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Pikes Peak Ascent - Run

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Manitou Springs, Colorado
United States
Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc.
80F / 27C
Total Time = 3h 45m 16s
Overall Rank = 47/633
Age Group = 30-34
Age Group Rank = 10/103
Pre-race routine:

I arrived in Colorado Springs in the early afternoon the day before the race. Based on talking to my coach and just the science of adapting to altitude you either need to get there 3+ weeks in advance, to actually make the proper adaptation or just over 24 hours, before the potential altitude effects can really damn your race (inability to sleep, dehydration etc.)

Backing up a little, being a flatlander I was an an extreme disadvantage. The two things that I could best control were to be as fit as possible and to be as hydrated as possible.

I generally drink a lot of water. Before boarding my flight I may have overdone it just a little. I boarded and already needed to go. Bad. It didn't help that I had a very, very large woman sitting next to me on the plane. No, more like sitting ON me. I was super conscious of the amount of squirming I did because she kept side eyeing me every time I move (underneath her.)

Finally we were in the air. They didn't turn off the seat-belt sign but I absolutely could not hold it any more. I asked the woman to let me out, and she did kindly do so. I RAN to the back of the plan. I even saw the flight attendant trying to point at the seat-belt sign and send me back to my seat but I ignored her.

Oh my gosh, the relief!!!!!!!!! I got a nasty look from the attendant again when I got out but I didn't even care. Needless to say when I arrive in COSprings, I was nice and hydrated.

I went and picked up my packet then walked to the Manitou Brewery and had a quick beer (Their Pale Ale, which I got a half pint of for like, 2 bucks) then went and checked into my little cabin. I was staying in this really rudimentary cabin at the RV park. It was actually pretty cool. Everything I needed and nothing more. I slung up my hammock and kicked my feat up for a while.

After a bit I headed out and checked out Garden of the Gods. A beautiful public park full of prehistoric rock formations. It was owned by Charles Elliot Perkins who gifted the space to the city so long as it remained free to the public.

View of Pikes from one of the formations

Another fun tidbit, and this I got from Wikipedia before I went, so take it with a grain of salt but: The area was first called Red Rock Corral. Then, in August 1859, two surveyors who helped to set up Colorado City explored the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". His companion, the young Rufus Cable, awestruck by the impressive rock formations, exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."

How about Beer Garden of the Gods? I say that is an excellent compromise.

I got in my car and was driving out of the park when this woman runs up along side the car, waving her arms and shouting. I stopped and rolled down the window and she told me her friends had left her and wondered if I could give her a ride a few miles down the road. I thought, what's the worst thing that can happen? And gave the poor woman a ride anyway. Luckily I didn't get murdered and she was really nice. She was from Colombia and was touring from Vancouver, Canada down through the US for a couple months. Again, no murder.

Anyway, after the little hike-about I went over to the High School track and got in a little pre race shakeout in. The track was just beautiful, sitting amongst the mountains. I wrapped up my workout just as the late afternoon thunderstorm was rolling in. It was absolutely beautiful.

Lucky, like VERY lucky for me I was texting fellow BTer Mary, coordinating meeting up the next morning and realized my clock on my phone was not set to the time zone. I noticed it seemed awfully quiet for 9:30 so I asked Mary what the local time was. 10:30. EEKS! Time for bed and thank goodness I got confirmed before the morning!

Event warmup:

TJ and her husband picked me up at Starbucks (I made a deal) because I figured by the time I drove there and parked it would be further than just walking from my place. So yeah, I was being a bit lazy. So, thanks again guys!

Dave dropped us off and TJ and I checked our gear. Then out of nowhere this guy swoops in and starts talking. And talking. And talking and talking and talking. I'm not a very good wing-woman because I had enough and told TJ I was going to use the porta and warm up, more than anything to get away from the guy. He was killin' my vibe!

Anyway, the porta line was super short still and then I took off on the back roads and warmed up. I saw some of the big name elites doing the same. I also found a super sneaky bathroom with TP and running water, no line!!!! It's a good thing too because I peed like 6 times, again maybe overcompensating for the hydration thing.

Oh, and I accidentally checked my water bottle at gear check and could not retrieve it. I was already on the fence about carrying water so I guess that settled it!!!

I did a few strides after my warmup, said bye to TJ and got into the coral.
  • 3h 45m 16s
  • 13.32 miles
  • 16m 55s  min/mile

I had no idea how this was going to go. This is my first season attempting the trail/mountain running and although I have run-summited a few peaks, nothing was at this kind of altitude for so long (time and distance.) This made it hard to really establish some measurable goals. What I needed to do was have a plan, execute to it as best as possible but have some flexibility for the variables that I couldn't control (heat and altitude mainly.)

