GJ’s Sheader wins annual Turkey Flats 15K
Simply put, Grand Junction resident Joe Sheader didn’t go into Sunday’s Turkey Flats 15K trail race planning to win it.
“I really wasn’t so much intending to race it, as much as go out and enjoy it,” he said. “I just did it like a tempo run, just ran how I felt. If I felt fast today, I’d push it, and if I felt like taking it easy, I was just going to take it easy.”
But when all was said and done, Sheader finished the 9.3-mile course in 1 hour, 19 minutes, 43 seconds to take first place in the annual race held by the Mesa Monument Striders running club on the Turkey Flats Loop inside Grand Mesa National Forest.
Tom Ela, who organizes the event for the striders, said 31 people participated in the race.
“It’s a very casual run,” Ela said. “We don’t really promote it. There’s no fee, no prizes, no T-shirts, but people just come to do it for the fun of it.”
While it may have lacked T-shirts, the course provided its own souvenirs. Runners faced numerous natural obstacles, including downed trees and heavy mud, and there were no water stations along the course.
As runners finished, the majority of them came in with legs caked in mud, some with slight bleeding because of mud-related falls.
Ela said normally the trail is drier for the race but was effected by a late snow melt.
“We’re pushing the season a little bit this year,” he said. “The snow didn’t come off as early, so it’s little wet out there, but still beautiful.”
Ela said part of the appeal of the race is that, because of a starting altitude of about 8,800 feet, it takes place in an area much cooler than the Grand Valley. The loop later gains another 1,000 feet in elevation.
“It’s mostly single track and it’s beautiful,” Ela said. “The temperature is great for running and you get a little altitude training for mountains.”
Regardless of the mud, Sheader said the trail was very scenic and had plenty of wildflowers along the way.
“It’s one of the more beautiful alpine trails I’ve ran on this time of year,” he said. “I didn’t stop to smell the flowers, but I definitely looked at them along the way, otherwise, why do something like this?”
Jerry Fay finished second in 1:20.04 and Cynthia Malleck took third in 1:20.54.
Grand Junction resident Lou Lorber started the race early and finished in 2:09.49.
It was Lorber’s third time participating in the race, but he joked at the finish line that it was his “first time not getting lost.”
“It’s very well marked,” he said. “The first time I just missed it and the second time I followed other people.”
Lorber said the event has “camaraderie” to it.
After the race, the runners are quick to socialize and enjoy a beer together.
Lorber said he also participates simply to support casual racing.
“I like to see these things maintained so I like to get out and support them,” Lorber said. “I’m not going to be out there for the fast ones.”