By Angie Reese-Mudd/The Gazette
Cindy O'Neill says she learned a valuable lesson not long ago.
It's to run her own race.
It sounds easy enough, but O'Neill - who won Saturday's Pikes Peak Ascent - said she had to learn the hard way.
She says she was so worried about the other runners in the U.S. Skyrunning Championships in Aspen on June 28 that it nearly killed her.
"I went out with the leaders and I just about blew up," said O'Neill, 36, who lives in Manitou Springs. "I felt awful. I absolutely felt terrible and I almost finished last. So I told myself that I would never do that again."
On Saturday, O'Neill set her own pace and overcame last year's winner to break her personal record by nearly 9 minutes.
"I just need to worry about myself," O'Neill said. "So I didn't take it out as hard at the beginning of the race. And when I passed her (runner-up Kirsten Ames), I felt really good. But since I have a history of dying, I didn't want to take anything for granted."
NO PAIN: Those weren't tears of pain falling down Melissa Sullivan's cheeks, they were tears of joy.
Sullivan, who turned 50 two weeks ago, ended her 11-year hiatus from the Ascent by shattering the 50-54 age group record by more than 8 minutes. She finished 22nd in 3:24.58.2.
"I was hoping I would get the record," said Sullivan, who is from Montrose. "I didn't care how much I beat it by, I just wanted to get it. But I just can't believe how it all turned out."
Sullivan had run the Ascent four times previously, but says she hasn't officially competed in a race for more than 15 years.
"This is just so wonderful, and it feels amazing," Sullivan said. "I still can't believe it. I can't stop crying."
Sullivan said she was motivated by her friend Virginia Egger, who got a present as well for her 45th birthday by finishing seventh overall in 3:10:29.
"Now we'll have to go home and celebrate with a hot tub and some beers," Egger said.
OH, CANADA: Some people's idea of a vacation is relaxing on a white sandy beach while drinking a piņa colada.
But for Gord Hobbins and three of his buddies, Colorado's ultra road races are like heaven.
Hobbins and his three friends traveled from Calgary, Alberta, to compete in this weekend's activities - Hobbins ran Saturday's Ascent (placing 175th in 3:31.07.7) and his friends are running today's Pikes Peak Marathon for the first time - and they will all stick around for next weekend to run in the Leadville Trail 100 (mile) event.
"This is a great way to spend your vacation," Hobbins, 36, said. "We have some great races in Canada, but nothing like this."
Hobbins said he and his friends run in the Moose Mountain race in Canada every year, where the 29-kilometer course is mainly uphill.
"But the elevation starts at about 4,000 feet, and climbs to 7,000 feet," he said. "This is a little different. I think my friends will be surprised."
ICELAND: Race officials tried to get to the summit of Pikes Peak to set up at 6a.m., but were turned away and forced to wait nearly an hour.
There was snow on Pikes Peak, ice covered the road above Barr Camp and no vehicles were allowed to the summit until the ice was cleared away.