A clear, calm and crisp morning awaited those who showed up in Butte this morning for the 29th annual running of the Big Butte Challenge. Didn't get the final participant count; but, it appeared as though there must have been around 100 combined entrants between the 5K and 11K runs.
And, there was some solid competition at the front end, especially in the 11K. But, let's first hit on the 5K. Given the altitude (approx. 5,800') and the incessant hills behind Montana Tech, there is no way around the course being challenging. In spite of those challenges, 52-year old Ray Matteson of Butte turned in a solid time of 18:49 in easily winning the race and moving to position #8 in the top 10 list. Another of the ageless Butte wonders, Suzie Kaluza (48??) dispatched the women's field whiling running 21:47. Suzie now owns 10 of the top 11 times in this event.
But, the marque event at this race is the 11K up, over and around Big Butte (aka - The "M" Hill). The first mile contains one of the gnarliest, nastiest hills in the Rocky Mountain West. Luckily, it's followed by about 3 miles of solid downhill on some nice graveled roadway. But then, you have to finish up the last half of the race with some long, grinding climbs and some steep, "rolling" hills.
Thomas Joidin of Helena showed up for the race taking aim at the 25-year old course record of yours truly. The last time that I ran this event was in 1984 and, in an epic battle with Jeff "The Mountain Goat" Thomas was able to run the course in a time of 40:53. Missing the record by a miniscule amount, Thomas dominate the run from beginning to end. His time of 41:18 missed the standard by a mere 25 seconds and moved him into the number 5 spot on the all time list. (BTW, Jeff Thomas holds spots 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 13.)
In a distant second was Jesse Berwald of Bozeman. But, his 46:01 finish time did land him in the elusive sub-47:00 club.
25-years after my last vist, I was able to garner 3rd overall (and first master) and add another time to the sub-47 club with my 46:46 finish. 2nd Master and 5th overall was Marvin Speece of Butte in a time of 48:26.
But, now to the title of the post. In a strong 4th place overall finish (and first woman obviously), Nicole Hunt of Deer Lodge (38) not only set a new women's all time record (breaking her 2007 record of 47:23), she also became the first woman to enter the sub-47:00 club. After giving birth to little Eon Journey in mid-2008, Nicole appears to have come back as strong as ever.
Second women overall was ultra-runner supreme Nikki Kimball of Bozeman in 51:45. Right after the run, Kimball was getting ready to head to Pipestone Pass to head out for a long run (as a second workout) on the Cont. Divide Trail.
Third woman was the young (19) Kaci Hockadya of Butte. A Butte High grad and now Montana Tech student, her 55:24 places her in the top 25 all time.
One notable abscence at the race was Ray Hunt. An untimely injury meant that he wasn't able to decimate the masters field and give Joidin a run for his money. And, I would be remiss if I didn't give props to Ray for all the work that he has done in documenting the history of Butte racing (for some great results from past Butte area races, check out the info on www.buttespissandmoanrunners.com).
All in all, it was a great way to kick off the Easter weekend.
The Muddy Buzzard.