I ran past one on Saturday and was sooooo grateful it was there.
Backing up a bit to what got me there...... I met Steve (Happy Trails) for my weekly long run. We were both being a little ambitious as the goal was 26 miles. For Steve - his longest run ever, for me - my longest run in well over a year.
I have spent more time this past Summer on training runs on Pikes Peak (Barr Trail) - but longest distance has been 20 miles a couple of times. With the Pikes Peak marathon now less than 3 weeks away, the week before and this week to come marks my heaviest training block.
As we started Steve let me set the pace as I wanted us to go out slow and ultimately survive a long day. Plus, I figured it would be a good fitness test to see how I felt during and in the days following the run. 11 minute mile average seems slow and it likely is for most people - but I figured that it seemed reasonable as the 13 mile loop has over 1500' of climbing in it. Plus, as mentioned - I need this upcoming week to be runnable.
We got started going clockwise and it was nice to go out relaxed as the chatting was easy, at one stage a few miles in I looked at the watch and we were averaging 9:20. Backing off a bit we continued on. I didn't carry my camera with me so for photos - check out Steve's post and photos on the day.
About halfway through the first lap I looked and learned that I hadn't put any food in the Camelbak either - water it was, fortunately I had plenty of that. We finished those first 13 miles just under 2 hours, 14 minutes - a 10:18 average per mile which was faster than planned but we were feeling good and not too worked.
A brief stop at our cars to empty shoes, a look closer in the bag and actually found the food that I put in there and we set off this time in the opposite direction. By this time temps were mid 80's. Fortunately there was a steady breeze that kept the oppressive nature of the heat down for much of the run. Aside from a few places where the topography blocked the wind and exposed us to full sun.
About a mile into lap 2 began a lengthy, mostly gradual climb, but lengthy, with some shaded areas, but lengthy, with most of the slog in the open sun, still lengthy, "when is this going to end" monotony, lengthy journey that took about 3 miles and really sapped out the energy.
Over the next 3 or so miles we had some relief in down sections, but for the most part we climbed, while the heat rose and seemingly the breeze wasn't as favorable. As we neared the high point and half way around the loop we easily agreed upon the need to stop for a quick breather. As we rested I began to realize I was almost out of water.
The plan was to try go another 3 miles to a Burger King (just off the trail) and stop in there for water. Fortunately most of the trail was downhill and we even crossed a creek which allowed us to splash some relief. As we were nearing the BK, Steve had reminded me that we had a decent climb to encounter before we got there. I was out of water, he was too - but then it happened.
The Superhero's were having a party and we were invited. Okay, so it was a fire station having a community open house (which included fantastic smells of BBQ). They graciously allowed us to stumble inside and
We still had 3 1/2 miles to go which included that hill I had tried to forget about - but I was refreshed and managed to maintain good forward progress up it. As we crested the top, with about 3 miles to go I did some rough math and figured I had a shot of going under 4 1/2 hours for the full 26 - but it would require sub 9 minute pace.
A runner appeared in front of us and he was moving a little faster than we had been, but only slightly - so I picked up my pace, which I think made him pick up his pace also.
For the next 3 miles I followed, but never caught him, but also never lost him. He was a good motivator to keep me moving. Unfortunately I gapped Steve, later learning that he took a (mostly harmless) spill - I saw him once on a switchback and yelled I was trying to go
That stretch of trail wasn't flat and was a struggle on the uphills, finally making it back to the parking lot and within a few ticks of 4 hours, 30 minutes. Lap 2 was just over 2 minutes slower (moving time) than lap 1. Quite happy with that and doing +/- 9 minute miles for the last 3 miles - the terrain and elevation change was a good challenge that my body seemed to handle.
2 days now since the run and the results are favorable. I have recovered well, taking Sunday and today off from running to let the body rest and recover fully - I honestly could have run each of these days, but won't as I want the rest of this week to be full of effort, leading into another final long run on Saturday before tapering.
I'm getting excited about race day. I'm happy with my fitness. I have no idea really how I will do on race day. But, I'm thinking that I should be fairly well prepared. I'm also enjoying the training - suffering at times, but thinking it should pay off.
A couple of Steve's photo's during the run.....