|COLORADO - Pike's Peak Marathon
I have wanted to run Pike's Peak for over a
year. It is not easy to get into this run. It sells
out fast. I put it on my schedule for 2012, and
planned all our travels around being in
Colorado Springs for the marathon, before they
even opened registration. They opened it up
sometime in March, and I was waiting at the
computer to register. It sold out in one hour and
one minute. So glad I made it in!!
I had originally been very confident about this run. They allowed six and a half hours to get to
the top - a half marathon - and I can run a FULL marathon in less than that, so I figured I had it
licked. However, when we got to Colorado springs and started training on the mountain, I
realized it may be much harder than I had originally anticipated. After three weeks of stressing
and training (detailed here) it was finally race morning. I had two different pace bands ciphered
out, I had my cut-off times memorized, and I had trained on the trail with my gear many times. I
could not have been any more prepared. Although I thought I would be very stressed, I was
surprisingly confident. Richard, on the other hand, was terribly nervous. He was looking at
spending the next 10 hours worrying about me. He looks unhappy doesn't he?
After a quick Marathon Maniac photo, we were off! Don't I look excited?
I was on track, trying not to take my first mile too fast, which I always do anyway. Mile
one, check. Then as we approached Hydro street, which leads to the entrance to
Barr Trail, I saw that no one was turning there. What? Dang it. That is how I
trained. Where are we going? Is this going to add distance? I started to panic, and
quickly talked myself out of it, and convinced myself instead that this would shorten
the distance. The route had been a bit long when I had trained on it after all. This
"shortcut" would make sense. Okay, panic averted. After about a half mile detour,
we were on the Barr Trail, back to what I had trained on. Now it was down to single
track, very difficult to pass. That was fine for a while, then the line in front of me
would start to slow, and obnoxious as it was, I just had to pass. I leapfrogged the line
a few times, and ended up falling in line behind a Maniac I had met at dinner the
night before. He had done Pike's Pike 4 times before, and said he usually makes it
to the top in 5 hours, and here I was right behind him. That's a good sign. I was
finally with a group that seemed to be the perfect pace. Just like in a traffic jam on
the highway, when you finally get past the slow semi trucks and fall in with a group
that is going your speed, you don't want to have to pull off to get gas because you
will get stuck behind the slow traffic again - that is exactly how I felt. There were
several times I would have liked to step to the side and rest, but I didn't want to lose
my good pace group, or worse, get stuck behind the slower folks again. So I trudged
Around mile 6 it opens up and smooths out enough to run
(the fast folks had been running the entire time, but it was
finally right for ME to run.)
I ran as much as I could in miles 5, 6, and 7, and made it to the Barr Camp check
point 35 minutes before the cut-off. What a relief! I spent a few minutes dumping
rocks out of my shoes - even though I was wearing my gaiters - and quickly headed
on. I was still passing people, and feeling great. I had dreaded the section between
Barr Camp and A-Frame the most. It had rocks and roots and it was pretty steep.
The last time I had done it, I almost didn't make it from Barr Camp to the A-Frame in
the cut-off time. Now I had banked an extra 35 minutes to spend in this section, so I
was feeling very confident. I was hiking along, around mile 9.5, when I came up
behind another Maniac. He was leaning on a tree resting. I'm friendly to all runners,
but especially Maniacs in their Maniac gear, so I said something along the lines of,
"looking good". He looked at me, and decided to tell me he had just puked up his
breakfast. YUCK!! I would never have known if he hadn't said anything. There
wasn't a pile of puke anywhere - just a wet spot on the ground - and he looked great.
Dang it! Why did he tell me that?? I didn't want to think about puking. Just 10 feet
further, a guy started dry heaving. Oh no!! I've got to get out of here! They started
to talk to each other about puking, and I said something along the lines of, "I don't
want to see it, or hear about it" and hustled off up the trail. But, when I rounded the
next switchback, there was a third guy coughing and hacking. I definitely had to work
hard to get my thoughts quickly off puke. I hadn't felt nauseous at all, but seeing all
the puking was changing that. I guess mile 9 was hard on folks. Not me. Once I
passed the pukers, I felt great, and before too long, I was at the next check point.
This time, I had squeezed out another 5 minutes, and was now 40 minutes ahead of
the cut off time. Giving me almost 3 full hours to go the next 3 miles. Piece of cake!
The Pike's Peak Marathon website suggested putting on warm clothes at A-Frame.
