Read Jill’s outstanding BB here
Course Info here
Well, that’s done. It was fun, exhilarating. It was challenging. Trust that I’ve had time to reflect and obsess over it. Based on general response, I feel compelled to educate, share insight, takeaways and lend perspective to it if for no other reason than to convince you that I didn’t shit the bed.
How’s that, Fish?
Wrapping up SIB the other morning a friend tells me that he had tried to look me up in the results, said he looked to the 4:30 mark and couldn’t find me.
I appreciate the confidence you have in me. Scroll down. More, scroll down some more. I’m there.
4:30 gets you a Top 10 on Pikes. A sub-5 will get you a Top 20. Times are loose and those folks are experienced high-altitude trail runners.
“The Ascent or ascent portion of the Marathon can take as long, or longer, than a full flatland marathon. In fact, many flatlanders find that it can take much longer! On the other hand, if you have trained in high altitude, it is possible to go a little faster than your flatland marathon time during the Ascent. In general, if you live at altitude, go with your flatland marathon time. Otherwise, add 1/2 hour to your flatland marathon time. The average descent time is about 63% of the runner’s Ascent time. In other words, the downhill is not free, and there are even a few ups on the way down!”
Blue Ridge Marathon: 3:24 and 7,500 ft of elevation change.
Pikes Peak Ascent: 3:26 and 7,750 vertical feet.
I gave myself the goal of landing something in the 5 – 6 hour range. It seemed reasonable at the time. 3 hours into it I knew the fast side of that goal was not only ambitious, but unreasonable and foolish. I had seen all the trails, with the exception of a few more Golden Stairs and the remaining traverses to the Summit; I understood the risk and was quite conscious of the fact that a bad trip and fall could change my life. I would need to manage my expectations. It’s easy to dump 30 minutes (or even an hour or more) on a set up like this, particularly up high, and that’s excluding any typical race day malfunction. You’re pushing 20 minute splits above 12,000 ft – that sounds crazy until you experience it. It is nuts.
Neither of us had ever been north of 4,000 ft. The marathon starts at 6,300 ft., tops out at 14,050 ft. and has an average grade of 11%. We got there on Wednesday. Raced on Sunday. There’s no dress rehearsal. You’re not acclimatized. You don’t get to practice. You throw yourself at the foot of these challenges, genuflect (or handle a rattlesnake), if you’re so inclined, and do your thing.
The majority of the folks you’re racing live in that region, live for trails, train at altitude and on the Barr Trail and in some cases have committed their running careers to figuring it out. No thanks, I’m good.
World class mountain runner, Matt Carpenter, moved to Manitou Springs, Colorado for that very reason, to master it. He owns all the records (18+ wins in various formats on Pikes alone). He’s 5’ 7”, weighs 120lbs and played the role of the Reverend Henry Kane in Poltergeist 2 – even #TheBeast has thrown up a 4 hour time on Pikes.
So, you go in cold and green and you get what you get. You get one shot. You’re not doing it again because there are too many other interesting things you want to do. Bust it and get the hell out of there.
I highly recommend it.
Was it hard?
Good question. Almost. It’s a puzzle you piece together. It’s not a personalized name puzzle that’ll teach a baby how to say BOB, but a 500 piece puzzle of clear blue sky.
Think of the race in 2 segments, the ascent and descent. It’s an up and back on the Barr Trail. 12 miles of the course are spent above 10,000 ft and 6 of those are above 12,000. Those are the most interesting, the most treacherous, less the mile or so of rock bed above the “W’s” at 8 – 9,000 ft.
What’s it like above the tree-line? (12,000 ft.)
It’s like inhaling a George Jung sized rail of uncut Colombian whitestuff and then going to SouthPark Mall’s food court to get a bite to eat. You’re not breathless, shit, you’re not even hungry. You’re spinning out, thinking #WTF am I doing… here. Hmmm, do I need a pair of pants?
Around this time, I recall thinking I needed to run 1 minute segments to stay involved. I ran one segment, experienced kaleidoscopic views and had to stop to clear the cobwebs.
I’m not an aggressive trail runner and average at best. More often than not my expectations far exceed my actual abilities and that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with running a little scared to avoid injury. Stay safe.
“You’re bleedin’, man…
I ain’t got time to bleed.”
Don’t read me wrong, I didn’t lay down for that mf’er. The course and altitude had no doubt taken its toll. I had muscles jumping and was swinging concrete appendages to get it done. Once inside 10,000 ft, I found a rhythm I could tolerate.
This was a big event for us and I/we learned a lot from the experience:
1. Don’t obsess over your time on mountain trails.
I’ve done this for you. As you consider things outside your comfort zone recognize the life experience is more important than the clock. Don’t sweat it, chill out and savor it. I tucked a dip in @14,000 ft. for the descent. Gotta keep it real.
Pace is meaningless. Consider your effort. You know you best. Do what you can do, but be reasonable. Save fast for the road. Besides, whatever it is you think you know won’t translate very well. I wouldn’t change a thing about my training. I was as prepared as I was ever going to be considering I don’t get endorsement dollars or paid to train.
I train in Charlotte. I train with F3.
2. I should have run with my girl.
I feel like I missed a real opportunity there. We discussed it, of course. We didn’t know any better at the time. Collectively, as flatlanders and road runners, we’re hardwired for the clock. It means something, as it should. Those goals are important. But, there’s a time and a place for it. It means less on a trail, in the wilderness, a field, on a mountain, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere, it means nothing.
That’s a gift. That time without being owned by it (so long as you make the checkpoint).
You want to be present for that moment and share it with God. I’m here. You’re here. Let’s do this.
It’s not the altitude. It’s your attitude, your gratitude.
I came out of this deal without so much as rolling an ankle. Jill, thankfully, picked up a partner mid-race and had someone watching her six. Regardless, she’d take a spill later that day and has a black and blue backside to show for it, but is otherwise no worse for the wear.
We’re healthy. That’s enough for me.
We cut our teeth on the extreme and did pretty damn good. I’m very proud of her. She’s “skeered” of heights (and was nauseous at altitude) and while you’re not running exposed ridges on Pikes, that crap’s intimidating.
Not a lot of people know this, but she’s kind of a badass.
As for me, after having been reduced to a crawl for much of Pikes, I’m ready to light it up @BRR.
Let’s do it #OneMoreTime
Editor’s Note w/ More Fun Stats:
Fish ran through his projected finish time (of less than) 6 hours.
-721 Total Entries
-77 DNF’s (missed cutoff, injury, coughs due to cold, Subway, bad perms…)
Ascent Place: 54th
Overall Finish: 115th (only 14 of those were girls) Just sharin’. #HIM
Finish Time: 6:04:15
I was kidding about being average.
#OnTheBrightSide First negative split in a marathon.
Fish would argue that he would have made his time (gosh, at least 10 minutes) if he hadn’t been dickin’ around with this GoPro for you dickbags. Oh, yeah, Fish is an amateur videographer.
Cut me some slack. I’m not a pic/video guy and got a GoPro for the occasion. The original intent was a video diary. I altered that structure during editing and crushed the soundtrack for your viewing pleasure.
You’re welcome. Enjoy-