Friday, September 12, 2008

Reflection on Pikes Peak Marathon

Well it has been over 3 weeks now since I ran the Pikes Peak Marathon and I'm only now posting some thoughts on it as I get ready for the Colorado Relay.

I was pleased to finish 53rd this year and ran the same ascent time with a loss of about 4 minutes on the descent to run 5:19 compared to my 5:15 three years ago. I do think the performance this time was a bit better as this year we faced off with several inches of snow and I had to carry lots more gear to protect myself from the elements. I carried my camel-back without the water bladder and filled the space instead with a pull over hat, two pairs of gloves, biker sleeves for legs and arms made of lycra, and a water-proof jacket. I also carried 5 gels and 9 ziplocks with gookinaide for energy replacement and hydration.

I ran with Bren for a little while but by the incline aid station, I seemed to have lost him. I wondered if maybe he turned because I know he sometimes has stomach or breathing problems and thse long distance races are not suited for a guy who once ran 1:48 for the 800m... he's a sprinter so Pikes is about 24.5 miles too far. I called out and he replied so I was glad he was OK. I kept pace figuring he might have stopped for a pit stop. At French's (I know the race calls it No Name, but that leaves me cold) I stopped for a gel and finished off a full cup of water. I waited a bit and still no Bren. I thought for sure he must not be feeling well so I headed off... turns out he was just pacing himself and I was underestimating how fast I was going.

My hydration method worked great as I blew through Bob's and got a nice gookinaide hit with nary and pause in the station. By Barr camp, the weather above was closing in and I steadied my pace to be sure to run all the way through to A-frame. I was starting to tire a bit but still had something in the tank to give. At A-frame, I stopped and pulled out my gear: hat, gloves, arm sleeves and rain shell. It took me several minutes to cover up, eat soemthing (gel) and hydrate, but I got going again. For the first time since I was competitive (I think my best Ascent is 2:37), I was able to run for short bursts above A-frame. I'm usually well acclimated enough to run at the altitude, its just that I'm rarely quite prepared for that amount of climbing IN COMBINATION with high altitude. Pikes is always a reach for me.

At cirque, I once again faced severe muscle cramping but unlike in 2005, it was only in the right quad... I think I like to step up with the right to protect an old injury in my left. So there I was moving uphill like Igor: step with the left, drag the right. Into the 16 golden stairs, the cramp let go and I was moving again, but for the rest of the day, I was anxious about cramping as I could feel the memory still hanging in the muscles waiting to trigger again.

At the summit, I took some food and an extra gel and began the descent. The environment was all snow and slush. What had been cold coming up (like 29 degrees cold) got windy and the snow became a bit of sleet that stung my legs as I came down. I sang Aerie by John Denver (completely off key) as a way to honor the mountain and to let runners below me that I'm coming down so we don't collide on the trail.

"Excuse me, but could you please get out of my way" I heard from behind me. Well, she did say please, but I took some tone in her voice: "OK, but I will see you later." She passed by without another word.

Dodging rocks, descending and hopping past people still on ascent I spot Bren. So! He didn't turn, and he's OK...good! Now, onward. Below A-frame my glasses begin fogging beyond support so I take them off and use the force to navigate the trail. I see darker spots and know those are rocks... step between those. Unwilling to break my pace, I slipped the pack around onto my chest and began stripping off the hat, sleeves and gloves, packing them away. I kept the rain jacket because by now it was pouring rain and thunder overhead. Only when I was done did I realize that I had been descending at breakneck speeds without my glasses on while intently looking into my pack to put things away... the force is strong in this one.

Through Barr Camp with yet another hydration success and I closed on the hill leading up to Bob's. This rude section always gets you because you told youself you were done climbing uphill when you reached the summit... nope, here's more... and there was the woman who ordered me out of her way back on top.... walking on that uphill.

"Thought so" I mumbled as I wet by. We met up at the base and shook hands in mutual respect. She was really a fine runner.

Down, down and down and this is the part where I alwyas ask myself why I do this. I'm now counting down the miles hoping against hope that I missed a mile marker and that I'll actually only have 3 miles to go now... nope there's the the 4 mile marker. Dang this is a long way for me.

At long last, the Chariots of Fire music is audible. There's a guy who always stations himself at the exit from Barr trail and plays the theme from the movie all day. It must be maddening for him, but is always motivational for us... we love him for it!

Now the Ruxton avenue incline takes its licks on my screaming quads but I persist on running down at pace. Overhauling a few I finally close on the finish line. Hmm one more guy ahead I might be able to reach. Why not. Driving down, the gap closed and I figured I could slip by in the last 100m... yup, looking good... but then, he pauses and his two kids- no more than 6 years olf- join him heading to the line in te final 100m chute... I can't bring myself to do it and cruise in just behind the happy father. My son sees me do it... hopefully he learned a little something there too.

Cold, soaked to the bone and 5:19 with a good finish. I wait for Bren to get in and he proposes on the course. Cal gets it all on video and you can find it on YouTube. I also waited for Mike to get in and he safely made it home.

