07/30/2012 to 08/18/2012 Colorado Springs - Preparing for Pike's Peak
Monday morning Derek dropped us off for an early morning flight back to Colorado Springs.
We fetched our RV from the Elk's lodge and checked in to the Northwoods Village RV and
Mobile Home park. Since it is also a mobile home park, they have mail boxes assigned to each
lot. Since we were staying a whole month, I got a mail box. For the first time in 9 months, I have
an address. I feel like a real person!
The entire reason we were in Colorado Springs for a full month was to acclimate to the altitude
and train for the Pike's Peak marathon. With that in mind, on Tuesday we headed to the
Colorado Running Company to purchase a hydration pack to carry water while training on the
mountain. Before going to the running store, I had signed up for the Incline Club. I thought it
would be great to run with them while putting in some altitude miles, but also I loved their shirt
slogan, and they sold their shirts at the Colorado Running Company. I didn't end up getting a
shirt, but I still want one!!
Wednesday I headed out for my first run in Colorado Springs. I had to test out my new hydration pack, and my lungs. Whew, these lungs don't like
this altitude. It was a flat run, but at 6200' elevation. I pushed out four good miles, and called it good.
Thursday evening was the Incline Club's training run. They meet in Manitou at Memorial Park. Richard and I headed out early to check out the
Manitou area before the run. As we entered Manitou, they had a big sign welcoming the Pike's Peak runners. I'm getting so excited!!
As you can see, the sky was getting dark. This was only our fourth afternoon
in Colorado Springs, but it we were learning that there is a thunderstorm
every afternoon. As we were in the visitor's center checking out all the things
to do, it started raining. And lightning-ing. Lots of lightning. And I was still
out of breath from my run the day before, and here we were getting ready to
meet a group of runners who run up a mountain for fun - regardless of the
weather. I was definitely intimidated to run with the group before ever running
on the trail, so, we flaked out and went home instead.
Since I had to get up that mountain somehow, Richard and I headed out on
Friday to get some uphill training in on our own, and some confidence to join
the Incline Club runners on their next training run. We started at the base of
Barr trail. Here is the sign at the base:
Now, this sign is at the base of the trail, which is 1.25 miles away
from the start of the marathon, so I have to add 1.25 miles to the
12.6 miles on the sign, and the sign says I need 8 hours for just the
12.6 miles. However the marathon adds 1.25 miles and only gives
me 6.5 hours to get to the top! Ack! Stress!!
Regardless, up we went. The original plan was to go all the way to
Barr Camp. What was I thinking? That is 7+ miles up the trail, so
14+ round trip, and we are just starting to acclimate to the altitude,
not to mention the elevation grade. It was beautiful, so we stopped
several times to take pictures (and catch our breath...)
Within the first half mile I knew we
weren't going to Barr Camp. I was
moving a bit faster than Richard, and
hoped to make it to 3 miles, but turned
around, totally worn out, at 2.3 miles.
Richard thought we should keep going,
but I reminded him we were supposed to
take it slow and work up to this altitude.
We had planned ahead and brought clothes to change into so we could be tourists and walk downtown Manitou springs. It's all shops - mostly t-shirt
shops, so I spent a lot of time picking out shirts that said "I survived Pike's Peak" and similar, but of course, couldn't buy one just yet...
Saturday I had some sore muscles from the uphill climb, so I went and put in 2 miles to loosen those up. Then Sunday morning was the next training
run for the Incline Club. With not much more confidence than we had on Thursday, we met the club at 7 am in Memorial Park. They all knew each
other, and pretty much ignored us. They were going to run "up the incline" to Barr Camp. Silly me, I thought they were talking about Barr Trail.
They all ran off, and we trudged along behind, trying to keep up. I fell in with the back of the pack, and was surprised when they veered off the road
before Barr trail. Oh, THIS is The Incline. Yikes!! We were quickly left in the dust. So much for joining the Incline Club. We proceeded on up
anyway. It was amazing and breathtaking. Literally! My breath was taken. I know, it's a lot of pictures. It was just so damn impressive!
The record to make it to the top is 16 minutes. It took me almost an hour! And I wasn't even close to
done. The incline joins the Barr Trail at about mile 2.4, so I still had 5 miles to go before arriving at Barr
Camp. I met another gal on the trail who was also heading to Barr Camp, so she and I hiked on. A few
miles later, I met some of the Incline Club members running back down. They had already made it up to
Barr Camp and were on their way back down. They high-fived me as they sped on past. Yay, I'm in the
I finally made it up to Barr Camp, bought a Gatorade off of them - surprisingly only $3, even though
someone hikes them in 1.5 miles from the Cog train - and then turned around to head back down. Even
though I hadn't been able to run at all on the way up, I was able to run most of the way back down. It's
not easy to do. It is so scary, but the faster you move your feet, the more stable you are. If you try to
walk down some of the steep inclines, your feet slip out from under you on the pebbles, but if you run, no
big deal. My brain know this, it's just very hard to get my feet to believe it.
Monday was my birthday, so we decided to drive up to the top of Pike's Peak to look around and have
one of their famous high-altitude donuts. The road up is a toll road, and they charge $12 per person to
drive up. You would think that with them collecting all that money, they could afford to put up some
guardrails, but nope. Richard was driving, and somehow, every turn of this twisty road put me on the
outside of the curve, 2 feet from the edge of the road, looking way, way, way down... Scary! On top of
that, we were rapidly climbing from 6400' to 14,415', so the anxiety wasn't helped by the lack of oxygen
and pounding heart. I got so nervous I started giggling. Eeek!
