Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conquering the Matterhorn Ultraks 46k in Zermatt, Switzerland

There is a stillness to Zermatt, Switzerland, that honors the majestic mountains cradling this historic town. You can feel it from the moment you step off the train and stroll up the auto-less streets filled with alpine enthusiasts from around the world, sipping their viesse beers and coffee while basking in the glow of the ever-present Matterhorn. The serenity is magical, and deserving of pilgrimage. It’s a perfect stage for the inaugural Matterhorn Ultraks 46k, a monster of a race that has attracted 800+ trail runners to run on the edge of the Alps and celebrate Swiss-style. A perfect European bookend to last weeks Pikes Peak Marathon - I couldn’t be more excited!
(Zermatt fills with trail runners for the Ultraks)
(No cars in Zermatt...just horses and golf carts)
(Summer is beautiful here!)
When I say Ultraks is “a monster of a race”, I am not exaggerating (for once). The course climbs over 13,000 feet in ~29 miles, alternating between runnable single track, shale-lined ridges at 9,000 feet, and technical climbs/descents that leave your legs shaking like a newborn foal. It’s nearly double the vert of the Pikes Peak Marathon I did six days ago, and anytime you start calling Pikes Peak a “warm up race”, you know you are in rarified air. I ran the last 2k of the course backwards upon arriving to get an idea of what we were in for, only to ascend 1,300 feet in the first mile. Yeah, this one is a biggie. For those not wanting to go the whole way, there were options for a 16k, 31k, and free kids race (93 entries!).

(A course worthy of the Matterhorn)
Ultraks is also a Skyrunning Series race, and as such, Team inov-8 had a few top notch runners toeing the line. Eirik Haugsnes from Norway, Florian Riechert from Germany, and Anna Lupton from the UK would be taking on some of the top names in Skyrunning, including Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Silvia Serafini, Luis Alberto Hernando Alzaga (2nd to Kilian at two races this year), Cameron Clayton (also doing the Pikes/Ultrak double), and more. Kilian was the favorite, having just set a Matterhorn Ascent record in Italy three days previous (town square to peak and back in 2 hrs, 52 min…how nuts is that? Great interview about it here). The weather was ideal, short of the rain clouds expected around 2pm that anchored my goal of finishing in 6-7 hours.

At the 7am start, I had a chance to say hi to San Francisco-based Matthew Laye (who was ready to rock this course, poles and all), Meghan Arboghast (tackling the 16k in prep for UTMB next week), Martin Cox (one of the fastest mountain runners around, doing the 31k), photographer/journalist extraordinaire Ian Corless, and our team supporters Natalie White and David James who would be out on the course for morale and a few fun miles. I hopped the fence to get in the corral, and karmically paid for my rudeness when my camera quietly fell out of my pocket (it was later found). It was going to be an iPhone run today! Whoops.
(Catching up with Kilian before the race)
(We're ready to roll!)
As the church bells rang out at 7am, a tight-knit group of fifty ran through the town and headed up to the first trail (mile 1). Cameron Clayton, fresh off his 5th place at Pikes Peak, set the pace with a pack of Salomon jerseys on the first set of switchbacks, which soon mellowed out into some runnable single track along the ridge. I paced behind Anna Lupton, who surged up the ridge to the first aid station (Sunnegga, mile 3) just as the sun brought the Matterhorn into view. Outstanding! The Matterhorn does resemble the image on a box of Toblerone chocolate or the Disneyland rollercoaster (sans blue yeti...at least so far), but as its visage grew more ominous with every step, I was pleased my frame of reference was now acclimated to the proper magnitude. This is the most photographed mountain in the world for a reason – it is simply breathtaking when viewed in person. Speaking of breathtaking, next up was Gornergrat, the big climb of the day to 10,000+ feet, and everyone pounded liquids and snacks to prepare.
(The sun lights up the Matterhorn)
(Yeah,,,not quite as majestic)

(Let's climb!)
(Anna Lupton leads us through a rocky section)
The climb was a beast, and I couldn’t help but lose about 20 places to the hiking-pole-savvy European runners blazing trail left and right (most of them view the actual trail as a “suggested route”, which is allowed). The view at the top was incredible, and we could count 29 of the 45 big Swiss mountains on the crystal clear horizon, as well as a huge permanent ice glacier. Amazing! As a side bonus, I was having no trouble with the altitude and cruising along nicely. I guess once you shock the lungs at 14,000’ in Colorado, acclimation comes quick!