The plan, however, was quite simple. It was to run easy and relaxed. To not let my arms get lactic, to not let myself get into too much oxygen debt and to get up that effing mountain even if I had to crawl. This was going to be the absolute most patience I would ever have to summon in a race. My other goal (also a little arbitrary) was to finish in the top 100 women. A stretch goal would be top 50.

The gun went off and I think from all the racing I have been doing, I didn't even flinch haha. We took off down the street on the only paved section of the race.

The paved section was fine. It was strange running a race and running so slow but I knew I had to practice patience from the get go. I was putting some effort in but just not pushing at all. I was really, really hot. I was feeling a little uncertain about my water situation but really, there wasn't much I could have done about it anyway. We made the turn up Hydro street which is actually the very steepest section of the race, I dialed the speed way back and tried to keep effort consistent. Cycling my legs quickly. I grabbed water as we hit the trail since I was living off the aid stations and I couldn't afford to skip.

I was listening to Kim Dobson's (the eventual winner of the ascent) interview and she referred to the Ws and the Inferno. It's true. It was really hot and was a little more exposed than I anticipated. Now I was straight up regretting not having water if this was how it was going to be the whole trip. I ran the Ws EXTREMELY well. I was able to motor my way through nice and easy, feeling excellent as we hit the aid station at No Name Creek, elevation 8,800' (average grade was 13.4%)

There was a nice wide very runnable section here and I wanted to capitalize on it. I picked it up just a bit, feeling the wind in my hair, just enjoying the moment. Then, I swear to god, out of nowhere comes a root in the otherwise smooth trail.

It was a straight up full speed face plant. I think I got back up onto my feet before I even finished sliding. It's funny though because falls are so incredibly common no one does the dramatic, "OHH ARE YOU OK???!??!" everyone just does a muffled "ooooooooohhhhh" and keeps running. Pretty much what I did. Anyway, I shake the dirt off and keep running. I felt fine.

Other than the wipe-out, the running was still incredibly good. As we gained elevation it was even cooling down a bit and I was really getting into a rhythm. Although is persistent grueling climb the trail was in great shape and quite smooth.

I have to say, I was REALLY enjoying this. This being a much longer event than some of the trail and mountain racing I had been doing allowed for a much more relaxed pace. I didn't feel the threat of getting lactic at every climb or that soul crushing strain of running fast up a steep hill. I just felt good! I just kept thinking how lucky I was to be able to experience this. I was really trying to be in the moment and soak in this feeling somewhere between an athletic and mental struggle and pure bliss.

I entered the next aid station but the smile wiped right off my face when a volunteer yells, "DO YOU NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION???" I was straight up offended. I was thinking, "Shit dude, I am running up a mountain. Yes, it's hard but I am feeling pretty damn good! Yet you think I need medical attention??" I am pretty sure I gave him a really confused/potentially bitchy look as I ran by. I tried not to let it kill my vibe again but I kind of kept thinking about it

We were now at about 10,000' and other than potentially looking like I needed medical attention, I was still feeling really good and still running. I was now really happy with my decision not to have water. I felt the stations were frequent enough it was just right.

I was, however, unable to take any food in now. I know when I hike it's hard for me to eat at altitude and today was no different. Which says a lot for my generally bottomless pit operation.

I forced a little food into my mouth and swallowed it like a pill but it was a struggle.

I got the same dramatic callout from a volunteer about medical attention again at the next aid station. I was so confused. I was still feeling really good and still running. Something a lot of people weren't doing. I told them no, trying to be polite but sheeesh!!! Yes, I am from Seattle. We don't really have mountains like this but gimmie a break!

My running started slowing a little and I just went with it. I was just trying to let the race flow and keep myself from getting into a hole I couldn't get out of. I could feel my breathing getting more labored and it was time to ease a little.

My knee felt a little weird, like a small decrease in ROM as if it were swollen or something so I looked down. AH HA! Now I knew why they kept asking me about medical attention. While not deep or anything, my fall had scraped up my knees and blood was dramatically coming down one of my legs. It was nothing serious, so I just figured I would wait until the end of the race.

Hitting the A-frame at 11,500 (where they asked if I needed medical attention LOL) was a really interesting time. It was glorious in that I knew I was going to make it to the top of this mountain but my ability to travel up and forward decreased significantly. I was struggling to keep my heart from pounding so loud I couldn't hear and struggling to breath. There were some sections of big rocks that were not runnable. This is an area I can really stand to improve. I can more efficiently run up steep terrain than power hiking. But power hiking was the most efficient way through the rocks. Many people passed me in these sections that I had to hike. As hard as it was to move at all, I tried the best I could to push and run all the sections between the rocky hiking parts. I wish I could better explain it but the different between the first 10 miles below 13,000' and now were so dramatic. I felt like I was in complete slow motion.

