For the second straight year, a pair of runners from Ashland and Bend may win the grueling six-day, 113-mile TransRockies stage race in Colorado.
Hal Koerner — owner of the Rogue Valley Runners store in Ashland — and Andy Martin of Bend are competing as "Team Nike/Rogue Valley Runners." They were in second place in the Men's Open division following the fourth stage Wednesday.
Koerner, 33, is a nationally-ranked ultramarathoner who won the prestigious 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in June.
Martin, 34, is a marathoner who competed in the Olympic Trials last year. The pair's main competition, and current leader, is a team from Flagstaff, Ariz., who had an overall lead of 16 minutes and 16 seconds after four stages.
Running on trails and Forest Service roads that at times exceed two miles in elevation, approximately 300 runners hope to win a share of the $25,000 in prize money when the final stage ends tomorrow.
Like the Tour de France bicycle race, the winning team of runners is determined by the combined time of all six stages rather than the finishing order in any stage. A team's time is counted only after both runners cross the finish line, so team members almost always run together.
Last year the TransRockies race was won by Ashland's Erik Skaggs — course record holder of the 50-kilometer Siskiyou Out Back race at Mount Ashland — and Bend's Max King, course record holder for Medford's Pear Blossom run.
This year Southern Oregon has three runners in the TransRockies race.
Darcy Kleiman of Talent and Amy Nagle of Ashland are competing as "Team Hot Chicks" in the Women's Open division. They were in ninth place after the third stage. Kleiman works at Rogue Valley Runners with Koerner.
Can Koerner and Martin make up the 16:16 lead in the final two stages?
Strategy and experience are the keys to this end game. Making sure you have more miles left in your legs than remain in the race is the big unknown.
Koerner has completed 20 100-mile races and Martin, more than 20 marathons, including eight in six months last year.
Along the way, they've learned something about pacing themselves.
To follow the TransRockies race online, visit www.transrockies.com.
Daniel Newberry is a runner and freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.