We know our local trail runners love their morning coffee, and we'd like to share with you, Solar Roast Coffee. Happy to have Solar Roast as a sponsor for Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent, they took great care of our early morning volunteers at the 2021 Ascent and Marathon! Enjoy a great cup of coffee at Solar Roast downtown after your next trail run!
Coffee, Trail Run, Nap, Repeat.
Here at Solar Roast Coffee we know that coffee and running pair perfectly together.
Solar Roast Coffee are the inventors of the world’s only commercial solar-powered coffee roaster. Our solar aroma roasting process makes our coffees the richest and most flavorful beans you will ever brew. Using solar power allows us to roast with a gentle heat resulting in a lower temperature roast. We roast our coffee slow and low like a good BBQ!
Before or after your trail running adventures, come check out our location in Colorado Springs at Tejon & Bijou and enjoy a great cup of coffee!
Written by ~ Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent Runners
Since 1956, runners of Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent have been taking on the challenges of conquering America's Mountain. We have compiled many stories from the experiences and memories of our past runners. We hope you enjoy these stories from some of our Pikes Peak Pioneers.
What did it feel like to run up Pikes Peak for the first time and what year was that?
In the spring of 1994 I impulsively quit my then 'career' as a professional cyclist and soon restarted my running life (I had been a runner/triathlete in the years prior to bike racing.) And, as a cyclist living at the Olympic Training Center in the early 90's I remember the adventure of winter hiking up to Barr Camp. I also recall 10 years prior as a college soccer player, standing on the soccer field of Colorado College and staring in awe at Pikes Peak; knowing and wondering when and HOW I would be back climbing Pikes Peak!
My first PPA was 1994, I honestly don't recall how I felt on the mountain or much about the race, except that I ran a 3:04 and was in the top 10 which I thought was pretty cool. I did reflect that despite my complete absence of mountain running experience, my "cycling legs" are what powered me up in a decent time. I ran again in 1995 - shaving an entire 45 seconds off of my time and again making the top 10.
1995 - 3:03:30 - 2nd Place AG
What was your favorite memory of the Pikes Peak Ascent/Marathon?
It has to be my Masters Record year, 2007. First, running through Barr Camp and hearing the official mumble something about "2nd place...", the guy I was with quickly asked a "fan" if there was a woman up ahead. The response was, "I think so, but it could be a guy......" Hmmm, well I decided to relax and stay focused on my goal of the Masters record, knowing I can't control who else is (maybe) out ahead. Then at A-Frame, my famous friend Buzz Burrell, let me know "Maria (Portilla) is 7 minutes ahead!" This made laugh... Like 'Ohhh, ok, I'm definitely in 2nd ... That's fine, just focus on my goal....' Then as soon as it was possible to be seen from above, I heard the VOICE.... "LIIIiiiSA GEEEEEeee!', the 8 x PPA winner & Legend, Scott Elliott, my Pikes Peak mentor, was yelling as though the voice of God, encouraging me up the mountain....it gave me chills and a welcome boost of support to forget about the diminutive, Peruvian Olympic marathoner Maria Portilla, and stay on point of my very personal goal. One of my all-time favorite days.
2007 - 2:42:44 - Master's Female Winner, 2nd Overall Female
What keeps your returning year after year?
I thrive and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of preparing myself to run up Pikes; the goal always, now, is to simply feel ready, competent and excited to be there. It's forever nostalgic and rewarding for me.
How has Pikes Peak Ascent/Marathon shaped you into the runner you are today?
I think my experience and success on Pikes has enamored/tuned me into the joy of the power of the mountains.... As a bike racer, I always thrived on the uphill portions of races, and finding uphill mountain running to be a thing, was awesome!! And it lead me to the thrill of running for 2 U.S. World Mountain Running teams....I continue to find my sweet/happy spot in running when I am grinding UP something long and steep!
Do you feel like a pioneer of trail/mountain running?
