From Stevens Gulch TH
Continuing my build up for the Pikes Peak Ascent, I wanted to get in a fast high altitude test to see how my form is coming along. Grays and Torreys fit the bill perfectly as they are 60 miles from home and have a nice runable trail all the way to the summit(s).
I actually decided to do this at 5:45am this morning as I knew the weather today was supposed to be better than Tuesday and I knew as soon as I got out of bed that my legs were fresh and ready for a hard test.
I parked at the Bakerville exit and geared up, keeping an eye for any SUV’s passing by with an empty seat. One vehicle passed, but I was not ready, so I started jogging up the trail at a much easier pace than last week. After a literal minute, up comes a big Tahoe with 2 empty seats in the back piloted by Nicki, with her husband Eric in the passenger seat. They gladly make room for me and off we go. It is his first 14er and her second and we make small talk all the way to the TH. It took 25 minutes, only 5 off of our running time, but I was happy to have the ride and be able to start the upper section with fresh legs.
I spend 10+ minutes warming up, taking 2 last pees and stashing the drinks I was not taking with me up the peaks. My goal today is to break my PR of 55:52 and perhaps if I were lucky, beat the fastest known time of 55:30.
I started my watch at the far side of the bridge (closest to Grays/Torreys) and forced myself to not start off too hard (echoes of George's warnings about my bad habit of fast starts going through my head). My legs felt maybe the best they ever had and I eased up the trail with little effort. The trail levels out for a bit and I was really able to up the turnover and move quite fast, always looking for the perfect line through the rocks and cutting the gradual apexes as efficiently as possible. I reach the sign (my first and only checkpoint) and despite the conservative start, I am ~22 seconds ahead of PR pace. I am buoyed by this, but try to not let it go to my head and keep maintaining/upping the effort.
The segments of trail are flying past in stark contrast to a week ago (when I was tired from hammering the approach road). I am just feeling AWESOME now and my legs feel extremely strong and my steps are light, accurate and efficient. I walk a few of the biggest steps, or very short steep sections, but am able to keep a running momentum most of the way.
The final switchbacks come in quick succession and I am making frequent checks of the watch, which is now seeming to outpace me… it is going to be close! I am using my hands on my knees when practical to aid upward progress and am really giving my all, my entire body working in unison, doing everything to get me to the top. People on the trail are looking at me like I am nuts and I get frequent comments of awe and disbelief as I pass. I can smell the summit now and I am sprinting all out, knowing that I am going to PR. I hit the top and stop my watch at 54:38:93. Not sure why, but I get a bit choked up knowing that I have accomplished this test I have constructed for myself and I crouch down on the top and gasp for air.
I pull it together quick and take off for Torreys, hoping to PR on this stretch as well. Despite the effort, my legs still feel absolutely rock solid. I go quick, but careful down to the saddle (5 minutes), then give it all I have up the short ascent of Torreys, making it in 15:38 from Grays, a new PR for me by nearly 2 minutes. Sweet! I linger for a moment and accept a few compliments from summit spectators and am then challenged to do 50 jumping jacks. I politely decline and start my way back down at a quick, yet cautious pace. It takes me 35:59 to reach the summer TH where I gather my stash and poke around the lot in hopes of pilfering another ride. It being a weekday, I have no luck and resign myself to jogging my way out. This part sucks as it is getting warm and I am ready to be done, but the car appears in another 23, so no biggie.
I am very happy with the way my training is coming along and am very excited that my fitness is better than it was at this time in 2006, my best year to date. The race is less than 2 weeks away and I am hopeful that I can put together a solid performance come race day and put to rest my demons of 2007. Anything can happen of course come race day, so I try to not get my hopes up, I just have to play it smart from here on and give it my all when it counts most.
Start from TH: 0:00
Kelso turnoff: 21:02
Grays summit: 54:38
Torreys summit: 1:10:06
Back at TH: 1:46:05
Back at Bakerville: 2:09:05