Morgan Murri, a Pagosa Springs resident and founder of GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors), was the overall amateur winner at the Vail Mountain Games — the Ultimate Mountain Challenge.
According to the Mountain Games website, the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, “Is a test of athletic skill, power and endurance where athletes will push through some of the most demanding races at the Summer Mountain Games.”
Located in Vail, the Ultimate Mountain Challenge transforms the valley into a huge festival dedicated to fitness, endurance and athletic skill. The challenge consists of four different races: the 10K Spring Runoff, the X-Country Mountain Bike, the Road Bike Time Trial and the Class III Down River Sprint. Athletes compete in each of the four races over a two-day period, and after combining the individual times for each race, a winner is determined.
The challenge began with the Down River Sprint. This event consists of a four-mile, Class II-III paddle where kayakers are dropped in at timed intervals. Each kayaker races the clock to achieve the best time. Murri placed 10th out of 16 in this challenge, with a time of 22 minutes, 18.4 seconds, and the leader ahead by 3:35.2.
The second challenge on the same day included the X-Country Mountain Bike challenge. In this event, athletes race up Vail Mountain, climbing close to 2,500 feet in altitude, testing their endurance. Murri finished first, with a time of 1:08.44.6.
By the end of the day, Murri had jumped from 10th to third place with a combined time from race one and race two of 1:31.03, only 45.7 seconds behind the leader.
The next day began with the 10K Springs Runoff, a seven-mile trail run, with runners competing against each other at almost 9,000 feet altitude. This race is similar to the X-Country Mountain Bike Challenge in that runners race up and down, changing elevation of almost 2,000 feet. Murri placed fifth in this race with a time of 1:01.19.5.
Shortly after finishing the 10K, runners prepared for the final competition, the Road Bike Time Trial. With only a 90-minute rest between the 10K and the Time Trial, Murri placed first in the event with a time of 34 minutes.
After combining the times for all four races, Murri placed first out of 16 in the amateur division with a total net time of 3:06.22.5. The second place finisher followed closely, 23 seconds behind Murri, with third place finishing at 46.5.
“I feel like I did excellent. It’s a very cool race,” Murri said.
According to Murri, the Epic Mountain Challenge (EPIC) sponsored by GECKO is modelled after the Ultimate Mountain Challenge. EPIC is also a two-day, four-stage competition, combining both cross country and time trial mountain biking, as well as trail and road running. This competition takes place Oct. 5-6.
When asked if he would race again in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, Murri said, “Probably. It’s hard to go back to things that you have won, but I really like it. The whole Mountain Game concept in general is something that we want to emulate here in Pagosa Springs, so to go back is to learn about how to put something like that together.”