It’s tough to predict much about a Pikes Peak Ascent, but Joseph Gray and Kim Dobson make it a little easier.
“It would be a good story if Joseph or Kim didn’t win,” one race official said, noting the high probability the duo would take their respective 13.32-mile races before Saturday’s 7 a.m. start on Manitou Avenue.
They did just that.
Gray, who won the third straight Ascent he’s entered was the first person to the summit, crossing in 2 hours, 9 minutes. The Colorado Springs resident raced in Europe instead of on Pikes peak last year but hoped he could break Matt Carpenter’s record of 2:01:06 from 1993. He settled for another win in the 64th running of the Ascent, as he did in 2016 and 2017, on a gusty morning at the summit.
“Yeah, I wanted to, man, and I thought I still maybe had a chance,” he said of the record.
“And then that wind hit me.”
If anyone knows what it takes to set a record on America’s Mountain, it’s Dobson, whose 2:24:58 in 2012 still stands as the best women’s time. Back then, the Eagle resident was injury free, without children and had a little more speed after competing in the Olympic Trials the year prior.
“It was just all these perfect pieces coming together,” she said. “I think I caught lightning in a bottle on the day, too. Weather was great, the barometric pressure was perfect. It’s just a really special day where all the factors came together.”
Though she added another win — taking seven of the last nine Ascents, including last year’s altered race due to weather concerns — this one may have been a little tougher. Dobson, 35 year old was the 13th overall finisher in 2:41:42 after developing a stress fracture in April. She beat Ashley Brasovan, of Westminster, by a little more than three minutes.
“It was definitely a little daunting in that I usually push pretty hard in April and May and usually do Mount Washington. That’s a lot of intervals, and it’s a shorter race,” Dobson said.
“It was a little scary knowing I didn’t have those couple months where I usually am getting pretty fit. Instead I was like pool running and just jogging.”
Gray got to the start line just seconds before the gun went off and led the entirety of the climb.
“He was away probably right from the gun. I think I lost him (after) about a mile and a half. I couldn’t see him anymore,” said Englewood’s Seth DeMoor who finished about four minutes behind Gray and 13 minutes ahead of third place.
DeMoor had hopes of finishing in 2:10 but the conditions did not cooperate.
“Once we got above treeline and the wind hit us, you kinda had to throw the times out the window,” DeMoor said.
Dobson also led for much of her race. Even then, she was worried about Brasovan during the flatter portions.
“She’s so speedy,” Dobson said.
“I think she was pretty close behind, like a couple minutes behind, the whole time. She had a great race.”
She did not enter the race with plans of breaking her previous mark.
“Oh gosh, no. No,” she answered.
“That’s kinda hard because I always want to improve upon myself and I understand that I probably won’t. That was just a magical day that I am so grateful for.”
After clearing the treeline and realizing the wind would make any record chase futile, Gray quickly moved his focus to holding on to the win and preparing for upcoming races in Europe.
“Ultimately, you just gotta run and be competitive. Records will always be broken,” he said. “Even if I broke the record today, there’s no guarantee it would stand for very long.”
There were few guarantees Saturday, though the prohibitive favorites found a way to add to their Pikes Peak win counts. “I was quite a bit slower than I thought I might be, but there’s so many variables on a mountain like this, the air pressure, the wind and the temperature,” Dobson said. “I’ve learned to sorta balance and maybe have an idea where I hope to be, but also ignore the watch once the gun goes off and do the best I can.”