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"Like we did at Across the Years, we will once again be building a track specifically
for this event. The nice [thing] about this track is that 90% of the trail is on
existing roads and pathways. All that we will have to do is add some rubble to the
pathways and add one switchback at one juncture to get our exact one-mile distance.
In addition to this, we will be adding some benches, nature signs, and
historical markers along the way . . ."
~ from the course description page of the 1st Annual Silverton Challenge

A new challenge for trail runners?

You betcha! Rodger Wrublik has been brain-storming again. This time he's building a trail loop on Kendall Mountain in Silverton and is inviting folks to come run/hike on it in his inaugural race at the end of summer.

A view of Silverton from Rodger's loop on Kendall Mountain

If you're ever had the pleasure to run on his near-perfect track at Nardini Manor near Phoenix, AZ -- a very smooth, almost flat crushed granite surface at about 900 feet in elevation -- um, don't expect him to build a duplicate on a mountain at 9,300 feet in Silverton, CO!

The key word here is "challenge." Not only is this event at high altitude, it's got significant elevation gain and loss.

In all the times we've been to Silverton -- seven separate times, to be exact; two were not for the Hardrock race -- we've never run, walked, or driven up the rocky dirt road on Kendall Mountain, which dominates the view southeast of town across the Animas River, until this visit.

Kendall Mountain and Peak, as seen from Silverton's city park on July 4

The mountain is popular in the winter as a ski resort and in the summer as a place to drive a 4WD vehicle or ride a mountain bike. But we hadn't heard any friends talking about running or hiking there except Rodger, who uses it for training, so we never explored it until recently.

What prompted us is Rodger's newest ultra. Jim wanted to see the terrain to determine if he'd be interested in running it. I was curious, so I ventured into new territory, too.


Rodger Wrublik, formerly the race director for the popular Across the Years (ATY) 72-, 48-, and 24-hour races in the Phoenix area and now a year-round resident of Silverton, is trying hard to entice  more ultra runners to visit this small mountain community.

Rodger and his family have made Silverton their primary residence and place of business (they own the historic Wyman Hotel) so they have a vested interest in keeping the town economically stable during the recession and beyond.

People gather outside the Wyman before the 4th of July parade

With the assistance of two or three of the Coury brothers (Jamil, Nick, Nate), Rodger is literally blazing some trail on Kendall Mountain to use for a new ultra-distance footrace at the end of this summer.

Rodger and the Courys are figuratively blazing other trails, too -- not only are all of them pretty fast ultra runners, they're also been cooperatively developing several new ultras in Arizona and Colorado during the past couple of years. Check out the Aravaipa Running website that lists the Arizona races (note that ATY has been reprised at Rodger's Nardini Manor this year, with the Courys directing it) and the Silverton Special Events website for the races Rodger directs (or helps with, in the case of Hardrock).

Scenic view of the start/finish of Rodger's new ultra challenge: big tent and ski lodge

The popularity of ultra-distance trail running has exploded in recent years through word of mouth by enthusiastic participants, increased publicity in the mainstream media, and widely-read books like those authored by Dean Karnazes and Christopher McDougal. Despite -- or maybe because of -- this country's economic recession, an increasing number of people want to run ultras.

People like Rodger and the Coury brothers are doggone smart to catch this wave and ride on it for as long as possible.

There aren't many fixed-time races at this altitude or with these views!

A good way for race directors to supply this demand is to capitalize on something unique in each event -- the location, the distance, the format, etc. By scanning the list of events on those two websites you can see they're doing just that. Ultra runners in Colorado and Arizona are lucky to have so many new events in their back yards.


Take the event in which Jim is interested, for example. It's called the Silverton 1000-Mile Challenge.

That's not 100, it's 1,000.

A thousand miles?? Are you serious??!!  you ask.

