Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mt. Evans Ascent

Mt. Evans Ascent
14.5 miles
3,800 vertical +/-
2hrs 09min 18 sec
13th male
14th overall
2rd 35-39 age division


The field for this one was pretty deep and I was a bit intimidated going into it, but heck, the best way to get better is to run with people who are faster! With names like Matt Carpenter, Michael Selig, Cornelis Guijt, Bryan Dayton, Andrew Adamowski, Daryn Parker amongst other fast names on the start list, I knew that a faster run than last year on my part would most likely yield an even lower placing, but my focus today was to just go out and run my own race, have fun, do my best and try not to really be influenced one way or the other by who was ahead.

The morning was perfect, if a bit cool while getting ready, but by the 8am start time, the temperature had warmed to a near perfect temperature under perfect blue clear skies. I take my place on the line next to Carpenter and mention something to him about whether or not he is going for the record. He shrugs off the question as expected, saying something to the effect of the record standing for 30+ years (1:41) and he is of course not giving much up, especially to me, a complete stranger.

The race starts and I am buried in a surge of adrenaline pumped runners. Quickly things begin to sort themselves out and I settle into a “comfortable” pace behind Mike Selig in something like 12th or 13th place? Mike is a great runner and has placed very high at Pikes before, in addition to some other very good placings, so I am a bit surprised to be this close to him. We pass the 2 mile mark a few ticks over 15 and at one point, I even work up the nerve to attempt a pass, but he is not letting it happen and I quickly realize that the additional effort would just not be worth it, oh well .

I keep most of the runners ahead of me pretty much in sight for about half the race, but they are ever so slowly creeping away a bit more with each passing step. I keep Mike within 30 seconds or so and know that he knows how to pace well, so I figure that I am on track to at least set a PR. At mile 7.5, he suddenly and unexpectedly pulls to the side of the road and jumps into a waiting vehicle (of course he is having a bad day which explains why I was so close afterall….). Before he jumped in, I gave Mike some encouragement for him to continue as I passed by, but he is done for the day.

Just prior to summit lake, I get passed by a guy who I do not recognize and he is really turning over a great pace. I continue to maintain my steady trot though and he does not get too far ahead. I make it to summit lake 3 minutes faster than last year and know that if I play it smart, I can at least maintain that margin. At this point my legs are starting to feel a bit worked from the effort and the pavement and I know from experience that last 5 miles are going to really hurt bad .

Out of the blue, I think to myself that there are no women ahead of me and it secretly makes me happy . No more than a few minutes after thinking that, I hear a light pitter pat behind me and some fast breathing that sounds suspiciously feminine. Uh oh, here it goes, I am about to get chicked . A petite Japanese woman passes and we exchange nods. I try hard to keep up and do OK, until we get to the final downhill and she shoots off ahead and quickly passes the guy that earlier passed me, but I keep them in sight and for the most part am always on the same stretch as them. I later find out that she is an Olympic Gold medalist in the marathon at the 2000 Sydney Games! I guess I don't feel that bad afterall..... .

As the switchbacks start to really double back, I notice that a few guys are starting to gain on me, along with the second place woman. I am hurting and I really start to question whether or not I can hold them off and start having haunting premonitions that I am about to lose at least 3 places in the final mile. Without really increasing my pace, just mainly adjusting effort to altitude and building fatigue, I dig as deep as I can and it feels as though I am about to explode. I am not super concerned with placing, my primary goal is to go under 2:10, but I have come this far and worked this hard that I don’t really want to concede hard fought placings to anyone this close to the summit.

All kinds of crazy thoughts go through my head in the last miles. Jump on the back of a car? Cut a switchback or two? Give up and walk? Steal some poor sap’s carbon road bike? None of that is realistic or fair, so I give in to good ole’ fashioned deep suffering, knowing that this last push is hurting my competitors as much as me and before I know it, it will all be over.

A surge of adrenaline as I near the final switchback gives me just what I need to bust out my best sprint. I know I have everyone behind me under control, but I can see that I am getting pretty close to 2:10 and don’t want to take any chances. I sneak in under my goal time and dizzily walk off the pain for about a minute. Then my mountaineer brain immediately kicks in and I spent another few minutes huffing my way up to the true summit. I figure if I don’t do it now, I will not want to later as my mind and quads revolt. I flop onto the familiar summit rock and pant for a bit, sign the register and spend a few minutes looking down on the race and taking in the views.

The trip down was a mess. We jumped into a “shuttle” (somebodys SUV), were dropped off at the waiting busses at summit lake, then were told that they would not be departing for another 45+ minutes!! Uggg…., I just want to get down after waiting for friends to finish for over 40 minutes at the summit. We resort to good ole’ fashioned hitch hiking and myself and my two friends who I rode with this morning all got rides within 10 minutes or so.

I had a great day on the mountain. I felt great and felt as though I gave it my all and had no excuses, I had an awesome time the whole day, despite the pain and suffering. You gotta like that sort of thing, otherwise why else would you pay $55 to run the highest road race?

Matt Carpenter ended up breaking the course record, bringing it down to 1:37:01! Naoko Takahashi also set a woman's course record of 2:06:20.


  1. JW - awesome improvement. Well done. It is better to have a more competitive day, run faster and not place as well. You are well prepped for a summer season!

  2. Thanks George. Thought of you a few times during the day, wish you could have made it.

  3. JV, Nice Work!
    Anytime you improve is a reason to celebrate. Wish I could have made it, but I had other commitments, plus I severly strained something in my foot on Friday. I could barely walk the entire weekend. I did it at Gateway Park Mini-golfing and hitting balls at the driving range with my kids. I haven't hit balls in years and my old joints rebelled!