This story was saved from the August 14, 1998

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Challenge of race has peaked for title-holder

By Angie Reese-Mudd/The Gazette

For Danelle Ballengee, the Pikes Peak Marathon course has become her only challenge because there hasn't been anyone to push her through her record four consecutive titles.

But the course is no longer enough, so Ballengee's run is literally coming to an end. Ballengee won't be one of the 1,800 runners in Saturday's Pikes Peak Ascent, and she will be passing on her title to one of the 800 runners in Sunday's Pikes Peak Marathon.

"It breaks my heart because this is such an incredible course and I absolutely love this race, and it has all the possibilities to be one of the greatest races in the world," said Ballengee, 27, who lives in Dillon.

"And since there isn't any prize money, I would at least like to make it worth my while in having some good competition. But it's just not going to happen this year. And while it's great that the promoters design this race for the community, it just doesn't fit into my schedule anymore as an elite athlete."

The Triple Crown of Running limits the number of entrie s this weekend, for runner safety and medical service availability. But both races fill up early, so runners have to commit to running the races almost a year ahead of time.

"Because these races are so great, they fill up so fast," Ballengee said.

"But elite runners usually don't commit to races until a short time before, because they wait to see if they're healthy and how their training is going. So when they decide they want to come to run, and I know some of the world's greatest runners who would travel here to run this, they can't get in."

Triple Crown of Running president Dave Zehrer says they don't make exceptions, because everyone believes they have a special situation.

But because of that, Ballengee - one of the top Fila SkyRunners who won the SkyRunning Championships in Aspen and was the top American in the World SkyRunning Championships in Italy - says there wasn't anyone she was aware of who could give her a challenge Sunday, so she decided not to run.

But she was willing to pass on some of her tips.

  • HYDRATION: "Because of the heat and the altitude, it's important to hydrate yourself the few days before, the morning of the race, and during the race."

  • FOOD: "Obviously carbohydrates are really good to eat the week of, but the few days before it's also good to eat food with a lot of sodium. Sodium forces you to retain water, and I've had problems cramping in the past, and sodium along with water, can help decrease those chances of cramping."

  • ENERGY: "Try to carry along some Gu packets (carbohydrate replacement) during the race because your blood-sugar level can drop pretty quick, and this is a great way to re-boost your energy in a hurry."

  • POSITIONING: "It's really important to get position getting on the (Barr) Trail. That way, you can get in a comfortable running position. But remember, these are long races so don't burn yourself out too early. And remember, it's OK to walk when you get to the higher elevations, and if you're running the marathon, just relax on the way down."

  • EXPECTATIONS: "I always tell people not to have too many expectations their first time. It's not scary, and this should be fun. But it's pretty tough the first time, so just try to enjoy it. If you set too many high expectations, it could make for a really long day."

    Angie Reese-Mudd may be reached at

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