Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 Pikes Peak Marathon

Well I was certainly humbled by the mountain on Sunday as it kicked my butt.  Not the race I was hoping for but I'm sure over time I will come to appreciate my number of PPM finishes more than the times on the clock, and this was my third finish.

With all the compiled data on this race, it's easy to overanalyze things, but I think in the end it just wasn't my day.  It all started by not waking up until 4:30 (in Fort Collins) and having to hop in the car, speed down to Manitou Springs, pick up my race bib, and jump into the start line.  I got all this done with just a few minutes to spare, so in a way I was just glad I got to run the race this year.  Unfortunately, I had no breakfast and forgot my gels.  At least I had a water bottle, but it would turn out that I couldn't get myself to drink enough of the aid-station Gatorade.

All excuses aside now, we had absolutely perfect weather this year.  No need to even carry a long-sleeved shirt.  I decided to take off a little faster than usual at the start, in hopes of not getting caught in too much traffic on the climb through the W's where everyone gets funneled into some narrow single-track.  It was still crowded, but I did run more of the W's this year than in past years (still not sure if that was a good thing though).  I was easily under sub 3:30 ascent splits (my ascent goal) through the Bottomless Pit Sign, but I never really felt that great from the start.  It was then a pretty steady meltdown for me all the way to the top.

Hitting the summit turnaround (Photo: Kevin Hurd)

I find it quite interesting that my time from Hydro Street to the "2 to summit" sign was within 1 minute of the time I ran it 2 weeks ago on a conservative training run (half of that in the dark via headlamp).  I felt great that day and could have easily pushed a good pace to the top.  I was nearly an hour from there to the summit yesterday, although I'm sure at least 10 minutes of that was me hugging a rock while letting others moving much better than me pass by.  I just seem to do my best running when I am relaxed and it is just me and the trail.  I get really anxious with all of the passing and being passed in a crowded race like this, and it really wears on me.  Maybe that is why I don't race much and tend to favor smaller ultras where I know I'll be by myself more than not.

I hit the summit in 3:52 and thought maybe if things turned around for me I could break 6 hours for the marathon.  I just felt crappy the whole way down, however.  I even walked down Ruxton Street to the finish because I was afraid I might throw up on a spectator if I ran.  I obviously got behind on my fueling and hydration.  My finish time of 6:25 was about the same time I ran 3 years ago on the back side of a "Double" (ran the Ascent the day before) and in a snowstorm.

So what draws me to Pikes Peak?  It is because it is "Pikes Peak".  Ms. Arlene Pieper, the first official women's finisher at a U.S. marathon at Pikes Peak in 1959, sent us off with the "ready, set, go".  The singing of "America the Beautiful" before the race still gives me goosebumps every time.  They call this race "America's Ultimate Challenge" and this challenge, along with it's storied history, great volunteers, and true camaraderie between competitors will always keep bringing me back.

My overanalyzed race splits:
Ruxton 3:21 (projected 2hr32min Ascent)*
Hydro 10:38 (2:49)
Top of W's 37:33 (3:07)
No Name Creek 56:52 (3:14)
7.8 to Summit Sign 1:18:35 (3:18)
Barr Camp 1:42:59 (3:23)
Bottomless Pit Sign 2:00:53 (3:28)
A-Frame 2:33:58 (3:36)
2 to Summit Sign 2:58:54 (3:40)
1 to Summit Sign 3:22:00 (3:45)
Summit 3:52:54
Finish 6:25:06
*Projected Ascent times from Matt Carpenter's pacing calculator

I guess the rumors of Matt's demise were grossly overrated.  At age 47, he made it a record-tying 6 straight wins for the marathon and 12 total.  The man is truly inspirational.  Came across this great post-race perspective from Matt via GZ's blog.


  1. What shoes did you end up wearing?

    PS: You looked good at the summit

  2. My worn out Cascadias. My feet were hurting on the descent. I need some new shoes.

    Great job on the Ascent debut!

  3. Congratulations on another PP finish, that alone is victory! I cannot imagine trying to run that thing with zero fuel in me beforehand - I'd have been barfing before I hit Barr Camp. Hopefully you took advantage of the masses of Skittles and M&Ms!

    I just read your comment about the Cascadias - I think half the Ascent was filled with those shoes. I had huge issues with the balls of my feet killing me (Pearl Izumi Peak II), I keep wondering about those Hokas and if you can feel any of the ground. Anyway...

    Sorry it wasn't your A-race but I think it's still a pretty cool accomplishment!

  4. I wore Peak road flats and my feet are thrashed today. Worked for race day though.

    Do you think it was the race day fueling in the AM that threw you off?

  5. Jill: Congrats on your Ascent! I saw quite a few Hokas in the marathon. They certainly allow for a more cushioned descent, but I prefer the Cascadias.

    GZ: Yeah, I wish I had gotten a better head start on the fueling pre-race because I have been struggling lately taking in calories even on my long training runs. More lessons learned after every crack at that mountain.

  6. Way to finish Rob. Your year so far has shown what a tough runner you are. Way to go. What's next?

  7. What's next? How about Horsetooth, Lory, RMNP, Comanche Peaks, Indian Peaks, Rawahs, ... We are lucky to live where we do. I'll throw my name into the Hardrock hat again and depending on how that turns out I can then plan on what suffering, I mean racing, I want to do in 2012.