Cloud-Runner (Fred Maas)
12 Time Pikes Peak Runner - Santa Fe, NM
The last notes of America the Beautiful lingered inside my head as I dared one glance up at the peak 8,000 feet and fourteen miles above. We stood in pre-dawn darkness with the peak brightly lit in the sunrise with most of a moon setting behind it. It is the only look upward I would dare until I reached the top. It was 2005, the 50th annual Ultimate Challenge run up Pikes Peak.
We began the run up main straight in Manitou Springs with hoots of our determination, and cheers from friends, relatives, and towns’ people proud of their runners lining the sidewalks. I thought about the 25th annual which I had also run in 1980.
The run was much smaller then and little known. I had only found out about it from an ad in the relatively new Runners’ World magazine, though at that time I had already been running for twenty years. You could sign up ahead of time, or you could just show up and sign up at the run. Even then, there were some 800 avid participants of whom about 250 ran up and down, the rest just the ascent.
Researchers from the U.S. Army were at the starting line that day seeking volunteers to participate in some sort of a study. I asked them what they were doing. They answered, “you have children as young as 12 and a grandfather who is 76 running to over 14,000 feet. We put a pack on the backs of fit young twenty-year-olds and most can’t make it over an 11,000 foot pass. We want to find out why!”
Looking over their questionnaire I said, “you are asking the wrong questions. Doesn’t much matter what my training was last week or last month. Matters what I was doing last year or two years ago!” In addition to the questionnaire about preparation, they also asked for blood and urine samples, took information like height and weight.
The run up and down was for me an epic effort. The year before I had done the Ascent, so I had some idea of what I was in for. After turning at the top and starting down, the euphoric runner’s high settled in. I felt strong and excited, and I could see out forever. I wound up and ran down too fast.
It felt so effortless. The runners still ascending were so respectful, I had to hurdle one who was hunkered down in a boulder slot where there was no room to pass.
Uh-ohh. Before I reached tree line and A-Frame aid station, my quads began talking back, “where do you think you’re going so fast?” I backed off on speed, and settled into a more sustainable descent.
I was pretty darned spent by the time I reached the finish. The Army Docs were there waiting. The medical folks looked at me quizzically. “You have lost 9 pounds and your body temperature is 94. You should be laying on the ground and hypothermic?” I said, “you’re right. Where can I get a beer?” (They pointed to a nearby keg).
Returning to the present, once again ascending the steep switchbacks of Barr Trail, I greet astonished hikers who may not have known of the run, standing aside to let this endless line of runners pass. The sun was on us now, and beginning to feel warm. My two sons, Dan and Bren, had gone on up ahead literally laughing and dancing, and hooting down to me from several switchbacks above.
Weather forecast for this day was good. Clear, still, scattered mountain thunderstorms in the afternoon. Even at 60 years of age, I expected to finish safely before noon.
I met Steve Gachupin after the 1981 Run. He was congratulating my 13 year old son, Dan. He said, “I see you won the 15 and under age group.” Dan answered, “thank you.” Steve went on, “I see you set the age record.” Dan straightened up a bit, and replied, “why yes. Yes, I did.” Steve finished, “I used to hold that record.” Staring at Dan, he teased, “I held ALL the records.”
Steve, an Indian from Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, had won the Pikes Peak Marathon 6 times in a row for which he now carries the knick-name, King of the Mountain. He taught me to pay homage to the Mountain. He taught me to smear mud from the mountain on my legs at No Name Creek as he had always done, an act of respect to “Mother Earth.” Steve was the honorary starter of the Race this day in 2005.
Onward through the next section of the ascent. Roots, rocks, and trees force a meandering course and constant concentration. The heart beats, the lungs breathe, the feet step, it’s about the rhythm, always the rhythm, the real runner associates, never disassociates.
Next aid station is Barr Camp. The support workers are partying, entertaining, as well as feeding and watering us. They are competing for “best aid station” award/reward. Their creativity adds momentary diversion and joy injected into the seemingly impossible ascent. We can already hear the loud speaker from the peak many miles above. As the music and joy of Barr Camp fade behind the not so faint loud speaker from the peak above is announcing the winner of the Ascent. I have yet a long way to go.
