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Pikes Peak Ascent - RunHalf Marathon

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Manitou Springs, Colorado
United States
30F / -1C
Total Time = 4h 06m 9s
Overall Rank = 535/759
Age Group = 45-49
Age Group Rank = 78/106
Pre-race routine:

set alarm for 5:15
coffee, banana, bagel with peanut butter
Event warmup:

I really love this race. Well, at least I did until this year. Normally I like to arrive at least an hour before the race just and chaeck things out, talk with people, etc. This year because of the weather I didn't arrive until 20-minutes before the race. Dropped my bag with a change of clothes off at the van and tried to stay warm and dry until the canon went off.
  • 4h 06m 9s
  • 13.32 miles
  • 18m 29s  min/mile

This was my 6th Pikes Peak Ascent and by far, the worst conditions I have ever experienced for the race. For any of you that are not familiar with the Ascent, race starts at an elevation of 6300 feet and finished at the summit of Pikes Peak at an elevation of 14115 feet. The race conditions at the start really were not too bad, it was cool and raining but really conditions were quite nice for running. Right before the start of the race the announcer gave a weather report of the summit, 32 degrees, some wind, and no rain! I was optimistic that maybe as we approached the summit of Pikes Peak that we would run above the clouds and we might just finish with blue skies. While the hope of finishing under blue skies kept me going for a good part of the race, it was just not in the cards. It never did stop raining, that is until it turned to freezing rain, then some hail, and finally snow. I was really surprised by the snow…I mean this is the middle of August! It was a cold and miserable day!
Before the race even started I considered bailing. After having a serious talk with myself I headed for the start line and figured I was in no matter what. I wasn’t going for a PR on the race but I did have a goal of 3:30 and really feel it was realistic for me. The race started and I felt I was running a pretty smart race watching my heart rate and not using a lot of energy trying to pass people on the single track…just waiting and taking opportunities when the trail opened up. Shortly before Barr Camp I started to eat a power bar. Because it was so cold the bar was really hard and I was having a hard time chewing but managed to get down about ½ of it. Shortly after I had a serious pain in my chest…kind thought it was from the power bar…but then again in the back of my mind I was wondering if maybe I was having a heart attack! I’m in really good physical shape but this stuff happens to fit people. Anyway, I stopped and walked a bit and watched my heart rate monitor. All seemed to be ok so I started running again. Must have just been some really bad heartburn. Anyway, my goal was to hit Barr Camp at 1:46. The time on my watch at Barr Camp was 1:49 so I felt I could still finish close to 3:30.
At Barr Camp Aid Station I had some grapes and some chips and kept moving along. It was cold but manageable. I look over my shoulder and see some guy running in shorts and without a shirt…seriously! I made a comment to him that he must be cold and needs to put his shirt on. He replied that he will run faster without it and passed me. Around this time I wanted a little more nutrition than the grapes and chips I had at Barr Camp but didn’t want to have to choke down anymore of that frozen powerbar. I had a couple gels with me so I took one…a couple minutes later I had that damn pain in the chest again. I don’t know what that’s all about…never has happened before today. Now it has happened twice! I start to walk…in fact; at this point some guy is running down the trail and said he turned around at A-Frame. A-Frame is about 3-miles from the summit at an elevation of about 12,000 feet. I considered turning around at that point and stopped for a second to ponder my options…continue up hill for about 4 more miles, or run down about 9-miles? I decided to keep going. I really lost momentum in this section from Barr Camp to A-Frame. I felt like I was getting passed by everyone! I was amazed how fast some of these people can walk/hike up the trail. I was now doing more walking then running. It was also starting to hail. As I approached A-Frame I could see I was about to catch the shirtless dude. At A-Frame he stopped to get a trash bag from one of the volunteers to try to stay warm. I’m not sure if he kept going as I never did see him again.
Just as I passed A-Frame I heard a large crack of thunder…then another. Immediately the thought went through my head that someone could have been struck by lightning. Or perhaps someone might get struck…kind of unsettling. Also the wind had picked up and the rain was turning to frozen rain and snow. I looked at my watch at A-Frame and never looked at it again until I finished. The last 3-miles I just wanted to keep moving and thought about getting warm. I felt I was pretty well prepared, I wore shorts over my tights, 2-layers of dry-release shirts, gloves, a rain jacket with hood and hat. But everything was soaked and the temperature was dropping! There were some sections that I could run but it was really hard to pass anyone. The trail was now covered with snow and ice and pretty slippery. The last 2-miles just totally sucked! My fingers at this point were numb and I just wanted this to be over. Everyone wanted this to be over. I just told myself to keep moving. I made it to the finish line in just over 4-hours…the last 90-minutes I would say were the hardest 90-minutes I ever had to endure in my life.
After crossing the finish line I couldn’t unzip my jacket so they could take my bib number…my fingers would not move. I quickly went to a volunteer to have them find my bag of dry clothing. After brushing off some snow we found my bag and I was off to the shelter to change. I was pretty dazed but looking around I could see there were a lot of people in worse shape than me. At least I hope I didn’t look that bad! Someone came up and asked me if I needed medical attention. I was shivering uncontrollably and couldn’t speak but just nodded that I was okay. Finally I realized I couldn’t change my clothes in the medical area and went to the restroom to change. It was wall-to-wall men in this smelly bathroom changing into dry clothes and trying to get warm. I must have taken 30-minutes to get changed.

