Aspen Backcountry Marathon tests runners
The Aspen Times
Scott Loomis knew he faced a difficult challenge in Saturday morning’s Aspen Backcountry Marathon.
But he wasn’t worried about medical support — he brought his own.
Dr. Scott Loomis of Golden, a former cross country racer with the U.S. Ski Team, won the fifth annual Aspen Backcountry Marathon on a brilliant, cloudless Saturday morning in Aspen, crossing the finish line at Koch Lumber Park in 3 hours, 35 minutes and 37 seconds.
Just 5 minutes later, Paul Moth of Longmont barely held off a frantic, late charge by Aspen’s Max Taam to take second place. Taam, ski mountaineer racer supreme, finished third and nearly repeated his runner-up finish from 2014.
Carrie Vickers of Carbondale, a former standout runner at the University of Colorado, won the women’s division Saturday in 4 hours, 32 minutes. She was 21st overall in the field of 124 marathoners who started the race at 6 a.m. at Koch Lumber Park.
Kylie Collins of Snowmass Village, a first-grade teacher at Aspen Elementary, finished second among the women
“It’s a really tough distance for me,” said Vickers, the former Carrie Messner and a mother of three. “The only other time I’ve run a marathon is the first year they did this one.”
In between, Vickers had twins.
“But it was beautiful today, gorgeous,” said the former college steeplechase champion. “And we saw a huge bear.”
She said her group of runners saw a big bear in the Hunter Creek area at the top of Smuggler.
The final miles, however, were warm and long, said Vickers, a multiple state champion as a high school runner in Colorado.
After climbing Smuggler and working across the Hunter Creek Valley, the runners climbed Red Mountain and descended on the Sunnyside Trail.
They crossed over to the other side of the valley for a climb of Buttermilk and then the final cruel miles into Aspen.
“This side was really hot today,” Vickers said, gesturing toward Buttermilk and Aspen Mountain. “And Little Cloud is mean, just mean.”
The final steep up-and-down on the rocky, technical singletrack Little Cloud Trail took the tired runners to the finish.
Vickers, who is training for the Power of Four trail race in three weeks, said her training is limited with family and work responsibilities.
“I don’t have a lot of time to train. I do a lot of stroller runs,” she said.
Similarly, the men’s winner said he has difficulty finding adequate time for training.
And the early pace Saturday morning was daunting, he said.
“It was brutal. The pace went out quick, I thought,” said Loomis, who transitioned to running from cross country skiing after he graduated from medical school.
He and a group of five ran together early, “for the first seven miles or so,” he said.
After an individual break, Loomis pulled back near the lead.
Then, on the bike path heading to Buttermilk, “I just kept it steady, and the next thing I knew, I was by myself,” Loomis said.
But, he said, he was tiring and he knew he had to keep a steady pace to perhaps make the podium.
“I was not feeling strong at that point,” he said.
Once he worked around the Marolt Open Space and started back into Aspen, Loomis said he braced himself for Little Cloud.
“I knew I was going to have to walk that last part,” Loomis, 43, said. “I had nothing left, and that’s a tough section right at the end.”
The former Williams College cross country ski racer lived in Park City, Utah, for a number of years while he skied on the U.S. Ski Team.
While Loomis cruised solo across the finish line, runner-up Moth had to sprint to edge the charging Taam.
“It was a gorgeous course,” said Moth. “I’ve done a number of trail runs and this one was by far my favorite.”
He said the early leaders saw a bear and a cub on the first climb up Smuggler early Saturday morning.
“That was awesome. And then running through the aspens … I loved it,” said Moth, who works for a satellite imaging firm in Longmont.
He said he and his wife and infant turned the Aspen Backcountry Marathon into a bit of a family vacation. They arrived Wednesday in preparation for the Saturday race.
Moth said it was a special trip for his family because his mother (Laura Vroom Moth) grew up in Aspen and Woody Creek.
“She’s proud that I’m here running in her old stomping grounds,” Moth said.
The Aspen Backcountry Marathon, sponsored by Marmot and organized by Aspen Parks and Recreation, will make a change for 2016, officials said.
The race will be moved to August. And it will be staged entirely in the Smuggler/Hunter Creek/Sunnyside area.
Results of Saturday’s marathon will be available at aspenbackcountrymarathon.com.
When asked if he is receiving any insider information on the terrain, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — the boyfriend of Edwards’ own Mikaela Shiffrin — chuckled and replied, “You probably think so, but I actually I don’t.”