A man and his mountain
He conquered the Peak in record time and holds the record for wins
By DAVID RAMSEY
Matt Carpenter stands in the middle of the street near his home in Manitou Springs, his eyes fixed on the mountain that so enchants him. Hes staring at Pikes Peak.
Look at that bad boy, Carpenter says. Its so beautiful. I love it.
He sure does. He moved to Manitou to be close to the mountain. He has run to the top hundreds of times.
You would think that this man who so loves this mountain would join hundreds of others next Sunday for the 50th running of the Pikes Peak Marathon.
You would be wrong.
Carpenter, 41, will run the Leadville Trail 100-mile ultramarathon, The Race Across the Sky, Saturday and next Sunday. He will skip the Pikes Peak weekend that has brought him acclaim, joy and torment.
Hes won the Marathon six times and the Ascent five times. In 1993, he ripped up and down the mountain in 3 hours, 16 minutes and 39 seconds. His course record stands.
Carpenter moves to his living room which, of course, features a view of Americas Mountain and talks about his sometimes stormy connection with the Pikes Peak races.
He has won so many times, he says. Whats the point of winning again?
To me, at this point of my running, its really at the point of accumulation, he says. I won it when I was single and running was my life. I won it when I was married. I won it with a kid. I won it injured.
Look at whats happened with the Tour de France. Lance (Armstrong) could probably win another one and another one, but there comes a point when youve accomplished what you want to accomplish.
For me and I have to put me in quotes because everybody gets upset but for me the competition that I desire isnt quite there yet.
His desire, for the past year, has been to conquer the brutal course in Leadville. Carpenter might have been tempted to return to Pikes Peak this year if he had not suffered so much last summer in The Race Across the Sky.
A romantic name. A brutal course.
Carpenter walked the final 33 miles of the race. My legs, they completely ran out, he says.
He promised himself he would return. He has been obsessed with Leadville ever since. He has run at least 90 minutes each day since November. He runs, often pushing his 3-year-old daughter Kyla in a stroller, with one thought drumming through his mind.
Leadville conquered him. Now, he will conquer Leadville.
He expects to struggle to sleep days before the race. He expects his heart to beat fast as he walks to the starting line for that long, long run through the mountains.
He used to feel the same tingle when he thought of running at Pikes Peak. He struggled to sleep. He could barely wait.
But feuds drained his fire. He was disgusted when elite runners werent allowed to compete because the race was full. He boycotted the races in 1999 and 2000, wrote letters to the editor, became both the races greatest winner and greatest critic.
Some of the changes he sought are in place. Each race the womens and mens Ascent and the womens and mens Marathon reserves 10 spots for elite runners.
I take an activist role because I want to see my times tested, Carpenter says. If theyre going to keep it dumbed down forever, my records not going to be appreciated as much and I think its an injustice.
To me, it wasnt why did I take an activist role, its why werent more people up in arms.
Scott Elliott, 41, has enjoyed several battles with Carpenter in the Ascent. Elliott won last years Ascent but will miss this years race because of a hamstring injury.
Matt and I share the same hope that there will be a new crop of young, fast whippersnappers, Elliott says.
Race director Ron Ilgen knows Carpenter has struggled with the philosophy of the race.
It would be great if he could be there, Ilgen says. He sets the standard.
Hell try to set the standard again. Hes memorized most of the race trivia and has found a record he doesnt own. Marti Cooksey set the mark with an 18-year span between her first and last victories. She won the womens Ascent in 1978 and again in 1996.
Carpenter first won in 1988. A win in 2007 would erase Cookseys distinction.
He will return.
MATT CARPENTERS WINS
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Copyright 2005, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.