Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pikes Peak Acsent - Saturday, August 18th

Okay, let's first start with some fun facts.

Austin's average elevation: 597 feet above sea level

Pikes Peak elevation 14,110 feet above sea level

The Pikes Peak Ascent starts at the base in the center of Manitou, Colorado and finishes at the top of Pikes Peak. In the 13.32 mile course you ascend over 7800 feet. And no, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Here's how it went...

It's a little before 7:00am. I'm at the starting line staring at the mountain, imagining how I get from where I'm standing to the top of something so far away. I look at my watch its 5 minutes to go time. I take another sip of water and boom we're off. Next thing I know I'm past the main part of the town and hiking along the bottom of Barr trail. The first part of the course is called the W's, appropriately named for the zig-zag W-shape the trail makes with the miles and miles of switch backs ascending along the side of the mountain. Quickly I realize this is more like a power hike where you have to constantly pick up the pace and jog ahead 2 or 3 people at a time, sometimes more, sometimes only 1.

Shortly after the W's we had a few little flat areas, some even with a small decline. I learned quickly that around 10,000 feet you can't even run down hill without getting out of breath. It's the weirdest feeling. Very restrictive. Almost like the mountain is commanding your respect.

A little before 9:00am, about two hours into the race I hit Barr Camp. I've heard this aid station referred to as 'Buffet Palace' before as it's stocked to the brim with volunteers filling your water bottles, handing out food and asking if you need help with anything. I take a quick break to eat some real food. In the past few hours I had only eaten a half handful of pretzels, when usually I would have eaten almost a whole sandwich by then. It's intriguing how in this type of running you learn how to eat solid food and run fine. In fact I have to take in some form of calories to sustain any kind of pace and feel good. Its kind of like when you get a headache when you hungry except when you get hungry during a long run I
swear you can feel your stomach through every muscle.

My next challenge is timberline, around 12,000 feet all trees stop growing. Why? Because there's not enough oxygen for them to survive. From here I hit A-frame, my next to last last station with approximately 3 miles to the Peak. 3 of the most difficult miles I've ever run in my life.

Soon enough I can see the finish but it seems so close and yet so far away, going directly up is your only choice. Of course you're still on switch backs, but by this time the terrain looks like Mars with little of anything growing on the ground and massive granite-looking boulders surrounding you.

I hear Caitlin and know my finish is coming soon. I try to get some energy, but I can barley move. A mix between the lack of oxygen and the extremely weird feeling of fatigue was over coming me. I felt like a zombie moving one foot at a time. I make my body move forward. Then I see it - a sign that says 'The Golden Stairs'. By this time, I've already talked to God. I pick up my pace a bit, then pay for it two-fold.
I make the final turn. Caitlin yells. I hear her. I see the finish. I tell the guy I helped early to get out of my way by saying 'they're calling for me' and I bolt. A few quick steps jumping from rock to rock and I finish. I'm overcome with emotion and my legs nearly give out. I can't breathe. A spectator grabs and brings me to a group of friends close by. Immediately I realize just how amazing this experience is and how fortunate I feel to have made it to the Peak.

This all could not have been made possible without my group from Rogue. We camped, ate, went on car trips, crossed countless creeks, and of course, ran together every week for nearly the past 5 months. Starting in the spring and running all summer long. Every rainy weekend. Making these friendships alone was worth so much.

Moving forward I've already made plans for 'what's next'.
I'm doing a winter trail running program with Rogue, stating this September and finishing mid January 2008.

I'll be training and participating in the following races.

Palo Duro 50K (10/27)
Sunmart 50 miler (12/15)
Bandera 100K (01/15 - a day before my 27th bday!)

As always wish me luck, just don't say break a leg.:)

1 comment:

Brian said...

of all the ultra marathon events that i know of (not many) this one just blows me away. probably because i've heard & read about the mountain biking which just hammered home how tough of an event this really is. congrats on your accomplishment that day.