Sometimes a big engine is a big engine regardless of the sport. Two weekends ago on Sept. 18, U.S. Ski Team (USST) veteran and two-time defending XTERRA Trail Run national champion, Liz Stephen, who lives and trains in Park City, Utah, made it a three-peat.
The 13-mile course was laid out on Snowbasin Resort outside of Ogden, Utah. A trail-running race suited to those accustomed to thick sea-level air it was not. With a beginning elevation of 6,133 feet and topping out at 7,300 feet coupled with a total gain of approximately 2,200 feet over 21 kilometers, the course suited Stephen’s climbing efficiency.
The fastest time on the day was male runner Patrick Smyth from Santa Fe, N.M., in a time of 1:14:48. Stephen was the 10th overall finisher — and the first women — in a time of 1:31:08. Despite being 2 1/2 minutes off her time last year, Stephen finished a whopping 8:17 minutes ahead of the second-place women, Amber Schultz (1:39:25), of Ogden. Stephen’s USST teammate and fellow Park City resident, Noah Hoffman, placed seventh overall and third in his 25-29 age group in 1:24:06.
Having recently returned from a three week on-snow training camp in New Zealand, Stephen illustrated once again that when it’s up, up, up, she’s ready to go.
Stephen told the Park Record that although she’s not training specifically for running events, a race effort is still a race effort — it keep athletes sharp.
“The [XTERRA] race was more to go out, have fun and to just remind your body [how to race],” she said. “I think it’s really important to remind your body, and actually your brain more, how to race and how it feels.”
This past Saturday, Sept. 24. Stephen proved to be unbeatable once again at the Red Bull 400, a 400-meter race straight up the K120 ski jump at Utah Olympic Park (UOP) in Park City, Utah. The race starts at 6,870 feet above sea level, making it the highest-altitude Red Bull 400 in the world.
UOP hosted the race for the first time last year, which Stephen won by seven seconds over Veronika Mayerhofer, of the University of Utah. This year, Stephen won by 44 seconds over Megan Foley with a winning time of 4:52.9. Stacey Armijo of the Philippines placed third (+56.1) and world-champion ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson placed fourth (+1:05.4).
In the men’s solo final, U.S. Nordic Combined and University of Utah skier Nick Hendrickson (Sarah’s brother) placed third (+32.2) with a time of 4:28.4.
Most of the U.S. Cross Country Team, including Stephen and Hoffman, will convene in Park City for another national-team training camp Oct. 17-31.