Only Up(hill) From Here

Kim Dobson

In the early dark of a frigid winter morning, when the bleary-eyed are fighting sleep and I-70 traffic for a day on the slopes, Kim Dobson is already there. Instead of skis on her feet, she’s donned microspikes, small silver webs of chains and barbs attached to her shoes to help her keep traction on her morning run up the icy slope. When she reaches the top, she’ll ride the gondola down and, likely, run up again.

“It’s a really fun way to get hill repeats in!” she exclaims, as if this isn’t an activity that sounds like it might belong to a superhero in a Marvel movie. This training regimen, however, is put in perspective when compared to Dobson’s numerous mountain running accomplishments.

Kim Dobson running

Photos courtesy of Kim Dobson

Recently, Dobson took on the Leadville 100 — a 100-mile race notorious for its grueling climbs and rocky descents. Spots in the August race are limited and thus, highly coveted, sought by ultrarunners worldwide. Despite the limited numbers, Dobson proudly points out that four Vail Valley residents were present at this year’s race.

Dobson entered the race with no real expectations other than “to experience the distance and see if I felt good in it.” A stubborn glute injury stopped by to rain on the parade, and by mile 62, Dobson couldn’t run at all. “I’ve pushed over pain to get to a finish line before,” she shares. “And then I didn’t get to another finish line for months and months after. I kind of said, ‘This isn’t gonna happen and that’s okay. I’m not gonna completely destroy myself.’”

Despite undertaking Herculean endeavors, Dobson is a believer in listening to your body and putting longevity first. “I love running so much that I want it to be a part of my daily life,” she says. “I can’t do that if I’m really injured.”

Dobson came out of the experience 62 miles wiser and still a fan of the “relaxed environment and camaraderie of ultrarunning.” “It was a really, really neat experience. I just don’t think my body is meant for that long,” she laughs.

When she’s not nursing an injury, a favorite race of Dobson’s is Pikes Peak, a weekend event with two race options. On Saturday, it’s a steep 13.1-mile ascent that climbs 7,800 feet. On Sunday, it’s a marathon that involves the same 13.1-mile ascent, but then casually tosses in those same 13.1 miles as a descent. (Are your quads burning in sympathy yet?)

Of course, Dobson is modest and does not mention that, in 2012, she set the record for the Pikes Peak Ascent. Then, in 2017, she finished 11 minutes ahead of the competition in the Ascent, only to turn around the next day and run the Marathon, finishing third, with the fastest combined time of the two races, as a new mother.

But, the uphill runner is just as partial (if not more so) to her home trails. “It’s a great place to run,” she says. “Eagle is really the secret gem of Colorado trail running.”

"Eagle is really the secret gem of Colorado trail running."

More than the trails and paths, Eagle is a thriving community for athletes of all kinds and abilities. “There are lots of great athletes and runners here, especially women,” says Dobson. There’s a Thursday evening run club that meets in Eagle at Color Coffee Roasters, and recently, an Eagle chapter of Trail Sisters (a women’s running community) was started. “Lots of people are excited
about it,” Dobson adds.

Even if she’s not be-bopping her way up a ski slope, Dobson can be found running “pretty much year-round.” “They’re really good about plowing the bike paths here, which is really nice,” she shares. Although she does warn that once things get dark, the paths can get slippery and freeze up at night.

Even though no concrete plans are in place for upcoming races, Dobson plans to break out the microspikes this upcoming winter to train for the Vail Mountain Winter Uphill where she’ll take on both other runners in microspikes, as well as skiers in slope-gripping skins, and to vary her training to be ready for whatever endeavor she decides to pursue next. “I’m trying to balance the new things with the old things I love,” Dobson explains. “I’m always tempted to do a road marathon and some other shorter trail races.”

All else aside, “My heart belongs to the uphill,” she says. “So, I’ll definitely keep doing that.”