Excuse me while I kiss the sky”
- Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze
Pikes Peak Marathon in Manitou Springs, CO. Considered “America’s Ultimate Challenge”, this marathon has drawn runners from all over the world to climb the Ascent (13.2 miles to the top at 14,117’, with 7,750’ of relentless climbing), or take on the Marathon (complete the Ascent, then as they say on the Price Is Right, “come on down!”), or even do the two races back-to-back if you’ve got the stones. Events like these are destined to push us each to our limit, whatever flavor we may desire, and I was excited to share the challenge with 2,000+ fellow adventurers who were trained and ready. Thanks to great weather, inspiring performances, and world-class volunteering and local support, it exceeded all expectations!
|(All smiles at the peak!)|
From the moment I arrived in Manitou Springs, CO, it was clear that this town knew how to GSD (Get Sh*t Done). A few weeks prior to race day, a flood had wiped out the park where packet pick-up was to occur, as well as nearby businesses that now had no power and basements full of mud. No problem, said Manitou Springs, just move the packet pick-up to a higher elevation park and feel free to grab a shovel if you’re looking for some cross training. I got the impression that the race organizers had seen floods, snow, and everything in between over the last five decades. Mother Nature would not be stopping this crew from putting on America’s second oldest marathon!
|(The flood on Aug 11th was no joke)|
|(Check out the tub...ooooh, yeah!)|
|(The nearby Garden of the Gods - a great run!)|
Gary was one of four Team inov-8 members here today, and I was really excited for out potential to place well among a deep international field. Alex Nichols (2nd at Pikes Peak last year, 3rd at Mont Blanc Marathon, also just made the 2013 Mountain Running National Team) had miraculously recovered from his flu, and local Peter Maksimow (many-time top 10 finisher here) was turning the corner on his injuries and running well. All three of these guys were fully acclimated, and although I was not, my training had been consistently good and I was climbing as well as I ever have. This year, the Pikes Peak Marathon was part of the Skyrunning Series and the USATF Trail Marathon National Championship, so there was plenty at stake! Our odds looked good.
|(The rather random zombie crawl that went by)|
|(Meeting Arlene Piper, the first American woman to finish a marathon)|
The Ascent started at 7am on Saturday, so I shuffled out of bed at 6:50am to get some pictures. Nice! The sky was clear, and the temp was forecast to hit 90 degrees, so the runners wasted no time getting to the cooler temps above the tree line. I caught a ride with Gary Gellin to the top to watch the finishers and get a sample of that 43% oxygen level at 14,000 feet; we even caught a snow flurry on the top…whoa! Despite how Eric Blake (winner in 2:13:45) and Kim Dobson (Women’s winner in 2:41:43) made it look easy, there was no doubt this race was going to be tough!
|(Eric Blakes get the win at the Ascent)|
|(Kim Dobson climbs the final few turns of the Ascent)|
|(Haley Benson gets 3rd Woman while her Mom cheers on and takes pictures)|
|(Kristin Burrell is feeling good after her Ascent)|
|(And we're off!)|
|(Cutting through town)|
|(It gets steep fast!)|
|(Cruising the Barr Trail)|
|(Shawn O'Day sets the pace for us)|
|(Volunteers were AMAZING!)|
|(Up, up, up!)|
|(Alex Nichols crushes the downhill)|
|(Getting above the tree line)|
|(Galen Burrell gets through the staircase)|
|(Stoked for those clouds!)|
|(Gary Gellin takes the rocks 20 at a time)|
|(Oscar knows how to fly!)|
|(Stevie Kremer is the bullet train)|
|(Finding that groove)|
|(Not sure which I'm more stoked to see...1 mile to go, or clouds coming in)|
|(Austria's Katherine Dohr was crushing it all day)|
|(David Henry enjoys working with gravity)|
By the time I hit A Frame (mile 15), all of the remaining runners had gone by and I could open up my stride a little. I ran alone for miles, with little more than the views and the sound of a thundercloud threatening to add some liquid spice to the race. It felt like I was going sub-6 minute mile pace with the oxygen debt, but my Garmin reminded me that I was closer to 7:30 min/miles.
|(Connilee uses her descending skills to break the Masters CR for the Double)|
|(Accidental photo, but I like it!)|
I knocked off a few more 40’ish looking guys before crossing the finish in 5 hrs 13 minutes, then immediately vomited in the finish line garbage can to the delight and cheers of the crowd. Peter Maksimow (4:29 for 17th today, a 35-39 age group win) didn’t even wait for me to finish puking before offering me a beer, but the medical volunteers insisted on an IV and some oxygen first, so I made my way to the Med Tent.
|(Heading to the finish)|
|(Whoops...went a little too hard)|
|(I was in good company in the Med Tent)|
Stevie Kremer (4:17:10) came within a minute of the Women’s course record to win, with Salynda Fleury (4:46:10), Laia Trias (4:49:54), Austria’s Karoline Dohr (4:51:54, breaking all F55-59 ascent and descent records), Michelle Yates (4:56:09), Letitia Dusich (5:03:15), Connilee Walter (5:10:31, new Masters record for the Double), Jamie Falcon (5:17:28), Jennifer Malmberg (5:26:46), and Sarah Biss (5:28:24) making the Top 10.
|(Enjoying the stage with my teammates and idols!)|
|(Team inov-8 enjoys a few laughs and beers at Peter and Nora's house)|
|(Good swag haul)|
Shoes - inov-8 TrailRoc 255
Socks - Injinji toe socks, original length, with 2XU calf guards
Shorts - inov-8 RaceElite 120 SS (coming soon!)
Shirt - inov-8 race singlet
Pack - inov-8 RaceUltra 2.1 waist pack (coming soon!), w/ 10oz water bottles
GPS - Garmin 910XT w/HR monitor
Hat - inov-8 Hot Peak 40
Food - (2x) Hammer Gel plain, (3x) Vitargo, one Vespa
Drink/Electrolytes - 88 oz water, 2 S!Caps