• A long run
    By Tom Haley Staff Writer | July 09,2006
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    Nikki Kimball had doubts about finishing 30 miles into the race. She still had 70 miles remaining and the 100-plus temperatures had beaten her up.

    "I felt very, very sick from the heat," she said. "And I had messed up with my nutrition. That was a big mistake."

    Kimball jumped in a river and soaked for a few minutes.

    That must have been the perfect prescription. She not only finished the 100 miles, she won the Western States Endurance Run.

    Maybe even more impressive than being the first female to finish was the fact she was the third finisher overall. Only males Graham Cooper of Oakland, Calif., and Erik Skaden of Folsom, Calif., finished ahead of her.

    Perhaps just as impressive is the fact she finished at all when 189 in a field of 399 starters did not. She conquered the heat and trails from Squaw Valley to Auburn, Calif., and did it in 19 hours, 26 minutes and 51 seconds.

    "It was 101 degrees in Auburn, but much hotter in the canyons," Kimball said. "It was well over a hundred in the canyons; unbelievably hot."

    Kimball went to Rutland High her freshman year where she ran on the cross-country team. Then, she went to the Holderness School in New Hampshire where she competed in cross-country skiing and was on the Williams College cross-country ski team before graduating in 1993.

    She lived for a time in Elizabethtown, N.Y., but would come back to the Rutland area every so often to compete in local road races like the Crowley Brothers Memorial 10-K and the Green Mountain 10-K at Killington.

    She is now a world class ultra trail runner living near Bozeman, Mont., where she is a physical therapist. Her training partner each Wednesday for her track workout is Tim Dumas, a former sports reporter at the Bennington Banner, now working at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

    She has a string of consecutive victories in ultra trail runs dating back to September of 1999.

    She had been sponsored by Nike, but now her sponsor is North Face.

    "They are both great sponsors, but North Face is very interested in endurance sports," Kimball said.

    Next on Kimball's race calendar is 50-Mile National Championships at Mount Ranier in the state of Washington. It is not ideal timing, taking on another grueling event so soon after Western States.

    "I'm not going to be completely recovered," Kimball said. "But Western States is a big deal and I wanted to do it."

    She has raced with the United States Ultra Team at the World Championships and collected all sorts of titles. Yet, there is one achievement that stands out when she evaluates her performances. It was when she clocked a course record 6 hours, 44 minutes in the 50-mile National Road Championships in State College, Pa., in 2005.

    "That was my best race. I was extremely happy with that," Kimball said.

    She feels fortunate to have not only won Western States last month, but to simply have survived it.

    "I gained weight. I felt horrible," Kimball said. "I had horrible blisters on my feet. And I was lucky compared to other people."

    It seems every time lately that Kimball arrives at the starting line, she winds up the first one across the finish line.

    Well, not quite, she admits. That was not the case in January when she went back to Vermont to compete in the Craftsbury Ski Race Marathon.

    "I had a really bad race there," she said.

    The competitor that she is, she is intent on writing a story with a different ending at the Craftsbury event. That is why it is in her plans to come back to the little Northeast Kingdom community in 2007.

    "I have some unfinished business there," she said. "Hopefully, I can redeem myself."

    Contact Tom Haley at tom.haley@rutlandherald.com
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