That went well....
I really was unsure how I would finish today - given my lack of being able to train.
Having not done the Ascent before I knew I couldn't control the Mountain, nor the crowds of runners (over 1700 finishers) and decided that my best chance was to be as steady as possible on the 13.31 miles climb up 7815 feet to the Summit.
So, I started about 2/3rds back at the start line, knowing that the slower through the W's should in theory help out later up. 13 minutes to Hydro Street later I was definitely smack in the middle of the pack. Onto the W's and wow were they packed, walking much more than running / jogging up them. The calves were barking for sure, knee and lungs were good though. A few times the train of people even came to a stand still - I was grateful, not just for the quick relief but I was still expecting it to help out later.
Top of the W's in 47:18. This was by no means quick, but I felt the best physically there than any other time from memory. Although it was still crowded - a lot - I was able to start jogging more. Up to balanced rock and then No Name Creek I was steady, jogging when I could and walking the steep and crowded sections.
After no name, and the steady climb for a 1/2 mile or so after - it "flattened" out and I was able to jog a lot more frequently and this is where I really started passing people and made good time. Got to Barr Camp and entered the buffet section. Bananas, pretzels and fluids aplenty. I was a little hungry and knew that my body was needing fuel. I forgot to hit the split timer on the watch until I was halfway through my second banana - but was surprised to see 1:55:06.
Barr Camp to A-Frame was new territory for me, didn't know how steep it was, the terrain or anything. I tried as hard as I could to stay steady, going with the "jog when you can, walk when you have to" mindset. It worked well. Tried not to look at the watch much, but it was hard not to as the mile marker signs slide slowly by. A mile or so after Barr Camp the 1st guy from Wave 2 passed me - I realized that was one of the few times I had been passed since the W's.
A-Frame aid station and fill up time again - moreso for the water bottle, I was glad I made the choice to bring it as the higher up the hill the longer time in between aid stations. Yet the higher up the hill it seemed the more cheerful the awesome volunteers were. There is absolutely no way I (or most others) could have done this without their help. Thanks to them.
3 miles to go - I looked at the Garmin but forgot to hit the lap time. I was still doing okay, heat and effort were noticeably in full effect. I looked up, oops. Dumb thing to do, not only did I see the train of people above me, there was the Summit way, way, way up there.
Most people were walking, I walked a lot too. I thought of the mental effort I had read about required to get up the rest of the way - I also remembered that I had been able to start training only 2 weeks ago, so to be this far up was a bonus. Tempting as it was at times to pull over - I plowed on, was even able to run at times when I could.
Last aid station was just below Cirque, I looked up again, dummy - stop doing that. Back at it, jogging was more difficult as fatigue really was setting in, but in the few sort of level sections I pushed and still was able to pass people.
And then came the 16 Golden Stairs. In a lame attempt at sarcasm - thank you Mr Barr for putting the most difficult part of your trail at the top of Pikes Peak.
"Just keep moving" was the goal - I did, barely at times. About 2/3rds of the way up "the stairs" some spectators were calling out that it was only 4 minutes to the top. That seemed to get the train of people moving and we started bunching up. I'm not sure if a photo or video of what I then did was taken - but it was either stupid or really stupid.
I started sprinting and on a left turning corner I sprinted up over some rocks on the right side / outside of a group of 5 or 6 people. I yelled out as I passed them "Lets finish strong! Or die trying". Very soon after I passed them I was gasping, light headed and ready to lie down - but the crowd was great and I crossed the finish line a few steps later.
Every now and then it is great to exceed expectations (set for myself). I would have been happy to beat the average finish time of 4:21. I really thought the best I could do was 4 hours. I was kind of expecting maybe 4:30.
To see 3:49:38 as I crossed the finish line bought a little sweaty, sticky tear to my eye.