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August 18, 2002

Forest closure hurts training for area runners

By Nick Walter Special to The Gazette

From June 10 to July 19, Pike National Forest was closed, forcing area runners who wanted to train for this weekend's Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon to look elsewhere for their conditioning.

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Nick Walter may be reached at 636-0250

The closing meant something different to non-locals in Saturday's Ascent: Little home-course advantage.

"It's a real drag," said Duane Rorie, who lives in Fort Collins, works in Colorado Springs and ran his second-slowest time of the four times he's run the Ascent. "Of course, I only get out and train once a week."

The inaccessibility of Pikes Peak's mountain trails made an inconvenience for locals to gain high-altitude training.

For example, Air Force Academy physician Antonio Eppolito was forced to journey to Mount Evans and Mount Elbert.

"It hurt the training," said Eppolito, who ran his first Ascent in two hours, 51 minutes, 32 seconds.

Although the playing field was more level for out-of-state athletes, they still had the disadvantages of enduring long car rides and, of course, the altitude.

"It's absolutely bloody exhausting," said Ramsey Rayner, from London, describing the race and, in particular, the final 3 miles where the air is thin. "You seem to be tantalizingly close, but you're such a long way. You can hear the announcer from 3 miles away."

The forest's closing also made for an unstable trail in parts, as there were few runners or hikers to pack the soil down.

Because of the bad footing, lack of adequate training and heat, some runners failed to reach personal records or course records.

Dale Peterson of Denver missed breaking the course record in the 45-49 category of 2:32.07 set by Jerry Martinez, by about two minutes.

Peterson, who ran a 2:3413, had so much energy that he sprinted the final 25 meters, drawing an inspired reaction from the crowd.

"A cool day would have really helped (to set the record)," said Peterson, 45. "I felt I had too much left. I shouldn't have had anything at the end."

But he did. Even through the scorching heat. And the gravely terrain. Without proper training on the 14,110-foot mountain.

"No excuses, though," Peterson said. "I should have drank more than usual. But there's next year."

Copyright 2002, The Gazette, a Freedom Communications, Inc. Company. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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