Sunday, August 17, 2008

2008 Pikes Peak Ascent results

Some people who have run in the Pikes Peak Ascent and marathon for years are calling the weather for the 2008 Ascent the worst in race history. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, only 760 of 1972 registered runners finished the race, and 80 finishers were treated for hypothermia. The paper has another decent article about yesterday's Pikes Peak Ascent, but unfortunately their online article doesn't have the photos they included in the print version. Here is Pikes Peak on Sunday morning - showing the August snowfall.

Here are some stats on my 2008 run and a comparison to last year's results.
I finished in 3:03:32 in 52th place overall, 46th among men (yes, that means that 6 women beat me), 9th out of 109 finishers in my age divison (male 35-39). That compares with 3:05:03, 69th place overall, 63rd among the men, and 12th out of 189 in my age group in 2007. The official 2008 results are posted here, but their list skips 15th place overall, so maybe I really finished in 51st place?

That's 1:31 faster than last year's time. Not bad, but I'm still disappointed that I didn't hit my goal of 3 hours.

Although I was fairly sore Saturday afternoon and evening, I'm a bit surprised that I'm not very sore at all today. Even so, I don't have any plans to go running again for a few days.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Note to self: buy better gloves

Here's a rundown of the big race day - the 2008 Pikes Peak Ascent.

My morning prep:
  • 6 am - ate a half of a banana and a few bites of a Clif bar
  • 6:30 ride my bike about a mile up the road from the kitschy Rainbow Lodge, then lock it and walk the rest of the way to the starting line
  • 6:45 down a Clif Shot and some water
My gear for the run:
  • polyester running tights
  • polyester long sleeve shirt
  • North Face GoreTex rain jacket with large vents
  • gloves (most definitely not waterproof)
  • one handheld water bottle (empty to start the race)
  • one Clif Shot packet (energy gel)
  • my Mizuno Wave Ascend 2 trail running shoes - the best shoes I've ever owned
As predicted, it's wet and chilly. It wasn't too cold in Manitou Springs (at 6,300 feet) but it was certainly wet. The race started at 7 under a steady rain. For the first few miles, I was actually a little too warm in my rain jacket, even with the vents wide open and the front zipper mostly open. Nevertheless, I don't want to get too wet because I know the mercury is gonna drop big-time as I go up. I felt strong this morning - unlike my start on Mt. Evans in June.

Miles 2 to 5 are the steepest part of the race, on a section of the Barr trail called The W's because on a map the switchbacks make it look like a bunch of W's strung together. Despite steady rain for the past 24 hours, the trail isn't too muddy for 2 reasons: first, because it's too steep for water to collect anywhere, and secondly because the surface is crushed granite gravel - granite doesn't absorb water.

As I rose past the W's, we seemed to rise above the clouds and the rain diminished to a mere annoying drizzle. I was optimistic that I'd seen the worst of the weather. I was soon to be sorely disappointed.

Miles 5 to 10 are less steep - this is the easiest part of the race. A few spots are even flat enough to have puddles. At this point my hat is wet and pants are slightly damp, but I'm comfortable. Make that comfortable temperature-wise; I'm running at about 91% of my max heart rate, right at the edge of my aerobic max, which is never exactly comfortable.

So why would I start the race carrying an empty water bottle? The first 4 aid stations are close enough together that I don't need to carry my own drinks. However, between aid stations 4 and 5 (Bob's road to Barr camp) is 2.3 miles, and the distance between stations 5 and 6 (Barr camp to the A-frame). The amazing volunteers at the stations fill my bottle with gatorade to keep me going. Here's the first problem with my cheap water-resistant gloves, though - filling a small-mouthed bottle from a pitcher of gatorade results in spillage - on my already damp gloves. And it's starting to get cold up here at 10,000 feet. Did I mention that it was raining, too?

At the A-frame aid station, the volunteers are telling people to turn around if they're cold. One guy heeded their advice and turned around. The trail emerges above tree line. At this point, the rain has turned to rain-hail mix. I'd take hail (very small hail, anyway) over rain anyday. Hail bounces right off and doesn't get you wet. The trail gets steep from here on up, and the boulders I have to step over get bigger, too. I've passed several people over the past few miles, and I'm still feeling relatively strong.

Now things start to get interesting. That GoreTex jacket that was keeping me too warm 2 hours ago is now a Godsend. The wind has picked up and the temperature is somewhere in the 30's. I'm in a dense fog with hail/snow falling on me. And I'm wearing wet gloves. I took one off to see if I was better without them, but bare wet skin was even worse, so I pulled it back on. It's cold enough now that I put my hood on and closed the jacket vents. With about 2 miles to go, I pulled out my earmuffs and put them on too (I'm damn glad I decided to pack those for the ride). It's now hail/snowing steadliy and it's accumulating on the trail, first as slush and later as bonafide snow.