(Poles were a definite advantage)

(Most of the trails were quite runnable...if you want to run the trails)

(Trail runners make their way up Gornergrat)
(Seriously steep at the end)
(On the ridge...we're getting there!)
(The trail at 10,000 ft)
(Single track to heaven)
I struggled a bit with the technical descents, per usual, slowing for the more steep and sharp sections that are foreign to my California-spoiled form. The inov-8 Trailroc 255’s were holding well, but I lost about 30 places inching down what others would leap before letting a few runners be my mountain guides. We had to stop briefly for some local sheep that were blocking the trail, until one pole-wielding runner started smacking butts and clearing a path. Thank you, farmer Christophe!

(Ummmm....on your right?)
(Kilian cruises under the Matterhorn, photo courtesy of Ian Corless)
(Emelie Forsberg having fun, photo courtesy of Ian Corless)
As we finished up the descent and tackled the short climb from Riffelamp, my legs groaned when I passed the 20k mark. 20k? We’re not even halfway done?!? I was already three hours in, so despite this race only being 4k longer than a marathon, it was an ultramarathon in every sense of the word. The terrain kept my thoughts present as we zig-zagged down to the river, ran along the waterfall, then crossed a suspension footbridge towards the edge of town. Never a dull moment!

(Never get tired of these views!)
(Across the suspension bridge...don't look down!
(Grunting up the Schwarzee)
(Looking back at the river valley we ran down)
The locals were out in force as the base of Schwarzee (mile 14), and we began our hands-on-quads power hike up the second big climb of the day. The sweat ran off my nose in the hot switchbacks, but within a mile of climbing, I had my rain jacket on for warmth as the cool mountain wind started to bring that promised rain storm. I refueled at the top (mile 17), and took delight in plunging down the nicely graded backside alongside the mountain bikes. I could spot Matthew Laye and my friend Nico up ahead and hustled down to have some company for the next big climb.
(The Shwarzee keeps on rollin')
(Right up to the shoulder of the Matterhorn)
(And here comes the descent!)
As the trail switched to single track near the bottom, my gazing got the best of me and I caught a toe and went careening head first into the rocky trail. There was an “uh, oh” moment as I realized it was going to be either taking rocks to the torso or head off the cliff and hope it works out. My subconscious decision to hug a rock (instead of fall off the mountain) brought the unforgiving stone into my rib cage with enough impact to knock the wind out of me, and I was soon flopping around like a fish out of water gasping for air. Two fellow runners were nice enough to pull me back onto the trail and on my feet, and after a few minutes, I caught my breath and began walking down the trail again. Self-analysis report - ribs hurt when taking deep breaths or twisting (bruised?), rain jacket is now torn off my torso, shoulder and hips scraped up, but everything is still working. I got up to a jog, but noticed that any stumble would seize my breath, so I took it easy and thanked my ribs for doing exactly what they are supposed to do. It could have been much worse if I had fallen off the Matterhorn! I popped a couple of Aleve and kept on trucking’.
(Heading up the last big climb of the day)
Dave James was at the creek at the bottom of the climb, and gave me a high five as I started up the last climb of the day (mile 19). He said Eirik was in 5th and Anna was in 3rd…outstanding! Kilian had pulled ahead with two others to lead the race, while Emile Forsberg had a solid 15-minute lead in the Women’s race. It was hard to imagine they were already over an hour ahead of me, but that’s how fast these guys move!

(Another great shot from Ian Corless)
The last climb was larger than I recalled from the map (but then again, aren’t all last climbs?) and full of Swiss, German, and Japanese tourists taking in the sites of the Matterhorn and some nearby waterfalls. I sensed a deep cultural appreciation for the mountains among all these smiling faces, and they were happy to step aside and give out a “Hop! Hop! Hop!” or “Allez! Allez!” as we went by. The clouds were coming in faster now, cooling off what would have been a hot day on the ridge.

