At today’s, Sunday, August 18, 2013, 58th running of the Pikes Peak Marathon, Alex Nichols and Stevie Kremer captured USA Marathon Trail Championship honors.
Nichols, who placed second overall in one of the closest races in the history of the event, was the first USA citizen and USATF member to the finish line and thererfore earned the title of USA Marathon Trail Champion.
The 28-year-old from Colorado Springs finished the race, which boasts 7800 feet of climbing from the start line to the summit of the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak and then heads back to Manitou Springs where the race began – a 26-mile round trip – in a time of 3:43:46. Japanese runner Toru Miyahara, 30, finished in 3:43:23.
“To have a four hour race come down to such a close finish is pretty incredible,” said Nichols. “I didn’t feel very good on the uphill – I was third to the top in 2:22 – and I was hoping for 2:18 (last year’s Pikes Peak Ascent winner Jason Delaney was first to the summit in 2:16:21).
“I think I was pretty strong on the downhill, especially between A-Frame and Barr Camp. Right at Barr Camp I caught Jason, then I caught and passed Toru at the last aid station. He came back up on me by the Cog station and we were neck and neck and we were going fast – it was good to get the speed for the upcoming World Championships (Nichols is a member of the 2013 U.S. Mountain Running Team to compete in Poland on September 8, at the World Mountain Running Championships).”
Nichols doesn’t plan to race before the World Championships, rather he plans recovery time then back to training. For recovery, he does easy running and a lot of foam rolling. “I will probably go out for an easy run tomorrow. Maybe and hour, but it might be just six miles,” said Nichols.
Asked about confidence in his racing, Nicohols said, “This race was a good example. I’ve tried my best to never have a bad race. My goal is to find a way to have a good race. A lot of that is mental.”
Asked about his goals at next month’s World Championships (which is just over 13 kilometers), Nichols said, “It is so foreign to what I’m used to. My outside goal is to be a scoring member of the team (there are six men on the team with the top four to score).”
With the Pikes Peak Marathon also hosting a Skyrunning points race on the international Skyrunner® World Series circuit, Nichols hopes to finish in the top ten at the end of the season. “I’ll be doing Limone in Italy in October. It’s a half marathon with about the same elevation gain as Pikes Peak. That’s a lot of climbing in a short distance.”
Delaney, 33, Polson, MT, finished second in the USATF standings running 3:53:45, while Cameron Clayton, 25, Boulder, CO, rounded out the top three in 4:00:56.
Like Nichols, Kremer also competes in the Skyrunning circuit. The 29-year-old from Crested Butte, CO, who will teach second grade at Crested Butte Community School in the fall, recently returned to the United States after spending a year abroad in Italy.
Her time in Europe included races on the international circuit. That experience and international competition certainly primed Kremer for a great effort at Pikes Peak. She came close to breaking the long-standing course record for the marathon, 4:15:18, set in 1981, by Lynn Bjorklund. Kremer’s finish time of 4:17:10 included the second fastest descent time recorded in the history of the marathon. Only Gail LaDage Scott with a downhill time of 1:33:02 set in 1987, was faster than Kremer’s 1:33:08.
“I definitely surprised myself,” said an ever-smiling Kremer at the finish line. “I’m stronger up than down, but I pushed it…don’t get me wrong. The downhill went surprisingly well.”
This was Kremer’s first time at the Pikes Peak Marathon having been to the summit only once before while a student at Colorado College (she graduated in 2006). “It’s such a beautiful mountain and I have great memories of going to the summit even though it was a long time ago.
“Doing races like this is so great. The mountains are beautiful, the trails are wonderful. But most of all, the people cheering are amazing. I was getting high fives and so much encouragement from the other runners. They even stepped out of the way as I descended,” said Kremer.
Second for the women in the USA Marathon Trail Championships was Michele Yates, 31, Littleton, CO, with a time of 4:56:09, followed by 40-year-old Colorado Springs resident Connilee Walter in 5:10:31.
There were 15 states represented in the nearly 50 USATF entries. Complete results are available at this link.
The marathon wraps up two days of racing on the mountain. At yesterday’s Pikes Peak Ascent, Eric Blake, 34, West Hartford, CT, was the overall winner in 2:13:45 besting second-place finisher Greg Ruckman, 39, Breckenridge, CO, by more than nine minutes. Three-time Pikes Peak Ascent winner Simon Gutierrez, 47, Colorado Springs, CO, finished in third with a time of 2:27:27.
For the women, defending champion and course record-holder Kim Dobson, 29, Grand Junction, CO, won in a time of 2:41:43, followed by Ashlee Nelson, 32, Colorado Springs, CO, in 2:48:58, and Hayley Benson, 31, Littleton, CO, in 2:55:04.
With their victories, Blake and Dobson each earned automatic selection spots on the 2014 U.S. World Long Distance Challenge Team which will compete at the Pikes Peak Ascent next August. The additional four spots on team USA will be selected based on criteria set forth at the annual USATF meetings to be held in December in Indianapolis, IN.
For complete ascent results, visit this link.