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Big climbs and big smiles at GECKO’s ‘8 Hours of Wolf Creek’

By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The SUN

The San Juan Mountains put on a summer show for GECKO’s inaugural “8 Hours of Wolf Creek” on Saturday with a beautiful sunny day. For those competitors who challenged themselves to either eight hours of mountain biking or trail running on the 4.5-mile loop, there was also a fresh breeze that kept them going. Except for five participants, who braved the end of their final lap in a light hail storm at about 3:30 p.m., everyone else was in to the ski lodge by the time the weather turned.

The ski lodge deck was a base camp for the athletes, with a brats and burgers barbecue, refreshments and cheesy garlic knots that were delivered up the mountain pass to ensure that the competitors had freshly baked goods to keep them going.

Two GECKO scholars, Heidi Williams (just back from her outdoor trip) and Jessey Hampton (who attends her trip in November), were there to volunteer. As the event was “pay what you want for what you did,” many participants came to finish one or two laps during the eight hours, and many hiked the course, enjoying the stretch of famous Continental Divide Trail and meeting other hikers along the way. Spectacular views from the top made the 1,000 feet of climbing in 1 mile worth every step, but it wasn’t for the faint-hearted. Most of the runners and even bikers found themselves slogging slowly up some of the steeper climbs. The course lap records were both set by GECKO, with Morgan Murri competing a lap of the bike in 32 minutes and Mike Le Roux a lap of the run in 42 minutes.

Overall 8 hours winners

Karen and Bill Scherzinger — mountain bike team winners.

Kevin Weiser, Pagosa Springs — mountain bike male.

Jennifer Martin, Pagosa Springs — mountain bike female.

Dean Bettis, Durango — trail run male.

Randi Young, South Fork — trail run female.

“The event was definitely not a financial success for GECKO and I don’t think we’ll try the ‘pay as you can’ idea again, although it was an interesting social experiment. However, what was a success was the course, the venue, the vibe and the day. It is 100 percent on the calendar for next year and we hope to have a lot more attendance from athletes training for high altitude events later in the year in Leadville and such. It’s really the perfect training ground and format for those races. We just need to get the word out there,” said Mike Le Roux, race director for GECKO events.

GECKO’s next events are the XTERRA Pagosa Springs off-road triathlon and the PLOW (Pagosa Lakes Open Water Swim Challenge) on Aug. 2 and 3, respectively. Registrations are open online at www.joingecko.org. Questions can be referred to race director Mike Le Roux at 398-0612 or info@joingecko.org.

This story was posted on July 24, 2014.