Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunday, 08/19/2012 Pikes Peak Marathon

2012 Pikes Peak Marathon

26.2 miles
7,815 vert.
4:49:11 (PR)
27th/739 Overall
5th Master

Another Pikes in the books and I have to admit that I am a bit relieved and quite satisfied to have been able to PR, take home a nice trophy and score a free entry for next year.

Just getting to the start line this year for me has been a challenge.  I was able to get out for a few 14ers early in the summer, with quality outings on Missouri/Belford/Oxford, raced Mt. Evans, Grays/Torreys, Longs Peak and a 17.5 mile hike of Bierstadt in July with Allison and Sierra.  Aside from that, it has been (what is now) the usual fare of the 1-3 times per week laps on Green Mountain and then baby jogger runs, pushing my almost 2 year old twin daughters.

The biggest distraction though this summer, has been the purchase of our first house.  We bought a fixer upper home in July and the process of buying the home, then the continued and ongoing task of renovating has been entirely consuming.  My dad came to help with the renovations, where I took the first two weeks of August off of work and pretty much hammered away from sunrise to sunset over that time.  All of this has left very little time (and sometimes very little energy) for running and zero time to get up high to acclimate. Most of my vertical has taken place on a 6 foot ladder.

Since we started the process of buying the house back in June, I carefully considered the timeline and worried a bit about all that we have to do to get the house ready to move in by the end of August and suddenly, Pikes Peak took a back seat purely out of necessity.  On several occasions, I was a mouse click away from withdrawing my entry, but was talked off the ledge on multiple occasions by my good friend George Zack.  My wife Allison also encouraged me to just not worry about it and look at it as just a fun day in the mountains with good friends.  Still, I was not entirely sure I would make it and I put the race out of my mind for the most part, only really thinking of it when I read George's blog or somebody asked me about it.

What little I did run in the time preceding the race has been really varied.  Some runs were encouraging enough to give me confidence that my fitness was solid, but my longest runs were barely over an hour and I continually questioned whether I could overcome and compensate somehow for these shortcomings.  Even as recently as noon on Saturday, I was second guessing if I could justify the time spent going to the race.

Dave picked me up around 4:30pm and we headed down to Manitou for packet pickup, ate at the Spaghetti buffet (while listening to Bart Yasso speak), then headed to my friend Hoot’s house for a good night of rest.

I was up and wide awake at 3:59am, eager to get on with the day, feeling well rested, but relaxed for a while trying to go back to sleep before slowly getting ready.  As usual, the time before the race went by really quick and although I was a bit anxious, I was much less nervous than years past.  Much of this came from not really having thought of goals or having put any pressure on myself to perform well.  What ever happens, happens and I was just going to enjoy my time out on a 14er.

Made my way to the start line and chatted with good friends and acquaintances old and new, introduced myself to Killian (who was very friendly) and soaked up the excitement in the moments before and during the national anthem and the firing of the start cannon (the cannon always catches me a bit off guard for some reason).

I quickly settled into a comfortable pace and was able to tune out most of what was going on around me (which is unusual) and I just focused on running my own race and enjoying the scenery.  I passed a handful of people on the ascent and was passed by a few, then passed some back, but pretty much held my position well to the top (18th position in 2:54).  The effort felt very controlled and sustainable, I definitely could have gone faster if I were only going to the summit (could very possibly have even been a PR ascent day, I felt that good), but I was careful to save some energy for the descent, as I really wanted to avenge my terrible 1:54 descent from the previous year.

The first 3 miles of the downhill went well and I was moving OK, making it a priority to hydrate and take a gel.  Once below A-Frame though, I started to get some pretty bad abdominal cramps, so I found myself slowing to compensate, walked a few times and even briefly stopped twice to try and let it pass.  To top it off, I rolled my ankle 3 times between A-Frame and Barr Camp (unusual for me), which took a bit of a toll on my confidence.

My mind occasionally drifted to how much I just wanted to be done with this descent, but there are really no options, this is a race, you have to stay on course and you just have to get back down and the quicker the better.  My pace varied depending on the cramps, as did my resolve, but I was generally able to mentally override the discomfort and keep moving forward at least.

Above No Name, after yet another short stop on the side of the trail, George caught up to me and I knew it was him before I even looked back. I had been expecting him to pass, it was just a matter of when, so I was almost relieved to just get it over with.  He shouted encouragement to latch on, but he was flying and there was no way I could rally enough to follow.  I knew he was having a great run though and I was happy for him to be exceeding his own expectations.