At least somewhat I suppose. When I won this race at ages 40 & 41, I was asked what it was about being "this age" that seemed to give an advantage. I remember replying that maybe young talented, or really fast flat-landers, are uncomfortable with the feeling of working SO hard and moving SO (relatively) slowly! NOW, I am nearly certain, my 2 wins are the slowest winning times AND by the oldest winner in the Ascent in these 14+ years since, so perhaps 'they' heard and took that as a challenge?! Plus adding prize money will always bring out the speedsters!
What advice would you give to runners racing their first Ascent or Marathon?
*Don't try to "win" the first mile+ to the trail!
*Don't panic about passing on the trail, there is always eventually room to pass. I mean don't ever put in a huge acceleration to pass! Bide time and ease past people as the trail allows.
*Take in nutrition every :30-60 minutes. The last 3 miles are going to require an extraordinary amount of energy and to NOT be depleted will be your Key to having your best possible above tree line experience!!!!!
*Embrace the 'pain & suffering' by staying within your own.
Written by ~ Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent Runners
Pikes Peak Marathon would like to give a shout out to one of our newest sponsors, Scheels of Colorado Springs. Stop by the Scheels Expo during race weekend to visit the PPM merchandise tent, Red Leg Beer Garden, or one of our many vendors and to support the runners of the 2021 Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon! Here's a little more about our partners at Scheels:
The Colorado Springs SCHEELS opened its doors in March 2021 to a 220,000 square-foot shopping experience unlike any other. The Colorado Springs SCHEELS has something for everyone from leading fashion brands to hiking, fishing, and hunting gear. You can trust the Colorado Springs SCHEELS to be your one-stop-shop for sporting goods, fashion, and more!
The Colorado Springs SCHEELS features two levels of retail and plenty of attractions the whole family can enjoy. From the 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium to the 65-foot Ferris wheel, you can take family fun to new levels. On top of that, the Colorado Springs SCHEELS has a Ginna’s Cafe, Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory, and interactive games spread throughout the store. The fun doesn’t end there, the Colorado Springs SCHEELS is also home to 80 specialty shops so you can find premium gear for your favorite activities.
Our team is dedicated to providing the best retail experience in the eyes and minds of our customers, which means every product purchased at SCHEELS is guaranteed satisfaction or your money back. SCHEELS also gives back to the local community, donating more than 10% of its profits to local charities and local non-profit organizations. As an employee-owned company that provides the best training in retail for its career associates, our team is what makes us special.
We're Going Green!
by Katie Benzel
Photo by Cheryl Doughty
Training Tips by Brandon Stapanowich
Intro by Katie Benzel - Pikes Peak Marathon
Many of you are getting ready to run the Pikes Peak Marathon in a few weeks. Maybe even the Double: the Ascent AND the Marathon in one weekend. Crazy, right? Well, local legend Brandon Stapanowich has completed four consecutive round-trips of the mountain in a single weekend. He is an accomplished ultrarunner and as a longtime Manitou Springs resident, he knows this mountain like the back of his hand. Additionally, Brandon is co-race director for our Barr Trail Mountain Race, and as of July 14, 2021, he is a brand new father!
So you're in for a treat: Brandon has gathered some of his time-tested training tips just for you. When he isn't working as a physical therapist at local school districts or dreaming up how to test himself next, he and his wife, Melissa, love exploring their backyard trails on the Pikes Peak massif with their dogs. Look for them in the wee hours most days crushing the Manitou Incline, or donning various costumes at races across the state to cheer on friends along the trail.
Stap Stats (aka why you should take his advice)
Training Tips from Brandon -
With the passing of the longest day of the year, we are now officially in the summer season. This means that the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon are now less than 2 months away! I’m betting many of you are ramping up for the burliest parts of your training and, while I hold no running coach certifications, living and adventuring around Manitou Springs has taught me a thing or two about how to have a fulfilling experience on America’s Mountain. Below are some tips that come to mind:
What’s in your legs:
-In training, you want to simulate race conditions as closely as you can, particularly as you get closer to the event. Ideally you’ll be able to incorporate uphill running on your long runs, but don’t forget about shorter hill repeats (3-5 minutes).
