For three years, Eric Blake would think of Pikes Peak and a bad taste would flood his mouth.
For three years that taste lingered. It needed to be brushed away. But like a bad itch, Blake couldn’t get to it, allowing it to gnaw and fester.
He’d made the trip all the way from Connecticut in 2010 to take part in the Pikes Peak Ascent, the 13.32-mile race up the face of the mountain that overshadows Colorado Springs.
But on his way up the mountain, Blake and three other runners went straight at the Bottomless Pit. They were supposed to hang a left.
The runners that had been among the top 10 had to retrace their steps and find their way back to the trail that would lead to the finish line. Blake finished 20th.
On Saturday, the New Britain, Conn., resident brushed those bad thoughts aside with a flourish, winning the Pikes Peak Ascent by more than nine minutes, capturing the title in 2 hours, 13.45 minutes.
“This was a race that’s as big as any in the U.S.,” Blake said. “It’s a race that I really wanted to come here and win.”
Blake never let the race be in doubt. About 25 minutes in, he pulled away. Greg Ruckman, who finished second in 2:22.57, never got close.
Kim Dobson made it three straight titles in the women’s race, despite battling a hamstring injury that forced her to stop training all of June and half of July.
Dobson, who set the female record in 2012 by finishing in 2:24.58, won the event in 2:41.43.
The experienced runner had yet to deal with an injury at the peak of the running season. So entering Saturday’s race, the 29-year-old from Grand Junction actually had a touch of nerves.
“You learn more in the harder times than you do when everything is going well,” Dobson said. “I’ve learned just to be out running, regardless of what time it is, is where the joy is at.”
During late July and the early part of this month, Dobson did more power hiking than running to train. Colorado Springs’ Ashlee Nelson took second in 2:48.58 and admired Dobson’s achievement.
“She’s just phenomenal up here,” said Nelson, who set a personal records in time and place.
For Blake, returning to the scene of his wrong turn was a long time coming. In 2011, injury plagued the Central Connecticut State men’s and women’s cross country and track coach. In 2012, he had a more pressing engagement, literally. He got married and was on his honeymoon while others conquered the Ascent.
But that 2010 race drove him. He was going to get back to Pikes Peak. And once there, he wasn’t going to let down, no matter how exhausted.
“The last two miles were very, very tough,” he said. “At times I was having to, when there were steps, almost just use my hands to crawl up. I was glad I had a good lead at that point. I was just trying to get to the finish line.”
After three years, Blake finally made the trek back. Better yet, he was the first one up to the top. When he leaves, he takes with him the gold medal and a new feeling.
Now, Blake overshadows Pikes Peak.
“For the last three years, every time I thought of that race, every time I thought of Pikes Peak, I thought of that bad race, going off course, disappointed of how things went,” Blake said. “Now I can think of a great, positive experience.”
Here are the Top 20 finishers on Saturday. For complete results, visit www.pikespeakmarathon.org.
Name City Chip Time
1 Eric M Blake, W Hartford CT 2:13:45
2 Greg Ruckman, Breckenridge 2:22:57
3 Simon Gutierrez, Colorado Spgs 2:27:27
4 David R McKay, Iowa City IA 2:30:03
5 Brian A Folts, Lakewood CO 2:32:57
6 Chris Grauch, Boulder 2:33:31
7 Dave J Mackey, Boulder 2:34:17
8 Kyle O’Brien, Boulder 2:36:11
9 Eric K Bohn, Flagstaff AZ 2:36:54
10 Mike Kloser, Vail CO 2:39:48
11 Max D Fulton, Denver 2:40.29
12 Timothy Whiton, Bozeman MT 2:40:50
13 Kim S Dobson, Grand Junction 2:41:43
14 Carlos Ruibal, Colo Spgs 2:42:36
15 Gerald B Romero, Colo Spgs 2:44:26
16 Gregory Lackey, Boulder CO 2:45:13
17 Nathan L Schultz, Boulder CO 2:46:17
18 Philip G Meyer, Colo Spgs 2:46:52
19 Cj Hitz, Colo Spgs 2:47:31
20 Ryan S Kircher, Lakewood CO 2:48:16