7th Annual Winter Warrior 10k Snowshoe Race
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Durango Nordic Center
Men’s Course Record Remains, But Not The Ladies!
The stunning ‘bluebird’ sky on race morning turned out to be a mirror of the collective effort of 60 snowshoe racers; cold, sacred, and dazzling! 32 Ladies and 22 Men split nearly equally across the two available distances of choice; 5k (one lap) or 10k (two laps). 4 Kids entered the Kids Snowdash, being directed for the first time by former multi-time Kids and 5k AG Champion Dewachen Ilg (9). The youngest warrior, Sapa Zahne (4) came up with his family from Shiprock, NM was bookended by local cyclist and runner, Gerry Gerraghty (60).
Typical of Durango’s various ‘Start Lines’ both Men and Ladies fields were stacked with mountain athlete marquee talent that would have most Race Directors of other venues drooling. This particular race, however, is unique in that it attracts athletes from many various sports aside from running due to the wholistic demands required by running atop snow. In fact, the Course Record – 51:59, set in 2014 – was set by Olympic mountain bike racer Howard Grotts, and survived yet another serious attack this year by uber-focused local runner, Anthony Kunkel who missed it by just over a minute in spite of churning out 2 impressive 5k laps at 26-minutes each! Heavy snows just days before the race complicated Kunkel’s planned assault upon the Course Record which carries a ‘special prize’ if broken and “…pretty much tripled my daily caloric expenditure as i personally stomped out the single track sections,” chuckled the event’s creator and Race Director, Steve Ilg. However, Ilg continued when interviewed by AdventurePro.net which will feature the race on it’s website within a week, “when Howie set the Course Record? He did so during a full-on snowfall with powder conditions.” True to its ever growing Tradition for those who truly live for a challenge, this year’s field included whitewater athletes, alpine skiers, nordic skiers, cycle-cross cyclists, mountain bikers, and road bike racers all eager to test their body, minds, and spirits on a USSSA-Sanctioned course groomed to perfection with nearly 50% single track with 50% groomed nordic track.
In the Kids Snowdash available to those Warrior/ess’s 13 and under, there was much drama. Race Director Dewa Ilg offered a one-lap or a two-lap choice. Landen Dodds (10) – whose family travels from Fort Collins for this race each winter and owns several podiums, took the honors in the 2-lap race insuring the family’s continued podium potential for the years ahead. Meanwhile in the one-lap race, local Alexa Blake (6) could not shake off the fierce combined attack from Shiprocks’ Israel (7) and Sapa Zahne (4) who held hands at the finish to tie for the one-lap victory in front of a crowd-going-crazy finish. Alexa however, received a First Place Medal from Director Dewa, “because she was crying.” On Sunday, Alexa left Dewa a present on her doorstep.
Next off was the Main Event; the 10k. Men’s race was missing their defending champion, Fort Lewis College standout runner, Christian Gering from San Felipe Pueblo, NM. Regardless, in weeks prior to this event, last year’s runner up, Anthony Kunkel made it known that his intent was to break Grott’s Course Record. By the time the racers reached the technical single track of Yeti Loop, course marshall Sandra Lee reported, “Kunkel is all by himself and is heading back!” Kunkel – who chose to run half naked across the glimmering snows in skin tight ‘underwear’ which is kinda his thing – led wire to wire and earned himself a coveted Winter Warrior Championship which came this year with a overnight stay for two with a private loralie at the world-class Hot Spring/Vapor Cave Resort, The Weisbaden, in Ouray, CO! Nearest chaser to Kunkel was our local train engineer and overall podium placer in the Thirsty-30, Peter Mech who loves this race! In third place overall and beating her own FEMALE COURSE RECORD in a time of 62:41 was Kathryn Ross who will also undoubtedly enjoy her recovery at the Weisbaden! “Oh my gosh,” the normally reserved Ross gushed at the Awards ceremony, “this race means so much to me and I, I…just…well, THANK YOU!”
Two minutes after the 10k racers dashed off and into their Journey, the 5k Race took off. After the flying rooster-tails of snow settled? It was a Knight Royal Flush! Paul Knight (14, Fort Collins) took all scalps with a sizzling 36.42 effort while Rosmary Knight- his mother (i KNOW, right!?!) – killed it with a time of 39.39! Both earned a round-trip Durango-Silverton Train Ride on the Durango Narrow Gauge Train!
The Costume Competion, traditionally a laid-back chill type of competition, took a Trumpesque turn for the nasty when the three final competitors made the final cut in the Durango Snowdown InterGalactic theme: Dewa Ilg Unicorn w/foal – we don’t know what the actual Intergalactic liaison is with UniCorns, but were just going with it cuz she is 9), Leah Fein as Princess Lei/Leah, get it?, and defending Costume Champion, Sean Meissner as Superman (kinda intergalactic, right?). Well, the Crowd Applause heightened during the competition (probably in commensurate ratio to the amount of Animas Brewery’s sponsored keg of Kolsch) and by the end of the heated Battle? Tie between Dewa and Leah with Superman losing out…according to rumors, the Trump People have launched an investigation into Voter Fraud.
Several hundred dollars were raised for the Durango Youth Nordic Kids and over $3,000 worth of prizes were raffled off to the racers, volunteers, and staff of Durango Nordic Center.
HUGE THANKS to our primary sponsors of this amazing race: Tailwind Nutrition, Kahtoola, Pine Needle Mountaineering, and Bodyhealth. Even HUUUUGER thanks to Durango Nordic Center, the groomers, and the volunteers.