Yep. It's right there on the computer screen and Rodger will verify it in person, if you ask him. One thousand miles on a hilly, one-mile dirt trail and road -- at an altitude of 9,300 to 9,550 feet, to boot. Each one-mile loop has about a 250-foot gain and loss.

Now multiply that by 1,000!

You have to admit this is a great attention-getter. It will be interesting to see if anyone actually signs up to do this race (so far, no takers).

Each race loop will start up this slope.

Same slope, looking down (Challenge runners will go up from tent, not down)

The reason for the distance and the manner in which it has to be run is a good read, even if you think that running/walking a thousand miles in one race is nuts -- or impossible.

It might be insane but it's not impossible.

Rodger is modeling the format on the historic feat of Robert Barclay Alladyce AKA "Captain Barclay" in Newmarket, England in 1809 when he won a lucrative wager by walking one mile each hour for 1,000 consecutive hours (that's 41 days and 16 hours, folks!).

You can read more about Barclay and other great "pedestrians" of the 18th and 19th centuries if you do a web search. Run the Planet and Multidays.com have good descriptions. These events drew thousands of people, with considerable sums of money wagered (and won by the contestants).

Runners will continue up this service road (above) to a ski lift (below).

The hardest part of this challenge will be staying awake, not completing the distance. Heck, runners in the Sri Chinmoy races annually compete in events of up to 3,100 miles! They get to sleep a lot more, though. Participants in Rodger's challenge must complete at least one mile every hour or they will be disqualified. Assuming an average 20-minute pace per mile, the longest period of sleep at any one time -- for almost 42 days! -- will be an hour and twenty minutes.

But, hey! The cost is a mere $375 to enter and if you win, you'll get a $5,000 award and the admiration of your peers -- not quite the equivalent of the prize money that Capt. Barclay won in 1809, but not chump change, either.


If you're thinking that Jim has completely lost his marbles for even considering entering the 1,000-mile challenge, don't worry. He's not even interested in doing another 48-hour event, let alone one that lasts nearly 42 days.

Fortunately, Rodger is pragmatic enough to also offer 24-, 48-, and 72-hour and six-day runs in the event. Jim is considering the 24-hour race.

Another view of Silverton on the climb to the ski lifts; the race tent looks tiny from up here!

The six-day race begins on August 31, the 72-hour on September 3, the 48-hour on September 4, and the 24-hour on September 5. These races all end on Labor Day, which is Monday, September 6.

Entry fees for all the races are separate from goody bag fees (that was successful at the last ATY held in late 2008) and range from a mere $75 for the 24-hour race to $375 for the six-day event. These are reasonable prices for what you'll receive. Rodger is very good at conducting races and takes good care of the runners.

I believe this is the only six-day race available in the USA currently, so that should draw some multi-day contestants who miss the old six-day events like the one that was held for several years at Gibson Ranch in California. 

This is the Animas River.  Kendall Mtn. is to the left.  Runners will use the lower part
 of the dirt road coming down the mountain at the end of their one-mile loop.

Jim's plans for races the rest of the summer are still tentative. He's running the new North Fork 50-miler this coming Saturday but hasn't decided on anything longer this fall. He's considering this 24-hour race as well as The Bear 100 but wants to wait and see how he does at North Fork before deciding on either of those.

And that's why we found ourselves hiking/running on Kendall Mountain several times in the last three weeks.

The photos in the sections above are from the area Rodger plans to use in the Labor Day races. He knows where he wants to build the switchback to connect a ski run with a road but hasn't built it yet. He also promises the service roads we walked up will be smoother than they currently are.


Rodger has recently purchased and erected a 60 x 70-foot tent at the base of Kendall Mountain near the ski lodge to use as the start/finish for the Challenge races. It's similar to the one he has at Nardini Manor for ATY. It will be heated for six nights and runners may "camp out" in it during the multi-day events. In this race, they will even run through the tent each lap.

Rodger purchased the tent in time to use for Hardrock. The school board notified the race committee that the gym would be under renovation in July and they'd need to find an alternate location for all the HRH functions. The renovation was delayed, however, and Hardrock was able to use the gym all weekend, just as it has for many years.

