Tommy at the Finish. Photo courtesy of Nancy Hobbs

Tommy finished second this year at the Ascent, mirroring his second place finish at the Mt. Washington Road Race.  His time this year at both races were personal bests, good signs as Tommy heads to Albania in a few weeks.

Here is Tommy’s Race Report from the Ascent:

From the gun I pretty quickly put myself into fourth place behind Mario Macias, Josh Eberly, and Simon Gutierrez.   The race did not go out as fast this year as last year’s international field (the World Mountain Running Long Distance Challenge) took it out.  By the time we reached the dirt trail, I had passed Simon and Josh and was in second place.  I was kind of surprised a little while later when I passed the 11 miles to go sign.  (The Pike’s Peak Ascent has mile markers in descending order instead of ascending order and I really like it this way.  It’s nice to see 7 miles to go then 6 miles to go instead of passing mile 6 then mile 7 etc.)  Anyway as I passed the sign, I looked at my watch and saw 14:20, which meant I covered the first 2.3 miles pretty quickly.

My strength is climbing and each of the last two years I got passed in the flatter section between the top of the incline and Barr Camp.  After the switchbacks after the top of the incline, I really tried to push that section and I got passed by Eberly anyway.  And he passed me quick.  It was only about two minutes from the time I heard his footsteps to watching him pass me to him being out of sight.  I didn’t hit my watch at Barr Camp but think I passed through at about 1:06.  I was told I was two minutes behind Mario and was not far behind Eberly.  I was pretty sure I would catch him in the next few miles before treeline.

Sure enough, I caught him going up the steep, rocky stuff just before the Bottomless Pit sign (around 5 miles to go).  I asked if he’d ever run the race before.  He replied “No, have you?”  I said “Yes, the last three miles are a bitch.”  I kept trucking up to the A-Frame shelter and the 3 miles to go sign.  Search and Rescue volunteers told me I was three minutes behind Macias.  I was feeling good, but my body decided to slow down there.  It took me 13:20 to reach the 2 miles to go sign, which isn’t much faster than I run in training.  Although I thought I was running hard, I was obviously fatigued and slowing down.  I struggled through the next mile and even fell once (that damn rock that came out of nowhere!).  My goal for the last mile was simply to keep running and not stop to walk anywhere.   That plan failed when I came to the first set of difficult rocks.  I walked the majority of the Golden Steps too.  It didn’t really matter because Macias had finished by then (or was about to finish) and Gutierrez was a few minutes behind me.  The finish area/last half mile is awesome because tons of fans are scattered all across the rocks and around every corner of the trail.  I had some friends at the top yelling for me too.  It was pretty cool to see several of my colleagues up there at 14,000 feet yelling for me.  I struggled through the finish line, took some pictures with my friends, drank a gallon or two of Gatorade, and pigged out on all the snack food (yeah, I love the M&Ms.

The first question from the local newspaper reporter was “Are you upset with your second place finish?”  I was like no way, man.  If I had finished less than one minute back or if I had ever been in the lead, then I would have been upset.  Or if I finished in third after being in second for most of the race, then I would have been upset.  But I finished seven minutes behind the leader and I ran a PR by over four minutes.  So no, I wasn’t upset.  I ran a great race and got my butt kicked by a guy who ran an even better race.  Plus I have other things on my mind.  I’m running for the United States in the World Mountain Running Championships in three weeks.  That’s the biggest race of my season and the race I am most looking forward to.  I ran a great Pike’s Peak Ascent, enjoyed the day, and look forward to trying to do better next year.