a quick trot up Pikes Peak

16 Aug 2014 - by Brian Molloy

Ok, so Pikes Peak is pretty easy compared to most Colorado 14ers so I elected to do this one as a race and run it instead of "just" climb it. Plus the pikes peak ascent half marathon just plain sounded cool. I convinced my wife to do it with me too, below is my Trip report.

Pikes Peak Ascent: We woke up early on Ascent day and headed down to the starting area as we knew parking was going to be a nightmare. Manitou springs is notorious for being difficult to park and on this day that was no exception so we got there early enough and grabbed our spot to stretch and get ready. I wore my Camelbak Hawg and came prepared with a ton of GU's and a peanut butter sandwich. I knew that on this race I was going to need good nutrition. This was probably the biggest lesson I learned from the Ascent. On most of my other long runs I have really run out of fuel, especially during the St. Louis Marathon so I wanted to be prepared here and it worked out well for me. The build up to the race was really interesting and since we were in wave two we got to watch the start for wave one a few minutes before us.

Finally it was time for us to start. Now I have heard from a lot of people and through reading race recaps that it behooves you to get out in front early because it slows pretty quick once on the mountain. I took this to heart and tried to move up in the pack from the beginning as we moved along the streets of Manitou springs. I may have been a little too conservative though because as he hit the trailhead the group came to a grinding halt and we spent most of the next four miles or so walking until the pack thinned a little. If I had to do it over again I would really push that first mile or two to get to the front of the pack, especially in wave two. That was really the story for much of the race as well. Passing becomes very difficult (if not impossible) so if you are behind from the get go you will be stuck with a much slower time throughout. The race stayed pretty stop and go all the way to Barr camp where I had managed to pass enough people that the field was beginning to thin. At that point I also began to pass some of the slower runners from wave one which really surprised me. There were several aid stations set up along the route and I made a concerted effort along the way to make sure that I drank Gatorade and ate something at each one. The race was really well supported despite the difficult access to the trail and each aid station had tons of different snacks and water/Gatorade. The one thing I knew I didn't want was to run out of fuel. I had my Camelbak as well and drank all of that water too, I will say though if I was going to do more of these races I would invest in a running specific water source (maybe a vest) as the Camelbak worked but it bounced around a lot and got a little uncomfortable. As the field thinned I got into a good rhythm of running for a half mile or so and then walking to catch my breath and then running again and I kept this up all the way to tree line. Once I hit treeline, I don't know if it was a mental thing or the altitude actually getting to me but I felt it was much harder to breath and my run/walk cycle started to turn more into a walk/run cycle. I continued to push up the hill though and was buoyed by the sound of the announcer at the top. That was one thing that I really didn't expect, I still had miles and miles to go but I could hear him announcing others finishing and that made it seemed like the end was near. Above tree line there is a long series of steep ascents and quick switchbacks which helped break up the monotony. At this point in the race my goal was really just to not stop and take any breaks but continue forward progress at all costs. This worked out pretty well too as I passed quite a few people who were sitting on the side of the trail. With about two miles to go I started to get a bad cramp in my right calf but stopped to stretch a few times and was able to keep moving with my walk/run.

Finally the finish line was in sight and I pushed myself to run the last stretch. My final time was 4:04:11 which I was pretty happy with. They say on the website that your Ascent time is generally equal to your flatland Marathon time and my goal time for Chicago later that year was 4 hours so I think that was pretty accurate. I do, however, think that if I had run just a minute and a half faster on the Garden 10 miler I could have gotten a much better time with a wave one start. I lost a lot of time at the beginning when the field stopped on the trail. Oh well, with my finish time on the Ascent this time I qualify for wave one next year! Kim had a really tough race finishing in 5:26:06. I think she may have had some sort of altitude sickness because by the time she got to the top her lips were turning blue... needless to say we didn't spend a lot of time at the summit, we snapped a few obligatory pictures at the top and hopped on the next bus down the Manitou springs.

I wrote this trip report originally as a post to my blog about the triple crown of running in Colorado Springs which included the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler and the Summer Roundup trail run. If you want to read my full post with pictures and .GPX files go to my blog here:


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