26.2 – 7:03:52
7,815 ft of elevation gain
Before I ever ran a marathon I dreamed about running the Pikes Peak marathon. I thought that running my first marathon would get me closer to this goal but really is just showed me that I wasn’t even close. For years it’s intimidated me from signing up. I knew that this year had to be the year that I finally Challenged Pikes Peak. Earlier this year I ran 2 road marathons in 3:31 and 3:37. This race took me nearly twice as long to finish. Get ready for some really slow running stats and some pretty race pictures.
Start - elevation 6,300ft
The race started in town on paved roads just after sunrise. It was about 60F and the sky was very clear if the weather stayed nice it would be about 45F at the summit. One thing I knew about Pikes Peak is that the weather can change on the summit very quickly. I was prepared for anything my backpack contained a jacket, winter hat, gloves and food. In addition to this extra weight I also carried a 20oz hand held bottle. I wasn’t planning on setting any records my goal was to survive and maybe run under 7hrs.
Here is the start, the turnaround is on the summit of the peak in the distance
No Name Creek – 4.3 miles – 1:06 – elev 8,800ft
The race started on an incline and quickly climbed out of town. It only took about a mile until I had to walk the first time. Once we hit the single track there were so many people that you just went at the pace of the pack walking or running. Earlier this week heavy rains caused flash floods and the trails were in a v shape from all the water that drained over them.
This is called “rock arch” it’s a really cool formation that you run through during the race
Barr Camp – 7.6 miles – 1:56 –elev 10,200ft
After no name creek there were actually some sections of flats and even a few downhills. This was because we were transferring mountains. I knew about this before the race and ran this section pretty good. Also during this section I ate my first and last granola bar of the race.
The peak was haunting us from the distance
A Frame – 10.2 miles – 2:51 –elev 11,950ft
Leaving Barr camp I felt the first signs of trouble. I hadn’t been drinking or eating very well and when I tried I felt very nauseous. The next stop was called A Frame because it was at shelter that looked kinda like an A. More importantly it was at tree line, trees don’t live above 12,000ft. Approaching tree line I really started having trouble breathing. My walk breaks became long and longer but looking at my watch it looked like I was way ahead of pace for 7hrs this was about to change.
Note from the trees – “you guys are crazy we wouldn’t go up there”
Summit – 13.3 miles – 4:19 –elev 14,115ft
The last push to the summit above tree line was the hardest. A few miles ago I was needed walk breaks to recover and now I was walking full time and still not recovering. Other than to let runners coming down pass me (very narrow) I didn’t stop moving. I was breathing so hard just walking I was worried that I would have to be carried off the mountain. Luckily I wasn’t the only one feeling this way and it looked like a line of zombies walking and crawling up the mountain. I hit the summit 19 mins behind my goal pace. Coming off the summit I had given up on the 7hr goal.
Here is a cool picture of the summit and the sign that says “1 mile to summit – 13,700ft”. This last mile took me nearly 30 minutes to complete.
A very happy (or delirious) me ready to descend
I didn’t stick around on the summit very long I knew that as soon I got down a little I would feel better. I was really happy to have made it to the top because I knew I could run down without too much difficulty. 4.5 hrs into the race and I had only consumed 1 granola bar, a few hand fulls of grapes and about 40oz of Gatorade because my stomach hurt so much. I made a conscious goal of drinking my entire bottle before the A frame stop (20 oz. in 3 miles). At A frame I filled up my bottle and again promised myself that I would drink it all before Barr Camp, I continued this at every aid station and I started to feel really good. The uphill challenges your cardiovascular system and the downhill tests your body. The pounding hurt and after a few miles my feet, knees and quads felt fried. I ran pretty conservative because of how much my feet hurt. In the last few training long runs I have been getting some weird pains in my mid foot which might be the start of an injury. Anyways as I ran down I started picking up runners who would then run with me. With about 3 miles to go we had about small pack of 6 runners when a lady went blasting by us. I don’t know why that flipped a switch in my head but I followed her craziness down the mountain. We left the group in the dust it was the fastest I had run all day (around 9:00 min pace).
We hit the pavement with about a mile to go still very much downhill but now without any obstacles I really took off. Suddenly my quads quit hurting, my knees were fine, my blisters vanished and I felt like I was floating on air. This was one of those rare occasions were I hit my runners high during the race. I kicked in the last half mile about as hard as I have in a flat marathon my Garmin recorded 6:45 pace for the last 0.75 miles. Perhaps I am better suited for road running. Coming down the mountain I figured my finish time would be 7:30 but the fast last few miles landed me near my 7hr goal at 7:03.
Here are the stats, they aren’t pretty. Maybe we should call it run hiking?
That was by far the hardest race that I have completed. I came very close to hitting my goal time of 7:00. 7hrs isn’t a great time it’s probably a middle of the pack time. I set that as my goal because it’s the qualifying time for wave 1 in the marathon. They have different standards for veterans than they do for first timers.
So that’s ends that chapter and I can check Pikes Peak off my bucket list. I know I am only in my 30’s my I have a long list of adventures to complete. I am sure that I will run this marathon again someday but not for a while because this race is always same week as Leadville which I plan on pacing next year and eventually running someday.