I finished the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday morning, and thanks to generous donations from friends and family, I raised about $900 for the Ponseti International Association for the Advancement of Clubfoot Treatment ! I can assure you it was the toughest 900 bucks I ever made.
I beat my personal goal by about 1 minute, finishing the 13.3 miles and 7,815 vertical feet in 3:05:03.
I finished in 69th place overall (out of 1647 finishers), and 63rd place (out of 1162) among male runners. That's close to the top 4th percentile overall, and in the top 6th percentile for the men. In the 35-to-39-year-old-male category, I was 12th out of 189, which is in the top 7th percentile.
The 1st place finisher was Matt Carpenter (a perennial favorite) at 2:12:56.
Results from the race are posted here.
Play by play
Mile 1: a relatively easy stroll up a gently sloped & paved road through Manitou Springs.
Miles 2-5: "The W's" at the foot of the Barr trail. So-named for the way the dozens of switchbacks look on a map as they climb a steep 2500 feet or so above Manitou. This is a single track trail crowded with runners, and little room to pass. At about mile 3, I started tracking my position - the number of people I passed, the number who passed me. By mile 4, the pack thinned out enough that passing wasn't a problem anymore. In most races, mile markers tell you how far you've run so far. In the Ascent, they did it backwards - they tell you how much distance to the finish line. Its was rather disheartening to see the "11 miles to finish" sign when I was already tired and gasping for air.
Miles 6-9: Finally, a break from the steeps. Still uphill, for sure - there are no significant flat sections on the trail, much less downhill, but it's a welcome break from the W's. Beautiful trail, too. It'd be nice to come back sometime when I could enjoy the scenery.
Mile 10: "We're baaaack!" (the steeps and switchbacks, that is). This is the last mile of tree cover. It's also where I got passed by a skirt. Literally. A woman wearing a pink running skirt passed me here.
Miles 11-12: You break through tree line at 11,800 feet of elevation, right at the "3 miles left" sign. Staring down at me is the east face of Pikes Peak - 2,300 vertical feet to go! At this point my heart is literally in pain from pumping so hard. Except for the top few dozen runners, no one is actually running at this point in the race. It's a fast hike at best. The trail gets really steep again, but now it's also more rugged and uneven, with big rock steps to boot. This is a high-altitude, voluntary version of the Bataan death march, with hundreds of stick-thin runners trudging forward in pain.
Mile 13: No rest for the weary. They saved the steepest, rockiest terrain for last - the Golden Steps! For a few brief moments here and there, I feel light headed, and the pain in my chest (that would be my heart) isn't letting up. I pass a few people who've run out of gas, and a few others who reserved some juice for the end pass by me. I think I improved my overall position by 1 place since I started keeping track about 10 miles ago. I crossed the finish line at 3:05:03, a minute faster than my personal goal.
If that doesn't sound fun, then just imagine turning around and running back down the same trail again. That's what hundreds of people did on Sunday morning for the Pikes Peak marathon. About 70 ridiculously fit and insane runners did what's known as "The Double" - running the Ascent on Saturday and then the full marathon the very next day. And you thought I was crazy!