Friday, August 28, 2009

Pikes Peak Ascent

Finally sat down to write this up before I forget.

I woke up pretty early on race morning, I was actually pretty nervous. I knew it was going to be a long race and tough but I really had no idea what to expect above timber line. I ate a bagel with peanut butter with some Gatorade and we headed out the door.

We got to the start area and it was buzzing with runners ready to hit the trail. A quick trip through the bathroom line and we were moving our way up to watch the first wave go off (ie the really really fast people).

Before we knew it we were lining up to go. The gun went off and so were we. The first part of the race was "flat" and were were all running. I felt pretty good at this point and was just trying to bank a little time. Before the race started I wanted to run about a 4 hour race. That is about twice as long as my regular half marathon time but I had never been in a race at this elevation or grade.

About a mile in we hit the first really steep grade. Everyone was slowed to a walk at once. It was a general fast paced walk from here until mile 6. I had done this first part of the course the day before and knew there wasn't a place to run. It was all pretty steep. The best you could do was walk as fast as you could and pass the slower people when you could. Any attempts at running just lead to about 10 seconds of running and 2 minutes of trying to get your heart rate down.

About mile 6 (about an hour and forty minutes into the race) there was finally a break in the uphill. Most people broke into a run and I tried to back a little more time. It was about a miles worth of running and I was feeling pretty good. I was at 7 miles in about an hour and fifty minutes so I was pretty well on pace for a 4 hour race. Then we hit a hill at mile 8. Wow it was eye opening. I felt like I was going straight up at times.

I was taking my gels and drinking at the aid stations but I was still starting to fell a little lack of energy. Not dragging but just a little tired. It was on and on like this for what seemed like forever. Never ending uphill. I was thinking to myself about how this was never going to end.

Little by little we would catch a glimpse of the peak through the trees and it was a little heart breaking. Once you got above tree line it seemed like it went on forever.

Finally we made it to "A-Frame" and we were out of the woods. It started to get a little windy up there but it felt good to cool off a bit. It was kind of cool to see everyone just going back and forth up the face of the mountain. No running just slow moving. You could tell the air was thin and we were feeling it.

Here we were about 10.5 miles in. Just 3 more miles. I was at 3 hours so a 20 minute mile would get me to the top in 4 hours. As I kept plodding along I was going slower and slower. Each step was hard. Climbing over the rocks was tough since it was like climbing stairs at 13,000 feet after walking up hill for 3 hours. My quads were burning. I tried to eat some jelly beans with some caffeine in them but nothing was tasting good and it was hard to get down. It was at that point I saw 4 hours going out the door.

Mile 11.5 came and I was starting to "hit the wall" I had felt that a little bit in my first ever marathon. Every part of my body was telling me to knock it off. But what can you do at that point? It was 11 miles down and 2 miles up. I just had to keep moving along.

Mile 12ish came and I was at the wall and it was pushing me back hard. I had to stop walking a few times to catch my breath and rest the legs a little. I tried to keep it as short as possible since I knew I would seize up. At this point I was at what they call the "Golden Stairs". I now hate the color gold. Those things were terrible. It was more mental at this point. I could hear the announcer and could see some spectators lining the course. Just a little farther.

Finally I came around the last switch back and saw the finish line. It wasn't anything huge but it was one of the best things I have ever seen in my life. I saw my buddy Michael (who had long since gone ahead of me) cheering me on. I shouted up at him "I hate you" since he told me about sign up, I was blaming him. I got to the finish line finally in 4:30:09. Off my goal time for sure but I was happy none the less.

I had my medal draped around my neck and met up with Michael, his wife and my wife Kim. Next stop was picking up my finishers jacket (it came in handy since it was pretty cold, like 40 degrees)

I was done. Spent. Tired. Hungry.

I spent four and a half hours making my way up that mountain and stayed up there about 15 minutes. The views were amazing, you could see forever.

Here is the elevation profile for the race

We got in line to ride the bus down to the parking lot (while eating a doughnut) and made our way down. At the base I had a slice of pizza and a cold beer. We headed back to the house and just crashed for a while and tried to recover.

That night we went out for some good mexican food (honestly anything would have tasted great) a couple beers and hit up the penny arcade in Manitou Springs.

It was an amazing race. It hurt like hell but it was worth every step. To date this was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. The marathons I did were tame compared to this race, but we will see how the half ironman goes in a few weeks.

The next day was a long drive home back to OK. A couple times stopping for gas my legs didn't want to go completely straight, but we made it.

