In order to qualify for the world championships of mountain running, Dan Vega of Colorado Springs needed a top-10 finish in Sunday's Pikes Peak Marathon.
He got it.
Despite falling to ninth place at one point and battling altitude sickness for most of the race, Vega, 29, finished eighth in 4 hours, 14 minutes, 24 seconds.
For the first 61/2 miles Vega kept pace in third position but in the thin air near the summit, he started breaking down.
``The altitude really whacked me today,'' said Vega, winner of the 1995 Triple Crown of Running.
Light-headed, nauseous and feeling weak the last mile to the summit, Vega slowed to a walk and was fifth at the turn.
There he ``wondered if I should just stop.'' Instead Vega ``kept running and hoped it would go away.''
It didn't. On the tricky descent, Vega dropped to ninth.
``I was worried because if someone else caught me I didn't know what I was going to do,'' Vega said.
Fortunately, Vega caught a second-wind on the final 3 miles of the course.
``It felt too easy the last three miles,'' said Vega, who moved into eighth place in that stretch.
``I was just hoping to make it down before somebody caught me.''
The world championship of mountain running will be held in the Czech Republic this year.
BACK IN THE PACK: Returning from a four-year leave-of-absence from running, Terrie Archer of Colorado Springs got back in step by finishing third among the women.
``This is a wonderful comeback for me,'' Archer said of her 5:05:51 time.
Seventh at the turn on the summit, Archer made her move on the descent.
``I trained well, so even though the altitude held me back (going up), I had lots of legs left on the way back down,'' Archer said.
UP THE MOUNTAIN, BUT NOT OVER THE HILL: After competing in seven Ascents, Ben Chavez, 52, of Colorado Springs ran his his first Pikes Peak Marathon Sunday - and won. Finishing 25th overall, Chavez's time of 4:49:49 was best in the 50-55-year old division. He also won the 1995 Triple Crown of Running in the 50-54 division.
JUST THE FACTS: According to race director Carl McDaniel, the 800-plus runners in the Marathon require a lot of support to conq uer a 26.21-miles course that rises 7,815 feet in elevation.
How much support?
Volunteers: over 500. Number of aid stations: 6. Emergency personnel: 50 members of the El Paso county search and rescue team, and 20 paramedics. Sports drinks: 200 gallons at each station. Water: 200-300 gallons at each station.
REAL CHAMPS: Waiting at the finish line was Steve Gachupin, who holds the record of six straight Pikes Peak Marathon wins from 1966-1971. Gachupin, 54, was the first participant ever to run the entire course non-stop. . . . Mario Anaya finished 41st in the Marathon, but what makes it so amazing is that the 48-year-old Mexican finished 216th in Saturday's Pikes Peak Ascent. It was the sixth straight year he has run both.