There would be no catching Mario Macias in the 2011 Pikes Peak Ascent.
The 29-year-old road runner from Alamosa bolted from the starting line, built a lead, and then charged into the crystal Colorado sky.
About 8,000 vertical feet later Macias became a Pikes Peak champion. He covered the 13.32-mile course in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 57 seconds, the fifth-fastest time ever recorded in the Ascent. For the record, there are nine faster times in the ascent portion of the marathon.
And get this. Macias was out for a practice run.
“I’m a road racer,” he said. “This was a training run for me.”
Video: Interview with Mario Macias
PHOTOS: Pikes Peak Ascent Wave 1, start and Mile 1
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That wasn’t ego talking. Macias has dominated many races this year, including the Mount Evans Hill Climb, the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run and the Vail Pass Half Marathon. And he did use the Ascent as training in preparation for the Chicago Marathon in October, where he hopes to run a 2:10.
Macias has good reason to be confident, and that confidence showed over his fist mile when he built a 50-meter lead over a chase pack that included 2011 U.S. Mountain Running team members Tommy Manning and Rickey Gates.
“I’m an aggressive racer,” Macias said. “I tend to go out too fast. I mean, it worked. I wanted to get out because I’m not a mountain runner. I knew these guys would try to catch me up.”
PHOTOS: Pikes Peak Ascent Finish Line, Gallery 1
PHOTOS: Pikes Peak Ascent Finish Line, Gallery 2
That never happened. Manning who finished second in a personal-best 2:15:43, said he never saw Macias after the No Name Creek aid station at about 4.25 miles into the race.
“I kept telling myself ‘I’ll see him, he’s a road runner, not a guy who is used to 13,000 or 14,000 feet,” Manning said. “I kept thinking he’d come back, but I never saw him. He was the favorite for a reason. He’s just ridiculous.”
Simon Gutierrez, 45, of Colorado Springs, a three-time Pikes Peak Ascent winner, placed third in 2:18:15.
As expected, Kim Dobson, 27, of Aurora ran away with the women’s race. But her winning time was a bit of a surprise.
Video: Interview with Kim Dobson
Dobson finished in 2:34:07, just 36 seconds off the women’s record of 2:33:41 set 30 years ago by Lynn Bjorklund.
“I have no excuses,” she said. “I ran as strong as I could today and the pacing was well and I didn’t get stuck behind anybody, so really that was the best I could do. But this does make me hopeful for the future.”
Dobson, who has finished second in each of the last two years, has dreamed of winning Pikes Peak. She won the Mount Washington Road Race – one of the biggest prizes in mountain running – earlier this year. But Pikes Peak was her target.
PHOTOS: Pikes Peak Ascent awards
“I love this race,” she said. “You can’t find any other race like this, all climbing, almost 8,000 feet elevation gain and then to finish at 14,000. To me it’s the ultimate challenge.”
Cynthia Arnold, 27, of Glenwood Springs, placed second in 2:48:21, followed by Lisa Goldsmith, 46, Nederland, in 2:50:55.