This story has been archived from the Friday, August 22, 2008 Gunnison Times - Colorado

Wintry conditions bode well for local runners

Keri Nelson wins Pikes Peak Marathon; Tim Parr second in ascent

By Michelle Burkhart - Times Staff Writer

Keri Nelson almost hitched a ride down from the top of Pikes Peak, at its lofty elevation of more than 14,000 feet, last Sunday. Luckily a nearby racer persuaded her to keep on racing and start the descent.

That little push was all she needed to finish the monster marathon that climbs nearly 8,000 feet in elevation before losing it all again. Her perseverance — she was already battling a case of bronchitis — landed her a first place finish among the female racers.

Winning the Pikes Peak Marathon is a goal she had been determined to achieve for several years.

With a time of 4 hours and 39 minutes, she smoked the second female racer, who finished nearly 40 minutes later.

Nelson, 27, recalled that during the race morning, before the start, she was wavering about whether she was healthy enough to hit the trail.

“I was having a really hard time breathing right before the race,” she said. “I felt a little better once I got going.”

Like other Gunnison runners in the race, Nelson said the cool and stormy weather that hung over Pikes Peak during the race weekend worked to her advantage.

She was greeted with fresh snow on the ground at the top, and although she temporarily lost function of her hands due to the cold temperatures (and needed help opening a goo packet) she said the moist trail made the course “tacky and fast” — rather than sandy and slippery, as it can be in dry conditions.

Last year, when she just missed first place, she suffered from heat exhaustion, she said.

Local Jerry Mauney, 54, who also raced, agreed that the weather was “perfect for people from Gunnison.”

“All the flatlanders were really sketchy,” he said.

Gunnisonite Tim Parr, 26, who landed himself a second place finish overall in the ascent race — which took place the day before the marathon — couldn’t agree more.

“I love bad conditions because everyone else hates them,” he said.

He finished in 2 hours and 19 minutes, slightly more than a minute off the first place finisher.

It rained during the entire 13.3 mile ascent race up to the peak, he reported. “At mile 12, it was sleety, cold, snowy slush.”

Approximately half of the runners in the ascent race were turned around at the A-frame, at 10.2 miles, due to lightning, he said.

Parr remembers convulsing with shivers at the top, but that didn’t stop him from continuing on to his next feat for the day.

Directly after the race, he drove to Leadville and ran 10 miles of the Leadville Trail 100 as a pacer for local Duncan Callahan, who ended up winning that race (see related story).

Callahan had suggested the Pikes Peak Ascent to Parr. When it turned out to be on the same day as the Leadville 100, Callahan advised Parr that running the ascent would help put the 10 miles of pacing “in perspective.”

Gunnison local Floyd Paiz, 52, also earned a medal, achieving a first place finish in his age division in the marathon.

He said the descent is where he really excelled, passing more than 20 racers on the way down.

Gunnisonite Rick Jones also entered the Pikes Peak Marathon, but was forced to turn back at mile eight, when he fractured his foot.

“It just came out of the blue like a lightning strike,” he said, referring to the injury.

Descending with the injury was “pretty hairy,” he said. He had to walk down three miles to a place where members of El Paso County Search and Rescue were able to reach him and evacuate him off the mountain.

He is now in a cast for the next six weeks.

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