This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 21, 2005

Friends push each other to finish line

Goldsmith makes winning move once runners reach Golden Stairs


Lisa Goldsmith, a 40-year-old massage therapist from Nederland, led a feel-good group of older women Saturday in winning her first Pikes Peak Ascent in 2 hours, 50 minutes and 2 seconds.

Goldsmith held off a charge by three-time Ascent champion Cindy O’Neill (1998-2000) of Manitou Springs about a quarter-mile from the rocky summit’s finish line.

O’Neill, 43, finished second in 2:50:40. Colorado Springs’ Connillee Walter, 32, was third in 3:03:32.

Anita Ortiz, 41, of Eagle was unsuccessful in her bid to win a fifth straight Ascent. Hampered by a lingering foot injury, she finishedfourth in 3:05:13.

Over the hill? Instead, they’re among the first to stand atop it.

“We’re not dead yet,” said O’Neill, a triathlete and runner who’s actually getting faster as she gets older. She won the 2000 Ascent in 2:50:52, the last time she competed in this race.

Goldsmith and O’Neill are friends, having met in 1984. They attended the same college, North Texas State. They found themselves moving to Colorado at about the same time. Still, said Goldsmith, being close can only go so far on race day.

O’Neill’s strategy was to let Goldsmith go, then reel her in above tree line. “I knew I could run the top pretty well,” O’Neill said. “By A-Frame (tree line), I could start seeing her on the switchbacks.”

O’Neill closed to within five seconds. Goldsmith could feel her just behind. O’Neill was, almost literally, breathing down her friend’s neck at the end of a 13.32-mile race up a 14,115-foot mountain.

“She was uncomfortably close,” Goldsmith said, minutes after finishing. “At the same time, it makes racing fun.”

They reached the infamous 16 Golden Stairs — they’re not really steps, but grueling switchbacks with the finish line so close each runner could hear spectators screaming for them.

That’s where Goldsmith made her move.

“She just powered up,” O’Neill said. “She really deserved it because she just powered up that last bit and I know she was hurting.”

A former Colorado Springs resident, Goldsmith was a top road cyclist from 1988 to 1993. She made the U.S. national team and won a national championship in 1988 before “burning out” and quitting the sport.

This year marked the Ascent return of both runners. Goldsmith hadn’t raced here since 1997, when illness had her thinking about quitting at Barr Camp. Instead, she walked most of the way to the finish, a hard result to stomach for an elite athlete.

Goldsmith looked light years from burning out Saturday.

“It says a lot about experience and this kind of running,” she said when asked why three 40-and-over runners managed such success. “It’s tough. Running has a lot to do with perseverance and maturity, not giving up and not getting too discouraged.”


Copyright 2005, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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