The run through pines and then firs between Barr and A-Frame aid stations seems much longer than five miles. As the trees get shorter, a nod to the altitude, the trail gets steeper, rockier, demanding ever more focus.
Water for the A-Frame Aid station is delivered by a two mile long hose down the hill. Amazing really. In fact, everything about the support for this run is amazing. Well thought out and tested now across so many decades. The aid workers here camped the night and have looked into the eyes of countless athletes some of whom are spent beyond what they ever thought they could handle.
The trees disappear above A-Frame. Too high. Now it is boulders and rocks, not roots and trees, that the runner is wending past. It is two miles to the next aid at Cirque. Altitude is now above 12,000 feet.
At this altitude the partial pressure of oxygen in blood is higher than the partial pressure of oxygen in the air. The only way you can derive oxygen is by the affinity of hemoglobin to snatch it out of the air. The blood of acclimated athletes does this better than those who have not spent time up here.
And for me, running has slowed to a hard paced walk while trying not to stumble on the rocks. My vision is riveted on the ground, every foot plant precisely measured. But something has changed. Why does everything look so different? The color of the ground has changed, changed from a bright white light to a subdued (and ominous) red.
I risk a glance up. HOLY !!!!
Big black billowing clouds were boiling over the peak, obscuring the sun. Suddenly a flash of lightning and the first clap of thunder. The predicted scattered afternoon thunderstorm had arrived early and right over us!
Everyone seemed to get the message at once, and everyone’s efforts redoubled. The only thing, and I mean this sincerely, the only thing to do was to get up top as soon as you can! I pulled out my 3 ounce wind-breaker and put it on, scant, but offered some soon to be needed protection.
I reached and turned and passed Cirque Aid station without a glance or a drink. Up! Get UP! More lightning, more thunder, then the rain began, then slashing hail. Yes, all hail had broken loose!
Hail that stung my bare legs (and later learned actually bruised the legs of many of the fairer sex), seemed to try to push me down. From beneath a boulder a shorts and singlet clad runner called out, “shouldn’t we get under a boulder in a lightning storm?” (Actually, you shouldn’t, particularly along a ridge).
“You needn’t worry about THAT lightning,” I called to him, “it’s BELOW us! RUN FOR IT!”
More breathless than I had ever been, and barely able to see through the driving rain and hail, I came to an intrepid lady in an orange poncho sitting on a rock, seemingly oblivious to the slashing thrashing hail. “You have reached the Fifteen Golden Stairs.”
“I could KISS you,” I called to her above the storm. The workers for this Run are absolutely as dedicated as the runners themselves.
Climbing the slippery ice slicked boulders, there in the mist finally was the Finish banner, my name being called on the loud speaker, and then from the sideline. My wonderful, beautiful wife, Debby, was there, well protected in storm gear, and sons Dan and Bren, we three in little more than running shorts, and lashed by the wind and the ice.
Hypothermia would soon set in if we didn’t find shelter quickly. We went to the gift shop, but it was packed, I mean, PACKED with the bodies of runners who had finished before us. With two or three more finishing every minute, the road down closed to traffic until the storm stopped and a snow plow could clear it, we had to find something else and fast.
There was another building. We went to it and knocked on the door. The guardian at the door said to us, “you can only come in if you have a medical emergency.” I looked at him grimly and said, “you might let us in to stand by the wall now, OR, ten minutes from now you will let us in anyway but as medical emergencies.” He got the point, “OK, go stand against that wall,” which we did.
(This was the first time in the 50 years of the race such dire conditions took place. Every year since, the Race places big tents on top… just in case. Sure enough an even worse condition occurred in 2008, but that is another story.)
The storm passed in half an hour. The sun came out, the hail and snow was inches deep and began to sublimate into steam. Tourist cars lined up to go down the road, waiting for the snow plow. A policeman stood guard at the head of the line. There were waiting busses for the runners, but we begged a ride in a tourist’s car, and crowded into the back of an SUV. The driver was in agony, his head in hands, from sea level, he had a nasty altitude headache. He grumbled, “you guys CHOSE to RUN up this mountain?”
I could see his point.
