Steamboat Springs Betsy Kalmeyer has dreamed of bringing an ultramarathon to the area's prime mountain trails ever since she first moved to Steamboat Springs.
"For our population, we have a lot of successful trail and ultra runners," said Kalmeyer, who has competed in 100-mile ultramarathons for 20 years and has built a reputation as one of the world's best after winning the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run five times.
But when the inaugural Steamboat 50 Ultra Marathon starts at 6 a.m. Saturday at the base of Mount Werner, Kalmeyer will not be competing.
As course director, she has been busy setting the 50-mile, out-and-back course.
So has race director, Fred Abramowitz, an accomplished ultramarathon competitor in his own right.
"I've run a lot of them and realized how much goes in, so at a certain age you want to give a little back to the sport and the community," Abramowitz said.
What Abramowitz and Kalmeyer are giving runners is an ultra course that is tough by anyone's standards - tough meaning 20,000 feet of total elevation change. The race starts on the lawn outside the Slopeside Grill and immediately goes six miles and 3,500 feet up Mount Werner.
The race is nicknamed "Run Rabbit Run," and after the initial uphill route, the course rolls 25.3 miles out to the base of Rabbit Ears Peak. Then it's another 25.3-mile jaunt back on the same course.
Kalmeyer jokes that she should be putting up signs that say "Look," to remind runners to soak in the great views.
Most will likely be focused on the immediate ground ahead.
"The ski area descent will be deceivingly tough," Kalmeyer said. "By the time you get to the downhill, your quads are so trashed, it's hard to run."
Or, as Abramowitz puts it, "there will be a lot of good suffering."
Because the runners may be too focused to soak in the surroundings, Kalmeyer urged other trail users, including mountain bikers and hunters, to use caution on Mountain View Trail (1032), Fish Creek Falls Trail (1102) from Long Lake to Lake Percy, Lake Percy Trail (1134), Forest Service Road 20 and Pleasant Rabbit Trail (308).
"People that might want to hike or bike up Mount Werner should avoid lower Zig Zag, Why Not and the top of Storm Peak Challenge between 3 and 6 p.m. as the runners are coming down," Kalmeyer added.
Of the broad pool of 92 registered runners, 11 locals - Allen Belshaw, Tom DePuy, Russ Garrity, Jenna Gruben, Mike Hlavacek, Angie Man-
giardi, Travis Mattern, Matt Morrill, Andy Picking, Paul Sachs and Kathryn Taylor - will be testing themselves on familiar trails.
Top finishers could be expected as soon as 2 p.m., with most coming in between 5 and 6 p.m. An awards ceremony will be hosted at 7 p.m. at Slopeside. Course cutoff time will be 9 p.m.
Spectators can either watch from the start-finish area or from the turnaround point at the Pleasant Rabbit Trailhead (turn north off U.S. Highway 40 just east of the Rabbit Ears Pass East Summit).
Visit www.steamboat50.com for a detailed course map and full race information.