With about a mile and a half to go, my hands are starting to get numb. Finally, the thought occurs to me that I should pull my fingers back into my palm, which gives my freezing hands some slight relief from the icy cold, wet fingers of the dreaded water resistant gloves.

Now my calves are cramping each time I need to step over large boulders. For the last 3-4 miles of the race, I'm mostly doing a fast hike, although I still break into a jog when the trail isn't too steep.

I can't see anyone else around me who has warm clothing - many of them are wearing shorts with rain-resistant tops, and nobody has a hood.

I crossed the finish line at 14,115 feet after 3:03:30 (approximately - I haven't seen my official time yet); a minute and a half faster than last year, but 3:30 slower than my goal of 3 hours. At the summit, it's cold, windy, foggy, and snowing. Not quite a blizzard, but damn close for mid-August. I made a bee-line for the shelter of the Cog railway station/gift shop for some warmth. The race organizers haul a bag for each runner up to the summit - typically filled with dry clothes. My hands are so numb and cold that I can't untie the knot in it, so I head to the men's room and warm my nearly frostbitten hands under the air dryers. As they warm up, the pain starts - shooting pains as my flesh defrosts. One of the other runners in there is shivering hard. While I'm inside, I learned that the race was just stopped due to thunder - any runners who hadn't passed the A-frame (about 10.5 miles into the race) would have to turn around and run back down. I can only imagine the utter disappointment.

After changing clothes and doing a bit of stretching (although not nearly as much as I would have done if I was warmer), I jumped on a van for a ride down the mountain. The guy next to me didn't go inside to warm up - he went straight from finish line to van - and he is shivering violently. I untied his bag and helped him get some dry clothes on.

"We'll look back on this tomorrow and laugh about it", says one of the other guys on the van. He's right. I promised myself that I'll buy warm, waterproof gloves before I run any more races like this. Are runners crazy or what?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Race day forecast: cold and wet

It looks like I'll need some warm clothes for the Pikes Peak Ascent tomorrow. The forecast is a high temp of 57 degrees (F) and rain - at the base of the mountain. That likely means it will be snowing at the top. Brrrrr.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Soggy camping weekend

We spent a soggy weekend camping near Keystone. We were lucky Friday night, when it didn't rain til after we were all in the tent getting ready for bed. Saturday morning I went for a run under cloudy skies and came across 2 moose walking up the road. Since they were walking the other way, didn't see me for quite a while so I was able to watch them for several minutes unseen. This is the first time I've seen moose south of I-70. Our friends Mike & Renee Kappus joined us, so combined we had kids ages 2, 3, 4 and 5. They watched the kids for a few hours Saturday afternoon while Amy and I rode mountain bikes. In keeping with the weekend theme, it rained on us, but we were prepared and had rain jackets. Saturday evening we cooked dinner and roasted marshmallows under a light drizzle, which wasn't so bad since I had rigged up our huge 10 ft by 20 ft tarp between some trees to give us a nice area to cook and stay dry. Sunday morning was overcast yet again, but I got in a long run - 2 hours and about 2700 vertical feet. That's my last big run before the Pikes Peak Ascent next Saturday. It never did rain Sunday morning, so Mike and Renee got in a short bike ride before we all packed up our wet gear and hit the road. Not the best camping weather, but I've certainly endured worse.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fire on Green Mountain

Lightning started a grass fire on Green Mountain on Monday afternoon, and the fire burned right to the edge of our neighborhood, about half a mile from our house. Fortunately no homes burned, but it got pretty tense with some evacuations. Our house smelled like smoke Monday and Tuesday, but most of the smoke odor is gone. This is the second time in 2 weeks we've had a fire in the open space on Green Mountain. The last one was much smaller.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Green Mtn. and Mt. Evans training runs

I did training runs this weekend, the first one on Saturday morning on Green Mountain. I ran for an hour and 40 minutes (1:40), getting the top 2 different times and doing a complete circuit of the mountain. It was already hot even at 6:30 am, which might explain why a 6-foot long bullsnake was laying across the trail warming himself up for the day.

Today I drove up to Echo Lake on Mt. Evans and ran from there up the Chicago creek trail, over a steep pass to summit lake, then a few miles more up the road, and finally off the road and up the south flank to the summit, finishing in 2:15. Chicago Creek and the 2 Chicago Lakes are in a surprising beautiful glacial valley - it's a spot I'd like to revisit someday when I have more time to linger, and cast a fly line. On the way up I surprised a lone deer, got real close to a herd of 18 mountain goats, and hiked right through a family of ptarmigan just below the summit. I hitched a ride back down, and spotted a few big horn sheep on the drive.