Power of Four runners get misty
The Aspen Times
Ashley Erba will take the trails any day.
Especially with a misty morning rain.
Erba, the 19-year-old running wunderkind now living in Boulder, ran up and down from Aspen to Snowmass via Highlands and Buttermilk and won the women’s division of the Audi Power of Four 50K trail race Sunday morning.
The former Indiana high school All-American in cross country and track navigated the 31-mile course over the four ski areas in 5 hours, 53 minutes and 35 seconds, finishing 10th overall in the field of 110 entrants.
Paul Hamilton, a 29-year-old from Durango, won the men’s 50K in a calculated 5 hours, 13 minutes, 21 seconds, moving up from his runner-up finish in the blazing sun last year.
Boulder’s Josh Arthur (28) finished second in 5:13:49 with Aspen’s Rickey Gates, an early race leader, in third (5:28:25).
Durango ultrarunner Dakota Jones (24) was fourth on the course that included some 4,000 additional feet of climbing this year as the Audi Power of Four 50K was added to the U.S. Skyrunning Series.
“I really didn’t expect it to be a drizzly, rainy day. But I preferred that,” Erba said. “It’s been really hot in Boulder recently, and I’ve had a couple of long runs that were a little bit scary because I didn’t hydrate as well as I should have. So that was on my mind today.”
The cool, damp conditions helped, she said, without making the course too slippery.
Erba, who had trained on part of the course last week with men’s runner-up Arthur, said she managed the tricky trail course with no falls.
“I’m so proud of myself. No falls. I fall on almost every fun,” said Erba, adding that she wasn’t sure of her power hiking on a course that required a lot of power hiking.
“But it went pretty well overall; and it was very foggy up there,” said the native Californian, who grew up in Warsaw, Indiana, where she won state championships with her father as her coach. Her mother is an ultrarunner with more than a half-dozen 100-mile races to her credit.
“I won a national (high school) title in the 5,000 on the track, setting a record, and I was pumped to run in college,” Erba said. “And I did. I got a full ride to run at Providence College.”
But the structured atmosphere and a series of injures left Erba frustrated.
“I was struggling with injury, and I was really unhappy. I realized that wasn’t what I wanted with running,” she said. “It was so controlling. I couldn’t go run trails on my break.”
She left after her freshman year.
“I said I need something different.”
Fast forward to her first 50K trail race last summer. That came after years of helping pace her mother Karen in ultrarunning events.
“I had a blast,” she said, adding Boulder to her running mix as a home base.
“I found the trails so refreshing, and I found the trails community so refreshing,” Erba said. “Nobody judges you; nobody yells splits out to you. It’s fantastic.”
Hamilton, Sunday’s winner in the men’s division, agreed — with her assertions about the refreshing trails and the cool, damp weather.
““I knew it was going to be wet and overcast,” Hamilton said. “I was really happy about that because it makes for great running.”
He said he started conservatively on the first climb up Aspen Mountain after the 6 a.m. start.
“I went into the race with the idea that I had a chance to win it,” he said. “I took the lead … up the Congo Trail. I pushed pretty hard and put a gap in.”
The 2014 Power of Four 50K runner-up hammered the third major climb and then headed for Snowmass.
“I took one fall. There were a few sections on the singletrack that were a little slick,” Hamilton said. “It hurt. But there wasn’t any low point in the race where I was in a deep hole.”
Rather, he said, he enjoyed the weather, the finish and the $1,000 winner’s check.
“It was drizzly. It was nice,” said Hamilton, who will race next in an ultra event in southern Utah.
Then, it’s off to France for the trail runner who integrated more adventure cross-training into his program.
“More backpacking and more hiking this year,” Hamilton said.
The Audi Power of Four, sponsored by the Aspen Skiing Co., included a 25K trail race Sunday and a Vertical K race at Aspen Mountain on Saturday.
Matt Chorney of Jackson, Wyoming, won the men’s 25K trail race in 2:03:46. Aspen’s Michael’s Barlow was second.
Sara Wagner won the women’s 25K in 2:35:10. Aspen’s Jesse Young was second.
Thirty-one-year-old Joe Gray won the climb of Aspen Mountain in what’s believed to be a summer ascent record of 37 minutes, 30 seconds. Kim Dobson won the women’s ascent.
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