(Up on the last ridge)
At mile 21, we hit the top of the climb and onto some delicious single track stretched along the “hunters route” on the ridge with Zermatt just a row of toy houses on our right. Such a beautiful stretch, yet it felt so remote…this course really has it all. The trail was smooth enough I could shuffle along at a 9 min/mile pace, and much to my surprise, I began passing a few slower runners as they hit the 5 ½ hour mark and got that "ultra reality check". We hit one last aid station at the Hotel Trift (mile 24), a little chalet nestled in a protected valley that certainly had the friendliest dogs on the course. With a few licks and cups of Coke, I power hiked the last little climb with my abbreviated steps.

(The Hotel Trift tucked into the mountains)
(Zermatt comes into view...we can hear the cheering!)
(Some steep stuff to finish)
I could see the church tower next to the finish line, but given that it was the size of my fingernail, we still had quite a descent ahead of us. We plummeted 3,500’ vertical in the next three miles, and my quads swore they would never forgive me. But then they heard the cheering crowds lining the square, and eased up to cruise in in for 76th place in 7:02:34. (all results) My ribs and shoulder were still hurting, but the slower pace meant my legs felt better than expected. I took a seat next to a couple of French runners, who handed me a beer and began seducing me into other French ultras for next year, just as the first few raindrops fell. What a day we had! And we’re already planning the next one.
(Eirik Haugnes sprints in for 9th, photo courtesy of Ian Corless))
Kilian Jornet had won the race in 4:43:05, with Luis Alberto Hernando Alzaga (4:44:47) and Nicola Gollinelli (4:45:57) coming in soon afterwards, all of them well exceeding the expected 5:15 winning time. Swiss runners, Marc Lauenstein (Sierre-Zinal winner) and Ultraks ambassador Martin Anthamatten were fourth and fifth respectively. Emilie Forsberg (5:41:16) handily won the Women’s division, with Silvia Serafini (5:44:37) having a strong second half to claim second, and Nuria Dominguez Azpeleta (5:59:19) passing Anna Lupton in the final mile for third. Eirick (5:03:15) had held on for 9th after running out of gas in the final climb, while Anna Lupton (6:01:59) held on for 4th, and Florian had completely imploded but hung tough to finish just a few minutes ahead of me. Not bad, team! We're now 4th in the Skyrunning team competition with one race left in the Series!
We got ourselves cleaned up (and my ribs taped up) and took over the lobby of the Zermattenhof Hotel for beers and snacks as the rain fell heavily on the final finishers. Eirik was so impressed with all the runners still coming in, citing how difficult that last descent would be in the mud, saying “I don’t know how they do it for so long…they are incredible”. What a great sport we have where the first ten finishers can look at the last ten finishers with such honest admiration! My bruised ribs and bloody shoulder were nothing compared to the facial lacerations and swollen ankles around the table, yet everyone had found their way to the finish line. Runners and spectators alike agreed this had been one of the more challenging Skyrunning races, but also one of the most beautiful. Given how many pictures and memories I had, it was miraculous I only fell once!

(Great memories, great course!)
My grand Skyrunning experiment now concluded (three races, a whopping zero points...but some incredible memories!), I embraced the full post-day I had to relax. Although my injuries limited my options, I found great solace in relaxing in the sun with a rosti (hash browns with cheese and bacon), taking a post-sauna nap in the solarium at the wonderful Parkhotel Beau Site, finding Swiss trinkets and Matterhorn-shaped chocolates for the girls, and completely overdosing on fondue and Alsatian wine for dinner. The Swiss certainly do have a great way of celebrating the mountains, and I would highly recommend the Matterhorn Ultraks to anyone wanting to taste it all.

(Yeah, this is a food ad...but it does look just like it!)
My thanks to the Race Directors, amazing volunteers, my fellow Team inov-8 runners, the trail angels who pulled me back on course, and all the adventurers who shared the day with sweat and smiles. You have opened a new window to my soul, and it will forever face the Matterhorn, inspiring my dreams with these glorious memories. I know I will see you again!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Touching the Sky at the 2013 Pikes Peak Marathon

“Acting funny, and I don’t know why 
Excuse me while I kiss the sky” 
 - Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze 

Last Saturday, I had the great privilege of checking a race off my bucket list by running the 58th annual 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!)
The Magic of Manitou Springs 

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)
Fate had a funny way of steering my weekend, and I often wondered if the spirits of the Pikes Peak Marathon weren’t guiding the way. First, I saw the NO VACANCY light go off at the Pikes Peak Inn right as I was walking by, at the same moment Fujio Miyachi (a friend from Japan I met via the XTERRA races, and last years Ascent/Marathon Double winner) was pulling out of the parking lot and saying it was the best place to stay. The finish line was literally 20 feet away, much closer than where I was staying…does this kind of karma really happen? I asked a group of ladies knocking back beers outside of their room if this was a good place to stay, and the group turned out to be the “Peak Busters”, a gaggle of female finishers past that were more than happy to share 30+ years of beer-infused stories. I chugged that beer, booked that room, and grabbed a seat outside their room to hear more!

