Winning margin the smallest since 1976
By MERI-JO BORZILLERI
On a morning when the clouds rose to swallow a peak, one runner chased another through the mist. Both made Pikes Peak Ascent history.
Scott Elliott never caught Simon Gutierrez in a setting resembling a dreamscape more than a brutal slog up a 14,115-foot mountain. But in Saturdays race, looks were deceiving.
Gutierrez, 40, of Alamosa, was the official winner in 2 hours, 18 minutes, 6 seconds, topping a field of 1,800 men and women in the 13.32-mile race. He also was Ascent champion in 2003.
Gutierrez managed to hold off eight-time champion Elliott, 42, of Boulder, in the final 1½ miles. Elliott finished eight seconds back.
Manitou Springs Daryn Parker was third in 2:18:43.
Gutierrez won but wasnt the first across the line. Threetime Olympian Silvio Guerra of Ecuador finished in an unofficial time of 2:15:04. Guerra tried to enter on race morning and was denied a bib number by officials, who can consider special circumstances for a runner of Guerras caliber, but not so close to the race start.
He ran anyway as a bandit, an unregistered entrant.
For the bib-wearing competitors, this was the closest finish by far in Ascent history on the current course, last changed in 1976. Only 37 seconds separated the top three.
Before this year, the tightest 1-2 finish was in 1998, when Jeremy Wright of Laramie, Wyo., beat Larkspurs Mark Cucuzzella by 1:16.
Defending champion Ryan Hafer, 20, of Colorado Springs started strongly but faded soon after Barr Camp at 7.64 miles. He finished sixth in 2:29:43.
I just didnt feel good, Hafer said. I just think I wasnt fit for Pikes Peak.
Ascent runners cope with a 7,815-foot altitude gain over the 13.32-mile course. Turns out, the mountain wasnt high enough for Elliott.
Give me one more minute and I wouldve gotten him, said Elliott, who crossed the finish line atop Pikes Peak shirtless and wobbly. I was smelling blood.
Gutierrez said he knew he needed an early lead because he is strongest below 11,000 feet. Above that is Elliotts territory.
If we had another quartermile, it would have been a different result, Gutierrez said. He would have caught me.
Gutierrezs time was well off the course record 2:01:06 set in 1993 by Manitou Springs Matt Carpenter, who signed up for the Pikes Peak Marathon that begins at 7 a.m. today.
He just kept coming and coming, Gutierrez said of Elliott, who started to close the gap with a mile to go and trailing by about a minute.
Elliott had more than Gutierrez to chase. He had to fend off Parker.
I was in the really good position of being the hunted and being the hunter, Elliott said.
High on the mountain, the course winds through rocks and boulders. The footing gets treacherous, but in the gloaming where there are no trees, Gutierrez could see a scarier sight. Elliott was catching him.
Those switchbacks are real tight, Gutierrez said. Scott got to within 10 seconds.
Luckily for Gutierrez, the finish line came first.
Copyright 2006, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.