Great trip, great race, great friends.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Colorado Springs trip

Somehow this spring I was convinced to do a race up Pikes Peak. I thought sure, it wouldn't be that bad. Wow, was I wrong.

I went up to Colorado Springs a few days early to get used to the altitude as much as I could and also just relax a little. The first thing I did was do a little ride from my friends house through Garden of the Gods. It was amazing. The red rocks, steep hills and terrific views.

On my ride I saw this and thought it was pretty cool. In the background is Pikes Peak. Wonder if it was telling me to stop and not go up...

I rested up the rest of the day, driving around downtown Co Springs and playing with my friends dogs.

The next morning we woke up and went on a trail run pretty much right behind their house. I could get used to that. I wonder how anyone in that town can be stuck in front of their TVs. If I lived there I may never be on the couch.

After that I cleaned up and went to packet pick up and decided to hike a little bit of the trail that we would run the next day. When I got my parking spot I hit the trail, pretty much straight up. I went off to the right a little to see what is called the "Incline". Basically a series of steps on what used to be a cog railroad.

I decided to forgo that hike and went back to the trail.

I could tell right away it was going to be a long race the next day. I went about 2.5 miles up the trail and then back down. The best thing I saw on the day was a couple mountain bike riders actually riding up the trail. I can't imagine doing that. Crazy.

In this pic you can see the towns way down below. Ugh...

I made it back down safe and sound in about half the time it took to get up. It was a lot more fun going down than up :)

That night I went to Denver to pick my wife Kim up at the airport and had dinner with some more friends in Denver. We made it back home, got the gear ready and hit the bed. I knew it was going to be a tough next day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Du Draper Twice

July is one of my favorite months for races because there is a weekend where I get to do two races in a weekend. On Saturday is the Lake Draper Off Road Duathlon. A 5k trail run, 20k mountain bike ride and another 5k trail run. All spring I had wanted to get out on my mountain bike to practice but it just didn't happen. As it turned out the last time I rode the mountain bike was last years race. I used to ride it all the time but it turns out if you don't use it you lose it. The first run went really well. I was able to get towards the front and didn't have to struggle to pass people on the narrow trails. The first 5k went by in 26:58.

Then the bike. I struggle with it for an hour and twenty two minutes. I am used to not getting passed much on the road so it was frustrating seeing so many people go by me. This year was better in the fact that I didn't crash. I was happy to get off the bike in one piece and headed off to the second run. Goal for this winter and spring, ride the trails.

By this time it was getting hot again. Luckily I took my water bottle with me so I was able to pour it on myself and stay a little hydrated. I ran down a few people but for the most part I was alone. I just kept telling myself not to walk and it would be over soon. I finally got to the finish line in 27:33 and a total time of 2:18:06 good for 26th over all and 10th in my age group. Apparently 30-34 year olds love to mountain bike and are a lot faster than me.

I was about 9 minutes faster than last year but 13 places lower overall. Looks like this race is getting bigger.

The next morning I forced myself out of bed and made my way back to Lake Draper for the on road version of the race. This was a 5k run, 24k bike and 5k run.

For some reason once I started the run I felt really really good. I was really pushing my pace but my heart rate was real low so I kept it up as long as I could. There were some fast runners out there but I didn't lose too much time to them.

I finished the first leg in 22:41 which was almost equal to my personal record for a 5k. I couldn't believe it when I saw that.

I hurried out of transition and hopped on my tri bike. There is a hill at the start of the course that some people were having problems getting cliped into their pedals and going so I passed quite a few people there. I was able to get into a nice pace and was moving right along. There wasn't a lot of wind this year which was a nice change. I was back and forth with a few people along the back side of the lake and that kept me pushing the pace. I finished the bike in 43:39 .

I hopped off the bike, threw my running shoes back on real quick and went out on the second run. I felt like I was plodding along but my pace was pretty good and I was passing the people that I was jockeying with on the bike. Towards the end of the run I spotted a guy from my age group up ahead and focused on pulling him in. I caught up with him with about a quarter mile left. After drafting behind him for a few seconds I pulled in front. He picked up his pace but I was somehow able to pick my pace up even more and he dropped back. I was able to finish the second run in 23:49 and beat him by 30 seconds overall. My finishing time was 1:31:48, a couple minutes faster than the previous year.

After the race I was wiped out. I grabbed a beer, my cooler for doing both races and headed home to veg on the couch. A great weekend of racing but I am starting to like tris better, just because of the whole less pounding on the legs thing. Too bad my next race is running up a mountain.