Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pikes Peak Ascent 2009

The Pikes Peak Ascent was this past weekend in Colorado. It's a race to the top of Pikes Peak on the Barr Trail -- it covers 13.32 miles with 7,815 feet of vertical gain. The race starts at 6300' and ends at 14,115'. I did the Ascent which was on Sat. On Sunday was the Pikes Peak Marathon -- America's Ultimate Challenge -- where you go up AND down. And as you might expect from the ultra world, there are people that do both races!

As you'll be able to see from the pictures the weather was great! (Helen, you called it!) There was a little grapple/hail at one point and the threat of a storm but thankfully it never hit. I put on a long-sleeve shirt and gloves above treeline, but never did put on my sweatpants or winter hat.

here I am, off like a shot!

The trail is mostly smooth... a little technical in some places but not a problem. But of course I only went up, it would probably look different if running back down.

I mostly just kept going and going and watching the heels in front of me. Caught myself trailgating at times. Every now and then I had to think "look around and enjoy the views!"... so it was like most other trail runs in that regard. :)

early, in the W's

It was very crowded for quite awhile. A few gaps opened up before Barr Camp (the halfway point). But I never went very long before I'd catch someone or someone would catch me.

There was the normal ebb and flow of runners like you see in other long trail runs... I'd pass someone and then later they'd pass me, etc. There wasn't a whole lot of conversation as the day went on, but everyone seemed to enjoy a word of encouragement when it was offered... and would usually return it between gasps of air. :)

The distance and the continuous climbing are certainly factors in this race, but the big deal is the altitude... as in the lack of oxygen! This is a race, but running - well, I didn't do much of that. I basically power-hiked the whole thing... I ran a little on the street at the very beginning, and then in a couple places that were level or slightly downhill (between No Name Creek and Barr Camp). And it was kinda strange because once on the trail I almost felt like I needed to explain to people why I was running. And other runners seemed to be doing that too. When you're at the back of the pack and everything you've heard is to take it easy or you'll pay for it at the top, it seems strange to run as that seems like you're 'pushing it'. Anyway, the running parts worked out well. I wasn't racing anyone and wasn't even racing the clock... the run was just a nice change of pace and brought some other muscles into the act - my walking muscles were doing all the work and getting tired.

Above treeline I saw people sitting every so often, which didn't seem horrible. I saw one guy down on the ground with his feet up on a rock, that didn't look so good. And I saw one person getting oxygen while being walked back down by two medics... we must've been within 2 miles of the summit (which is 11 miles from the bottom) so that is definitely NOT the way to go. All the advice is to take it easy on the way up and that certainly seems like the way to go.

click for full-size picture and notice all the people!

It gets tough at the top... there's just no oxygen, and it feels like you're bonked and about to get dizzy if you push at all - a normal-paced walk put me right on the edge. Thinking about those that do the marathon, it's such a struggle that it's gotta be hard to think about going back down after feeling so slow and powerless the last 3 miles. The last 2 miles took me over 30 minutes each! It would take some mental toughness to turn around for the return trip.

Thankfully I didn't have to worry about turning around as I was 'only' doing the Ascent. There are 2 cut-offs along the way and the finish line cut-off is 6.5 hours. Even though I didn't run very much, I just kept plugging along and was relieved to finish in just over 5.5 hours. It felt very good to be done! :)

almost done


Some numbers: I beat about 200 people to the top, 1442 people beat me to the top, and only 82 people beat me in the predict-your-time competition - at 5:32:01 I ended up 2:01 over my prediction.

From my experience it's unusual (and I know some people don't like it... hehe), but they give out finisher's jackets for both the Ascent and the Marathon. And a medal. In the ultra world it seems you earn a jacket for the 100 mile races, which are certainly way harder than either of the Pikes Peak races. But what was I going to do, turn down the jacket?? No way. :)

finisher's jacket - back
simple, I like it
finisher's jacket - front
also got a medal with the same design

This was a great race and I highly recommend it.

Since I didn't run very much of this race I kinda feel like there's some unfinished business there. I don't think that I'll ever be able to run very much on the way up the mountain, which means the only way to really run on the mountain is to run back down. So yeah, I'm thinking what you're now thinking... I need to go back and do the marathon! Up AND down! Anybody want to do it with me?!?!

We'd just have to get to the top (if I can do it, you can do it), and then be mentally tough enough to turn around and head back. I think a lot of the course should be quite runnable once you get back to where you can put forth some effort without passing out.

So what do you say, any takers? Pikes Peak Marathon next year?


Blogger wildknits said...

Thanks for the report and pictures - what a crowd on the trail inspots!!

Hmmm - traveling to another state to experience oxygen deprivation and climb and descend a mountain in August.... think I am busy that weekend ;->

But awesome that you came back wanting more!

6:29 AM  
Blogger Carl Gammon said...

Great report, wayne, and a very cool jacket.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take you up on it. Next year it is. Sounds like it was a good time.


6:05 PM  
Blogger Mark H. said...

WOW! What a race! I love that jacket too.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Jim Parry said...

Awesome job Wayne! Looks like the chances are good for me going back next year. You will love the
Marathon, but I have to warn you - it involves a lot more pain and suffering. Well worth it though.

6:39 PM  
Blogger DavidH said...

Way to go Wayne. I'll pass on joining you, but I loved your account and pictures. Having climbed Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic in March, I know how hard it is to enjoy the scenery while you're focused on the trail. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Mike W. said...

Great report, as to joining you next year, I do need a marathon in CO, but it sure looks crowded for me. Then again, that is a really nice looking jacket :-)

9:45 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

Congrats! I don't know about turning around after than leg burner... but it does look like a great event. And a very nice jacket! Glad the weather help up nicely!

10:13 PM  
Blogger keith said...

that looks SO AWESOME! Congratulations!

12:04 PM  
Blogger Jim Parry said...

Wayne, are you going back to Pikes Peak this year? I will be running the PPM for the 5 th time this August, assuming I type my entry info in quickly enough and get in. Going out there with the principal from my school. Doing my Endurance Challenge again the end of April. Saw you had a busy racing schedule last year and was just wondering about PPA or PPM. Jim Parry

9:34 PM  
Blogger Wayne said...

Jim - good for you on the Endurance Challenge and the PPM. My current plan is to go out and do the Marathon as well - which I guess is also subject to me getting registered, and my brother agreeing to put me up and drive me around, and I guess me training properly and not chickening out. :)

9:46 PM  

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