After a long winter of training, thousands of runners will hit the streets of Salt Lake City this weekend. The Salt Lake Marathon is one of the biggest events in the state for Utah runners.
Several of the best, though, will not be running. Those athletes well, six of them to be exact have a much bigger prize waiting for them at a finish line across the country.
The 2008 women's Olympic trials will run Sunday morning, a day before the Boston Marathon and, for the Utahns participating, a potential berth in the Olympics waits for them near the banks of the Charles River.
Farmington's Cynthia Fowler enters the race with the fastest qualifying time a mark of 2 hours, 41 minutes and 58 seconds recorded in Houston three months ago.
She'll be joined by Salt Lake City's Carre Joyce and Caroll Cabanillas, who qualified with runs of 2:44:26 and 2:45:12 (both in St. George last October), respectively. Ogden's Kristen Spence, South Jordan's Lisa Paxton and North Salt Lake's Phebe Ko are also in the field with solid qualifying marks.
The favorite for the race is California's Deena Kastor, who laid down a qualifying mark of 2:19:36 at the 2006 London Marathon.
The altitude training, however, may pay off for the Utah runners as they battle for one of the coveted roster spots on the U.S. Olympic team.
Cabanillas will not be in Utah to defend her win in the Salt Lake Marathon. There will be plenty of top competition for the wins, though. More than 12,000 people have signed up to run, walk or ride the marathon or its accompanying events.
A purse of $23,000 is enough to keep many elite runners in the field, though not as many as in years past.
The Salt Lake City Marathon, however, is not the only early-spring test of a runner's fitness. The inaugural Utah Valley Marathon was held April 12 with Sandy's Steven Ashbaker crossing the finish line first with a time of 2:37:08. He was followed by Pleasant Grove's Ryan Girr at 2:56:45 and Salt Lake's Dane Rauschenberg at 2:58:48.
Orem's Josse Tobiasson was the fastest woman in the field taking first at 3:15:40. She was just 11 seconds faster than McKenzie Montague. Kaysville's Jill Stevens the reigning Miss Utah was third at 3:24:41.
Of course, not all marathons take place on smooth city streets.
The same day as the marathon, a few dozen brave runners will run 26.2 miles along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. The friendly race begins at 7 a.m. at the Morris Meadow trailhead on 18th Avenue.Contact John Bartley at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
CYCLISTS STAGE BIG RACE: The first major road race of the cycling season, the Triple Valley Stage Race, wrapped up on Sunday, capping a three-stage event taking cyclists from a road race in Skull Valley to a time trial along the west side of the Salt Lake Valley.
Competing in the event were collegiate cyclists from across the West. Hosted by the University of Utah, a few dozen participants from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah raced for more than 100 miles throughout the weekend.
As expected, the strong Colorado teams captured most of the podium places, but Utah was well represented.
Tyler Riedesel finished fifth in the Collegiate B road race, while Kimberly Beisner was fourth in the women's B division.
Utah's Mitchell Peterson was just one second away from first in the men's A time trial, covering the 12.2 kilometer course in 17:15. Utah State University's Ira Tibbitts was third at 17:19 behind Zachary Grabowski from the Colorado School of Mines. Kurt Wolfgang won the men's B time trial at 17:59, while Riedesel was second at 18:12. Biesner was second in the women's C time trial at 23:28.
Peterson rolled to a third place finish at the criterium on Sunday behind Grabowski and Mesa State's Nathan Keck in the men's A flight.
The noncollegiate portion of the weekend was won by Sam Krieg, riding for the Park City Jeep/Goble Knee Clinic team, while Kelsey Withrow, riding for the PCIM team, captured the top spot on the women's podium after three strong stages.
Nearly 400 cyclists raced in a range of categories and distances. Krieg, from Pocatello, Idaho, was able to hold off Colorado's Ross Berger. Provo's Ryan Barrett, also riding for Park City Jeep/Goble Knee Clinic, placed third in the overall Pro 1/2 race. Krieg completed the three stages with a combined time of 5:03:02.
Withrow, 3:47:02 total time, was followed by Tiffany Pezzulo (Ivory Homes) and Chantel Thackery (PCIM) on the final women's Cat 1/2/3 podium.
Meanwhile, local mountain bikers flocked to southern Utah for the Cholla Challenge the second leg of the annual Intermountain Cup series. Spanish Fork husband and wife, Chris and KC Holley, riding for Gary Fisher/Mad Dog, won the men's and women's pro division races.
Local pro road cyclists have had a stellar April as well. Salt Lake's Burke Swindlehurst, riding for Bissell, earned third overall at the Redlands Cycling Classic, while Jeff Louder (BMC Pro Cycling) won the criterium stage of the event.Both will be in Georgia next week for the Tour de Georgia stage race along with Slipstream's David Zabriskie and Astana's Levi Leipheimer.
UTAH'S IRONMEN: For some, running 26.2 miles simply isn't enough. For some, a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride must be added to the mix.
Those people are called Ironmen, and several of Utah's best endurance athletes ventured south for Ironman Arizona last weekend.
Dantley Young, a professional triathlete from Riverton, was 69th overall with a time of 10:08:24. David Coates, a South Jordan resident, was the next Utahn across the finish line, checking in at 10:18:15.Ogden's Melinda Kerns was Utah's top female competitor in the race, finishing at 13:08:36 for 718th out of nearly 1,700 finishers.