Column: Extraordinary mountain feats by Ricky Gates, Megan Lund-Lizotte
The Aspen Times
The volunteer race worker pulled finish tags and offered words of encouragement as the high school runners completed their 3-mile race at Crown Mountain Park.
“Good job, girls.”
“Way to go.”
“Great way to start the day.”
The teenagers, some close to blowing breakfast on the spot, nodded in pained appreciation.
They had no idea that the woman who collected their race tags is one of the best mountain trail runners in the world — a runner who would post an extraordinary “record” in the Elk Mountains just a few days later.
Megan Lund-Lizotte, who grew up running in Basalt in a Basalt running family, helped out at the annual Longhorn Stampede, a prep cross country meet organized by her dad, Basalt coach Ron Lund. She used to run in the prep stampede.
Now a fully sponsored professional runner, Lund-Lizotte had returned from her new home in La Jolla, California, with a running target in her native Colorado Rockies.
Her “race” was a bit more than the 3 miles of flat trails around Crown Mountain Park.
Lund-Lizotte, rather, ran the famed 26.8 miles of the Four Pass Loop through the Elk Mountains and the Snowmass Wilderness.
She wasn’t in a race but instead was running for a mark known as an FKT — fastest known time.
It’s an increasingly popular measure of backcountry running and power hiking.
And Lund-Lizotte did more than run through the thin air of West Maroon Pass, Frigid Air Pass, Trail Rider Pass and Buckskin Pass. She put the “record” up in thin air.
She completed the four-pass odyssey in 6 hours, 2 minutes, 35 seconds, knocking 27 minutes off the previous mark set by Sandi Nypaver.
Lund-Lizotte, for her part, was even more excited about the backcountry running of another former valley prep runner — Rickey Gates.
On the same morning she broke the FKT for the Four Pass Loop, Aspen High School grad Gates set an extraordinary FKT mark of his own.
He set a standard for traversing all seven of the fourteeners in the Elk Mountains. Gates completed that odyssey in 27 hours. Yes, 27 hours.
Previously, mountaineer extraordinaire Neal Beidleman of Aspen had set the mark at 36-plus hours with Jeff Hollenbaugh back in 1996, or so legend goes.
“I thought this … was cool,” Lund-Lizotte said. “Rickey and I both grew up here, had standout prep careers in the valley and have now both moved on to fashioning our careers through running.”
Lund-Lizotte is a well-known running coach with clients across the country.
Gates has developed a business with trail-running trips for runners. He’s leading an Aspen-to-Vail, six-day backcountry trip this week.
“While neither of us are full-time valley residents, we make big efforts to stay connected to the community,” Lund-Lizotte said. “I also think it’s pretty cool that both Rickey and I snagged these high-altitude records while he home-bases in Wisconsin … and I live at a whopping 6 feet above sea level.”
Good job. Way to go.
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The canceled 2020 race would have been the fourth running of the Colorado Classic, which each year has included stages in Colorado’s mountain towns before finishing with a final stage in the heart of downtown Denver. Snowmass had been scheduled to host a stage last summer for the first time.