-If you don’t have hills nearby, you may consider trying to find stadium stairs or a treadmill. If none of those are an option, get creative by including speed work which will help you recruit additional muscle fibers, an outcome that is similar to that produced by uphill running. Doing a higher intensity workout for say 5 repetitions of 3-5 minutes will make that grind up the W’s a little less tiresome.
-Don’t underestimate the power of a power hike. The vast majority of runners will be hiking at some point in the race, most likely above treeline. If you’ve practiced “walking with a purpose” in training, you’ll feel confident with doing it on race day. You can structure your power hike intervals just like running intervals and experiment with arm swing or placing your hands on your thighs to find a technique that suits you best.
What’s in your pack:
-Aid stations will have fluids and calories available, but if you’re interested in shaving some minutes off your time, use aid station resources as a supplement to what you can carry.
-I typically aim for consuming 200 calories and 20 ounces of fluid an hour. Gels and chews can be easily consumed on the go, but for some, real food like bits of a granola bar work better. Either way, you want to be periodically sipping and snacking throughout the race rather than guzzling and gorging.
-Running packs, handheld bottles, and waist packs come in a number of different varieties, each with their own pros and cons. Try different systems to see what works best for you, but whatever you choose, be sure it practice with it in training. That way, when you reach in that front left pocket, you’ll know with 100% certainty that you’ll be pulling out a gel and won’t spend any extra mental resources thinking about where it is.
What’s in your head:
-Limit the impact of the unknowns by studying the available information regarding the course, aid stations, and weather forecast.
-Rehearse in your head how you’ll respond when things are going as planned or even better than planned. Then rehearse how you’ll respond when things don’t go as planned and how you’ll recover.
-On race day, don’t over-think. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but if you stay present and aware of your surroundings, and how you’re feeling, you’ll be more likely to make productive decisions when needed.
One training workout will neither “make” or “break” the race. So as you continue to prepare, focus most on building consistent running throughout the weeks and months leading up to the race. In my eyes, the ultimate goal of racing is to have the most fun. Sometimes that means achieving a specific time or place goal, and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s up to you to define!
Just a Little Feller
Jim Carr, Pittsburgh, PA - Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent 2016, The Double
"I won't suffer, be broken, get tired, or wasted
Surrender to nothing, or give up what I
Started and stopped it, from end to beginning
A new day is coming, and I am finally free
Run away, run away, I'll attack"
Three years ago, I started to scribe a Pikes Peak Marathon race report. About two paragraphs in, I stopped and deleted my work. Why? It was too emotional. The feelings for what was going on in my life at the time were still too raw. This time around, while there is still an emotional bent, the current sentiments take root 30 years in the rear view mirror. Time heals all wounds.
Here's the short form. This year, I became the same age that my father last reached.
Sometime before Christmas 2015, a certain friend, we'll call him Badger, started talk about a return to the scene of the crime. He wanted to go after running the Pikes Peak
Marathon (PPM) after a successful 2013 Pikes Peak Ascent (PPA). That same evening, another friend, HR, handed me a tin cup. Yada yada yada, I became intrigued/consumed by the notion of “The Double” (www.pikespeakmarathon.org) – that’s the PPA which is contested on Saturday followed by running PPM the very next day.
I completed the 2013 Pikes Peak Marathon wearing my mom's wedding ring around my neck. What if, this time around, I wore my dad's? But this time, what if I upped the
ante? And attempted the fabled, often imitated but never duplicated, Pikes Peak Double? What if?
This isn't a race report about a race, it's a tale about setting a wild-assed goal, the ensuing journey and, most importantly, about a solid group of comrades that were every bit as engaged about my success as I was. And above all, I would be remiss if I did not recognize my very supportive family. Despite my apparent insanity, they appreciate and back me up!
"Crap! I need to train for this thing!"
