Isaiah Branch-Boyle/Durango Herald
By Saturday afternoon, 58-year-old Loren Lew had pounded almost 450 miles up and down Kendall Mountain.
The Silverton resident ran the 35th annual Kendall Mountain Run on a crisp Saturday morning, finishing the 13.1-mile run that includes more than 3,700 feet of elevation gain to the peak and back on the 13,068-foot mountain.
It was his 34th race in 35 years.
“It never changes. It always feels the same at the finish: relief,” said Lew, chest heaving. “It’s a good tired.”
“When you’re up there, it’s just so fantastic. The best part is you get to the top, and man, it’s exhilarating.”
Lew finished in 3 hours, 2 minutes and 33 seconds, a little more than an hour behind men’s winner Logan Ott, a Fort Lewis College and Mancos High School alumnus, who finished in 1:52.26.
Ott said he managed the entire race without walking, except for the few-hundred-foot scramble at the top of the peak, and that gave him the edge.
“I was running so slow, it was almost like walking,” Ott said.
“It’s a good challenge, and it’s good for street cred.”
Ott didn’t grab the lead until the trip back down the trail, overtaking third-place Travis Laverty, who was first to the top, on the decent.
Andy Wellman, who left his Crestone-based outdoor guide book business, Greener Grass Publishing, for the weekend just for the race, took second, also making his move on the downhill and aided by thick-soled shoes that provide an “insane amount of cushioning” on the steep path down.
With almost no gas left in the tank, he said he caught Laverty at the very bottom of the mountain and didn’t think he could close the gap.
“I came around the corner, and I was like ‘Oh no,’” said Wellman, who added he considered settling for third before deciding he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself if he didn’t try.
The effort paid off for a “fun” finish in 1:57.40.
Not according to Laverty.
“It’s miserable,” said Laverty, a regular Kendall Mountain runner.
Asked why he runs it, the Durango runner was blunt: “I don’t know,” he said after his 1:58.25 finish.
The top women’s finisher, Abby Herman of Ophir, embraced the pain, though. Her love of the uphill led her to a 2:14.45 finish.
“I like that focus – and the pain,” Herman said. “It takes you away.”
A little more than five minutes behind her, sweat-drenched Silverton resident Ivy Lefebvre seconded that strategy and said it’s the “epic and challenging” nature of the race that makes her ask herself why she does it and keeps her coming back for more. Saturday was her third Kendall Mountain run.
Her son Blaze Lefebvre-Braford, 11, who helped cook hamburgers and hotdogs for the racers, seemed less thrilled with his mom’s sweaty 2:20.06 finish.
“I’ll give her a hug later. She’s gross!” Blaze said with a yelp as his mom trudged across the finish.
“It feels like she just took a shower,” he said with a grin.
Third-place woman Sarah Slaughter of Durango, who finished in 2:22.32, said Lefebvre blew past her on the downhill to take the second spot.
“She was rolling,” Slaughter said.
Nevertheless, Slaughter said rains the night before and cool morning weather made the trail “nice and sticky” for a “hard but beautiful run.”
“I always dread it, but then I come back,” said Slaughter, who’s run the race about 10 times.
But if the Kendall Mountain Run racers thought 2˝ hours on the trail were tough, they should’ve stuck around to watch the nine who were on it for 5˝ – who went up and down the mountain twice.
Cody Braford, Lefebvre’s husband, won the Kendall Mountain Marathon in 5:04.58 after 26.2 miles. It was his first time turning around at the finish for a second go, and he did it for “the intensity, just finding out if you can do it.”
With a few bleeding scrapes that came along with a fall at the summit, Braford said the thought that got him through the finish twice was ... no thought at all.
“No thought whatsoever,” Braford said. “Forget thinking about thinking. One foot in front of the other.”
Eric Schmidgall finished second in 5:26.32, and Caitlin Prescott of Durango was the first woman and third overall marathon finisher in 5:43.10.
For her, it was all about the scenery looming high above Silverton.
“The second you’re hurting, you just look up, and you feel better,” Prescott said.