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Sunday, August 17, 2003

PIKES PEAK ASCENT: Gutierrez breezes to top

20-year-old record falls his first time up the mountain



KING OF THE MOUNTAIN: Simon Gutierrez, 37, of Alamosa, crosses the finish line at the summit first in the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday.
It was Simon Gutierrez’s first Pikes Peak Ascent race and he had no idea where to go. So he just kept running.

He kept running as the first person to complete the trail, breaking the yellow tape at the finish line, 14,110 feet in elevation. When race director Ron Ilgen tried to hand him his medal, Gutierrez kept running past him, too. He ran all the way to the top of Pikes Peak and he didn’t stop; it looked like he couldn’t stop.

Spectators stared in awe, they seemed too amazed to keep cheering. They were seeing a 37-year-old athlete who just finished the 48 th running of the 13.32-mile Pikes Peak Ascent in a 35-39 age-group record of 2 hours, 13 minutes, 29 seconds. He ran up and down the cog railway tracks and around the summit like he wished the race’s trail never ended.

“The hardest part was not knowing the course, where I was at,” Gutierrez said, his head showing no sign of sweat and his voice showing no sign of fatigue. “I feel fine now. I kept under control."

Gutierrez’s time broke a 20-yearold record of 2:15:44 by 37-year-old Ron McCurley. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the second person to finish, Mark Cocuzzella of Denver, 36, came in 17 minutes and two seconds after Gutierrez.

“I was surprised, no one was running with me,” said Gutierrez, who is from Alamosa. “I didn’t expect anybody to catch up. It was just me and the mountain.

“It was the first time I ran above 12,000 feet. In some parts I was so unsure, I never have been on this trail before. It’s tough, it’s such a long way up. In the back of my mind, I was thinking at any time, I could just blow up.”

It seemed that the only thing that blew up was the space between Gutierrez and everybody else.

“Simon just ripped everybody,” said third-place finisher Bernie Boettcher, who came in at 2:32:58. “There’s no doubt about it. Nobody came in that fast in a while. He led from the starting line. No one could catch him.”

Boettcher, 40, of Silt said he was surprised he came in third. He was expecting a top-seven finish.

For the third straight year, Anita Ortiz, 39, of Eagle was the top female runner. Ortiz came in 20th overall in 2:52:12.

“It’s not as well as past years, but it’s good enough,” said Ortiz, smiling with every word. “I’ll take it.”

THREE-PEAT: Anita Ortiz, 39, of Eagle, nears the finish line Saturday of the Pikes Peak Ascent. Despite injuries that resulted in less training, Ortiz was the first female runner to the summit for the third consecutive year.

Ortiz has endured injuries the past few years and her training hasn’t been up to par. But with the win, she’s happy she’s still at the top of her game.

“Injuries? You name it. Broken foot, broken ribs,” Ortiz said.

“I feel tired because it’s the lack of training. The challenge is still awesome. No matter how you feel, the challenge is just awesome.”

Gretchen Ellis, 32, of Los Alamos, Calif., was the second female to finish at 2:53:05, good for 23 rd overall. Ortiz said she didn’t see Ellis until the last mile and thought Ellis might pass her.

“I was like, ‘Ooohhh, she’s close,’ “ Ortiz said. “By that time, at that point when they’re that close, if they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it.”

Matt Carpenter, 39, of Manitou Springs did not run the Ascent. He said he will only run today’s Marathon in an effort to break Gutierrez’s Ascent agegroup record when he reaches the summit and then the Marathon’s age-group record when he crosses the finish line in Manitou Springs.

Whether or not Carpenter breaks the record, Gutierrez plans to push his time faster next year.

“I could chip that time down,” Gutierrez said. “I could go faster now that I know a bit about the race.”


1 Simon Gutierrez 37 2:13:29
2 Mark Cucuzzella 36 2:30:33
3 Bernie G. Boettcher 40 2:32:58

1 Anita M. Ortiz 39 2:52:11
2 Gretchen Ellis 32 2:53:05
3 Colleen Stroud 29 3:00:13

Copyright 2003, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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