All of the enthusiasm of a goal set at a Run Club Happy Hour was muted a bit as there was a tiny race that required some of my attention. I was entered to run the 120th Boston Marathon.
As soon as my feet landed on the ground following Patriot’s Day 2016, I began to design a 15-week training program like none other. Picture a mad, maniacal scientist pouring through 30 years of his own running logs, others' race reports, and whatever else I could draw upon. Here’s the thing, I felt that we pushed the envelope in preparing for PPM 2013.
This time, I needed to be willing to not only push the envelope but put said envelope in the shredder and then tape it back together.
The main theme was to train aggressively on one day and then to come back the next day and push even harder. Sounds easy, right? By signing up for The Double, I felt I had a responsibility to take a thorough, serious, and measured approach to my preparations. And besides, someone once told me that if you work enough and are well-prepared, the race becomes your "dessert." And who doesn't like dessert?
Here's what I came up with:
Cell Tower Hill Repeats
I have a nickname for the "Cell Tower." It rhymes with "itch" and she resides not too far from our YMCA. For the uninitiated, the Cell Tower is a long, steep gravel access road that leads to FCC registered cell phone tower No. 1025937. Each repeat earns you about 4/10 of a mile and about 220 feet of elevation gain.
Trail running - especially at Moraine State Park. Lots of trail running.
Much of the summer in western PA was characterized by heat, humidity and if you were on the trails, BUGS! I consumed my fair share of them.
Swimming - hypoxic drills
I'm a terrible swimmer. It's probably that deficiency that gives me enjoyment. I generally flop around in the YMCA pool once or twice per week. I added the hypoxic sets and I'm glad I did. What's more fun than swimming laps and turning purple at the same time?
Why Dress Rehearsals? My daughters, Emerson and Kennedy, are fantastic ballerinas. With painstaking precision, they practice their craft. When it's recital time, they participate in countless dress rehearsals. They do dress rehearsals, I do dress rehearsals.
Dress Rehearsal #1
Friday, June 24 Cell Tower Hill Repeats X 8 (oneminute run off after each hill) - 1:35:41 / 8 miles
Saturday, June 25 Hell Hath No Hurry 50K Trail Race - 7:29:20 / 33 miles / 8th place of 28 finishers
Designating a race as a training run is a great idea when getting ready for an "A" race. There's something about putting on a race number that simulates situations and emotions that no other training run can.
Dress Rehearsal #2
Friday, July 15 Glacier Ridge 30K Trail Course (Moraine State Park) - 4:06:35 / 19 miles
Sometimes on the brink of disaster, you find your clarity and you find out what you're made of. This run put me on the precipice of utter failure. Nothing went right! From CamelBak leaks, to losing my car keys, to stumbling over just about every root and rock on the GRT. This is why you do a dress rehearsal to work out all the kinks. With the exception of finishing the run without injuring myself, the best part was miraculously finding my key in the middle of the trail on my return after the turnaround.
Saturday, July 16 Moraine Trails - 4:57:16 / 22 miles
By essentially running the same course as the day before, I was trying to simulate the grind of doing the Ascent portion of the marathon on day two.
In stark contrast to the prior day, things went right! Despite really tired legs, I found my rhythm, didn't stumble a lot, and did not lose my key! I set this run up as an out and back on the GRT, turning around at 11 miles.
The Scream - About 5 minutes from home, driving back from Moraine, I let out a huge scream (I was by myself). That's when it hit me. At that moment I knew deep down that I had done enough work to be successful.
By design, I had a fair amount of time to recover after Dress Rehearsal #2 and "go time." The next four weeks featured long trail runs on Saturday followed by Sunday Cell Tower hill repeats. I also sprinkled in a few interval sessions just to mix things up. Before long, all the work was done. It was pencils down time and all that was left was to finally go get 'em. On this quest to Manitou Springs, I was accompanied by Badger, HR, and JM.
Saturday, August 20, 2016 - Day One - Pikes Peak Ascent
A flatlander (that's anyone that doesn't live at altitude), is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to competing at altitude. Sounds reasonable, right?