So is Rodger's big white tent a white elephant? Nope. It's not going to waste. Rodger and others in town are finding some good ways to use it besides the Challenge races.

Jim heads down the dirt road on Kendall Mtn. toward the tent and ski lodge (center of photo).

Shortly after we arrived in Silverton three weeks ago we stopped by the hotel to see Rodger. Tana directed us to the tent, where Rodger, his son Jimmie, and some other folks were busy finishing up the attractive paved stone flooring, putting up a couple of the walls, and setting up folding chairs. They were preparing it for a Marine Corps Band concert that evening, free to the public.

I imagine townsfolk will find many uses for the tent.


In addition to the service roads and ski runs, there is a 4WD road about five miles in length that goes up to the top of both Kendall Mountain (elev. 13,066 feet) and Kendall Peak (elev. 13,451 feet). An offshoot heads southeast from Kendall Gulch to Deer Park Creek and connects to trails that go up to Arrastra Basin. The Hardrock course looks down on this basin but is located on the other side of Kendall Mountain.

The farthest we've gone up the road is about two miles. Neither of us made it to either of the Kendall summits because we did our runs/hikes on "easy" days and didn't want to go that far. The Challenge races use only a little bit of this dirt road near the ski lodge and big tent.

We did get up high enough to get fine views of Silverton, the Animas River, and the surrounding mountains and valleys as the road wound around the north, west, and south sides of the mountain.

Here are some of those views from the two times I ventured up the road, camera in hand. All the remaining photos are from today's hike. I hope these pictures bring back good memories to our buddy Bill Heldenbrand, who ran or walked up and down this road several times while he was in Silverton.

The road starts off fairly smooth and gradual but quickly gets more narrow, rough, and steep:


You can get a better perspective of the steepness of this section when you look back down:

As I climbed higher and higher I got increasingly-good views of the surrounding countryside:

I think that's Grand Turk in the background.

The views through gaps in the trees are more interesting than the road itself.

Good view of the mountains and Animas River valley NE of Silverton

After this I was on the west side of Kendall Mtn. and lost sight of the town for the rest of the way.

Now the views are of Sultan and Grand Turk mountains to the right, and the Animas River and railroad tracks in the valley between the road I was on and Hwy. 550 going south to Durango:


There are some steep drop-offs along Hwy. 550 just south of Silverton -- and not many guardrails.

You can see an old mine, the railroad tracks, and the river in the close-up below:

I could hear the steam train blowing its horn in Silverton both times I climbed up this road but it never chugged past while I had a good view of the tracks. In the next entry I'll show you a picture of one of the trains while it was stopped in town.

As the road got higher and switch-backed to the north, west, and south I got a nice variety of views off into the distance.

Looking south toward Molas Pass

My favorite views were to the north toward colorful Anvil Mountain after I turned around and began my descent back to Silverton:





Continuing down the road on this fine sunny day . . .



Once back on the NW side of the mountain I began seeing Silverton again:

Rodger's tent and the ski lodge are below the arrow:

I don't know how busy this road gets but it wasn't bad the two times we went up a little ways. I'd like to get all the way up to both Kendall peaks another time we're visiting the area. We both prefer to run and hike on trails, however, so I doubt we'll use this road all that much in the future.

So will Jim run Rodger's 24-hour Challenge race Labor Day weekend?

Since entry to it and the other race he's considering then, the Grand Teton 50-miler, are not likely to close out any time soon, he'll wait until after the North Fork race this weekend to make his decision.

I can guarantee you one thing: he won't be entering any of the events longer than 24 hours in Silverton! Even after living/running/hiking at 9,200 to 13,000+ feet for the last three weeks, we still aren't as well acclimated to these altitudes as we'd like to be. Each one of those races is going to be tough.

Next entry: scenes from Silverton

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil