Well, I did it. I've wanted to do it for three years and it actually happened yesterday. I didn't think I was ready, but I actually felt pretty strong the whole race. I think the key was really just patience. Patience waiting in the bottle necked areas and conserving energy and patience with my tired legs the last two miles on the steep switchbacks. I couldn't have asked for better weather, so that helped a lot, too.
It's been only four weeks since the Half Ironman. I was hoping that my fitness from that race would really help me on Pike's. It turns out that it totally did. I was hopeful that in my Ironman training I could incorporate some hill climbing, but I really didn't do to my calf injury and the element of time. There was so much cycling I had to do, that when it came time for running I often just wanted to get it done. There were a couple of times I made it up high in July (Mount Audubon with Dan), but most of the training for Pike's came after Lake Stevens. I'm so grateful to Dan who ran with me 4 days on our vacation after the race so we got in something like 41 miles and 11,000' of climbing. That was huge! A week later I ran up to the Keyhole on Longs and then over to Battle Mountain, spent two hours on top of Evans with Amanda (great for acclimatizing!), and then ran up Buffalo Mountain on our anniversary. The third week I did Green Mountain after a day of CDE work in Denver, a lap and a half on South Arapahoe (mentally this was awesome training--and for the legs and lungs, too!), and South Boulder Peak with Dan. The week before the race I really took it easy with some swimming, biking, and a quick jaunt up Sanitas. Yesterday my legs felt good and I was ready to go!
I ran through Manitou Springs on the road. Then when we turned off onto the fire road I started hiking. It's just too steep to run efficiently. After the first aid station the two-mile narrow switchbacks begin. Three years ago I expended a lot of energy trying to pass people, but yesterday I resolved to just go with the flow. I settled into a slow pace, but it was good to wake up my climbing legs. People were super friendly and we had some good laughs on the way up. Around Bob's Road where the trail begins to open up (and descent a little bit!) I got some running in. I was nice to actually do some good 'ole trail running! From there to Barr Camp (7.5 miles in) it was a mix of hiking and running with a decent amount of room to pass if needed. Thank goodness for the restrooms and grapes at Barr Camp. They were a godsend twice! After Barr you begin get up into Krummolz and thinner air AND narrower trails. I couldn't believe the lines here--and people were going slower due to the elevation. I did do some passing here because I needed to. Soon, we popped up above treeline and the real fun began. At this point, people were really nice about letting me pass and we started seeing the leaders fly down the mountain (ok, the first couple of men we saw before treeline). Race rules require that uphill travelers step aside for those coming down, so there was plenty of opportunity for rest steps. As we got higher, the traffic jam got bigger. The 16 golden steps were a clusterf*** of runners going up and down. Though I made it to the top in 4:33 (10 minutes faster than 3 years ago), I seriously think I could have done it five minutes faster without all the traffic. Oh well. Patience. The weather was perfect. I didn't even need to put on gloves or a long sleeve shirt. Despite the thunderstorm off to the north, I couldn't have asked for better conditions.
At the summit I stretched for two minutes and then started down. It was so nice when people got out of the way for me! There was great comraderie the whole time up high--everyone was giving everyone encouragement. The trip to the treeline went pretty quickly and before I knew it I had the trail to myself. I keep getting lots of grapes at all the aid stations because they tasted so good and they had water in them. Barr Camp came up quicker than I expected (at mile 7.5). I made another pit stop and refilled my camelbak. I tried something new (which you're not supposed to do during a race, but it worked really well!) and put Nuun tablets in my camelbak for the last hour or so of the race. This really helped keep me in balance, that and the extra salt I added to my bag of pretzels! The cloud cover on the way down was AWESOME! It kept the temps a good 10-15 degrees cooler. After Barr Camp there were some uphills, believe it or not. I decided to walk these because they were really hard. The last couple of miles started to get to my knees, but I kept a slow pace and really kept watching my footing. This seemed to really help (today my knees don't feel bad at all!). The last mile and a quarter were on HARD pavement. Boy, I could really feel a difference from the tail at this point. We went back down the fire road and I realized just how steep it really was. The last half a mile I let it all out and just ran as fast as I could. I was ready for the race to be over and I wanted my finisher's shirt! The streets of Manitou were lined with people giving high fives and cheering for all the runners. A great atmosphere! I was so happy to cross the finish line, and do so so in relatively good shape. I hit all my goal times for the day and finished in 7:28:18. Today, I still can't believe I did it :-)