PPA/PPM race strategy means a striking a balance between giving an all-out effort and being in a position to enjoy the spectacular surroundings. Start out with too much enthusiasm and you'll regret it once your trek takes you above the tree line. Call to mind a goldfish that's found itself out of the bowl. Taking an over-conservative pace puts you far behind in the conga line. And you know what is said about not being the lead dog. A sensible strategy also calls for a militaristic hydration plan that
incorporates enhanced electrolyte consumption (in plain English; I scheduled to gulp a lot of Gatorade and take a lot of salt pills).
I awaited the final minutes before the start with a sense of relief. Finally! It was time to begin. To see really what I could do. To jump on the tightrope.
Every step (or shuffle or crawl) up the Barr Trail means an incremental decrease in the level of oxygen. Therefore, it's in relative terms that I use descriptors like strong and
confident. Be that as it may, I did feel strong and confident for most of the morning. The trail itself is very diverse. There are technical and steep sections. There are a few stretches that are quite runnable (with even a few downhills to mix things up).
I started to notice some heel irritation on the way up. That will become a day two problem. That notwithstanding, I got into a nice rhythm from Barr Camp (7.6 miles, 10,200
feet) to just after A Frame (10.2 miles, 11,950 feet). And while certainly not operating with blazing speed, I was able to pass a bunch of people consistently to the summit. In
contrast to 2013 PPM, I really enjoyed not having to yield to the runners that had already made their turnaround. Though there was a threat of snow, rain, hail, or a
combination, I knew I had nothing to worry about as I had Rick Colonello's (aka The Master) jacket rolled up in my pack. Fortunately, I didn’t need it as the weather could not
have been nicer!
I continued to make my way to the summit and it wasn't too long before I could hear (then later see) Badger, JM, and HR cheering me to the finish. A few days before heading to Colorado, my in-laws gave me a card and a crisp fifty dollar bill for my birthday. In the card was written, "Take This To The Mountain." How could I not follow through with
their instructions? Before catching a shuttle and leaving the summit with the guys, I was able to linger a few minutes to appreciate the spectacular views and natural beauty that only Pikes Peak can offer.
Sunday, August 21, 2016 - Day Two - Pikes Peak Marathon
To say I was a bit nervous for day 2 would be an understatement. Did I have what it took to reach the Peak a second time (and run back to Manitou Springs)? Would my heels hold up? Then came a much needed tension breaker. Just when we were about to head down to the start, I hear JM yelling from the kitchen. "What is that?? It's not a dog. It's a BEAR!!" Thankfully, we had the brave and venerable HR to document the oddity.
The ascent portion of the marathon was a grind and, quite frankly, not a ton of fun. Before I left the road to enter the Barr Trail, I could feel the tearing that could only mean that my heels were shot before I even got through the first mile! To add to the party, my lower back was screaming. Every single uphill step represented a painful challenge. Relief only seemed to briefly visit at those sections where running was a possibility.
So I guess it was at this stage where I had to make my stand. I knew there would be pain and discomfort. But that's what I signed up for. So as I came to terms with that reality, I welcomed it. Was thankful for it. And told it that it was coming along for the ride. I needed to own this suffering (at least until the summit) and attack!
I soldiered on and tried my hardest to enjoy the experience. Unlike the day prior, the constant starting and stopping to yield to runners on their return trip was frustrating to
say the least. And that's where I think the altitude played a major factor. The best antidote was to just get to the top. I summited in roughly the same amount of time
as I did at 2013 PPM. My generally lousy mood brightened considerably as I approached the turnaround. That's when those spect-athletes, JM and HR came into view. I cannot tell you what a difference seeing your friends at the summit combined with a bottle of Coca-Cola. JM handed me a soda (purchased by HR - I should have entered that into the expense spreadsheet) that handed the race back to me! I slugged down half of the bottle and told the guys that I'd see them at the finish (I may have also said something about drinking a lot a beer that night). My faith in humanity restored, I ventured down the mountain.