We made it safely to the top and sat in the gift shop for a while, waiting for the altitude to leave us alone. The birthday donut definitely helped.
After about 20 minutes we were feeling back to normal, and so we headed down the Barr Trail, to see what I would be running up in a couple of
weeks. W--O--W... Uh, hope I don't trip. It would be a long fall. Too many pictures again.
I was still recovering from running the trail the day before, so we took it
slow. We could see the trail zig-zagging down the hill, all the way to the tree
line, but we only went down 1.5 miles. On the way, Richard found a rock
with a hole in it. Richard, what are you thinking? Why do you look so
We didn't want to hike down too far because we figured it would be harder
hiking back up. We knew that, and yet it was still a shock when we turned
around. We had only taken a few steps up when we both started panting
and our hearts were pounding. We took it really slow going up. When we
finally got back to the top, we rewarded ourselves with another donut and
headed to the truck for the scary drive back down the mountain. Down
turned out to be not nearly bad as the drive up.
Wednesday I put in a flat 5 miles on the Pike's Peak Greenway.
I was really stressed about being able to hit all the cut-off points for the
marathon. It was so bad that I wasn't even sleeping well. I kept dreaming
about climbing the mountain. I even had a dream that I was leading others
up the mountain. Too bad dream training doesn't count!
When I had hiked to Barr Camp in real life, I hadn't made it there in 3 hours, which is the cut off time, but I had also climbed the incline instead of
Barr Trail, so it wasn't really a good estimate. Also, after noticing how hard it was to climb up the last 1.5 miles that we did on Sunday, I didn't see
how I could possibly get to the top in time, so I really wanted to do a trial run. I ciphered out how fast I had to do each mile in order to make it to the
top on time, and so Saturday morning I had Richard drop me off at the start line (Memorial Park in Manitou Springs) and off I went. I got to Barr
Camp with 10 minutes to spare, but the next three miles were whooping me. I made it to that cut-off with 5 minutes to spare, and only had three
more to go. I started taking my time and relaxing, since I had two hours and twenty minutes to complete the last three miles. It sounded so easy.
But it wasn't. The higher I got, the more I needed to rest. And even though everything I had read said to put on your warm clothes at the A-frame
check point, I wasn't cold then, so I had waited, and by the time I put my jacket on, I was too cold. I finally made it to the top in six hours and six
minutes, and I had 6 hours thirty minutes to get it done, so I had made it. I was still stressed about it, but this training run had taken about half the
stress away. Richard met me at the top to chauffeur me down - after a donut of course. I thought I was incredibly hilarious when I put on my Hospital
Hill shirt for this training hike. Hospital Hill is a half marathon in Kansas City that has several big hills in it. Their logo is "I conquered the hill." I
decided that was the best shirt to wear to climb Pike's Peak. Hill - Peak, what's the difference?
I had managed to run most of the first mile, and then small portions of miles 5, 6,
and 7, but the majority of my uphill training hike had been at a walk instead of a
run. Since I don't usually do a lot of walking, my walking muscles weren't ready for
this kind of activity, so although it sounded very un-fun and I was dreading it,
Richard and I headed out Monday for a 10 mile brisk walk along the flat Pike's Peak
Greenway. The Greenway runs along the river that cuts through Colorado Springs.
We should know the name of it by now, but we don't. We were on our way back,
and had just passed America the Beautiful park when a big elk ran across the path
in front of us. We were very surprised to see that kind of wildlife right in the heart of
the city. He ran down into the river and walked along next to us for a while. Then
he too decided that walking 10 miles was boring!
On Tuesday we met our neighbor from Kansas City for lunch. What a
Still stressing about my upcoming marathon (and maybe craving a
donut) we drove back up to the top of Pike's Peak to put in another
training run. As we started out it started hailing. This isn't unusual.
They warn all marathon runners that it could snow or hail at the
summit during the run.
Sunday we tried to go visit Garden of the Gods, but it was so
crowded. We took one picture and high-tailed it out of there.
The hail didn't last long, and we were running too fast to get really wet. I was
really trying hard to train my feet to run fast on that scary, steep, loose gravel
path. Richard, who doesn't have a danger indicator, was running much
faster than me and I was struggling to keep up. We finally got down to the
A-frame and rested there for about 15 minutes. We ate Marathon Bars for
lunch, and of course I took my picture with them for my sponsorship. YUM!
When we turned around to head back up the path, we ran into a small
herd of big horn sheep.
Thursday we went back to Garden of the Gods. It was slightly less crowded,
but my knee was hurting, so I was cranky and didn't do much walking
around. I had twisted my knee the very first day on the trail, and every time I
ran downhill on it, it would get a bit worse. Can you tell I'm unhappy and my
Friday was the first day of the Pike's Peak Marathon expo. I wanted to get
there early to buy some of their clearance items from prior years before all
the good stuff was gone. I scored a cute hot pink running shirt and a nice
hat. They say Pike's Peak Marathon on them, so I HAVE to finish the run on
Sunday. We had planned to stay around and listen to the press conference
and stuff, but just being there was making me nervous, so we went straight
Saturday night we met some Maniacs for dinner. Again, all the talking about
strategy, ascent time, and past Pike's Peak marathons had me freaking out.
I went straight home and went to bed!