Diaz Conquers Pikes Peak – Twice

by | Aug 1, 2005 | News Articles

August, 2005 Fit to be Tied Column

From the Pueblo Chieftain
by Gary Franchi


Diaz Conquers Pikes Peak – Twice

Its participants won’t easily forget this year’s Pikes Peak Ascent held on Aug. 20, that’s for sure.

Because of a freak rain, hail and snow barrage that seemingly materialized in Manitou Springs within a blink of an eye, Pikes Peak Highway was closed for almost four hours until snow plows could remove a six-inch layer of hail. Hundreds of runners got stranded for several hours after reaching the top. Cold, tired, sore and nursing hail-damaged bodies while jammed like sardines in the gift shop, they were the lucky ones.

An unfortunate 200 or so of the lesser swift of the 1,800 starters never made it, having been ordered to turn around and head back down because of dangerous lightning conditions. Imagine training for the Ascent for months and to be within three or four miles from your goal only to be ordered to turn around and retrace your steps for nine or 10 miles on a slick, now-muddy surface, not even allowed to complete the journey.

This was a special year for doing Pikes Peak, too. The round-trip marathon, scheduled the day after the Ascent, was celebrating its 50th anniversary, and race officials were awarding a special fleece jacket to the finishers of either the Ascent or marathon. The limited race field filled up even faster than usual.

One of the early registrants was Pueblo’s Dave Diaz, veteran runner of both races who had decided a couple of years ago that he wanted to run both the Ascent and marathon in its 50th year. They call these runners “doublers” — when speaking kindly of the fanatics who would tackle the two difficult races on consecutive days.

Now a retired District 60 high school teacher, Diaz, already an extremely gifted runner and cyclist, has had more time to ramp up his training and add swimming to his repertoire. The result has been a banner year in both running races and triathlons.

There was a marathon in Italy (Rome), the Bolder Boulder 10K, and triathlons in Pueblo West and Aurora, etc. The 57-year-old’s most recent success was taking first in his age division at the Colorado State Games Triathlon held in Cheyenne Mountain last month.

So Diaz, who recently turned 57, was fit and ready for Pikes Peak, and he came and conquered it — both days, too. Because he ran a swift yet relaxed 3:49:43 in the Ascent, Dave got up to the 14,115-foot Peak and shuttled back down before the bad weather shut down the highway. Then he had to wait several hours before wife Stacey and friend Carrie Slover were able to get transported down.

The wait obviously didn’t allow rigor mortis to set in, as Diaz came back the next day and ran a 6:14:20 round trip, the best clocking by a runner from this area. That time actually was faster than his 6:18:24 time in the marathon last year, when he didn’t do the Ascent.

“Coming down seemed easy because you used completely different muscles,” Diaz noted a few days afterward.

Next on the agenda for him is the Tenderfoot Triathlon in Salida this weekend. After that, Diaz will try his first Half-Ironman in the Harvest Moon event scheduled for Sept 18 in Aurora.

Leading the 19 area runners who completed the Ascent were Sharon Vigil of Pueblo in 4:01:33 and Dean Sandoval of Cañon City in 3:07:04. Sandoval was 55th overall. The next day, Puebloans completing the marathon were Gary Hermes (7:58), Phil Knowles (6:37), Jessie Quintana (8:56) and Ben Valdez (6:24). Robin Gooldy of Cañon City finished in 9:59. Former Puebloan Paul Koch of Colorado Springs was ninth overall in 4:15.

The Ascent or the uphill leg of the marathon was the third and final leg of the Triple Crown of Running that also included the Garden of the Gods 10-Mile Run and the Summer Roundup 15K. Top local placers in the Triple Crown were Brian Vaniwarden, 25, of Cañon City, who placed 16th among the 145 males who did all three races, and Vigil, 48, who was 29th among 79 females. Koch was the overall champion. Placing in the top three of their age divisions were Diaz, Quintana, Vaniwarden and his brother Jeff Vaniwarden, 24, also of Cañon City.


Tribute Run – Area runners will have a rare chance to get off the roads and race a partially grassy cross country course on Sept. 10 when the second annual Pueblo Tribute Run will be held on the short 9 at Elmwood Golf Course. The race will include a 5K race followed by a 2-mile race for middle school students. The runs will precede a boys and girls high school cross country meet.

Hot to Trot – After a one-year absence, this 5K race returns with a new course that will start and finish in front of the Gold Dust Saloon. Perks include running a course that takes in the Riverwalk and River Trail system, a free breakfast afterward at the Gold Dust and a discount coupon book good at Historic District restaurants during the Chile & Frijoles Festival. To boot, besides awards for the top runners, all walkers will be given a special finisher’s medal.


Puebloan Michael Orendorff, 53, was among top triathletes from across the country that traveled to the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships scheduled for Aug. 14 in Kansas City, Mo. But a major storm moved into the area just minutes before it was to start, and race officials had to cancel the event for safety reasons. The Olympic-distance triathlon was to be the national qualifier for the world championships scheduled for Oct. 8-9 in Honolulu. After considering all options, race officials decided to permit all competitors who picked up their race packets in Kansas City to compete in the national event.


On Aug. 14, Beulah’s Carrie Slover led a contingent of four area members of the Pueblo Masters Swim Club who took part in the Wingshadow Ironman-distance swim at the Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins. In miserable drizzly, overcast and downright cold conditions, Slover covered the 2.4 miles in an hour and nine minutes. Also completing the distance were Jay Meyer of Pueblo West; Karen VanHaverbeke of Canon City and yours truly.

Upcoming Pueblo-Area Races

  • Sept. 10 – Pueblo Tribute Run, 5K, 7 a.m., Elmwood Golf Course short nine (549-7735).
  • Sept. 11 – Race for the Cure, 5K run/walk & family walk, 8 a.m., Iron Horse Park in Fort Carson (800-462-9273).
  • Sept. 25 – Hot to Trot, 5K run and 2M walk, 7:45 a.m., Gold Dust Saloon, 217 S. Union Ave. (251-3189).
  • Oct. 1 – River Run Classic, 5K walk and 5K/10K run, 7 a.m. walk, 9 a.m. runs, John Griffin Regional Park in Canon City (275-1578).
  • Oct. 8 – DECA Dash, 5K run/walk, 8 a.m., Pueblo West High School, 661 Capistrano Ave. (brittler@yahoo.com).
  • Oct. 22 – Harvest Poker Prediction Run, 5M, 5 p.m., Lovell Park in Pueblo West (564-9303).
  • Oct. 29 – SRDA Turkey Trot 5K run and 1.5M walk, 8 a.m., HARP Pavilion (545-8900).

Send comments and fitness information to Gary Franchi via e-mail at garyf@bresnan.net.

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