I went past the 3 miles to go sign and wanted to cry. Finally we broke out of the treeline and could see the summit in all her beauty. Since I've climbed a few mountains and am very familiar with how disheartening seeing the summit when you have miles to go, it didn't actually bum me out too much. I was just glad to know I was making progress towards it.

I passed the plaque I had read about inscribed


Well, it could be worse, right? Thanks for the push G! I hit 2 miles to go after what felt like (and was) an eternity. There was far too much slow power hiking.

This next mile was actually a little better than the last however my hiking wasn't. Anything I could run I did but those big rocky sections and step ups lost me some serious time. Every time I used more of a muscular approach like taking a big step vs spinning my legs with fast cadence, my heart rate skyrocketed. So I had to be incredibly careful. At this elevation, 1 mile is a long, long way.

We hit the last aid station where I grabbed some more water. This is it, I'm doing this! The surge of energy was short lived before I was hunched over gasping for air again.

You can hear the announcer at the finish and it feels so close but you know it is so, so far. I tried not to think about it and put all my effort into each painstakingly slow step.

There were a few "flat" parts (nothing in this race is truly flat) I ran that felt great but then there was a ton of tight rocky step ups. I was really trying to stay mentally strong but I was depleted. Almost on the verge of tears.

I was almost completely broken when, ALAS, I heard some people yelling "BEER HERE, BEER HERE" Nothing, absolutely nothing sounded appealing at this moment but I needed a cheer up. I happily grabbed the tiny little dixie cup of beer and pounded it.

Energized by the crappy light beer (coors light?) I slooooowly weaved the few switch backs up, up up and then heard them announce my name (Correctly even!!!) I was here. I was finishing this effing race. I had summited my first 14er and I had done it running a race. I don't think I had the energy to smile but I was so, so happy.

I nearly collapsed into the volunteers arms. They were all so sweet. They seemed genuinely concerned with our well being and genuinely wanting to help in any way they could. My volunteer put her arm around me and escorted me to the med tent. She went and got my bag for me, went and got me water...I just wanted to hug the woman.

I was whiddled down mentally, emotionally and physically to the most raw state. There was no room for any kind of facade or barriers that we as humans put up. I was dizzy, I couldn't walk straight, I couldn't feel my feet touching the ground.

I sat down for the medic to clean out my knee and it felt like all the pain melted away and I had an intense, almost euphoric feeling. I felt like I was on drugs.

She got me cleaned up and, feeling much better, I went out and watched some other racers finish and took some pictures. There I sat on a rock in the sun just basking in the moment. Things get really, really weird when you have exerted yourself in that way at that elevation.

I stuck around at the top for about an hour. It probably wasn't a great idea but I really wanted to soak in the view and the accomplishment.

I think I started hallucinating and then an intense darkness started creeping into my peripheral. I was dizzy and stumbling around. As much as I wanted to stay up here and continue enjoying the moment I had to get off this damn mountain. This sensation reminded me a lot of when you are put under anesthetics and those moments where your body is fighting the drugs before you succumb.

I got on the shuttle and my condition worsened. I thought I was going to puke. I closed my eyes and didn't talk to anyone. We had to transfer from the shuttle onto another bus down at 11,000' (the busses can't really make the trek up to the top) I was even worse now. I tried to eat something and spit it out. I was able to drink water so I focused on that. The poor guy that sat next to me on the shuttle must have thought I was a complete beeeooootch. I rested my face against the window and tried my best to suppress my intense desire to vomit all over.

Finally we got down to Manitou Springs at a much more managable 6,300' I got off the bus. I wanted to cry. My cabin was 1.5 miles away and it was 90 degrees out. I started stumbling along the road and then saw the bus. Slowly (brain.not.functioning.) I put 2 and 2 together and through some broken "English" asked the bus driver if the bus got close to my cabin. Bus go RV Park Garden of Gods? (or something)

Bus do go rv park garden gods! Success!!

I continued to drink water and was progressively feeling better. I took a shower. Better yet. I still didn't want to eat though. I laid down for a little bit and took a nap then suddenly woke up ravenous. I'm not sure I probably should have been driving but I went and got two sandwiches (was actually only able to eat one so I gave the other to someone on the street) I suddenly felt like a million bucks! I went down the street and got a beer to celebrate :) Oh and like 5 glasses of water.

I went back to my cabin again and took another nap then went and met up with BTers TJ, Mary and their families!

