Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sunday, 08/18/13 Pikes Peak Marathon

2013 Pikes Peak Marathon
26.2 miles
7,815 vertical
26th/707 overall
4th Master

This one felt great and was without a doubt, one of the most satisfying races I have ever run in all regards.
In addition to feeling good physically and running smart, I was in a great mindset all day, just all positive thoughts and good spirits.  The weather was great, company was great.  George's pre Pikes Post played in my head over and over throughout the day:

“The destination, the race, is a celebration of the journey, the training and the sacrifice that has come along the way.  That rings hollow when you have an epic fall apart day, but I am reminded of it when I come home.  Whether I run 4 hours or 10 hours at Pikes, my family does not care about that.  They care about me and if I am well, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The time itself is not a part of that more grounded equation for them.”

This is so true and helped relieve me of much of the pressure that I normally put upon myself at this race (if only I can apply this mindset more often, especially when a race does not go as planned).

Although I did not have any well defined goals going into the race, I had some loose ideas of what I was aiming for, although I truly had no idea how realistic any of it would be.  My "training" and performance this summer had been very erratic and inconsistent.  I had a handful of runs in the months leading up to the race where I felt as good as ever, ones that really boosted my confidence, but even those were too few and far between.  I did however make it a point to improve upon my downhilling a bit, but my typical day to day laps on the local peaks were often sluggish, either running at sunrise when I am groggy and half asleep, or after work, during the hottest time of the day.  I managed to get above treeline a few times over the summer, but it never feels like enough and is a far cry from those years, before kids, where I was up there 2-3 days per week in the summer.

Like always, I never listen to follow advice from several of my friends who are much better runners, like doing speed work, intervals etc...  It makes sense to me and I sometimes wish I had the dedication and resolve to improve upon this, but I really only do this for the sheer joy of it and just can't see engaging in activities that I do not find enjoyable.  I don't even really like running for the sake of running, it has to be related to a mountain summit, canyon or some sort of interesting terrain or adventure.  My mindset with Pikes is and always has been just to do the best I can with the fitness I happen to get by doing the things I love the rest of the year.  I know it sounds like a cop out for some, but it is what works for me.

So, going into the race, I truly had no real idea of what to expect, but deep down, I thought it would be quite possible to aim for a low 2:50's ascent, something at least as fast as my very easy feeling 2:54 ascent from last year and then aim to put together a significantly better descent than my identical 1:54's from my previous two marathons.  I figured that a sub 4:40 might be possible if everything came together perfectly, but I really did not get too hung up on any numbers or splits.  I really just wanted to improve upon my previous best of 4:49 from last year and wanted badly to get on the Masters podium again and earn that free entry next year.  I knew I would have my work cut out for me though, as the Pikes Peak Marathon this year was simultaneously an International Skyrunning race and a USATF National Trail Championship race.  Beyond that, in the back of my mind, sub goals were to break 5 hours and get an age group award.  Simply finishing is an obvious goal, but one I never thought about, as to me it was a given (unless I suffered some sort of traumatic injury that physically prevented me from it).

Pre Race

As is typical, I headed down to Manitou in the afternoon before the race.  I had originally planned to stay with Hoot as I have so many times before, but in the 11th hour, as Homie and I were discussing potential carpooling options, he mentioned that his wife Lori (who ran the Ascent) had reserved a hotel room (literally at the start line) for an extra night and that we could stay there.  This was too good to pass up and turned out to be a HUGE luxury (thanks again Homie and Lori).

We arrived in Manitou a little after 5pm, checked in at the hotel, got our race numbers, attended the spaghetti dinner/Ascent awards, where I stuffed myself on 2 huge plates of spaghetti, 4 pieces of garlic bread, 2 salads and a piece of carrot cake.  I may have eaten more had I not been racing the next morning.  Afterward, we took a long walk around town and up Canon Ave to get a glimpse of the flood damage from the week prior.  Sobering indeed.

While walking around town with a full belly, I was seriously wondering how I would ever run along Manitou Ave., let alone up and back DOWN Pikes Peak.

We leisurely made last minute clothing choices and pinned our numbers in the comfort of the hotel room and at 9:03pm, I donned my ear plugs and eye mask and was out cold immediately.  I slept really solid all night and was wide awake at 4:30am.  Though early, I felt very well rested, as 7.5 hours is about typical for me, so after laying there for half an hour, got up and started to quietly dress and prepare in the bathroom, hoping not to wake Homie earlier than he wanted to get up.

It was awesome to be in a hotel room and not have to worry about parking and the repeated trips to the porta pots.  This left time for sitting, eating, digesting and made for a very casual morning.  George stopped by to hang out and we all took turns putting the hurt on the bathroom.

