This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 17, 2008



Based on the weather the past two years, Nic Mahoy didn’t think his first Pikes Peak Ascent would be such a challenge.

With a light rain and overcast skies at the starting line near Memorial Park in Manitou Springs, Mahoy, 17, and the other runners were warned about the conditions at the summit.

“They told us that it was snowing and below freezing at the top, but I don’t think we realized exactly how cold we would be,” said Mahoy, a senior on Coronado’s cross country team. “It was tough because we were already wet from the rain at the bottom, and then the further we went, the colder it got.’

Mahoy, who wore a Tshirt and running shorts for the duration of the race, needed thermal blankets and other medical attention after crossing the finish line. Others shook uncontrollably. Hand dryers blasted hot air on full-tilt as racers shed their wet clothes in the bathrooms.

“I was shivering so hard that my legs were cramping up,” he said. “I was doing OK until A-Frame, and then the snow and hail really started.’

But according to Mahoy, the cold also had its advantages.

“I finished faster than my prediction time, but then again I think it was because I was worried about frostbite,” he said. “But I think I’ll be back again next year to give it another shot.’

Spectators suffer, too

The conditions weren’t any better for spectators, especially those waiting anxiously for friends or family members.

Shivering in a Pikes Peak hooded sweatshirt, Danae Rubenzer, of Sarasota, Fla., paced the summit in anticipation of her 26-year-old daughter, Erin, a first-time participant running in Wave 2.

“She’s never trained in the cold or at altitude before, so I’m pretty worried,” Rubenzer said. “She was supposed to call my cell phone if she was turning back, but I don’t get reception up here.’

Spectators scrambled for information, but because runners are only accounted for at the finish, organizers couldn’t offer much help.

Race director Ron Ilgen said he’ll consider chip timing technology for future races.

Journeyman challenged

John Campbell’s first race up Pikes Peak was in 1974, and he has done the Ascent or Marathon a combined 43 times since then.

“This is by far the most challenging run I’ve had up this mountain,” Campbell said. “I’ve done eight others in the last three weeks, but there’s just no accounting for weather like this.’

Campbell, who is a software inventor from Truckee, Calif., makes the trek to Colorado Springs every year to participate in either the Ascent, the Marathon, or both.

“I live at about 7,000 feet, and I’ve spent the last 13 days above 13,000 feet,” Campbell said. “I don’t really think it’s the altitude that’s the challenge, but this year it was definitely the cold. It’s something different every year, but I think that’s part of what keeps us all coming back.”

Copyright 2008, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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