Aspen’s John Gaston again breaks Summit for Life course record |

Aspen’s John Gaston again breaks Summit for Life course record

Summit for Life 2017.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

John Gaston was sure glad he brought a headlamp.

Unlike past years where the Summit for Life uphill race on Aspen Mountain had two waves — one for recreational racers and one for the competitive athletes — Saturday’s 12th annual event included one mass start. This meant Gaston couldn’t follow in the footsteps of the hundreds of recreational competitors in front of him, and instead had to pave his own way.

“You just had to trust your legs and hope the pace was good,” Gaston said. “This was more of a mind game. It was pitch dark; there were no tracks to follow. It was pretty tough to stay in the right part.”

Considering this, Gaston certainly wasn’t trying to break his own course record, set last winter when he completed the more than 3,000 vertical feet in 42 minutes, 53 seconds. But Gaston, who competes on the World Cup level for the U.S. Ski Mountaineering team, tends to break records anyway.

Not surprisingly, the Strafe Outerwear co-founder completed Saturday’s race in 41:49.6, topping his old record by more than a minute. He was more than six minutes ahead of second-place finisher Max Taam, one of Gaston’s good friends and fellow skimo extraordinaire. Taam came across the finish in 47:59.7. Greg Strokes was third in 51:41.7.

“I didn’t look at my watch the whole time,” Gaston admitted. “I was trying not to make that a priority, because I was happy and still am happy with last year’s course record.”

The Summit for Life is put on by the Chris Klug Foundation and raises money for organ and tissue awareness. Gaston said he had this in the back of his mind during his ascent.

“It’s fun and it’s a great cause. It’s one of those races where it’s really not about the racing,” Gaston said. “What we do, it may hurt for a short period of time, but it’s not real pain. It’s not real suffering. It’s nice to have that as a reminder.”

Aspen’s Jessica Phillips was the top woman across the finish line, taking 10th overall in 57:34.2. Megan Bourke was second (1 hour, 2 minutes, 12.6 seconds) and Rachel Beck third (1:02:39.9).

The top team was naturally Strafe — made up of Gaston, Taam and Jessie Young — followed by AMC Uphealers and Team Tallala.

For complete results, click here.

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