So today I ran Pikes Peak Marathon. This is not like any other marathon and is even dubbed "America's Ultimate Marathon". I'm not sure where to begin. First off ....Elevation gain (start to summit) is 7,815' (2,382 meters); the start is at 6,300' (1,920m) and the summit is 14,115' (4,302m). The Ascent finish/Marathon turnaround is at approximately 14,050'. The Ascent (and ascent leg of the Marathon) has very few stretches which are not going uphill with the average percent grade being 11%. So basically you run up the mountain for half of the race then you turn around and run back down. For those who are not used to running on trails...you would think that running back down would be easy, yet I say it is much harder on your legs and not easy at all. So I started off feeling just fine. I felt strong running up and passed quite a few people going up with one guy telling another "grab onto that girls pig tails so she can pull you up!" I was running, they were hiking at that point.
So from the bottom to Barr Camp (about halfway point of the ascent), I'm familiar with and it is very steep but not too many big rocks. However, after leaving Barr Camp, there were huge rocks in the way everywhere. So I would get going running then have to stop to climb over these rocks. It seemed to me like there were so many of them. I was on target to summiting at the halfway point in 3 hrs 30 min until the last 2 miles. The last 2-3 miles are above treeline, meaning trees do not grow anymore because there isn't enough oxygen. So what does that tell you when you are running? Yeah, it is hard to run and breath, that pretty much sums it up. I actually tried running in many spots but it was a single track and very hard to pass. Also these last 2 miles, the fastest guys were already coming down so they had the right away meaning, those going up had to move to the side and let them pass. So a single track, people running up, people running down = very congested and a slow pace. This slowed me down a lot. I finally made it to the top in 3 hrs and 43 min! At that point I was the 18th female to the top! So I turned around and started running back down....
Running down was the booger of it all! I didn't mind running up, but running down was just treacherous. All those rocks I climbed over, well I now had to jump over and be careful not to slip on the other rocks and loose gravel. The shade also made for bad lighting so you could not see a lot of the rocks that were reaching out to try to make you trip. I had almost tripped over a dozen times. Anyhow, I felt great, my pelvis amazingly didn't hurt and it was at mile 18-19 that my body started hurting and was just plain exhausted. I have not had great training as I had a hard time finding childcare to complete long runs. I also had pain in my pelvis too. So I expected to hurt because the mileage was not prepared for. Also my legs ached because of the pounding on the way down. The last mile is back on pavement on a street and after running 25 miles on soft trail, hitting the pavement in trail running shoes was very unpleasant to my already beaten up body. This was also the point where people were standing as spectators and cheering you on. I started crying this last half mile for 2 reason. One was because I was excited to be done and two was because my body hurt and I was exhausted and wanted to walk yet refused to do so when people were watching! I finally crossed the finish line in 6 hrs 7 min (2 hr 23 min decent time). I started falling into the volunteers and was having a hard time breathing. They sat me down, feed and watered me. After resting for 10 min, I got back up and was still unbalanced and running into people. that was crazy. I took 2nd place in my age group and finished 28th female overall. This was by far the hardest physical feat I've accomplished. It was brutal, it was treacherous, it was awesome. I plan to run it again!
Things I learned:
1. I have never cramped in my legs or feet before while running. It may have been due to a lack of oxygen towards the top.
2. After delivering 4 kids naturally, my bladder just can't withstand the pounding of running downhill. Yes it is gross, yes I was wet, but I just didn't care.
3. I still hate gels, they are gross. I do like the athlete jelly beans made for endurance races. They tasted great, were easy to swallow, and could last awhile.
4. Drinking a lot of Gatorade and racing gives me the cramps and runs after the race.
5. Downhill trail running will kill the knees. Be prepared to not be able to walk up and down the stairs without pain and holding onto the walls.
6. Climbing is my strength and I still hate running downhill. It scares me.
7. Do not underestimate the mountain.
8. Proper training leads to a great finish and less pain. Maybe next time I can get that training in!
9. I love true trail running/racing. It is a great time to thank God for such awesome creation.
10. I will not look at road races as fun anymore. After this race, they will seem boring and mundane.
I'm exhausted and my knees are hurting pretty bad. I am going to bed now. I had a satisfactory race. I enjoyed the challenge both physical and mental!
My award.....2nd place women's age division 30-34 yrs