Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sunday, 08/16/2015 Pikes Peak Marathon

I wanted to get a race report up soon(er) after the race, but have been crazy busy with other things, so this will have to be short and sweet.

2015 Pikes Peak Marathon
26.2 miles/7,815 vertical
24th/768 overall
3rd master (over 40)

Preparation this year has been generally mediocre, averaging 15-25 miles over 4 days per week, usually Green Mountain after work in the heat, or very early in the morning (forced efforts at 5am and very slow).  I had only been to altitude a few times, Bierstadt on 2 consecutive days in June, a few 13ers (Squaretop, S. Arapahoe) and a handful of runs to 11-12k, with the maximum distance being just under 16 miles, followed by the 12.6 mile Barr Trail Mountain Race in July (where I was able to PR).

On some of my runs, I felt as fast as I have ever been and my times have confirmed that, but on other days (the latter more frequent than the former), I wondered if I would even be able to finish the Pikes Peak Marathon and if I am just simply getting too old for this $hit anymore.

As race day approached, I was really thankful to have my in laws volunteer at the last minute to come watch the girls, so I could leave the house on Saturday at 3pm instead of 8:15pm, as has been the case for the last 2 Barr Trail Mountain Races and the 2014 Pikes Peak Marathon, which enabled me to get my race bib, eat at the spaghetti dinner and then catch up with the Kunkles who live very near to Manitou and were putting me up for the night.

Was in bed at a decent hour (before 10) and slept quite well, waking 10 minutes before my 5am alarm.  Drove into Manitou and parked in my usual spot very close to the start and ate a slice of toast, some cereal and had a little espresso to rev me up.  As always, the final 90 minute countdown goes quite quick and what would normally take 20 minutes before a training run, preparation seems to take up a surprising amount of that time.  I warmed up a little, which in reality is just an obsessive/compulsive routine of finding a place to go to the bathroom one last time over and over again.

Chatted with a few friends and acquaintances before the race, Brandon, JT, Wyatt, Rickey and a few others, then eased into a spot on the front line.  Once the cannon went off, the ascent was essentially textbook and I was careful to maintain a decent position/pace, yet not cook myself too early.  A bit of jockeying for position on Ruxton and the first few minutes in the W’s, then position was mostly established aside from getting passed 2 or 3 times and passing a few myself.  I hear stories of crowding further behind, but the experience for me is quite different, being a very peaceful, if not lonely at times run up the hill.

My ascent was somewhat lackluster, I never felt bad, I actually felt decent, but my splits along the way were not reflecting that in the least.  Topped out in 3:06 and sat for a moment to drink a few cups of water and gatorade and eat an orange, then started my way down in not too much of a hurry.

Since last December, I have had a bit of a twingy knee, a minor bout of patellar bursitis, nothing too serious, but annoying at times for sure.  Ironically, it was not even a running related injury, it began after kneeling for about two hours working on a project.

All summer it was hardly an issue no matter how hard I pushed, uphill or down and I had for the most part forgotten about it, but on the Thursday before the race while hiking easy, I found it to be a bit painful and even had me limping.  

I could tell on the ascent that the descent would be difficlt based on how I felt on the short rollers before Barr Camp.  Once I was heading down, as expected, I was feeling it and though painful, unstable and throwing off my stride, I just plugged away.  I knew, based on the nature of the issue that I would not cause any damage, so I just had to suck up and grit it out.  Even so, I could only do so much, which was a little disappointing, because I otherwise felt great and wanted to push much harder than the pace I was realistically able to maintain.  I figured I would lose many positions on the down, but I lucked out and was able to hold my position better than I thought I would, only getting passed by 3 guys in their 20's, but passing 2 or 3 others along the way.

I knew I would not be anywhere near PR and before long, I knew sub 5 was likely out of the question as well, so I was in the mode of just cruising it in, trying to keep the knee pain to a minimum and soon my primary focus was maintaining a top 5 masters position.  I was not entirely sure where I stood, but figured on the descent that I was in 4th or 5th.  

As always, the trail below No Name and especially the Ws onto Ruxton felt interminably long.  Each turn through the Ws was like running into a brick oven, each turn getting a bit hotter.  The forecasted high was 83, but it seemed a good bit warmer on those open slopes.

The finish could not come soon enough and I was quite glad to be done.  As usual, I swore it would be my last marathon and that next year I would for sure run the ascent.  I felt reasonably well after sitting down in the tent for a few moments, much better than in years past, likely because of the somewhat easy descent.  Headed over to the results listings and was surprised and quite pleased to see that I had placed 3rd master.  I ran 4 minutes faster last year and barely squeaked into an age group award, so I lucked out that some of the faster guys did not show up.

Phew, I am never doing this again ;)

As 3rd place master, I got an awesome trophy and a free entry to either race next year (now worth more than $150), so I could not have been happier with that outcome.  I wanted (expected) to run faster than I did, but a top 5 master placing was truly my number one objective and I accomplished that.  Given the knee issue, I could have been a lot worse.

JT and I

Beyond the trophies and awards I have won at Pikes, there is something about the race that keeps me coming back and hopeful.  Every year I set somewhat (maybe unrealistically?) high time goals for myself and each year I fall short of them, much to the confusion and chagrin of myself and few running friends.  Even so, I keep trying to fool myself into thinking that one year, I might just have that amazing day I dream of, or breakout run, but it never seems to happen.  That possibility is slimming with each year that passes, partially because of the aging process, but also in part due to my waning (waning from already low levels of commitment to eking out all that I can from myself athletically).

 Since GZ was absent, I actually got to stand on the wooden box

Some days I promise myself I will ramp up my level of dedication, more training, more specific training, better diet, better sleep, smarter training, but I increasingly find myself pulled in various directions.  It is not always straightforward how to find that balance between personal goals and family, work, maintaining a house and other interests.

My A goal was to get any one of the 5 of these being awarded

Either way, it is all just folly and just for fun and I enjoy the journey to Pikes as much, if not more, no, certainly more than the race itself, along with the camaraderie and friendships I have built around Pikes and running mountains.  I'll be back for the round trip next year for sure.

A very nice finisher's shirt/jacket and medal this year


  1. Congrats on the masters award (far better than those AG awards!).

    Yeah, I will bet you a case of Booberry Crunch you are on the line next year.

    Solberg is too tall for the box.

    See you for a jog soon ... well, next month.

  2. We got GZ converted this year. You are next.

  3. Huge congratulations. I know you're not getting the bulk of training in that would be optimal. 20 miles a week and a third for masters? Hell yeah. You're hugely talented and I would be afraid for the other masters if you had the time to put in solid miles and climbing. Great awards, too! You got more goodies than the overall winner of Leadville! You're not getting too old.

  4. Great report, Jeff. I enjoyed reading it. My last time at that race crushed me pretty good. I vowed never to do it again and that usually doesn't last long, but I'm sticking to it! I guess that makes me officially over the hill. But I hope you and all your peeps are running the Rattlesnake Ramble!

  5. NICE JOB, JEFF!!! from the Bahrenburgs

  6. Great story and great job! Way to go Jeff!