This story has been archived from the Saturday, August 19, 2006


Crews work to prepare eroded course for race


Gail Allen stands 2 miles up Barr Trail, a week before the Pikes Peak Ascent, her mood bouncing between wonder and frustration.

She was helping head the Trail Dogs, a volunteer work crew trying to fix the trail just in time for 1,800 pairs of feet to trample it during today’s 13.32-mile Pikes Peak Ascent.

On Sunday, another 800 entrants will run up, then down the trail for the Pikes Peak Marathon.


Jeff Pratt, left, and Marlin Sutton moved a rock to the side of Barr Trail last week in preparation for today’s Pikes Peak Ascent and Sunday’s Marathon. Volunteers did major trail repairs this year because of a rainy summer.

By the time you read this, the work put in by the crew — including almost seven hours last weekend — might have been washed out by last night’s predicted deluge.

That’s par for the course. Allen, Mary Burger and their 24-person trail crew know they’re tilting against windmills.

“This trail,” she said — and you can almost hear her teeth clench — “is unsustainable. The reason is the decomposing granite.

“The whole mountain,” she said, “is trying to fall apart.”

Minutes later, it’s back to the Sisyphean task of trying to stop rain from crumbling a mountain trail. It’s a hopeless battle against Mother Nature and gravity. You can’t win, but you can sweat trying. The crew grunts to remove rocks.

“Saves about $40 going to the ‘Y’ and getting exercise,” said Hodgon “Hodge” Hartley, 78, a volunteer.

The volunteers install steps, dig out berms, outslope the trail so rainwater flows in sheets rather than a trail-gouging stream, and reposition and build new water bars, logs that redirect flow.

“It’s like putting a giant puzzle together,” Allen said, her mind shifting to problem-solving. “Where’s the water going to go?”


A runner navigated a washed-out water bar on Barr Trail between the switchbacks and No Name Creek on Monday. Recent rains over Pikes Peak have eroded much of the trail.

Allen likes the races.

She’s a former race director who has run the Ascent or Marathon 22 times in the past 27 years.

She, and Pikes Peak competitors squeezing in their final days of training, don’t like what a rainy summer has done to the trail, and what years of only intermittent care has wrought.

Careless people make it worse. Instead of following the trail on switchbacks, they cut through, eroding vegetation and creating more places for water to tear into the trail.

This summer’s frequent rain has scoured the trail, carving deep gullies in places as it washes away gravel and exposes even more rocks than those already there.

“The trail does look rougher than it has in the past,” said Jason Allemang of Kansas City, who with some friends encountered the crew on his Ascent training run last Saturday. “We were thanking all of them on the way down.”

Said running buddy Chris Bengert, also from Kansas City, “There were a couple spots where I said, ‘I can’t imagine running through this.’”

“This” was deep ruts and scree. This week, the crew’s work showed in a vastly improved trail for today’s runners.

But their work might go to waste. The forecast called for heavy rain Friday night, scattered showers race morning and heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon. Runners have been and will be turned around for lightning.

The crew has done what it could. The trail, said race director Ron Ilgen, is ready.

“There are some gullies, but nothing bad at all,” Ilgen said Friday.

That will have to be good enough.


When: 7 a.m. today (Ascent); 7 a.m. Sunday (Marathon)

Where: Manitou Springs

Who to watch:
Ascent men —
Defending champion Ryan Hafer, 20, Colorado Springs; Simon Gutierrez, 40, Alamosa; eight-time champion Scott Elliott, 40, Boulder.

Ascent women —
Defending champion Lisa Goldsmith, 41, Nederland; Anita Ortiz, 42, Eagle; Stephanie Jones, 36, Colorado Springs; Cindy O’Neill, 44, Manitou Springs; Connilee Walter, 33, Colorado Springs

Marathon men —
Six-time champion Matt Carpenter, 41, Manitou Springs; Galen Burrell, 27, Boulder; Karl Meltzer, 38, Sandy, Utah.

Marathon women —
Four-time champion Danelle Ballengee, 35, Dillon; Emma Murray, 28, Dickson, Australia; Erica Larson, 35, Los Alamos, N.M.

Copyright 2006, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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