(Check out the tub...ooooh, yeah!)
(The nearby Garden of the Gods - a great run!)
At the pasta dinner, I caught up with my good friends Gary Gellin (Team inov-8, Team Inside Trail Racing) and his wife Holly, and learned about their funny wager – she would run the Ascent, and he would need to beat her total time in the Marathon. The loser would have to….actually, I don’t know what the stakes were, but given these two had been cycling and running through Colorado every day for the last two weeks, I suspect there was laundry involved. Well, after projecting a 5-hour finish, Holly busted out a 4 hr 13 minute Ascent…DOH! The gauntlet was thrown. And thrown quite hard, actually.

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)
Every hour seemed to bring unexpected fun in Manitou Springs, including being swarmed by a zombie crawl (40+ zombies walking the streets in some sort of amateur film), getting a frozen custard from Pikes Peak legend and course record holder Matt Carpenter (he runs the Colorado Custard Company, and his 2 hr 1 min Ascent and 3 hr 19 min marathon CR’s remain two of the greatest trail records of all time), finding an iPhone in the middle of the Garden of the Gods during a shake out run, meeting Arlene Piper (the first women to complete Pikes Peak in 1958, finishing a marathon well before Katherine Switzer elbowed her way through the Boston Marathon), sharing beers randomly with past winners from ’74, ’87, ’97, and ‘02, sampling mineral water from the seven springs in town (each with its own distinctive flavor and mineral mix), being offered a ride to the top from a leather-clad motorcycle gang of retirees, and enjoying great vegetarian fare at the Swirl Wine Bar. Every restaurant buzzed with anticipation from the 1,500 runners tackling the Ascent and 800 runners going after the marathon the next two days, and the local bartenders knew every aid station name as well as the runners.

The Race 

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)
Marathon race morning on Sunday welcomed similar hot and clear weather, and at 7am we got the gun and headed through town towards that spec in the sky that is Pikes Peak. My run quickly turned to a shuffle when we caught the first steep pitches of the trail (mile 1.6), and my lungs shriveled in the dry air. It reminded me of the lore of Pikes Peak, which started with a duel for smokers vs non-smokers back in the 1950’s. I settled into ~70th place and watched Gary Gellin, Alex Nichols, Touru Miyihara (Mt. Fuji course record holder), Cameron Clayton, and Galen Burrell set the pace up front. I took the well-heeled advice of “run until it’s too hard, then walk until it’s too easy, repeat”, while Colorado Springs local Sean O’Day played tour guide and talked us through the major sections of the first few climbs.

(And we're off!)
(Cutting through town)
(It gets steep fast!)
The volunteers at Incline (mile 2.8), No Name (mile 4.3), and Bob’s Road (mile 5.3) were amazing, and Sean told me that they came from all over the US every year to be a part of this event. Arkansas alone sent over 40 volunteers! There was enough aid that one could do the whole race without a water bottle, but my unacclimated body sucked up everything I had between aid stations like a dry sponge, so I brought as much as I could. I figured my best race was likely 3 hours up, 2 hours down, and anything faster than 5 hrs 30 minutes would be a solid result for my first unacclimated attempt. As we broke the tree line at A-Frame (mile 11.8, nearing 12,000’), I was slightly behind my goal pace, but moving strong with an alternating 20-30 steps of running and hands-on-quads power hiking.

(Cruising the Barr Trail)
(Shawn O'Day sets the pace for us)
(Volunteers were AMAZING!)
(Up, up, up!)
Touru Miyihara was the first runner to bomb back down, with Alex Nichols and Jason Delaney (first to the top, and last years Ascent winner) less than two minutes behind him. Their descent speeds were amazing, particularly considering the need to navigate both the tricky terrain and the many runners gasping for breath on the trail. Galen Burrell, Dave Mackey, and Gary Gellin soon followed, mixed with a number of fast international runners such as Jokin Mitxelena (Spain), Oscar Casal Mir (Andorra), and Edwin Karlsson (Sweden). The Women’s race was also an international affair, with Stevie Kremer well out front (she won the Mont Blanc Marathon in July) and Salynda Fluery (CO), Laia Trias (Spain), Karoline Dohr (Austria), and Michelle Yates (CO) in hot pursuit.

