MONTROSE – The Black Canyon Ascent, which held its 36th annual fundraising race on Saturday, had a record number of participants, thanks to the help of some friends.
The race benefits the Montrose Community Foundation, said Race Director Scott Shine, and their help plus the help of the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism brought in more participants.
“Montrose ACT, our title sponsor, contributed a lot financially and also in marketing to help attract people from the Front Range and outside our immediate area,” Shine said.
Last year, 140 people ran the six mile race, he said, but this year participation was up to 240 entrants. Most years in the past saw average participation of about 80 or 90, he said.
“In two years we’re tripled the number [of entrants], and brought in a lot more folks from outside the area,” Shine said.
Bringing in more outsiders means more people staying in local hotels and eating in local restaurants, he said, and having several events on one weekend helped attendance.
“We worked closely with the Wine and Food Festival and the Mission to Ride bike ride and marketed all three,” he said. “We had quite a few runners who went to the Farmers Market and the wine festival after the race.”
Shine said that 217 runners finished the race, and Rickey Gates took the best time for men at 41:56. The winner of the women’s division was Brandy Erholtz, with a time of 47:59. Top finishers in the male division were Simon Gutierrez, 42:48; Marty Wacker, 45:15; J. Marshall Thomson, 46:06 and Scott Drum, 47:32. Other top female runners’ times went to Stevie Kremer, 49:24; Shari Marshall, 53:19, Tara Breed, 57.26; and Christie Aschwanden, 58:33.
For the first time, runners’ times were more exact, Shine said, thanks to digital chips installed by Hallucination Sports of Denver.
“When people registered, they got assigned a little chip, and they attached it to their shoe,” he said.
As runners started the race, they crossed a special mat that read the chip and started the clock for their individual times, he said. They then crossed another mat at the end of the race and their results went into a computer.
“These were real time results and it went real smooth, with real reliable results,” Shine said.
This year the race offered a $200 bonus to anyone who set a new course record. That didn’t happen, which Shine said was a testimony to the difficulty of the course. The men’s record of 40:08 was set in 2008 by Simon Gutierrez and the women’s course record is held by this year’s winner Brandy Erholtz, with a previous course record of 45:06 in 2009.
“We drew some pretty competitive sponsored runners from outside the area, and they came and tried to break it,” Shine said of the course records. “That showed that it’s a stout course record, and it’ll be fun to continue that and the cash prize.”
The race finished at the campground of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where runners and their families enjoyed food and drinks and live music by the Ruby Ridge Ramblers.
“We had almost 300 people with family and friends milling around and having a good time,” Shine said. “After we finished, we had the awards ceremony for the winners and then a raffle for stuff provided by sponsors.”
Besides Montrose ACT, other sponsors included the Delta Montrose Electric Association, Polystrand, Western Slope Orthopedics, Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers, Montrose Bank, CLIF Bar, Coffee Trader, Anytime Fitness, RnR Sports Bar, Sports Authority, Newton Running, Hearthstone House, Days Inn, Montrose Wine and Food Festival, Salomon, and New Balance, Shine said.
“We’d like to thank all of our sponsors for helping us put on a bigger, better Ascent than ever before, and we are very excited to contribute the race proceeds to support the work of the Montrose Community Foundation,” he said.
By early this week, Shine had already gotten feedback from runners, including an email from Rob Rogers of Montrose.
“Being an old guy, I’ve done more than a few running events, and I must say this was one of the best run events I’ve had the pleasure to participate in,” Rogers wrote. “I’ll be back next year.”