If Alex Nichols was feeling the effects of a long travel day returning from the southeast, he didn't show it at Ute Valley Park on Sunday.
The Colorado College assistant track and field and cross country coach easily won the Pikes Peak Road Runners' third Fall Series race, finishing in 31 minutes, 46 seconds. He crossed the finish line nearly a minute before second-place Evan Burns (32:41), with Peter Maksimow of Manitou Springs third at 32:55.
Nichols, who also works part time at Colorado Running Co., had returned with Colorado College's team from a trip to the conference championships in Louisiana hours before running in the race.
"I was feeling pretty tired today and wasn't sure what would happen," said Nichols, who also won the Ute Valley Park race in 2011. "This course is very technical and really rocky, which plays to my strong suits a little more. It was fun, but it was very tough."
With weather fit for a postcard and temperatures in the low 60s, more than 380 runners from nearly a dozen states took to the challenging 5.5-mile course on the beautiful Colorado morning. The course - which began and finished at the track adjacent to Eagleview Middle School - was a formidable opponent for the runners, who had to navigate narrow paths, rocky footing and steep inclines and declines throughout the race.
Nichols had his pace pushed by Burns, who withstood a fall that drew blood on his left knee.
"Evan was right there with me and definitely kept the pace honest," said Nichols, 28. "It was surprisingly fast for such a hard course. The weather was pretty incredible for Nov. 3, and it was a great Sunday."
Elizabeth Schultz may have only moved to Colorado Springs two months ago, but she's already making a name for herself in the city's running community. The former Mount Olive (N.C.) College runner won her second consecutive Fall Series race after barely holding off Crystal Goecker at the finish line in 41:17.
Goecker was a close second at 41:19, while April Luu of Peyton was third at 41:56. Schultz was just happy to finish the race, much less win, considering the difficulty of the course.
"I was running scared," said Schultz, who transferred to Colorado Springs from Buffalo, N.Y., with her job at Time Warner Cable. "I love to run, but this was something else. This was an extreme trail race."
Schultz, whose time was good enough for 33rd overall, is loving life in Colorado and plans to become more involved in the community and the local running scene.
"I'm hoping to join some volunteer groups like the Incline Friends," she said. "I'm here to appreciate the beauty and take in the outdoors. It has always been my dream to live here, and I'm doing it."
The 35th annual Fall Series will conclude Nov. 17 with a seven-mile jaunt at Palmer Park.