What would you do differently?:

If it is ever this cool and damp again I will have wool gloves or mittens, and wear a breathable jacket as opposed to the rain jacket I was wearing.
Post race
Warm down:

I didn't need to warm-down...I had to warm-up.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I'm really not sure. The weather played a part in my performance but even had the weather been perfect I wouldn't have hit my goal of 3:30. If I do this again I will concentrate on running longer distances on the weekend rather cycling.

Event comments:

I can't rate this course. Obviously it kicked my ass and I found it to be very hard. But even when I have raced the Ascent well it has never been easy. It's a demanding course but I won't say it's "Too hard".
I think this could be the worst weather ever for this least the worst I have ever experienced. Sometime after I had passed A-Frame the RD decided to call the race. I assume because of the lightening above timberline. I know this disappointed many of the runner's that hadn't made it to A-Frame by 10:30 and had to run back down the mountain. Only about 750 people finished out of approximately 2000. So there were alot that had to turn back. :(
The volunteers at this race were awesome! They had to brave the weather and did a great job supporting all the runners throughout the race. I know it was very chaotic at the finish and dealing with a bunch of cold, delerious runner's had to have been stressful. They handled things very well!

Last updated: 2008-02-18 12:00 AM
04:06:09 | 13.32 miles | 18m 29s  min/mile
Age Group: 78/106
Overall: 535/759
Performance: Bad
my avarage HR for the entire race was 145. The first 7-miles my avg HR was 151...the last 6-miles was lower at 139.
Course: race starts at 6300 feet and finishes on the summit of Pikes Peak at 14115 feet. 7815 feet of climbing.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Bad
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? No
Course challenge
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2008-08-19 9:00 AM

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Parker, CO
Subject: Pikes Peak Ascent

2008-08-19 3:27 PM
in reply to: #1613048

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Official BT Coach
Englewood, CO
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Way to stay tough!  That is just brutal!  I would have DNS'ed!  PR in better conditions.
2008-08-19 8:12 PM
in reply to: #1613048

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Parker, CO
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Funny, I had the ugliest headache after A-frame. It kinda scared me. That was by far the toughest 3 miles I ever ran. I'm glad we finished RAy!! Next year will be sweet revenge.
Great RR.
2008-08-20 6:30 AM
in reply to: #1613048

Subject: ...
This user's post has been ignored.
2008-08-20 8:58 AM
in reply to: #1613048

Madison, MS
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Wow. That sounds unbelievably tough. Way to hang in there and get it done. The Pike's Peak ascent is one of my dream races...but perferably in "kinder" conditions.
2008-08-20 8:22 PM
in reply to: #1613048

Colorado Springs
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Congrats on finishing! That sounds brutal. Don't be hard on yourself about your time - I'm sure if the conditions had been better you would have been much faster.

I cannot believe there was someone without a shirt - I don't think he would have fallen into the category of "experienced mountain runner":

I agree with you about the volunteers - they were fantastic! A friend of mine was up at the summit in the morning and then later in the evening (5:00 PM!) she was down at the bottom handing out drop bags - she didn't look like she was leaving anytime soon either! That is some serious dedication. And they kept all the lower aid stations open for everyone coming down - that was so nice.

It wasn't meant to be for me this year but I'm definitely going to try again next year!

2008-08-21 2:27 PM
in reply to: #1613048

Waukesha, WI
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Great RR.  I had to read because a friend of mine just did a marathon at Pike's Peak and this was probably it.  HOLY CRAP.  I don't think I can ever complain about 85 degree heat and 90% humidity again.  Much rather be hot than cold.  Awesome job finishing. 
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