By Angie Reese-Mudd/The Gazette
So in trying to once again overcome that fear - coinciding with the 10th anniversary of his first Pikes Peak Marathon victory - the Colorado Springs runner is ending his five-year hiatus from the "round trip" to compete in Sunday's ultimate challenge of the 43rd Pikes Peak Marathon.
Carpenter, one of the world's best mountain runners, will be one of 800 competitors starting the 26.21-mile marathon at 7a.m. Sunday.
Saturday, a field of 1,800 runners will compete in the Pikes Peak Ascent 13.32-mile race, with the first wave going at 7 a.m. and the second at 7:30.
"Physically, it scares me and it gets my adrenaline pumping just thinking about it," Carpenter said. "One wrong step and you fall on your face and it's over. So it's exciting in a dark kind of way."
Carpenter last won the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1993, when he set the course records for both the Ascent (2 hours, 1 minute, 6 seconds) and Marathon (3:16:39). After winning the Ascent in 1994, Carpenter spent two years running other races around the world, before returning last year to win his third Ascent title.
"Taking a little bit of a break from it really brought the spark back for me," said Carpenter, 34, a webmaster for the Colorado Springs Business Journal. "When you have that mountain staring you in the face every day, it really helped bring the motiva-tion back."
Since last year's Ascent, Carpenter has won four of the five races he has attempted. After running skymarathons (those run at high altitude) in Tibet, Italy, Mexico and Kenya, Carpenter says he has realized the race in his back yard is one of the best. His favorite place to run is the top 3 miles of Barr Trail on Pikes Peak.
"For me, the Peak is the perfect mountain running race," Carpenter said. "I have run in other races that are more radical and so steep and rocky. But this has more running; there isn't a point in this race where I'm not running.
"But it's right on the edge of being so hard that you have to walk."
Carpenter, who spent four days earlier this week camping out at Barr Camp, runs no less than 2 hours a day and does plenty of incline workouts. While he said he would love to break his own course record, he isn't focusing on time.
"It's just so hard to do that because everything is so dependent on the weather. You need fabulous days to set the records," Carpenter said.
"I was just up there four days and it snowed so hard, the road was closed and the snowplow had to come through. People were having snowball fights on Monday and it got as cold as 26 degrees. So, it's just too hard to tell.
"I can always lose this race because I've lost before. I just want to run the best race I can and try to win in the process."
Angie Reese-Mudd may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org