Cheering spectators during last weekend’s third annual High Five run were uniformly impressed with the endurance and physical stamina of this year’s runners in the 100-mile event, a frequent exclamation from bystanders at the check point aid station being “that’s impressive… they’re looking great!”
Those sentiments were repeated at the town park finish line as the first three finishers — two first-place males from prior High Fives and a record-breaking first place time for a woman athlete in the race — bounded across the finish line.
Out of a total of 22 runners who began the race in pre-daylight darkness on Friday, August 13, 12 runners — four women and eight men — completed the race prior to the 48-hour cutoff at 6 a.m. Sunday, August 15.
Runners on Friday morning set off in two packs, the bulk of the runners — all first timers for the High Five — began from Lake City Park at 6 a.m. Friday; three race veterans, last year’s first woman High Five runner Leora Wallace from Gunnison, and respective 2019 and 2020 first place male finishers, Dustin Simoens and Chris Marcinek began their race from town park at 7 a.m. with a 47-hour cut-off.
In his opening remarks to first time runners at 6 a.m. Friday, August 13, High Five race coordinator Logan Rhodes spoke on the uncommon attributes of an endurance runner.
“Over the next 48 hours,” he said, “you’re about to attempt something that — for most of you — will be the hardest thing that you have ever done.”
“You’re about to bury yourself in the name of completing an arbitrary goal which most people don’t understand.”
In answer to the question “why?,” Rhodes told runners it’s “because you guys are the uncommon amongst the uncommon. In a world full of comfort and control, you seek out discomfort and uncertainty. You go to the dark places because it helps you appreciate tthe light.”
“So when you want to quit and things get wild out there, remember who you are. And how bad you want it at this moment. Remember that when you’re old and tired, you can look back on these 48 hours with pride, knowing that just like life, you went all in and never quit.”
Three veteran runners at 7 a.m. Friday… Dustin Simoens, Chris Marcinek, and Leona Wallace.
For the three veteran runners start-off at 7 on Friday morning, Rhodes also shared a succinct message, telling runners Marcinek, Simoens, and Wallace, “it’s awesome you’re heading out again… you guys are animals.”
Moments after finishing the run with a first place time of 32 hours, 16 minutes, Montrose resident Chris Marcinek reflected on the exhilaration he felt as he ascended Grizzly Gulch to 14,408’ Handies Peak. Surrounded in Lake City Park by his wife and two small children, Marcinek marveled “this has to be one of the most beautiful endurance runs anywhere.”
Marcinek’s 2021 High Five finish at 3:16 p.m. Sunday came just 32 hours and 16 minutes after he began the race on Friday morning.
Marcinek was also the first place finisher in the 100-mile race last year with a slightly faster time of 30 hours, 52 minutes. For this year’s slower finish, the Montrose runner credits warmer temperatures and a sense of exhaustion which almost lulled him to sleep as he was running the last leg of the race down Alpine Gulch.
Literally on Marcinek’s blistered heals was this year’s record-breaking first woman finisher, Whiley Hall, from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, whose winning time was 33 hours, 30 minutes after the start of the race at 6 a.m. Friday.
An experienced endurance runner who has climbed all 58 14,000’ peaks in the state, Hall crossed the finish line with her pacer, Salt Lake City runner Luke Gangi-Wellman who accompanied her step-by-step for 52 miles of the route from Grizzly Gulch to the town park finish.
Energized to the end and calmly sipping from a cocoanut in the town park, Hall says she never felt tired during the race and stayed mentally attuned plotting race route shortcuts. As an example, Hall and the two two male finishers, Chris Marcinek and Dustin Simoens — bushwacked up and out of Carson townsite to join the Colorado Trail on the Continental Divide.
Second place male finisher behind Marcinek and Hall, was repeat San Juan Solstice and High Five competitor Dustin Simoens, a 7th Grade social studies teacher from Gunnison.
Despite recovering from bicycle injuries earlier this year, Simoens’ finish time in the 100-mile run this year was almost identical to his 2019 first place finish: 32 hours, 46 minutes in this year’s High Five, and 32 hours, 51 minutes in 2019.
Simoens admits to running the entire race with wet socks, starting off with marshy areas he ran through near Crystal Lake and then a thorough feet drenching crossing Henson Creek at Capitol City. Pioneering a game trail route up from Carson also proved a somewhat soggy experience.
To save time, he opted not to take change his socks until Camp Trail check point, telling his aid station crew — Simoens’ pregnant wife, Mikaela, and mother, Geri Simoens — “I’m excited to finish this thing up.”
First place finishers Marcinek, Hall, and Simoens were three of 12 High Five winners to cross the finish line in Lake City Park extending from afternoon through night on Saturday, and on into twilight hours on Sunday morning.
The last of the runner to finish prior to the 6 a.m. cutoff was 40-year old Jared Vilhauer who crossed the finish line at 4:15 a.m. Sunday after running non-stop 46 hours and 15 minutes.
The 12-person roster of runners completing the High Five, with their finish time, consists of four women – Whiley Hall, age 30, with a time of 33 hours, 30 minutes; Maria Sylte, 31, 37 hours, 41 minutes; Leora Wallace, 39, 40 hours, 9 minutes (Wallace, from Gunnison, was first and only woman finisher in last year’s High Five, this year’s finish considerably bettering last year’s time of 46 hours, 18 minutes); and Elizabeth Haubert, at age 26, the youngest in this year’s race, 41 hours, 14 minutes.
Eight men finished this year’s race: Chris Marcinek, age 33, 32 hours, 16 minutes; Dustin Simoens, 33, 32:46; Kevin Hadfield, 35, 37:24; Erich Owen, 48, 41:15; Josh Nichols, 48, 42:45; Andrew Poland, 35, 44:47; Andy Newman, 46, 45:52; and Jared Vilhauer, 40, 46:15.
Also entering the race among the initial 22 runners at race start Friday morning but not finishing were Michael Chavez, Conan Blakemore, Sandra Carpenter, Allisa Linfield, Alex Nelson, Adam Pawlikiewicz, Chris Grove, Patrick Hayes, Josh Shelton, and Gavin McKenzie.
For complete High Five coverage, see August 20th issue of WORLD. Not a subscriber? Get subscription information here.