Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pikes Peak Ascent

I am finally taking the time to sit down and recap my 13.34 miles up Pikes Peak Mountain. This race is one that has been on my bucket list for a few years. I never really thought it was possible until we moved to Colorado-and then it became an actual reality. I can see Pikes Peak from my house and from day one here, I couldn't wait to sign up for this one. As I began 50K training, it only seemed logical to throw it in there as part of my "training". I quickly learned that it doesn't really work that way as the race starts at 6345 feet and ends at 1411 feet and looks like this...

I was doing great with the 50K training, but as the weeks and days drew closer to Pikes Peak day, GULP was all I could think. Nothing really adequately trains you for ascending a 14'er except running, training, and climbing 14'ers (which lets just be honest, I hadn't been doing!).  I originally had a time goal of 4 hours, but truly the whole thing started causing a lot of anxiety, and I daily had to to just tell myself "you can and will get to the top". Time just didn't matter anymore as I knew I hadn't trained properly. Either way, I was crossing this one off my bucket list; because as life generally goes, race day came whether I liked it or not.

Many advised me to just carry a handheld up the mountain, but I decided to go with my Ultimate Direction Vest and use this experience to practice fueling for my upcoming 50K. I lined up at 7:30am on August 15 (after 2 majorly long waits at the port a potty) as the gun went off and waves started in 1 minute increments. I was in wave 14 (with the bib number 1492...hey I discovered America!). 

There I go in my usual neon yellow outfit!

The first mile is through the historic own of Manitou Springs, which has unbelievable character! Many locals were out cheering with their cowbells. My goal was to run (slowly) this mile as I knew there wouldn't be much running the rest of the day. I kept a 10 minute mile pace as even this part was deceptively uphill. I passed a woman power walking like a champ (and gave myself a little pat on the back).  Then I hit Barr Trail and the hiking portion began. I hiked as fast as I could make my legs go-I had heard that the beginning and the end were the hardest (and steepest) part of the race, so I just wanted to keep a good brisk pace. I feel into a pack, and we stayed together as we wound our way through a portion called "the W's". It was special getting to know the others around me. A few who were coming back for their 3rd or 4th times, first timers like me, some from Kansas and Texas. My thoughts: "surely I can beat those who aren't used to the elevation" and "people keep coming back?! at least I can plead ignorance this time." "Holy cow, the speed walker is passing me!" Yes all thoughts that would come back to humble me in so many ways. We reached a beautiful wooded section around mile 5-7 that actually had runnable portions. It felt good to stretch my legs a bit, and I passed the speed walker again (another pat on the back). 

At 7.5 miles, you hit Bar Camp, where the most amazing aid station was set up with plenty of food, candy, water, gatorade. All the volunteers along this race were uplifting, cheering for every runner by name (names were on our bids...but still it was a nice touch). I took a moment here to guzzle some gatorade and eat a couple mouthfuls of grapes. I am not sure why but I could not pass those grapes up. Imagine a child with a mouth stuffed full of marshmallows...yes, that is what I looked like. I then gathered my wits and pushed on. This is also the point that you start hearing the announcer at the finish line (a cruel effect of the mountain I guess). I was also starting to fade a bit. I noticed my speed walk was slowing and my "gang" was pushing on without me. The speed walker cruised by me again. How is she doing that?! "You just dig in honey" she told me. And it kills me to admit this but I never saw her again...meaning she beat me. Yes, an older woman speed walking the entire race beat me up that mountain. So did a few of those out of towers who weren't acclimated to elevation. This is the point where I had to take one mile at time. If I had my phone, I "might" have called my husband and cried a bit. It got hot...and I mean really hot. My back started hurting and I got a headache (elevation maybe? Not sure). The last 3 miles were brutal. I kind of fell into this assembly line of people shuffling up the mountain but I took the time to snap a few pictures once we got above tree line.

 Looking back on where I came from...3 miles left to go.

The patch of snow at the tippy top is right near the finish line. It looks a lot closer than it actually is!

 Meanwhile I had this waiting for me at the finish line! I am so blessed to have this crew behind me every step of the way.

The last 1-2 miles is so steep that yes, that far out, I could see my family teetering on the edge of the rocks and hear their cheers carrying down to me. It is truly what kept me going!

Here I come into the finish line! It was really just a conga line the last 2 miles. There were times that I would have liked to gone a bit faster but it wasn't worth falling over an edge trying to get around others. And even if I could pass 1 person, there were 19 more ahead of them. At one point someone said "It's like we are on the Walking Dead" and it made me laugh hysterically...because it was so true!!

Joel's view of the finish...runners trucking up and spectators all around. The yellow sign is the finish.

I made it to the top in 5 hours 1 minute and 35 seconds. Not at all what I originally set out to do but nothing that I am ashamed of! It was great to see friends at the start, along the way, and at the finish.

I am so happy to check this one off the bucket list-plus I got a sweet finisher's jacket and another amazing adventure. (and I will admit I have a little burning flame that might push me to do the marathon some day). However I do plan to train much differently next time around (and perfect the art of speed walking because that lady was amazing!!!).