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.
4 months ago