Jason Delaney felt the joy of victory. He already knew the pain of running the 2012 Pikes Peak Ascent all too well.
The Golden resident won the men’s race up America’s Mountain in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 18 seconds for his first victory in his third attempt.
“The third time really is the charm,” he said Saturday morning at the summit. “It was a brutal but wonderful race.”
Delaney, 32, who runs for the Boulder Running Company, was hoping to surpass his goal of 2 hours, 10 minutes as he reached Barr Camp, but had to stop for 15 seconds to stretch after his calves started cramping near the incline.
“I guess it was an adrenalin thing after that,” he said on soldiering through the pain. He held off acclaimed mountain racer Rickey Gates of San Francisco (2:15:42) who moved from sixth at Barr Camp into second by the summit, passing Colorado Springs’ Ryan Hafer near the A Frame.
“I was looking over my shoulder a lot,” Delaney said. “I knew Ryan is a very strong runner above the tree line. The adrenalin helped me hang on.”
Gates, who spends his summer riding his motorcycle to various mountains he wishes to run up, finished strong.
“I was able to really push the final three miles and reel in three or four people,” he said. “I was hoping for 2:10 but 2:15 is my personal best here so I cannot complain.”
Hafer, who has enjoyed a strong season, uncharacteristically struggled at the higher elevations as he approached the 14,115-foot summit. He finished third in 2:16:34.
“I didn’t feel quite as strong as I hoped I would,” he said. “I felt good up to Barr Camp and took a long water break. (Delaney) passed me then and I never did reel him in after that. I couldn’t push any more over the final mile.”
Hafer, 26, and fourth-place finisher Sage Canaday, 26, of Boulder set a fast pace early. It proved to be a mistake for Canaday, a first-time competitor in the 13.32-mile Ascent.
“I pushed hard for the first 20 minutes and I couldn’t maintain it,” said the Oregon native who finished in 2:21:16 and moved to Boulder a month ago. “I didn’t respect the mountain. The last three miles, my whole body was hurting.”
Former Fountain Valley School standout Steven Stoot placed fifth in 2:22:48.
Delaney will defend his championship next year and Canaday will be back after a year of high-altitude training to challenge him and perhaps take on the marathon.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I’d love to try the marathon.”