A "decent" descent
Training flashback. "If you do the necessary work, the race is your dessert." I've said that silly phrase so many times, I've lost count. Not even sure where I first heard it. With the loading off of my heels, the running downhill was really a treat. Sort of like my reward for all of the work - the 15 weeks of torture. After over 4 hours, trudging up to the summit and my legs feeling rather gummy, I could now run! And run I did. Each step brought more oxygen into my lungs. As technical as the Barr Trail is, I felt confident with the pacing I was keeping. I really found a groove and above all, was having fun!
Just after the aptly named Bob's Road aid station, I did a commendable Superman impression. My right foot struck a root hidden by shade and I went flying. I came down to earth with a crash loud enough to cause the runners ahead to turn around. But this spill was not to be my kryptonite. I popped up with scrapes on both hands and both knees,
laughed, said I was ok and sped past. I smiled and thought that up to that point I had logged just over 60 miles of racing (including 2013), without incident. I was certainly overdue for a spill.
Now for some introspection. As I approached the "W's", a very steep section of switchbacks, I became a just bit melancholy. All that's left on the PPM course after the W's is a little more trail, then about a 3/4 mile stretch of steep descent on Ruxton Avenue which leads to the finish line in Manitou Springs. This was to be my 29th marathon finish and the very first where the anticipation of the race's culmination did not render an overwhelming sense of relief. The preceding two hours after the summit had been among the most enjoyable of them all. Despite the pain and anguish, I wasn't totally ready for the experience to be over.
But (most) all good things come to an end and before long, I approached the finish and just like that, I had completed The Double. All that was left was two trips to the medical tent (tending to scrapes on my hands and to bandage up what remained of my heels) and to reunite with JM, HR, and Badger, who was on his way toward the finish. Oh yeah, and also to have some beer!
So what does all this mean? Darned if I know! Maybe that I can take a lot of punishment. Or maybe being able to return to Colorado Springs, where I attended high school cross country camp, was the draw. Or perhaps another opportunity to unwind and goof off with the guys was why I went after this.
Each time I tackle a marathon or something along those lines, I try to ask myself "what do I want to learn? This time around, I really think I wanted to attempt something audacious. I won't lie, the mere thought of The Double scared me. The shock value is probably what drew me in and motivated me. There are two decisions you can make when walking the tightrope; commit to falling or embrace the challenge and commit to making it across. For my money, it was a hell of a lot of fun to see what
awaited on the other side of this particular tightrope.
PPA results - 4:16:35 / 13.3 miles / 557 of 1,702 finishers
-Ascent portion of 2013 PPM was 4:45:52
-7,565 feet of elevation gain
PPM results - 7:18:31 / 323 of 702 finishers
-2013 PPM finishing time was 7:33:05
PPM was my 29th marathon.
Ranked 55th of 111 Doublers. Combined time 11:35:07.
I took 86,486 steps for both events.
Across 470 miles, climbed 61,695 feet / Trail runs totaled 253 miles
Cell Tower Hill Repeats - 72 in total - approximately 16,000 feet climbed
Tom Everson ~ Live Forward! Run to Remember
August 21-22 marks 14 years of taking on America’s Mountain by our Live Forward! running team. We run to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones who died in traffic incidents. Many of their family members join us, some as runners, and a good number as cheer leaders, gathering in a beautiful space to share stories and make memories. The weekend is a literal "Rocky Mountain Range of Emotions" - from tears to laughter and just about every emotion in between.
The allure of Pikes Peak entices return trips. In doing so, the Mountain has become a metaphor for us all. We each strive for the Peak. The trail is long, winding in unforeseen ways, blocking our path with rocks and tree roots, and sometimes boulders. Our Live Forward! families and runners know this well. Yet, eventually we begin to break from those thoughts and experiences that beg us to stop climbing, to just head back down where it is comfortable. But the summit beckons, the spirit moves us, and eventually we arrive – at whatever pace– to our destination. We accept a calling to discover more about ourselves along with loved ones and all our fellow trekkers on the trail. The Mountain reminds us of our connectedness in both suffering and celebration.