(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)
By the time I hit the “golden staircase” (mile 12.2), the two-way flow of traffic was pretty constant and I found myself in roughly 70th place. The lack of oxygen in the final mile was shocking, and even a 22 min/mile pace felt like I was going flat out. I topped out in 3 hrs 13 minutes, and I was thrilled just to turn around. Within 20 steps of descending, I felt considerably better!

(Austria's Katherine Dohr was crushing it all day)
(David Henry enjoys working with gravity)
(Made it!)
I floated down the trail at a comfortably fast pace, giving up a few spots to faster descenders and shouting go-get-em’s to those still deep in the climb. The support from fellow runners was extraordinary, and every close pass generously had a pat on the back as I went by. Even among the normally collegial crowd of trail runners, the bond of runners on Pikes Peak had its own sense of magnitude.

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!)
At No Name (mile 22), I began to reel in other runners a few at a time, and I heard a spectator tell her spouse that by her count there was still a M40-44 podium spot up for grabs. That was all we needed to lean in hard and let the quads scream for mercy. The temperature hit the 90’s in the last few miles, and I could feel myself overheating from the wicked pace. The finish line beckoned from downtown Manitou, so I just let my body redline and hoped for the best (ie, no brownout on camera).

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)
 It turns out that a liter of saline and a quarter tank of oxygen is the PERFECT post-race cocktail. I felt the best I had all week! Remind me to unlunch at the finish line more often. ;-) As I regained my senses and caught up with the top finishers, I found out how the race unfolded up front. Alex Nichols had passed everyone on the descent to take the lead, with Touru Miyihara catching up in the final mile and going shoulder-to-shoulder until the last 300 yards when Touru sprinted away to win in 3:43:23. Alex took 2nd (and the USATF National Championship) in 3:43:46, with Jason Delaney (3:53:45), Galen Burrell (3:56:11), Cameron Clayton (4:00:16), Dave Mackey (4:01:59, winning the Double), Jokin Mixtelena (4:02:59), Eric Martin (4:13:59), Gary Gellin (4:14:10, despite a fall at mile 23, but now doing laundry all week), and Oscar Casal Mir (4:14:51) rounding out the Top 10. I had missed my M40-44 age group podium by 70 seconds (even with all the roll-downs), and settled for 58th, a monumental finishing place for the 58th annual Pikes Peak.

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!)
At the awards ceremony, I was pleasantly surprised to find out my time was good enough for 8th overall for USATF runners, so I got a little extra hardware. But most of all it was fun to share the stage with teammates Alex Nichols (1st), Gary Gellin (5th), Peter Maksimow (7th), as well as fellow Californians Jason Reed (9th), Dave Mackey (4th, Masters winner), and Erika Kikuchi (10th) on a day where they all turned in incredible performances. It was also fun to see the look on the faces of everyone going “wait, I beat that guy and he’s getting a medal!”…still the USATF’s best recruiting tool, I think. ;-)

(Team inov-8 enjoys a few laughs and beers at Peter and Nora's house)
(Good swag haul)
I was all smiles at the post-race beer bash at Peter and Nora’s house, occasionally winking at the golden moonlit sliver of Pikes Peak in the distant skyline. We were joined by other top runners such as Durango’s Marco Zuniga (4:15:51, 11th and Masters winner), and friends and spouses who shared the journey to the start line and finish line, and there were plenty of stories to be shared. It’s such a gift to have the health and time to share adventure with friends, and even better to have a few moments to retell it over beers again and again. I can see now why the Pikes Peak Marathon is so full of lore, and why so many can’t help but come back.

My thanks to the Race Directors, volunteers, great people of Manitou Springs, my fellow Team inov-8 members (nice work, guys!), and all the runners and families who made Pikes Peak an epic part of their summer. I hope to see you again soon! But for now, it’s off to Zermatt for one more SkyRunning adventure

- SD

Gear checklist:

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