With 20 or so minutes to go, we headed over to the start to "warm up", but this really means jogging around a little bit and catching up with friends.  Bumped into JT, Galen, Dave, Gavin, Bill, Buzz, Cameron, Sean and so many other familiar faces.  It was great to be around so many good friends and acquaintances.


The gun/cannon went off promptly at 7am.  The pace felt reasonable along Manitou Ave and I made it a point to not get caught up in racing yet.  Up Ruxton, a few more people passed and I was probably in 35-40th position, not entirely surprised, but I knew that if I ran my own pace and settled into a groove, I would most likely bring some of them back.

As always, quite a few "real runners" show up for this race. (Gazette photo)

Heading up Ruxton, having a great time despite the look on my face.

Once on Barr Trail and the W's, I began to roll people up as expected and was never content to settle behind somebody for even a few seconds, I just politely gave an "on your left" and everyone was great about making room for me to get by.  I passed George here and we exchanged a few words of encouragement and I figured it would not be long before he came back by me.

Surprise shot.

As I settled into what I felt to be a reasonable pace, I found that I was running at about the same pace as Tavis Eddy, who recognized me, but I initially had no idea who he was.  Once he said his full name and that he follows George and I's blogs, I knew the name right away.  We would end up running the majority of the Ascent together, chatting occasionally about our respective families and such.  Super nice guy and I appreciated his company and good nature.

The Ascent was textbook for me, not much to say, but I held my position reasonably well, getting passed by a few people above treeline.  I felt generally OK with the altitude given the fact that I have not been up high very often this summer, but the effort felt a little harder than 2012, even though my splits were falling behind.

I was having such an enjoyable time though, I was not at all worried about it, estimating I would summit in about 3 even and was fine with that.  Saw the leaders pass between 2 to go and the Cirque aid station and then the counting game began.  Cheered Galen who was in 4th, Cameron who was in 5th and Dave who was in 6th.  It is always fun spectating the race at the front.

Passing through the Cirque aid station (John Garner photo)

Nearing the summit

Hit the summit in 3:01 and only paused long enough for them to mark my bib and then took off on the descent.  I passed a good handful of runners who were trying to get it together for the descent, but I was feeling good and I shifted gears instantaneously.

 Bill (Sheri) Wright photo

Bill (Sheri)Wright photo

"Woohoo!  All down hill!" (Pikes Peak Sports photo)

Pulling some fancy moves

Passed Sean still heading up, where he shouted "Yeah JV!  3rd Woman!!" which had me cracking up.  Passed by George a little lower and knew he was not on his game.  He still sounded really positive though and gave me some enthusiastic and heart felt cheering that really helped motivate me.  Passed by Homie, Bill, JT and a handful of other familiar faces soon after.

I was rolling pretty good, passed a few more people and was impressed at how good everyone on the ascent was about getting out of the way.  Having our names on our race numbers is a bit of a trip too, as most of the people who were heading up as I was heading down gave a "Go Jeff!", or "Nice job Jeff!", which is awesome, but I always wondered, if they were just reading my tag, or if some of them knew me and I did not recognize them due to my focus on the descent and being in race mode.

Made it to A-Frame in 29 minutes and stopped very briefly to fill my bottle.  I had one younger guy run past me here (he had been closing in on me within feet at the summit) and this would be the only person to pass me on the entire descent.

A-Frame has in the past been a critical turning point for me, where my legs get wobbly, I get cramps of some sort and reality sets in, but today I felt great and my competitive drive was really taking hold of me.  I took off, determined now to improve upon my previous descents and was determined to not get caught.

My feet were accurate and my energy remained high.  I constantly kept pushing right up to my very limit, never flagging or wavering and hammered all the small rollers the best I could.  As I neared the W's, I was starting to feel it in my quads a bit, but I knew that the harder I pushed, the sooner the pain would end.

I could occasionally hear cheering ahead and knew I was close to somebody and tried hard to close the gap, but I was running out of ground.  A few toe blisters were starting to develop, but it was just one more pain added to the general mix of pain and I was able to put it aside.  It sounds embarrassingly ridiculous now, but I even chanted to myself out loud that I was not going to get caught as I was pushing down the trail.

The W's passed surprisingly fast and before I knew it, I was on the steep pavement hell of Ruxton Ave, so short on the up, but seemingly endless on the down.  I looked at my watch and knew I could eclipse my 4:49, but it was going to be close.  I could see the 2nd place woman ahead, a minute or less and I was gaining and there was somebody just ahead of her based on the cheers.  I dug in for all I was worth and it seemed like the longest several minutes of my life following the endless line of orange cones.  Finally the last bend appears and you practically crash into the finish line after rounding the corner.  4:47:45, a near 2 minute PR, 4th Master and 26th overall.

This is really hurting now, time is going in slow motion and it feels like the finish will never appear (next 2 photos by Dave "Hoot" Gibson).

