Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday, 07/16/10 Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak (14,110)
PPA Course from Manitou Springs
13.32 miles/7815 vertical feet
Partner: Nate B

Nate and I started running at 6:55am from the imaginary start line at Memorial Park.  The streets were relatively quiet and serene and I was feeling very casual and relaxed, occasionally contrasting this in my mind to the nerves and anxiety that I typically feel on race day. I did not really have a specific goal in mind, other than to practice pacing and keep track of splits along the way and work on not pushing too hard below Barr Camp. Knowing long in advance that this was my plan, I stupidly forgot to do any homework on this (or did not feel like it, I can’t remember which). Oh well, I have run the course enough times and had a general idea. I planned to get to Barr Camp in ~1:23 and then hoped to be able to push a little harder than normal over the second half. As the route got steep on the upper part of Ruxton, I resisted the temptation to stride it out and just geared down with short and quick steps.

I knew I was feeling great and had visions of running a PR and was itching to just gun it, but I stuck to my plan and kept a careful eye on my heart rate monitor, keeping it in the low to mid 160’s range. It is amazing how much my perceptions can vary from day to day. A HR in the 160’s is a transitional zone for me, that, depending on the day, can be the upper edge of conversational pace, all the way to it feeling like I am about to blow a valve. On the first half of this run, it truly felt like EASY conversational pace and felt moderate on the upper half.

Up and up I went, taking note of how quickly Manitou seems to drop away beneath my feet. It was shaping up to be a hot day and the sun was shining very strong. I was wishing it were cooler, but knew that I would appreciate the relative warmth above tree line. At one point, heading up through the W’s, I came to a narrow constriction in the trail at the same time as another “runner” (more like a person running down the hill from the top of the incline). He paused, as if to let me through, which I gladly did, as I was not keen to stop, or scamper up on the rocks to the right. He then decided to barge through at the same time, bumping shoulders and then had the nerve to say in a smart ass tone “Hellllooooo”. Nice. I wanted to stop and get into it, but I was there to run the peak, not give some yayhoo lessons in trail etiquette.

My splits seemed to be on target, or perhaps a touch ahead, so I was sure I would get to Barr Camp in good time, but I always under-estimate the last ~1/2 mile to Barr Camp that seems to stretch on longer than I remember. Going through Barr Camp, I was surprised at the buzz going on there, huge crowds of people after a relatively quiet previous several miles. From Barr Camp on toward the summit, there were numerous groups of people, most with overnight packs, spread out, who all seemed to be loosely associated with one another (turns out it was some corporate retreat). My legs and breathing felt great and I was moving well, but still not pushing, just keeping the same effort as I had been all along, but as always, the cumulative fatigue was starting to build a bit.

Above A-Frame, I was still running all but the occasional and singular rock step, but knew that my splits were starting to fall behind. After the 2 to go sign, I walked a few short sections, but mostly ran and I was thinking that I should dig a little deeper to try and bring it around, but I was absolutely content sticking with the moderate and steady pace. The entire run felt very controlled and somewhat easy, except for the final mile that hurt as always. I alternated between speed hiking/token jogging and was relieved to tag the top.

I jogged over to the true summit (satisfying my inner mountaineer), then headed in to buy some food while I waited for Nate to summit. I sat at a nice booth with a view and took off my shoe to retrieve the $10 bill I had just stuffed under my insole 3 hours prior. To my disbelief, it was nowhere to be found. Hmmm…., must be in the other shoe. Nope. Where could it have gone? I tore both of my shoes apart, alternating between one shoe, then the other, then looked all over on the floor, then back to my shoes, back to the floor. I was absolutely stumped. I put my insoles back in, then re-laced my shoes and retraced my steps, across the gift shop, to the bathroom, out to the true summit, then down the Barr Trail for a few switchbacks, but it was nowhere to be found. Oh well, hopefully the gift to the mountain gods brings me good Karma on future outings.

Once Nate arrived, we headed out to the lot to bum a ride back down. Individually, we would have gotten rides immediately, but it was tough finding a car with 2 empty seats. Just as we were about to give up on riding together, we scored a ride with a retired cop here on vacation with 3 empty seats in his rental car and we were thankful for the ride. I have often thought it would be fun to do a “Justin-esque” knock off of his “Jared’s People” series about the people I hitch rides from down Pikes. Every single time, even after subtle hints about the brake check station at Glen Cove, my flatlander chauffeur scores a 400+ degree brake check that warrants a painfully long layover in front of the gold panning trough.

Though not one of my better ascent times, I was happy with the practice and workout it provided and felt it to be reasonable given the moderate effort. I look at it as one of many small step toward a loftier goal.


Top of W’s: 32:58
No Name: 48:??
Barr: 1:24:??
Bottomless Pit: (I paid close attention at the time, but now I forget, I think 1:38ish?)
A-Frame: 2:02
1 to go: 2:38ish
Summit: 2:57:41 (avg. HR 165/max 175)


  1. 1.) nice job for PRACTICE. No other racers. No aide stations. Sweet.
    2.) that 10 bucks is a sure tribute for a PR.

  2. Maybe next year they will have a 1/2 BTMR for you.

  3. Jeff- Great time for a training run. Are you running up Green tomorrow AM?

  4. I am actually heading to Pikes again tomorrow. I typically run Green Sun-Weds @ ~5:30am.