I got passed by a handful of others on the down in various spots on the course (would end up being 9 total, 2 of those being Masters) and I was pushing hard at the end, hoping to be able to take home a trophy, earn a free entry for next year and possibly sneak in under my 4:52 PR from last year, but I really had no idea where I was positioned in the Masters category.

I was VERY happy to cross the line in 4:49:11 and quite relieved just to be done with that downhill.  I felt much better than last year, but still took advantage of the cots and medical crew, where it just felt good to lay down in the shade for a bit and get tended to.

After about 10 minutes, I was back on my feet, catching up on liquids and checking the results.  Dave ended up 7th overall and I was 5th Master (6th really, but since Dave placed top 10, that moved us all up one place).  George ended up 3rd Master with a 4:42.  Since we were all getting awards, this meant for a long afternoon of socializing, reflecting on our accomplishments and eating pizza.

The awards ceremony was great, the trophies are awesome, the comp entry for next year is a real treat, but I always feel a little awkward getting called up in front of the crowd.

All in all, despite another lackluster 1:54 descent, I am generally satisfied with my result and there is no way I can be at all dissatisfied with a PR.  With all of the distractions I have faced in the build up, I was not sure I would even line up, so finishing and finishing with a good result was icing on the cake.

Approximate Splits:

Ruxton:  2:4?
Hydro:  9:3?
Top of Ws:  31:30
No Name:  46
Bobs Aid Station:  1:00
Barr Camp:  1:22
Bottomless Pit:  1:36
A-Frame:  2:00:5?
Summit:  2:54
(I don't really pay attention to splits on the down, but the chip timing says it took me 30 minutes back to A-Frame from the summit).

They gave us two bibs, so I put this #1 bib on my warm up shirt to get a few laughs.

Dave ready to roll.

I am wearing bib #39, Dave is on the right with the Hoka shirt (the next 9 photos are courtesy of Tim Bergsten at

Team Salomon ready to dominate

Max King

3.. 2.. 1..

And we're off!

Killian, Max and Salomon taking it out hard

Running up Ruxton (photo courtesy of ???)

Early in the W's

Heading up through the Cirque (thanks to Wes Go for the following three photos and volunteering for the race)

Heading back down (still) with high hopes

Below A-Frame (Jen Allen photo)

Ready to be done!

Showing awesome running form as I sprint to sneak in under 4:50 (and worried about getting passed, yet again)

OK, done.  A 3 minute personal best over my first Pikes Peak Marathon last year.  Though I had a tough descent, this year seemed like less effort and I did not throw up in the trash can after finishing.

 Celebrating my 2nd marathon ever (I have still yet to beat Oprah's 4:30 marathon PR though)

Top 5 old guys

This is getting to be a regular occurrance.  Thanks GZ for your friendship, encouraging words and support throughout.  (JT photo).  Even though this guy kicks my butt every year, he believes in me more than me for some odd reason (although I just think he is being gracious).

GZ, me and Dave, hanging with great buds made for an awesome weekend. (Dave Mackey photo)

JT guarding my award, practicing for his days as a Master (JT photo)


  1. I still am 100 percent convinced you are gonna PR up there when you are 50.

    Good seeing you. Let me know what you need a hand with in that new pad.

  2. Way to go, JV. You'll beat Oprah's marathon time someday...just training a little harder.

  3. Congrats on the house and the race!

  4. You're cuter than Oprah. You have a Pikes Peak Marathon trophy...and twins. She only has $1 billion and a magazine named after her. You win.

    Congrats on the PR...and that way-solid ascent!

  5. Nice race! Next year we'll get GZ drunk prior to the race or something...

  6. What? There was another race going on last weekend? I hadn't heard.

    Great job. If this is you went you aren't training for something, I can't wait to see what happens when you do.

  7. Great job Jeff, congrats on surviving and PR'ing. Nice to meet you after the race also. Craig

  8. You still awe me a little bit. Great job Jeff.

  9. Great run, Jeff. I'm surprised GZ didn't struggle without a piece of ass to chase after in this race.

  10. Jeff.. funny how it comes all together without even trying. Congrats on the PR!

  11. Nice work JV, one day I'll be able to say I got to the summit under 3 hours... Though I might need to take the train.

  12. Sounds like the new PP strategy would be to blow off training and dive into a house project. Maybe you should join a book club too... it worked for Oprah. :) Congrats on the PR!