Glenwood Springs runner’s life on upward track
VAIL, Colorado – Sarah Shepard logs plenty of uphill training miles. She’d just never competed in an uphill foot race before.Before Sunday’s Vail HillClimb, anyway. After besting the women’s field in the 7.5-mile jaunt to the summit of Vail Mountain, uphill running is something Shepard plans on further integrating into her road-race heavy competition schedule.”I’d like to do a few more,” said the 2002 Glenwood Springs High School graduate, who after Sunday’s race was urged by a Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team representative to participate in the July 20 Berry Picker Hill Climb in Vail. The race is a qualifier for the prestigious trail running squad.
But Shepard won’t be around come mid-July. She’ll be in the midst of a six-week volunteer mission in Africa.”I’m going with the Salmen family to build schools in Tanzania,” she said. “The next month, I’ll be in Nakuru (Kenya) working at a hospital. I’m hoping to work in the infectious disease area – in HIV awareness, treatment.”Don’t think Shepard, who currently has applications out to medical schools, will curb her training entirely while abroad.”I had a teammate in college from Kenya that’s giving me some numbers,” said Shepard, who ran cross country and track at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “I’m hoping to continue training. I might have to tone it down a little bit, but a little rest is a good thing for runners. When I come back, I’ll step it up.”The HillClimb served as one last shot at competition before her temporary continent shift. And she got her money’s worth, polishing off the course in 56 minutes and 52 seconds.After feeling out the field to start the race, Shepard charged ahead and never looked back.”A few of the girls went out pretty fast that first mile and a half,” she said. “I was a little nervous and just kind of watched. After I passed them about a mile into it, I ran away with it. I had never done a race like that.”
Shepard, who swept the Strawberry Shortcut 5- and 10-kilometer races in Glenwood back on June 22, met quite the uphill initiation, contending with a 2,123-foot elevation gain that topped out at 10,336 feet.”It was kind of strange because I’m used to road racing, where you’re running hard, your legs are turning over and you’re breathing hard,” she explained. “Running uphill – we started at like 8,000 feet and got up to 10,000 – it’s almost like swimming in water. You’re breathing hard, trying to get your legs to turn over, but on that grade your legs only go so fast.”Shepard somehow mustered the energy to turn her legs over fast enough to finish 1:39 ahead of runner-up Helen Cospolich (58:31) and well ahead of third-place finisher Aurora Leon (1:00:51).So what awaits Shepard upon her return from Africa? Heavy training for the January U.S. Women’s Half Marathon Championships and perhaps a little more mountain racing. “The biggest thing is the women’s half marathon championships,” she said. “That’s the main one I’m training for. If mountain racing works out, I’ll try to do some of those.”
Though she’s missing this year’s qualifying race, Shepard wouldn’t mind shooting for the U.S. Mountain Running Team next year. “It’s probably more of a 2009 thing,” she said. “I’ll try to do some late races when I get back. I’m pretty excited about that. I’d never even thought about it before.”Boettcher sixth, Wertheim ninth in men’s fieldSilt’s Bernie Boettcher and Glenwood’s Charlie Wertheim each finished near the top of the men’s standings at the HillClimb.Finishing sixth overall, Boettcher clocked in at 52:11. That time proved good for second in the men’s 40-49 age division. Placing third in the same division and ninth overall was Wertheim, who completed the punishing course in 54:13.
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