Last time I had hiked up, I had ignored this advice, and ended up waiting until I was
cold to put my warm jacket on. I had vowed to heed the advice this time, and knew it
would be a challenge. It was. I wasn't cold. But after internal fighting for the next 100
steps or so, I finally did as I had told myself, and put my jacket on. It didn't take long
before I also put on my head band and gloves. It got cold quick. I was passing
runners wearing much less, and I didn't know how they weren't freezing. Of all the
times I had been in this stretch of the trail, this was definitely the coldest it had been,
and the wind was blowing making it even worse. But it didn't matter at all. The sun
was shining, I was an hour ahead of schedule, and this was the one marathon I had
been looking forward to. I was so happy! Originally I had worried that I would get lots
of downhill runners coming at me between Barr Camp and the A-Frame, but because
I was so far ahead of schedule, they really didn't start coming at me until the last
three miles, above the tree line. The rule of the marathon is that the uphill runners
have to yield to the downhill runners, so I was doing a lot of yielding. Good excuse
for taking a quick rest.
I got to the summit in 5 hours and 30 minutes, a full hour
ahead of the cut off. I was a bit surprised at the set up, it
was just a little loop, roped off so you just had to go right
back down. I had expected a large area with benches and
snacks, maybe even hot beverages and a port-a-potty, but it
was just a tiny turn around. Oh well, still couldn't ruin my
Down I went, happy to be on the second half of my run. But,
within the first 500 feet, the knee that I had injured three
weeks prior and had been nursing along, bent back as I
landed. I just said "Shit!" and kept going. Not much else to
Another half mile, and it happened again. Dang it! No one had passed me on the
way up, but they were flying past me now. I kept trying to run, I was running, just not
very fast. The path was run-able all the way to the A-Frame, and I did run most of it,
but still got passed. After the A-Frame, it was harder to run because of the rocks and
roots and things, so I was fast walking, running when I could. I passed a girl who had
twisted her ankle (I gave her an Aleve) and a guy who couldn't stop leaning right
(weird, I know, he really had me worried. I offered him Aleve, but he didn't take it.)
Everyone else passed me. My good mood was leaving. In fact, I was getting pissed
off. Why can't I run downhill?
I was looking forward to getting to Barr Camp because I had run down from there
before, and was able to run the entire way. However, even before I got there my feet
started protesting. About 7 hours into this, they started blistering up. I've never been
more than six and a half hours on my feet for a run before, so this was all uncharted
territory. And my feet didn't think it was fun. I was still hustling along, and here came
the girl with the twisted ankle to pass me. DAMN IT!! Once I got to Barr Camp and
started running (and passed the ankle girl who had stopped for first aid), I started to
realize the full effects of my hurt knee. Running downhill was just too jarring. But
walking downhill was painful too. I was able to run for the two or three miles after Barr
Camp, but when I got back to the switchbacks I was doing this awkward walk/run bent
knee thing. It looked stupid, felt stupid, and was slow. The twisted ankle girl passed
me. Everyone was passing me. I only had two miles to go and crowds of people were
cruising past me. My good mood had been crushed and I was so sad that I couldn't
go faster. At the top, I was sure I could finish in about eight and a half hours, now it
was creeping past nine hours.
I finally hit the pavement. I had been looking forward to getting back on the road for
the last 6 miles, but it was still downhill, so it still hurt, so I was still going slow. With a
mile to go, a woman passed me who said she was trying not to cry until she got to the
finish. That got me thinking I should be proud and emotional. But it didn't work. I was
still just frustrated that I had done so well on the way up, and so poorly on the way
|Just starting out.
Pavement still, but
|I can see it! (Or I could if
my eyes were open.)
Just another 20 feet.
|Just starting back
down - the downhill is
treacherous. I didn't
know until I saw this
picture that someone
had fallen behind me.
|Almost up, about
1.5 miles to go.
|Just before (or maybe just after)
Barr Camp. Wide and smooth
enough to run - or pretend to run.
|About 1.5 miles down
from the summit.
|Coming around one of
the first switchbacks
within the first mile or two
of Barr Trail
The next day, as I sat on the couch and iced my knee that
was now double the size of my other one, I looked up my
results. Scrolling up from my finish to those who finished
ahead of me was a big mistake. People who had taken a full
hour longer to summit had finished ahead of me.
I know it shouldn't matter. I know I should be thankful that I finished. I did accomplish "America's Ultimate Challenge"
after all. And I checked off Colorado. And I didn't fall down. I had carried a first aid kit on all my training runs and the
marathon, and hadn't needed it once. But still I have a feeling of disappointment. Once this knee heals, I may have to
plan on coming back and trying this one again. After putting in lots and lots of downhill training.