Sunday, August 22, 2010

We Did It!

Dan and I both completed the Pike's Peak Ascent in the allotted time frame!  We agreed to do 2 blog entries, one from each of our point of view, so here goes mine.

I don't think I was ever so nervous for a race.  I've been having nightmares all week.  Despite all my training all summer, I still had doubts that I would be able to meet the cut-off times along the course.  (So, since this race is up a fourteener, to keep everyone safe from afternoon inclement weather you have to get to certain points along the course at a particular time or else they'll turn you back around.)

Dan and I drove down to Colorado Springs right after work on Friday.  We stayed in a motel just over a mile from the start of the race.  We checked in and drove to downtown Manitou Springs.  We found the race expo and got in line for our race packets.  While waiting we started talking to an older guy who was asking us if this was our first time.  He seemed nice and like a seasoned expert.  Turns out, he was the keynote speaker, Bart Yasso, who has run races all over the world including the Badwater 147 miler through Death Valley, the Antarctica Marathon, and countless others.  After chatting with him, we got our $12 spaghetti dinner (with potatoes and garlic bread) and had a seat to hear Bart's presentation.  We walked around Manitou for a bit and then made it back to the motel.  It was an early (and for me restless!) night.

At about 5:30 I was awoken by Dan sitting on his bed eating something.  In my semi-conscious state, I thought he was sucking on a mint, but it turns out he was starting on his breakfast.  We both got up, ate, and got ready for the race.  We walked down to the start and waited for 7:30.  As we were lined up ready to go, a young woman sang "America, the Beautiful" which was very appropriate for the event, as Katherine Lee Bates wrote the song after she summited Pike's the first time.  However, the singer needed some more lessons in staying on key.  Though her voice was pretty, her rendition of the song was anything but.  I know, music teachers are so picky!

Then, we were off!  We ran 1.2 miles through the heart of Manitou Springs.  The streets were lined with people and it was a lot of fun.  I tried to go out slowly (since I always start too fast!) and was passing people left and right.  Dan and I kept leap frogging each other on this relatively flat road.  After 15 minutes or so, we got to the gravel fire road where there was only enough room for 2 people across.  The crowd started slowing down as the road was very steep.  Soon we got to the first aid station and people were still bottlenecked.  I started talking to some seasoned Ascent runners who said it would remain like this for another two miles.  The switchbacks started up the Barr Trail and I tried to pass people with the very limited room on the trail.  It was difficult to do and took a lot of energy.  I decided to just hang tight until it opened up a bit and I could pick up some speed.  Of course, two minutes later I hear "Tag, you're it!" as Dan rushed past me.  Oh well.

The lady was right, about 2 miles later it did open up and I was able move faster.  However, when I say move faster, I mostly mean walk quicker.  There were some parts that I was able to run on the course, but generally the grade was so steep it made more sense for me to speed hike than run.  I kept thinking that I would be able to run more just up ahead, but by the time I got to the treeline I realized that I had done my running and this race, or where I could compete in it, was really speed hiking.  It was pretty disappointing after all the running I've been doing, but it is what it is.  It made me realize how much more fit I'd actually have to be to be able to run it competitively.  I don't know if that will ever happen.

Anyway, it was still a fun adventure. It was fun running through the groves of aspen, getting grapes, Oreos and oranges at aid stations and leap-frogging a 70-something man and an 81-year-old (who was also doing the marathon the next day).  I did end up beating both of them (whew!).  It was really funny looking at the faces of the poor hikers who decided to hike up or down the Barr Trail on Saturday.  It was a glassed, deer-in-the-headlights kind of look.  I felt bad that they would be waiting for hours to get moving on the trail since there were so many of us.

I made it to Barr Camp 45 minutes before the cutoff and to the A-Frame an hour before I would be turned around.  I got to the treeline and thought, "I have three miles, 3,000 feet vertical, and a couple of hours to finish the race.  I can so do this!"  The countless switchbacks were trying...especially after already run/walking over 10 miles and 4,800 feet.  My stomach was not quite right so I was trying to take it easy.  I was also trying to save some energy for the 16 Golden Steps---very steep, narrow switchbacks at the top of the mountain.  I had heard such horror stories about them I thought they had to be grueling.  Though I was moving slower than I wanted to be, I was doing pretty well compared to most folks.  Lots of people were sitting to the side of the trail trying to breathe, others were moving like molasses.  An hour later I made it to the foot of the stairs.  There were two rescue workers right there (rescue folks were also at each aid station and walking on the trail) that greeted me with, "Welcome to the 16 Golden Steps."  I said thank you and continued on up.  Before I knew it, I could see the finish line...that was it?  Those were the dreaded steps?  They were fine!  The woman behind me said, "I'm going to need to pick up the pace if I'm going to finish in under 4:45."  I said to her, "You can do it!  Go for it!"  I looked at my watch and realized how close we were and thought that I, too, could beat 4:45.  I started passing people left and right and ran through the finish!  The clock said 4:43 and I felt awesome!  I felt so good that I could start running back down...maybe not all 13 miles worth, but some anyway.  I got a cool medal and went right for the snack table.  I was starving.  I got some food and then went to find the bag I checked to get my sweatshirt.  It was super windy on the summit.  I then started looking for a flat spot so I could stretch and I found Dan.  We didn't think we'd find each other on the summit, but it was so neat to stretch with him and share stories of the last 4+ hours.

We got on a shuttle van that took us halfway down the mountain.  The we got on a school bus that took us to Manitou Springs.  There we got more food and our coveted finishers shirts.  They're really nice long sleeve technical shirts.  Yay!  We walked back to the motel, hopped in the car, and visited with Melanie and baby Vince for a bit.  We decided around 4:30 we were beat and started heading north.  There was a ton a traffic and by the time we got to Castle Rock we were hungry for dinner.  We stopped at a Chipotle and saw a number of people in Broncos shirts.  I deduced there was a preseason game and that was the cause of the traffic problem.  I was right and we saw hundreds of people in and walking to Mile High when we drove by.  We finally got home at 7:30, showered, ate some ice cream while watching said game, and went to bed.  A good, very difficult day!

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