Fifth time’s a charm
It’s been a phenomenal summer of competing for Gunnison resident Keri Nelson.
Nelson won the Leadville Marathon in July. I mean, flat out won it. Not just the women’s division, but every division.
On August 9, Nelson returned to Leadville to compete in the Leadville Trail 100 bike race, to take second place among the women.
Then, on Sunday, August 17, just one week later, Nelson won the women’s division of the Pikes Peak marathon, coming in 13th overall.
The Pikes Peak Marathon is affectionately called America’s Ultimate Challenge and with good reason, as runners must run 13 miles up, climbing 8,000 vertical feet before turning around and descending via the same route.
It was Nelson’s fifth time in the race but her first title, a goal she had in mind since she started competing in events such as this.
“It’s been a huge goal of mine to win this,” says Nelson. “A lot of the runners I look up to have won this race.”
Still, Nelson had no plans for winning this year’s race when she lined up Sunday morning. After battling a stint of bronchitis she contracted from the Leadville bike race, Nelson questioned whether she would even finish the marathon.
Yet, after holding a slower pace through the first couple of miles, Nelson was feeling much better and climbing. When she ran by the third checkpoint midway through the climb, she found out she had worked her way into first place.
Runners were met with four inches of snow and freezing temperatures as they hit tree-line, but Nelson kept plugging away.
As she started her descent, Nelson saw that the second place woman still had a mile of climbing to go, leaving her at least 12 minutes behind Nelson.
“That definitely made me feel better,” says Nelson. “I just relaxed and floated down the hill. Then I started picking off some guys on the downhill and that made me feel even better.”
While Nelson was slower at the start than normal, her swift descent helped her shave 16 minutes off her previous best time as she crossed the finish in a time of four hours, 39 minutes.
“It was sweet redemption to come back this year and win it,” says Nelson.
Another notable local finish came from Floyd “Super Floyd” Paiz.
It was Super Floyd’s sixth time in the race. Super Floyd finished in second place in the Master’s division, 23rd overall, in a time of four hours, 58 minutes and 47 seconds, despite a tumble near the end.
“I turned around to see who was behind me and took a roll,” says Super Floyd. “Not too bad, but it was a wake-up call.”
With his second-place finish, Super Floyd gets free entry into next year’s race, so you can bet he’ll be back.
Nelson gets the honor of free entry for life for her win.
“I’ve got a free lifetime entry,” says Nelson. “So, I have no excuse not to do it.”