This story has been archived from the Tuesday, August 26, 2008, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle Kansas
Impact runners accept Pikes Peak challenge
Special to Reflector-Chronicle
A group of nine runners from Abilenes Impact Sports and Fitness trekked to Colorado to participate in the annual Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon events held August 16 and 17, respectively.
To prepare for the demanding events, members of the group started training in April. Some trained together and others trained on their own, but all followed a training schedule. The training for the Pikes Peak events involved running four to five times per week, intense climb training once a week, and hill climb training once a week. The runners felt they were conditioned and ready for the event. However, this year Mother Nature caused conditions they couldnt prepare for through endurance training.
Eight members of the Abilene group participated in the 13.32-mile Ascent on Saturday. Those were Cindy Crehan, RaeLyn Whitehair, Penny Wodke, Jackie Foster, Sondra Flynn, James Swisher, Dale Foster, and Brent Wilson. When the group arrived at the starting line, the weather was 48 degrees and a steady rain was falling which meant the runners were soaking wet from the beginning of the race. As they steadily ascended the mountain, the wind grew stronger at the higher altitudes, rain and hail were pelting, and lightning was threatening.
The Abilene entrants were part of the second wave of the event runners. When they reached the ten-mile point with slightly more than three miles remaining, they were turned back. Organizers had closed the course because of the adverse weather conditions. At the higher elevations, the rain had turned to snow and hail, and the steep trail was covered with ice. The winds were still whipping and the cold was brutal. The disappointed, cold, and wet Abilene group turned around for the ten mile run down the mountain. Because the organizers had closed the roads due to the weather, they couldnt take the participants back down the mountain in buses.
More than half of the 1800 runners who started the event were forced to turn back when the course was closed. Only 760 of those who started were able to complete the race. Reports were that at least 80 of those 760 were treated for hypothermia. Many of the runners who finished had ice chunks frozen in their hair. This was only the third time in fifty-three years that the course has been closed during the event.
In spite of the adverse weather conditions, Cindy Crehan, Impact Sports and Fitness Athletic Trainer, enjoyed the competition. She said, It was awesome and fun. It was one of those challenges that you train really hard for. At the end we thought, wow, look at what we did.
One Abilene runner, Will Sprouse, participated in the Pikes Peak Marathon the following day. He had participated in the Ascent last year and wanted to try the Marathon this year. The Marathon is billed as Americas Ultimate Challenge. The course presents the athlete a gain of almost six thousand feet during the first ten miles, and the trail climbs another two thousand feet during the last three miles. Sprouse was able to complete the entire 26.6-mile course in spite of the conditions of the course. He said, It was snow packed and icy from the day before and fresh snow was falling. There was no traction and you couldnt see. At about the 10-mile mark which is 12,000 feet, it got really slick. Even though the participants were competing against each other, they helped each other out. He explained, The competitors became teammates and made a human chain by linking arms to get up the mountain because it was so slick. On the way down the mountain, the sun came out at about mile six. He said that out of over nine hundred who entered the Marathon, six hundred finished.
The Pikes Peak Marathon was actually the third altitude race Sprouse has participated in this year. The extreme weather conditions havent affected his quest for adventure. He plans to enter the Double Double next year, which is the Pikes Peak Ascent on one day and the Marathon on the next day for a total of over 39 miles at altitude.