Dubberley, O’Donnell are peak performers

The Pier to Peak Half Marathon climbs from sea level to Gibraltar Peak. (Presidio Sports Photos)

The Pier to Peak Half Marathon climbs from sea level to La Cumbre Peak. These runners are on Gibraltar Road with Goleta, Campus Point and the Santa Barbara Airport in the background. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

For Santa Barbara’s Matt Dubberley, the run up Gibraltar Road to La Cumbre Peak for the finish of the Pier to Peak Half-Marathon was a mere bunny hill.

Dubberley captured the annual Labor Day weekend race from sea level to nearly 4,000 feet in 1 hour, 40 minutes, 53 seconds one month after setting the world speed record of running to the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States.

Matt Dubberley won the 2015 Pier to Peak Half Marathon.

Matt Dubberley won the 2015 Pier to Peak Half Marathon.

Dubberley set the ascent record up 14,496-foot Mt. Whitney with a time of 1 hour, 47 minutes, 40 seconds and lowered the round-trip mark to 2:38.15. The previous records were 1:49.10 and 3:03.05.

“I spent the last year basically running steep hills every day, training at altitude,” said Dubberley at the top of La Cumbre Peak. “This was hard but it was not as steep as I’m used to.”

Dubberley took third at last year’s race.

Annie O’Donnell was making her Pier to Peak debut and she went out and won the women’s title in a record time of 1:46.49 and finished second overall.

Pier to Peak Full Results

“I was telling somebody ignorance is bliss. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” said O’Donnell of her first P2P experience.

She said she asked fellow runner Steve Harding (third place finisher in 1:47.49) at the start of the race for any suggestions.

“He said to start slow, so I did,” she said. “I was fourth for women’s (early in the race). On the hill, I started pushing it. I was way far back and I was like: ‘Ugh, I don’t know if I have it in me.’ But, slowly but surely I caught up with the other girls.”

O’Donnell, a veterinarian at La Cumbre Animal Hospital, was coming off a third-place finish in the Santa Barbara Triathlon long-course race.

“It’s fun,” she said of winning the challenging race. “I’m happy, I’m stoked. It’s pretty fun to get the course record,” she said.

After finishing third last year, Dubberley said this year’s race was about taking care of unfinished business. “I had to come back and get it.”

His strategy for the race is to “start really slow, check your watch, look at your pace and back it off. There were a few guys that went ahead and I just let them go. Sure enough, when the hill got steep, they paid the price.”

Dubberly’s route from Whitney Portal to the peak required more than just running. He relied on mountaineering skills, hiking and rock climbing.

Annie O'Donnell - Pier to Peak

Women’s winner Annie O’Donnell

“It’s totally different because you have to know how to rock climb and be in the mountains,” he said. “And, there’s a little bit of route finding too.”

He said the day he set the record (Aug. 2), there was virtually no one on the mountain because the weather forecast called for thunderstorms.

A former professional cyclist, Dubberley said he trained in Colorado for about a month to prepare for his Mt. Whitney challenge.

“I ran a lot of the 14,000-foot peaks every other day, just going up hill, and did a few races to train for it.”

He raced with some Kenyans in an event up Pikes Peak and finished fifth.

Dubberley was pleased with his time in his Pier to Peak win and had a good time doing it.

“I had a great race. The conditions were great, great views, awesome support from the community — everyone cheering,” he said. “It’s just a really unique race with the awesome views of Santa Barbara. It’s quite a challenge here.”

Rounding out the top five men’s finishers were Ryan McGinnis in 1:48.48 and Bryan Toro in 1:49.50.

Dani Moreno, who just completed her track career at UCSB and was making her Pier to Peak debut, was the second women’s finisher in 1:50.10. She was followed by former winners Andrea McLarty (1:50.32) and Sara Kida (1:54.03).

Runners get started on lower State Street just before sunrise.

Runners get started on lower State Street just before sunrise.