What would you do differently?:

I need to first state that I am ecstatic about this accomplishment. I exceeded my stretch goal and felt I executed well. However, there is a lot of room for improvement. I just need to sift through the variables.

Times were about 10 minutes slower than all of the other races. I've heard some explanation of the Atmospheric Pressure system being such that 14,000' felt like 16,500'. I cannot confirm if this is true or if it was the heat or all of the above. The heat didn't seem to dramatically effect me but the altitude above 13K did. I knew those last few miles would be incredibly difficult but the pressure thing would explain how truly dramatic it was. Who knows.

Execution: I feel I executed this really, really well. I was extremely patient and didn't push too hard early. I do wonder though, is that the right approach? As a flatlander, should I push a little early and then accept those last few miles? I'm not sure!

Fuel: I'd do the same thing with water on the next one. I am not sure about calories though. I maybe took in 100? If that. I think I would have puked if I ate anything though. I'm not sure about what to do here either.

Altitude: It is what it is. Short of moving I don't think I could have done anything better. Being nice and hydrated was very important and I think allowed me to run as well as I did early on.

Hiking: I need to improve greatly here, especially BECAUSE of the altitude. I need to learn how to walk fast and when to employ it.

Experience: More!

Gear: Shoes were perfect, no water bottle was fine, clothing fine. The one thing is, everything I read almost demanded that we have an extra layer (a jacket with a hood preferably) I had a little compact jacket in my fanny pack (yep, rockin' the fanny pack circa 1990!) but I would really, really prefer not to do that again. I realize temperatures can rapidly change in the mountains, especially above 10K but I think I could manage for an hour or so in adverse conditions. Perhaps I'm being a little too cavalier. I have a ton of respect for the mountains but I also keep pretty warm while running.

Post race

Profile Album

Last updated: 2015-05-20 12:00 AM
03:45:16 | 13.32 miles | 16m 55s  min/mile
Age Group: 10/103
Overall: 47/633
Performance: Good
Course: Elevation gain (start to summit) is at 7,815' (2,382m); the start is at 6,300' (1,920m) and the summit is 14,115' (4,302m). The Ascent finish is at approximately 14,050'. The Ascent has very few stretches which are not going uphill, with the average grade being 11%. The races begin in front of the City Hall in Manitou Springs. While both races begin in the city (and the Marathon finishes in the city) the majority of both races are run on Barr Trail in Pike National Forest. Barr Trail is a US Forest Service trail that is on the east face of Pikes Peak. The race courses do not use any part of the famed Pikes Peak Highway (which is on the north and west flanks of the mountain). The trail is often narrow, winding, and may be gravel, rocks or dirt with sharp turns and abrupt changes in elevation or direction. However, there are no exposed ledges, so there is little danger of falling off the trail. From the Manitou Springs City Hall, the races proceed west on Manitou Avenue for 0.42 miles to Ruxton Avenue. At Ruxton, the course turns west for 0.8 mile to (and past) the Cog Railway Depot to Hydro Street. At this point there has been an elevation gain of approximately 300' for an average grade of 4.5%. At .23 of a mile past Hydro Street, or 1.45 miles total, the asphalt ends, and the course continues on a dirt/gravel road which parallels Ruxton Creek. The “spur trail,” connects to Barr Trail in .1 of a mile. From this point to the summit at 14,115,' the course follows Barr Trail. The width of the trail will vary as will the grade (steepness) and surface (footing). From Hydro Street to No Name Creek is 3 miles with an elevation gain of 2,150' for an average grade of 13.4%. From No Name Creek to Barr Camp is about 3.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1,450' for an average grade of 8.3%. This is the fastest section of the course and even includes several slight downhill sections roughly 1.25 miles above No Name Creek. Barr Camp to the A-frame shelter at treeline is another 2.6 miles and 1,800' in elevation gain for an average grade of 13.1%. From the A-frame to finish/turnaround (~14,050') is about 3.1 miles with an elevation gain of 2,050' for an average grade of 12.4% The footing, or surface, of the trail does vary. In the forested sections, it is primarily decomposed rock with a mixture of dirt and loose gravel on the surface with the occasional root or rock protrusion. Above treeline (that is, above the A-frame shelter) the trail is primarily loose gravel with one short section of broken rock (generally referred to as rubble), and the section known as the 16 Golden Stairs being gravel with frequent step-ups of some 10 to 15 inches (the Golden Stairs refers to the 32 switchbacks remaining to the summit). In general, the condition of Barr Trail is excellent thanks primarily to the Friends of the Peak and the Pikes Peak Trail Dogs led by Gail Allen.
Keeping cool Below average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2015-08-18 12:31 PM

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Subject: Pikes Peak Ascent

2015-08-18 1:13 PM
in reply to: 0

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Epic is not enough of a description. You absolutely reached the deepest level of exertion. Congratulations!!!!