As one of our runners, Beth Norris, Nate’s mom shares, the trek is a healing experience.
"The best part of the Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 Live Forward weekend at Pikes Peak is being with all the other families who have lost a loved one in a traffic incident. We all get each other and it's the only place where we are the normal in the room. To bring other families in to that weekend, to experience that weekend and the fellowship of all the families and runners is priceless. It's a healing experience that no medical professional can provide.”
We look forward to year 14 on the mountain, and hope that you find yourself living forward with each step you take towards the summit, and perhaps back down again.
We welcome new runners for our team, as well as families to join us to celebrate their loved ones. More info @ [email protected]
PPRR ~ A Reintroduction
We have trail races, too
We want to encourage our local runners to consider joining PPRR, a 1,700-member volunteer-run club that has been putting on races in the area since 1976. PPRR Membership comes with perks such as discounts at local running stores and for registration in PPRR events, plus you'll get an award-winning newsletter delivered to your mailbox every month.
Click here to join or to get more information.
The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon as well as the Garden of the Gods races have long been associated with the Pikes Peak Road Runners (PPRR). PPRR has provided support for these races in a variety of ways with finish line, result coordination, and volunteers. PPRR has been the primary running club for the Pikes Peak area since 1976.
PPRR's Mission: “To cultivate health and fitness in the Pikes Peak region through a community of runners and friends.”
An all-volunteer run club, PPRR is dedicated to promoting and organizing running events in the Pikes Peak Region and surrounding Colorado areas. Just like with many non-for-profit organizations, PPRR has experienced a decline in membership during this past pandemic year. However, PPRR is gaining steam this spring with their monthly Nielsen 2 Mile Challenge, Woody’s Tortoise and Hare Predict Run, and the Women’s Distance Festival.
If you are not already a member or perhaps your membership has lapsed, consider joining PPRR. We would love to have you! Here are the benefits of being a PPRR member.
By Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent Runners
Months of training, one day to race, and a lifetime of memories! Stories updated monthly by guest bloggers, check back next month for another great tale from Barr Trail!
It was August 16th, 2008. The 53rd running of the Pikes Peak Ascent. If my memory serves me right, which is getting harder as the years slip past, there was a little drizzle in the air at the start. Dave Sorenson, official timer for the Pikes Peak Road Runners, summarized the weather on the clubs “results” page as this: Weather: At the start, light rain with temps in the 50s. Summit weather was in the 30s with fog, sleet, grapple, wind, cold. It was pretty miserable on the top (1).
At the time, I was 52 years old, this was my 7th or 8th Ascent (see note about memory above). I had done pretty good in the previous Ascents, averaging around four hours. I knew this one would be different, what with the weather and all, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
Waiting at the start line I thought the cloudy sky and light drizzle would be welcome. I had always believed the stretch of trail from Barr Camp to the A-Frame as the toughest – weather wise. That’s where the sun breaks out and the heat is on. You’re not high enough in elevation yet to get the cooler air and you sweat gallons trudging out of a forest of shrinking trees into a blazing sun. At the start I had worn a long sleeve tech T and shorts and brought along light gloves and a Tyvek, zip up hoody that was a Fall Series 2006 shwag gift; I still use it today. My Shag Bag had warmups, a sweatshirt, socks, slippers and a snickers bar (my go-to post run power bar).
The gun went off and we stopped standing in the drizzle and began running in it. Like most races I run, I find a pacer and stay back behind, trying to keep an even distance. Should I end up passing that person – good for me, if I lose them, good for them. I’m always looking for that perfect pace. This year it was wet, and people generally don’t train on the mountain in inclement weather. I know I don’t, but that’s because I’m “solar powered”, but that’s a story for another time. I went through pacers like a shopper on Black Friday gets through the front door. No one was a pacer for any length of time, and I contributed to that by running inconsistently at best.
