabbit Ears Pass. Trapp, 29, led the race for the first three miles up steep singletrack switchbacks to the high point of 10,320 feet. Boettcher gained the lead there, near the course's one aid station, and maintained it for the remainder of downhill gravel service roads back to the monument.
Boettcher finished in 44 minutes, 17 seconds, a new record for the first running of the course in the opposite direction. Trapp finished in second (45:14) and Steamboat's Travis Mattern finished third (48:50).
"I loved the views on the singletrack - just all through the glades on a pine needle-soft trail," said Boettcher, 44, who celebrated his 114th win and 207th Masters win since turning 40.
He wasn't the only one raving. The 13th of 14 Steamboat Springs Running Series events pulled a large turnout of nearly 120 participants, many crossing the finish line and reveling in the stunning view of Dumont Lake afforded by the return downhill.
"I wish I had a throw-away camera, but I don't feel like going back up there," said Christine Knight, who was still sore from last week's triathlon, but managed to win the women's division in 52:25, her sixth series win. Monica Umana finished second (55:55) and Lori Huggard finished third (58:10).
"I rode my bike up the pass to get here, because the car was broken, so I didn't have to stretch out at all because I was already warmed up," said Umana, the top local female finisher (fourth) in last week's triathlon.
Kremmling's Shawn Scholl was just glad it didn't snow like it did two years ago.
"Only on Rabbit Ears," said Scholl, who finished in a tight fourth-place finish behind Mattern. "I saw a whole herd of sheep up there. I mean, you're running at 10,000 feet through bear scat and across elk tracks."
Scholl will host the final event of the 2007 Series, the Kremmling Road Kill 9 a.m. Saturday in the Kremmling Town Square.
"It's your last chance to run a half marathon before skiing," Scholl said of the upcoming event, which includes a trail half marathon and a five-mile trail race.
Visit www.runningseries.com or www.runkremmling.com for more details.
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