Edited by cdban66 2015-08-18 1:14 PM
2015-08-18 1:15 PM
in reply to: #5135616

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Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

What a great race, what a well-written report!  You truly never cease to amaze me with your accomplishments.  You work so hard and diligently and it pays off in spades.  The stretch goal was achieved, and then some.  Just reading the description of the ascent made me short of breath!  I'm so glad you had some very blissful, zen-like moments during the race and that you recovered from the scary, weird stuff that was going on when you finished, yikes!  Glad your knee (do you need medical attention?) boo boo wasn't too bad.  Kudos to Mary and TJ for helping you out, too, and having a manatee meetup!  Big congrats, I can't wait to see what the future has in store for you!

2015-08-18 1:32 PM
in reply to: melbo55

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Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Wow! That is all 

2015-08-18 1:41 PM
in reply to: #5135616

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Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

That "poor guy" on the shuttle probably would have thought you were more of a beeotch if you puked on him

Awesome race!!

2015-08-18 1:47 PM
in reply to: #5135616

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PEI, Canada
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Wow indeed!

This one hasn't had the same effect on me wanting to do a trail race.  LOL!  

2015-08-18 8:20 PM
in reply to: #5135616

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Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
10th in your AG and 47th for women - you made your goals!!!

Awesome job!

Oh, I bet the guy next to you didn't realize you weren't talking to him because he was probably saying to himself, "I hope I don't puke on the lady next to me".
2015-08-19 12:37 AM
in reply to: fortissimo

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Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

I've been waiting to read! So effing awesome! Congratulations on this monster

2015-08-19 6:26 AM
in reply to: #5135616

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West Palm Beach
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Wow! I have always been amazed by this race!

Congratulations and thank you for this race report!

Wow again, just amazing

2015-08-19 11:12 AM
in reply to: #5135616

Northern IL
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Great job on this one! That sounds even tougher when after you finish you still can't really recover yet.

2015-08-19 11:58 AM
in reply to: #5135616

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Rio Rancho, NM
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

You were awesome!!!!!!!!!!!! Congrats on reaching your goals.

Funny, reading this I realize that what I was feeling is the same that you were feeling (at a much, much slower pace, of course).

Oh, and glad you didn't get murdered by the hitchhiker.

2015-08-19 5:08 PM
in reply to: #5135616

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Katy, Texas
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Unreal! You killed it!! And didn't quite kill yourself in the process!! True LOL @ conversation with bus driver!
2015-08-20 3:11 PM
in reply to: cdban66

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Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Originally posted by cdban66

Epic is not enough of a description. You absolutely reached the deepest level of exertion. Congratulations!!!!

Hahaha yeah, I think the word has lost a lot of wind from its sails.

And thank you!

2015-08-20 3:12 PM
in reply to: melbo55

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Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Originally posted by melbo55

What a great race, what a well-written report!  You truly never cease to amaze me with your accomplishments.  You work so hard and diligently and it pays off in spades.  The stretch goal was achieved, and then some.  Just reading the description of the ascent made me short of breath!  I'm so glad you had some very blissful, zen-like moments during the race and that you recovered from the scary, weird stuff that was going on when you finished, yikes!  Glad your knee (do you need medical attention?) boo boo wasn't too bad.  Kudos to Mary and TJ for helping you out, too, and having a manatee meetup!  Big congrats, I can't wait to see what the future has in store for you!

I'm offended you ask!

Thanks Melanie! Yeah, it's all about consistency! No magic here!

2015-08-22 7:26 PM
in reply to: Asalzwed

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Overland Park, KS
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent
Amazing performance, amazing race Adrienne. I love your race reports, tell it like it is girl
2015-08-22 8:48 PM
in reply to: reecealan

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West Chester, Ohio
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Fantastic day!!  Can not fathom running / hiking those elevations as a flat lander.  Your hard work and seemingly insatiable appetite for adventures in training serve you quite well in this environment.  Love the background stories and photos!

Glad that your knee is mended up and you are able to keep running!

2015-08-24 1:44 PM
in reply to: QueenZipp

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Simsbury, Connecticut
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

I think I got dizzy when you were just describing the summit!!

Awesome job!
2015-09-01 7:07 PM
in reply to: #5135616

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New user
Austin, Texas
Subject: RE: Pikes Peak Ascent

Just read through this. Totally totally inspirational. Thanks for the great read, complete with pictures! Way to git 'r dun!

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