I don't know any way of learning how to maintain the right level of effort throughout the event except repeated practice on the Mtn itself. If you can only get here once a year it is indeed a grand experiment, and I would encourage you to listen to folks who say go out easy, and I would add, when it hurts, slow down.
But if you live here, and can train on the Mtn, one can get into some finer points by finding out how a given level of effort on which parts of the trail effects your overall time- through repeated Ascents and/or Descents depending on your chosen event.
Time, Biomechanically, and "Gas Tank"-wise, I do the Ascent, and personally live in that land of fast hiking-with a very little bit of slow running here and there on some of the flats and downhills during the Ascent. So your mileage may vary- Greatly!
I've spent enough time on the Mtn that for ME, I've refined my effort level enough that I switch back to hiking just BEFORE the uphill after a downhill, so that I not only don't go anaerobic at all, but I don't have to 'recover' later on the uphill at all, keeping my effort very level, or as level as I can.
Also, during the race I do go out a "little" harder in the beginning than I would if I was doing the Ascent by myself, knowing that I'll be slowed by the tremendous crowd to a pace much slower than I would go if I was by myself until at the least the top of the W's or more likely No Name Creek. The result is, I go a little faster, then a good bit slower, and if I've timed it right, I get to the top of the W's or No Name Creek right on my target pace (relative to the pace chart available at skyrunner.com) from there I work hard maintain it the rest of the way (with great effort- more on that later).
As a specific example of this, in last year's race I hit Hydro at about 3:48 pace, or 14:xx, with the intention/hope of running within a couple mins each side of 4:25, and as expected was slowed by the crowd, so that by the top of the W's I was actually at about 4:30 pace (just like the year before) and then slowly made up that ground and got a PR of close to 4:25.
I have a friend who actually finished in 3:48. What time did he get to Hydro? About 3:10 pace, 11mins, and for the same reasons, due to the Hundreds of folks on the trail, was slowed to the pace he had planned by the top of the W's and again worked hard to maintain it the rest of the way.
So depending on how much practice you get on the course, you can refine your plan not just according to "even effort throughout" but tweak it to reach the Top of the W's, or No Name Creek, in good shape to achieve your goals- assuming you KNOW what they reasonably should be- by meting out your effort the rest of the way.
If you don't know what your goals should be, then by all means start off easy, and when it hurts- due to altitude, constant uphill, and simply the tremendous effort it actually takes to scale the Mtn on foot- slow down, you will not be alone. Learn from the experience, and come back next year trying to do better by being better prepared and meting out your effort even more evenly.
This brings us to that 'great effort' I mentioned earlier. Part of what other folks have said is that 'even effort' is a bit misleading in this event because the Ascent in fact simply 'gets harder' for numerous reasons, as you go along. And in fact, the Descent, partly because it follows the Ascent, and is just as relentless on the Quads as the uphill was on the Calves, gets harder as you go too!
So despite how it sounds to say I "maintained my effort after the initial 50mins to an hour of slowed walking due to crowding on the trails" in fact I turned off my watch and fought like H*ll above Treeline to get the PR while still not completely cramping out or blowing up. :-)
I'm all about "positive self-talk", and use a lot of Mantras, like the Tarahumara's "Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast" etc. but up high with the fog of Altitude closing in "F*#king Fight!" as an exhortation was working great. :-)
So sure 'TRY' to have even effort, knowing due to crowding it will be 'less than even effort' in the early going on the trail. Compensate for that if you wish, and have the experience to do so reasonably well, and finally KNOW this event may be listed as 13.x miles, but effort-wise it's more than a Marathon, and taxes you to the limit, so early mistakes are very costly, and learning how to dial in your race here comes at a 'Steep' price.
Best of Luck!
In response to:
I sometimes read this race advice: Focus on maintaining the same level of EFFORT throughout a race. The context may be: Don't focus on pace (time) per mile.
The idea seems ok but:
1. I don't know what my ideal consistent level of effort would be (especially for Pikes Peak), &
2. At any point of the race, I don't know whether I am putting forth that level of effort.
Is anyone able to take that advice and act on it? Or is it the equivalent of "Try hard" and "Do your best?"
Thank you for all message board comments and for the race management maintaining the board for us.