First of all, if I'm going to do this post justice, I have to start by mentioning Jill of Run With Jill fame. Before I ever made it out to Colorado, the aforementioned Pikes Peak Ascent alumna would make time to talk to me about the Ascent and other running topics. Then, once I got out there, she met my family for dinner and even picked me up at 5:45am to shuttle me to the starting line so that my wife could sleep in, and more importantly, my little offspring could sleep in too.
|Jill and company all smiles early in the morning while picking|
me up for the race.
We got to the starting line in plenty of time to mull around and chat. I saw a few of my friends from Wichita who ventured out to run/hike/walk the race, including Hannah.
|Jill, myself, and Hannah giddy with excitement. Don't|
we look fruity.
|Ready to start. Can hardly see Pikes Peak with the first|
"hill" in the foreground.
The Ascent has 2 waves. The first one starts a half hour earlier than the second, and has a smaller, faster field based on qualifying times. I suppose that was done so that when you're single file on the mountain trail, you're not waiting on other runners as much. I might be 2 slow 4 Boston, but I wasn't 2 slow for that first wave. Booyeah!
The Race Course:
The first small section of the race was on the road heading up to the mountain. It seemed pretty tough going for a beginning to a race, but it was a 4.5% average grade afterall. That was just a warm-up. Once we got on the mountain, I really started sweating. Not because I saw what was ahead of me, but it was actually unseasonably warm and the slope had increased to about 13.4% (as per race's website). I started worrying that I would become dehydrated. Luckily I was able to cool off as the temps. started to drop with the elevation gain.
|Ignoring the glare from the sun, this is looking down|
at the runners going through the Rock Arch.
The middle part of the race is the easiest. There are about 3 miles where you run through a bit of a valley and hit an aid station or two. I actually got my pace up to sub 9 minutes for short stretches along there while watching my heart rate drop.
|View of the finish, kinda.|
The most depressing part of my race came at mile 9. My Garmin GPS switched itself off after it's memory filled up. After noticing this, I first was in denial that I had that many previous workouts stored, and wondered if it was the elevation that took out my watch. Unfortunatly, it was done recording data for the rest of the ascent, but I was able to use it as a heartrate monitor and a pace calculator. Here are my Garmin's charts up to that point:
Fast forward, the treeline arrives about 10.2 miles into the race at an elevation of 12,000 feet. I envisioned getting past the treeline being comparable to the scene from 'Total Recall' where Schwarzenegger is on Mars and his eyes bug out of his head after the oxygen gets sucked out into the atmosphere.
|This is either a still shot from Total Recall, or it's an edited |
pic of Maria Shriver's hands around Arnold's neck after she
found out about his love child.
Turns out being up above the tree line wasn't that bad. Granted I was slower, but I couldn't perceive that I was at the time. Actually, I felt an adrenaline rush come on as I got the false impression I was getting close to the end, and because I was still feeling strong. I started passing racers, and that trend lasted off and on the rest of the way to the summit.
It's hard to know exactly what awaits you the first time you do something. In my case, I was surprised that some of the trail was lined with small pebbles which I would compare the traction with that of sand. Also, above treeline, there was lots of rock; as in boulders. Sometimes I couldn't tell what was trail and what was rock. One of the rockiest sections was what's known as the 16 Golden Stairs. I would say it's the closest thing to rock climbing I had to do that morning.
|The 16 Golden Stairs from above.|
Soon after the Golden Stairs, I was crossing the finish line with an official time of 4:07:50. Despite this being my first run up the Peak, I was pretty disappointed I didn't break 4 hours like I thought I should. After finishing, I felt like I still had more to give. Although I was exerting myself, I kinda ended up settling in with the pace of those in front of me instead of setting my own pace. All this leads me to wonder if I need to go back and try it again. The competitive side says 'yes'.
|On top of the world; or at least on top of Pikes Peak with Colorado Springs in the background.|
- 13.32 miles in 4:07:50
- 7,815' Elevation Gain
- 14,115' Final Elevation
- Average Grade = 11
- Overall Place - 601/1704
- Men's Division - 485/1175
- Age Group - 74/172
I actually decided to purchase my professional photos from the Ascent. Here are a few:
|One of my less flattering photographs. Some|
parts were steep enough, it lessened the burden
by pushing on my thighs.
I've got to disagree with my uncle on one account... Since I made it to the top on my own accord within the time limit, the mountain did not win, I did.