I began to struggle at the A-Frame. It was much colder, windy and dark with thick storm clouds overhead. I began to think about putting on the gloves and hoody but that would mean I’d have to stop. God forbid the folks I passed would pass me and then I’d have to pass them again. Usually by A-Frame you get into a “death march”. That part of the race where the person ahead of you will stay ahead of you until the finish line and the person behind you will stay behind you until the finish line. I was not going to be a leap-frogger. I trudged along, thinking more about my beat-red quads and my freezing snot faucet. At about the marker commemorating the death of G. Inestine Roberts (who at the age of 88 died above timberline during her 14th climb) there was a huge, loud and sudden clap of thunder. I immediately knew now why this race would not be like any others. Lightning above tree line is so dangerous that I could place a bet that the folks still below A-Frame were getting turned around and they were.
I thought of turning around, for a second, but then kept on trudging. It was less than three miles to the summit. Little did I know that these miles would be the worst miles I ever encountered, ever.
Trouble began when I had made the decision to put on the gloves. I stopped and reached back to my pack. I couldn’t move the way I wanted to. My hands were stiff. The first joint that I could control was my elbow. There’s no way I could pinch two fingers together to clasp a zipper. I started trudging onward thinking “this is going to suck, I got to speed up and get it over with”. The next few steps were clumsy and not well placed. I thought if things below my waist still worked I could make it to the top. I vowed never to stop again because bad things happen when I stop; like trying to get going again. I kept thinking, problems with my body are mine to work out, I can do this. Then the hail and snow hit and everything went white-out.
I knew I was on “The Grand Traverse”, that long stretch of trail that goes across the face of Pikes Peak and ends at “The Cirque”, but where? I stopped hearing the crunch of gravel, that noise that reminds you that you’re not alone. The sleet and blowing snow increased and the trail was getting covered and icy. I heard voices in the wind, it was the Aid Station, the last one before the finish line. When I got there, snow had made drifts around the rocks and the water cups were frozen. A volunteer asked If wanted some M&Ms and I nodded. I held my hand out and noticed it was shacking, really bad. The M&Ms rolled off, I couldn’t close my hand to hold them. Somebody hollered loudly over the wind “I’m going to bag you, can you make it to the top?” My mind wanted my body to say something, but I couldn’t move my lips to form words. I stumbled away in a black plastic leaf bag that sounded like “Old Glory” in a hurricane. My last memory before the finish line was a mantra; “If I keep having to climb up, I’ll find the top”. Visibility was about ten feet and all the rocks looked the same. Where’s that trail?
My memory of the finish line was of two people, one under each arm, dragging me across the finish line. My second memory was lying in a cot, under warm blankets, wearing dry clothes taken out of my shag bag. I had an IV in my arm, I think. A friend walked by and looked at me and said “Jon, you look like shit”. I looked around and found I wasn’t alone. There was a long line of cots. I closed my eyes and teared up. It was over, and I was shivering uncontrollably.
Other memories I have of the 2008 Ascent came from friends and volunteers. Recovery from that kind of cold and dehydration isn’t a memory, it’s a condition. My hands didn’t stop shaking for days. I had lost feeling in my fingers which lasted for weeks and was followed by tingling that lasted for months. My lips finally warmed enough to form words that evening. Of the 761 runners that crossed the finish line, I was the 748th. I’m sure the hundreds that were turned back at the A-Frame thought they were cheated. What they lost was an opportunity to have a near death experience and put the lives of volunteers at risk just to save them, like they did for me. I’ve been told that I was found off trail, climbing on my elbows and knees over boulders going straight up. If that’s what was taken away from those that were turned around and feel cheated, then so be it. Remember, things that don’t kill you CAN make you stronger, they can also cripple you for life. I didn’t return to the Ascent starting line for two years and my hands still have sensitivity to cold. When you chose to run Pikes Peak, just know that the mountain has the final say.