Boettcher and Severy shine in night race |

Boettcher and Severy shine in night race

Tim Mutrie
Competitors begin the climb up Aspen Mountain during the first-ever Storm the Stars uphill race Saturday night. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

Under crystalline skies and a shimmering half moon, all manner of uphillers – skiers, snowshoers, runners and hikers – marched up Aspen Mountain in the first Storm the Stars race Saturday night.Silt’s Bernie Boettcher, the defending America’s Uphill champion on the same course, was the fastest man to reach the 11,212-foot summit of Ajax. Boettcher, 42, who also won a 10K snowshoe race in Eagle Vail Saturday morning, took the lead on Little Nell and, with headlamp switched off, ascended much of the mountain in darkness to win in 47 minutes, 9 seconds.Nick Wierzba was second (49:37) and Aspen’s Julian Underwood was third (50:05).Aspen runner Robin Severy, 25, won the women’s race in 55:58. Aspen’s Lisa Gonzales-Gile was second (57:19) and Kirsten Newhard was third. Severy’s 52-year-old mom, Betty, a former America’s Uphill course record holder, was sixth (1:03:28).

The race drew 279 competitors, substantially more than the 150 or 200 race officials had expected, including many of the familiar faces in the valley’s endurance racing community. Storm the Stars served as the first of five races in the BASH Uphill Series (for Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Highlands).”The response was overwhelming,” said Tami Solondz, event manager with the Aspen Skiing Co. “Anybody who’s anybody in racing was in the race, and I got great feedback from all the racers.”With custom-made metal treads on his shoes for traction, Boettcher said he “power-walked” most of the course, breaking into a run “where ever it got just a little bit mellow, which isn’t a lot of places.”I started out slow,” said Boettcher, a painter and artist. “I was back in like 20th place in the first 200 yards because people went out like maniacs, practically sprinting up the hill. And I’m like, ‘Oh, man, if they can hold that pace they’re better than I am.’ But everybody kind of fell off, except for [Wierzba], who ended up second.”

Wierzba, 23, originally from Michigan, has a cycling background, according to Boettcher.”I’ve never seen him before [Saturday night], but he said he hardly ever runs. And he did really well for somebody who never runs. He could really be good if he worked at it,” said Boettcher.For Boettcher, Storm the Stars marked his 48th race this year (and 102nd race in the last two years) and his 28th victory.”So it’s been good,” he said. “It’s fun to see what is possible. And that’s one of the things I’ve been trying to do, to see what you can do. Everything you read tells you what you can’t do, but maybe you can.

“Actually, [Saturday] night I was pretty tired going in and just really happy to end up on top. It was a thrill to do a double, with a victory in both races.”Race officials gave away headlamps in registration goodie bags, but not all racers switched on their lights during the race.”It was really pretty out there; turned out to be a perfect night,” said Boettcher. “With the half moon, you could pretty much see the whole hill without a headlamp. I only turned mine on for maybe a total of 10 seconds, except when I got toward the finish so people knew I was coming. And a lot of people were doing it as strategy – they didn’t want the person behind them to see how they were running because people were pacing off the headlamps.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is