We were crammed into the back of the SUV like sardines. I decided that this would be better for everyone if there was one less person. My sons stayed with my wife safely and warmly in the back of the now less crowded car. I decided to finish the day as I had started it, on the run.
I walked over to the policeman who was stopping everyone from going down, waiting for the plow to clear the road. The policeman faced one way then another, I kept changing directions with him, but always behind him. When he turned and faced the lined up waiting cars, I turned the other way and began to run. Not that there was anything wrong with that.
Running down, on the snow, but in the sun, and mostly alone, (a few others were doing the same), it was like being released from prison. Down through the mists, vistas of distant snowy peaks, a herd of bighorn sheep crossed road just as I ran by. It was three miles down the road to the parking lot where cars were left to take the bus to the top.
The plow went past as I ran down, down with gloriously quick and lengthy strides each step sliding in the snow. By the time I reached the parking area, cars were also beginning to arrive from the peak.
My family hopped out of the SUV where they had found shelter, and we were reunited. And just in time. Yet another very very black cloud was fast approaching. We got in our car, and made good use of AWD as the second storm of the afternoon enveloped us and kept us company most of the rest of the way down.
Pikes Peak is indeed, the Ultimate Challenge. As a geologist might say, “don’t take it for granite.”
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 very first time and what year was that?
My first Pikes Peak was in 1984 and I remember being very inspired by the mountain experience. Looking up at the summit from A Frame was overwhelming, and topping out on Pikes Peak was very emotional for me.
What is your favorite memory of the Pikes Peak Ascent and/or Marathon?
My most unforgettable memory is definitely the 2008 Blizzard Ascent and I always love the fans at the finishes.
What keeps you returning year after year?
I just can't get enough of the mountain. Living in the region, Pikes Peak is always calling me back.
How has the Pikes Peak Marathon/Ascent shaped you into the runner you are today?
The Pikes Peak races have given me confidence in myself to meet difficult challenges. I have also learned to respect my training.
Do you feel like a pioneer of trail/mountain running?
Not really... I am thankful that I was on the front edge of the trail running discipline though.
24th October 2021 – Faial Island, The Azores, PORTUGAL
Pikes Peak Runners, Janelle Lincks and Darren Thomas win the GTNS 2021 Grand Final!
After Salomon's Golden Trail National Series final stage, Colorado Springs runner, Darren Thomas won the GTNS 2021 Grand Final! Darren is an 8 time Pikes Peak Marathon veteran, taking 5th place overall in the 2021 PPM. At just 16 years old, he ran his first Pikes Peak in 2010, taking the 3rd place age group award in the Pikes Peak Ascent that year. 2021 Pikes Peak Ascent runner, Janelle Lincks of Thornton, CO was the overall female winner of the GTNS Grand Final. Janelle was 7th overall female and 2nd place age group in her first Pikes Peak Ascent this year.
Here is Salomon's recap of the GTNS Grand Final:
The longest stage was kept for last, and it was probably the most technical as well. This week’s final showdown in the Azores was always going to be epic, and it didn’t disappoint! The runners set off at 11:30 am (local time) in the hope of taming the sharp volcanic terrain, grassy slopes, and muddy forest single tracks on Faial Island. At the end of this journey: three Golden Tickets to be able to compete at the highest international level on 3 of the Golden Trail Championship 2022 races.