I flopped onto a folding chair, trying to get it together.  I was OK, but just because they were available, I asked if I could lay on a cot for a bit.  The medical crew was awesome, as they gave me a bit of oxygen and tended to my needs.  They asked if I wanted an IV, which I initially refused, but after being asked a few more times, eventually took them up on it.  Probably overkill, but it really did wonders for me and I really felt great afterwards.

Trashed, but quickly on the mend (Dave "Hoot" Gibson photo)

Hoot came by and chatted with me while I was on the cot and was great to see him, as his cheerful demeanor is contagious.  As I laid there, I looked over often towards the finish waiting for George, hoping he would finish soon and we could share war stories in the medical tent as in years past, but unfortunately would not see him until later, as his race did not go as hoped and I felt really bad.

I finally got it together enough to walk around and eat, drink, shower and share war stories.  Homie and I eventually made our way back to the car at the hotel, where we changed and headed over to the town hall for the awards ceremony.

 Homie had a good race, 5:21 for him.

 Homie, me and George slobbering all over me (my body language says it all)

Gavin and Homie at the awards ceremony.

Sean, Melissa and Cale sprouting horns.

Me (4th), Don Solberg (3rd) and Marco Zuniga (1st).  I guess 2nd (Chris Dickey) and 5th (Tavis Eddy) headed home. (Pikes Peak Sports photo)

The trophy is a bit awkward, certainly not as nice as the last few years, but I have to say it looked a little better once I earned one of my own.  Do you lay it down or stand it up?

Yes thanks, I'll be back for the marathon next year.

All in all, despite the lackluster ascent, I am very happy with how the day went, about as well as I could expect all things considered and I was very satisfied to make the Masters podium and get a free entry for the 3rd year in a row.  For most of the race, I ran close to my limit, yet was very careful to not surpass it too soon.  I made a point to take care of myself, staying well hydrated and taking in gels before I felt like I really needed one.  I did a really good job of metering my effort to take maximum advantage of what I had on the day.  I almost feel as though I kind of lucked out on this one.

A few random thoughts/comments/details in absolutely no order.
  • Breakfast.  Half bagel, bowl of cereal with blueberries, banana, then a gel before the start
  • Gels.  Carried 8, ate 7 which seemed to be just enough.
  • Water.  Started with a full ~10oz hand bottle.  Filled at NN, Bobs, Barr, AF, Cirque, AF, Barr.
  • I had no injuries or niggles to deal with this year.
  • Was amazed at how many cameras were out there getting pictures, namely MarathonFoto.
  • I am very grateful as to how well this race is conducted, it seems to go without a hitch, at least from my perspective and experience.
  • I am very thankful that the race still went on, despite all that the town of Manitou has been through with the recent flooding.
  • A huge thanks to all the volunteers and SAR that make the race possible.
  • Hoka Stinson Evos are awesome for this race, light and responsive enough for the up, but absolutely bomber cush on the down.
  • I had the song posted below by Jeff and Paige going through my head for the ENTIRE race.
  • Running the Pikes Peak Marathon is WAY easier than taking care of twin toddlers.  Was definitely an easy day by comparison.
  • Coming home and settling two sleep deprived toddlers is not the most relaxing cool down.
  • The weather was warm and I would have preferred it to be a bit cooler, but it was overall pretty comfortable and maybe only minimally a factor.  Fortunately, there was a well timed bit of cloud cover for most of the descent and even a few claps of thunder.
  • Congrats to Dave Mackey who doubled, placing 7th in the Ascent and 6th in the Marathon.
  • Thanks to my wife and daughters for allowing me to take time away from them to "train" for this.
  • 2013 "Training" stats leading up to Pikes, 1,000 miles (though a good bit of that is hiking), 370,000 vertical, mostly on 109 Green Mountain ascents, along with Bear, S. Boulder, etc....
  • I regret not patronizing Matt Carpenter's custard business.  Homie and I talked about it throughout the weekend, but when it came time, I was in a hurry to leave and get back to the family.  I'll definitely head back soon for that.


  1. So great to hear you putting together a race that you're really happy with. You look so collected in those finishing pics. A great day, no doubt! Congrats.

  2. Awesome. I can't wait to hear about every step - and I mean that - on future runs together. Well earned man.

  3. Thanks Jim and George.

    Joey, yeah, 109, but that is since January.

  4. Jeff, thanks for the kind words. I really enjoyed the ascent together, and the intelligent pacing. Your sentiments on the ascent portion were the same as mine. Great job on the down. Wow. You floated. I am really glad you had the race you wanted. I improved my descent, which I am happy about, but it is still striking to see how much slower I am than those who finish when I do. I was sorry to miss the ceremony but had to make tracks to Wyoming. Have a great fall and if you are north in Wyoming (Lander area) look me up. Tavis

  5. awesome race dude.... bummed you couldn't meet us for the run/hike up green.... but i'll be back!