All in all, this was the toughest Pikes Peak Marathon I ever ran. The weather was as brutal as it could be without closing the trail. Maybe next time I'll get some nicer weather and maybe I could challenge that 5 hour barrier...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mt. Sherman

This peak is about the most accessible peak one can find in Colorado. It's access is from two trailheads that are about 2.5 and 3.5 miles long. We came from the Leadville side and found the trail to be rocky and almost vertical in most places. Great for hill-climbing. Plus we camped at timberline giving us hours at 12,000 feet over the weekend (8-1 through 8-3). In the end, we summited 4 times...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mt Shavano

This 14,000 foot peak is located near Salida, Colorado and is accessed by heading toward Monarch Pass. The Angel of Shavano trail takes 4.5 miles to ascend 5,000 feet past a snow field that looks like a great angel from the valley below. Yes, I said 5,000 feet in 4.5 miles. Not exactly a trail full of switchbacks. We added 2 miles along the Colorado trail to make it a 13 mile day and did the round trip in about 6 hours. There was a creek near the base and was a good respite as we used Brendan's water filtration system to drink from the stream. Here are some photos.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

We made the blog!

How nice to be included in the "Running in the Springs" blog
Calvin, Brendan, Dad and I were standing together and three of us captured some age group awards... the blogger took our picture together which is shown halfway down the page. Cool beans.

So, the next race is Pikes Peak! This weekend, we'll head over to Mt. Shavano for high altitude training.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Trail Roundup

On Sunday, Calvin, Dad, Brendan and I all ran the 12K Summer Roundup in Colorado Springs. The run began down a slope that Bren and I surged to get around some congestion before the trail closed us up. We got free and were running in the top 30 positions the whole way. Bren pulled away from me up the hill but toward the top I was able to close so we could turn together. Down the hill we passed a number of runners before he began to have stomach trouble. I finished in 55:10 with Bren about 1 minute back. On a different day, the roles could easily reverse. I am impressed with how strongly he climbs.

Calvin ran his own race this day, no longer depending on one of us for pacing. I saw him climbing well as I came down the dirt section of the road. Cal finished in 1:09 and won a second place finisher trophy.

Dad ran about a minute slower than last year, but he said he felt faster. His Achilles is not troubling him and he doesn't get out of breath... he needs more muscle strength. I feel the same way.

Well, let's do a fourteener this weekend and work on that! Mt. Shavano, here we come!

Race Results

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mt Evans

OK, so I haven't been a good daily blogger, but this entry is good for documenting a great day of running with Calvin and Dad. Calvin ascented in 3:17 and Dad was up in 3:26... a 20 minute PR!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Getting creative

As I awoke to yet another sub-freezing morning, I wandered around in the gloom looking for some sort of hat to wear. While I don't have much trouble running in very cold temperatures in shorts, I prefer to have my ears covered. Failing to find what I needed, I resorted to the laundry basket:

Of course, wearing clothes in ways not originally intended is nothing new for me. Here, my dad and I pioneered the now famous sleeve-into-a-hat technique:

My mother refers to this is as the lobotomy-patient look [;-)

Sunday, January 20, 2008


For today's exercise, Calvin and I visited Loveland Ski Area to continue our development of snow-boarding. We found the ski area wind-swept and bitter cold. We hit the slopes by 10 and boarded until 2. We took a 30 minute break to eat chili and warm up.

I was excited to develop my toe-side turns today. I have struggled to develop the toe-side and have spent my 5 days of snow-boarding experienceusing heel-side brakes and turns. I've become proficient at heel-side turns leading with either foot, so I can handle most slopes safely. I also had good success dismounting the lifts today only falling twice. I've never had a day where I didn't fall more often than not.

Calvin is doing well with his boarding. Naturally, he is more daring than I am. He hit some jumps today as well as his head [;-)

My proudest moment was when I completed a 180 degree toe-side turn around a hairpin turn.

The funniest piece of boarding is how when you get tired, you just fall down a lot. The legs give out and you're on the ground. When I watched Cal fall four times for no apparent reason, I figured our day was over.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

5 AM - 24 Degrees

Yesterday, Calvin remarked that he was awake at 5 and thought of going for a run. Such a polite young man, he asked if he could get me up to go with him. At his age, I'd have just walked into my dad's room and woken him up. Calvin may be destined to become a great lawyer some day.

So this morning, the alarm went off at 5 and my new weather clock (thanks mom and dad) and reported the outside temperature at 24 degrees. Sure enough, Cal was waiting outside my door. So out we went for about 2.5 miles.

I was recalled to a workout in 1985 when I met up with Peter Graham for a winter-break effort on the track at Santa Fe High. I was bundled in tights, sweatshirts, hat, gloves... Pete showed up in shorts and long-sleeve shirt. He remarked that the temperature at about freezing was not bad compared to Alamosa cold. I swore I wouldn't go there [;-)

But Peter was always someone I admired, so I eventually convinced myself I could run up there. Today, as I stepped into the cold, I just had shorts and a sweatshirt. What I learned from my days in the "land of cool sunshine" is you can stand considerable cold if your chest and ears are warm.

Tomorrow, I'll take a hat.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Schedule of Races

So after spending several days out of town and out of connectivity, it is good to be home and getting the training going. To properly prepare, I need to establish a schedule of races to punctuate the training regimen. These waypoints will both help me gauge my preparation but also give me something to focus upon.

2-16-08: Chilly Creeks Winter Duathalon 10 mile bike, 4 mile run

6-8-08: Garden of the Gods 10 Miler (Triple-Crown)

6-21-08: Mt. Evans Ascent 14.5 Miles

6-29-08/6-30-08: Watch US Olympic Trials, Eugene, Oregon

9-12-08: Colorado Relay