Anna-Stinna wins today’s stage, Janelle wins overall
She wanted it, and she went all out to get it! Anna-Stina Erkkilä (Team Salomon, Finlande) pushed her body through its limits in the last section to bring home the victory on the third and final stage of the GTNS 2021 Grand Final. "I felt really strong today, she beamed at the finish line. I’d already run a pretty similar stage last year in the Azores and I loved it! I adore these kinds of single tracks between the trees and the technical sections. I honestly didn’t think I’d win the last stage I just wanted to keep in the top 3, but I must admit I had great legs today. I knew Janelle was way too far ahead in the standings to be able to win overall. In the end, we did the whole race together and I won, I don’t know how, leaving her behind on the last uphill just before the end. So, there you have it, I’m qualified for 3 races in the GTC 2022! I’m so proud of myself! I don’t know yet which races I’ll choose, I need to think about which ones are best suited to me, but I can’t wait!" Janelle Lincks (USA) finished a few seconds behind the Finn. "I enjoyed the whole adventure these last three days, even though I feel completely drained. My legs are toast, I’m dead! Anna-Stinna was really strong today and Jael too. I’m very happy to win this final and qualify for 3 races next year. I’d really love to do Zegama! For the other two I’ll see but it’s really exciting to be able to compete against other runners on this type of race." Despite a 4th place on this final stage, Eleanor Davis (UK) succeeded in keeping her spot on the podium. "It’s the first time this week that I’ve suffered so much, she admits. I don’t think I ate enough, and I felt drained, I wasn’t hungry and at the end I was losing it a bit. But I also knew that I was ahead of the fourth, so I tried to relax and enjoy it. I’m really happy to qualify for next year. I’d love to do the Marathon du Mont-Blanc and Sierre-Zinal. Then, if there’s a race in the USA, I will probably go!"
Abraham once again, and Darren was too strong!
Abraham Hernandes (Mexico) was already impressive on the second stage on São Jorge, once again he showed his talent on Faial today by finishing more than 4 minutes ahead of his first pursuer. "I’m happy because I ran a great race and caught up a lot of time, but it was tough! My legs are toast from the successive days of running. At least I get my podium spot, which was my main goal because now I’m qualified for 3 races next year, it’s really fabulous for me and I’m thrilled!" Thanks to his second place Daniel Castillo Fernandez (C.A.A Marathon Crevillent, Spain) secures his qualification in the GTC 2022, by also finishing 2nd in the overall ranking. "It was a different race from the previous days with a combination of tough volcanic terrain and forest trails that were both fast and technical. I’m thrilled with this result because I want to keep improving and for that, to do international races with elite runners is fantastic! This is an amazing opportunity for me." Even though he finished third in today’s stage, Darren Thomas (Team Salomon, USA) had too much of lead over his competitors to be caught up in the overall ranking. Therefore, he wins the GTNS 2021 Grand Final. "It was a completely new experience for me to do a stage race and it wasn’t easy to manage. I knew I had to be strategic but when I saw Juan Carlos shoot off, I was a trifle scared. Fortunately for me, he blew up and I could catch up with him and confirm my first place overall. I’m really pleased with my qualification because this was my first ever race in Europe and next year, I would love to run the legendary races like Sierre-Zinal or Zegama and go up against the world’s best athletes."
Stage 3 Results
1 – ABRAHAM HERNANDES (MEX): 03:10:56
2 – DANIEL CASTILLO FERNANDEZ (ESP – C.A.A MARATHON CREVILLENT): 03:15:00
3 – DARREN THOMAS (USA – SALOMON): 03:16:38
4 – MORITZ AUF DER HEIDE (GER – ADIDAS TERREX): 03:20:57
5 –JORDAN CLAY (GBR – FREEDOM RACING): 03:24:08
1 – ANNA-STINNA ERKKILÄ (FIN – SALOMON): 03:47:22
2 – JANELLE LINCKS (USA): 03:47:42
3 – JAEL MORALES (MEX): 03:50:30
4 – ELEANOR DAVIS (GBR): 03:57:47
5 – KATARINA LOVRATOVA (SVK): 03:59:23
1 – DARREN THOMAS (USA – SALOMON): 08:34:27
2 – DANIEL CASTILLO FERNANDEZ (ESP – C.A.A MARATHON CREVILLENT): 08:38:47
3 – ABRAHAM HERNANDES (MEX): 08:39:33
4 – MORITZ AUF DER HEIDE (GER – ADIDAS TERREX): 08:42:35
5 – JUAN CARLOS CARERA (MEX – BUFF): 08:45:41
1 – JANELLE LINCKS (USA): 10:02:12
2 – ANNA-STINNA ERKKILÄ (FIN – SALOMON): 10:06:11
3 – ELEANOR DAVIS (GBR): 10:18:10
4 – JAEL MORALES (MEX): 10:27:07
5 – KATARINA LOVRATOVA (SVK): 10:35:42
Check out the full race results here: https://resultados.stopandgo.pro/643/Live
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