Whether they won or merely finished, about 100 athletes competing in Saturday's Dirty Duathlon race agreed: Ute Valley Park
on Colorado Springs' west side is a great place to run and ride.
"It was a great race and a good morning to run," said first-place solo finisher Fernando Riveros Paez, a Colombia native who rode on his country's mountain biking team before moving to Colorado Springs and joining Bandwagon Racing. He finished in 1 hour, 11 minutes and 51 seconds.
The race sandwiched a 9-mile run between 3-mile runs on a twisting, hilly course along the park's trails and ended with a sprint finish on the Eagleview Middle School track. Experienced and novice athletes of all ages competed
solo or with partners in what everyone called "perfect running weather" - a morning when temperatures hovered in the mid- to upper-30s.
Tracy Thelen, of Colorado Springs, a regular on the podium at mountain bike and XTERRA trail races, had a commanding lead as the first-place solo woman athlete. "It was fun. I enjoyed the ride and the run," she said, looking like she needed another few miles before she'd break a sweat.
The rocky course surprised some runners, who said they weren't expecting its hills. "They managed to pick the only part of Ute Valley that I haven't run before!" a neighborhood runner said, trying to catch her breath.
"That first mile was tough, with a lot of climbing. But these are great trails, they're fun to run," said Quin Ralston, a 2012 Coronado High School grad now running for Adams State. He and his dad, Howard, placed first among the teams.
He admitted a familiarity with the trails of his local park. "I ran here nearly every day in high school," Ralston said. It helps that his did spends a fair amount of time in the saddle - "about 100 miles a week" - he added.
"It was a really good course. It was challenging without being so technical you couldn't keep up a good pace running and riding," said Michael Hagen, of Colorado Springs, who did his best to run down Riveros Paez, who dominated the pack on the bike. "It definitely rewarded you for your technical riding skills."
Hagen said he started mountain biking a few years ago and said the race was a fun way to test his skills. "I picked what I thought was the fastest line downhill and (Fernando) flew by me. Literally, he jumped off some rocks and flew right by me. Amazing."
While most of the teams paired a runner with a cyclist, Carolye and Greg Tumbush split the race in two, with Greg running the first 3 miles and riding the first 4.5-mile lap and Carolye bringing it home.
"It was fun, if a bit masochistic," said Carolye Tumbush, with a laugh, hugging son Lucca after she crossed the finish line. The Tumbushes competed as the "Rockrimmon Waldos," sporting the "Where's Waldo?" costumes they picked
up at the Waldo Waldo fundraising 5K a few weeks ago.
Will the race, sponsored by Cafe Velo in north Colorado Springs, return next fall?
Kieron Brunner, 13, who runs for Eagleview Middle School, said he sure hopes so, and he plans to spend the next year improving his times. "It's a great place to run," he said of the park. "I definitely want to do this again."