Defn: a human male displaying evidence of devolution - exhibits distinctive "caveman-like" tendencies. This man often dribbles in public places; cannot drink a beverage without spilling it on himself, the floor or someone else; may also run into objects like lampposts & bushes; has a definite "sloopish & short legged" running style that is slow and low to the ground, often resulting in the dragging of knuckles.

These throwback neanderthals, along with their questionable diet, should clearly be avoided.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What is this running thing?

2 different directions in this post.  1) A "report" on my first run since the Pikes Peak Marathon.  And 2) What is "it" about running?

1) The goal race of the year is over and I didn't run for over a week after.  No rush to get back to running.  No training runs that were urgent enough that if I missed a run, I was trying to figure out what to do to get that missed time / opportunity back.  No urgent "need" to run.

I recovered quite well after PPM, better than I thought I would.  I was definitely sore and downright uncomfortable for about 2 days after.  By Wednesday though, I could move fairly well and actually went for an hour long walk while 1 of my kids was at soccer practice.

I had thought about and kind of wanted to get a run in on Saturday and / or Sunday, but didn't due to kids soccer, the house honey-do list and some other excuses that were pretty lame.

Was kind of wierd, the longer it was that I hadn't run, the more I wanted to get out and run.  But, the easier the excuses were to come by to not actually run.

Monday afternoon - I ran.  All day long I was looking forward to it.  I wasn't sure where I was going to run, or for how long or how far.  As the day rambled on, my ambitions grew.  At one point I actually decided I wanted to run part of, if not all of the PPM course that day.  Fortunately that thought passed as I figured out I didn't have time - or for that matter, ability.

So, I decided on an easy 6 miler.  Parked at the trailhead at Woodmen Rd and got on the Santa Fe Trail, heading North into the USAFA.  I set out on an easy 9 min mile pace because that felt about right.  That felt a little slow but I decided to stick with it and before I knew it I had 3 miles (if I turned then would make for a 6 mile round trip).  But, that felt a little short.

So, instead of turning I kept on going, and going.  This was nice, and fun.  At 6 miles in I was still moving fine w/ no stress on the pace or apparent weariness on the legs.  However, smart person that I am, I finally realized that for every mile out I had run, I had to run back to where I started.  I was faced with now being half way in to a 12 miler - after not running in 8 days.

The run back was fine, I even picked up the pace to 8 min average for the return 6 miles (tailwind and more downhill than uphills).  The run was fun, not planned out, nor expected - I was a little sore after and definitely weary.  But what a fun return to running.  Which leads to.......

2).....what is "it" about running?
I'm assuming the readers of this running blog are runners to some degree.  For every runner I'm sure we run for a different reason or reasons.  I know there are probably some similar themes and motivations common to each of us, along with varying layers of abilities and accomplishments.  But when it all boils down to "it" - we / you / I run.

Some runners run with a style more noticeable and recognizeable than others.  Some styles resemble an unfortunate shuffle of 2 left feet at your first middle school dance.  Others run looking like they are being attacked by bee's while trying to dodge acid puddles.  While others are a picture of smooth efficiency - when observed makes you not only drool and long to emulate - but also cause you to take your eyes off where you are running and run into a tree.

Someone smart would say that you can't spell R-U-N without U in it.  To those so gifted at spelling I would like to point out that you also can't spell U-P-H-I-L-L without H-I in it, or for that matter I-L-L.  Some run smarter than others.  Some run longer than others.  Some people run in cold weather, some in hot weather, others don't like to run in the rain while some think running in the rain is a good excuse for a shower.  Some enjoy running in snow, or on a beach, or on a "beautiful, twisty, singletrack trail" in the mountains.  Others stick to the track or the pavement.  We have our favorite places to run - some we like to keep to ourselves, other running places we willingly share with other runners (or hikers, bikers, horses and wildlife).

We run.  Those that run are marketed to by the "running industry" (Those that don't, but should run, are also marketed to).  We buy products to help us run.  We read books and magazines about running.  We spend money to run.  We travel to run.  Running takes time.  Running takes effort (for most).  Some people blog, tweet, post, write, share photos and brag about their running exploits, achievements and adventures.  I can be accused of many of these.

We run because it makes us happy, helps us get distracted, helps with weight and personal appearances.  We feel good when we run (some times).  We run to get from point A to point B, or from point A, go around in circles for a while to eventually back to point A.

After not running for 8 days - coming off the hardest race of my life and before that the hardest I have trained for a run in my life - I was "over" running for a while.  However, it didn't take long for the seed to develop again and grow.  After neglecting and excusing it for a few days - I ran.  When I ran, I kept going, not because I didn't want to stop - but simply because I was just plain old "running".  It felt right, it was right.  So, I ran (insert Forrest Gump reference here).
So, in answer to my question:  what is "it" about running?  Could be many things and do we really need just one reason?  The best reason I can come up with is: "just because".

Thursday, August 23, 2012

PP Marathon - for better or worse

Final wrap up of the race.  What went right?  Wrong?  What can be better?  What was I thinking?

After the race was over my wife asked me if I wanted to do it next year.  I immediately answered "no", because I think I "maxed" it out and ran as best as I could.

While it's still a long, long way away - after a few days of thinking about it, I think I could do better if some things were different.  I'm rolling out the 360 day training plan for next year.

Immediately after the race I was a little disappointed with my Ascent, but the complete opposite - scrape me off the ceiling excited about my Descent.  But, in hindsight, that too I could have done better.  Not by much, but still possible I think.

What went right?
* I signed an agreement to not blog about a shoe test I signed up for several months ago.  So, without being specific - I got them a few weeks before and had 30 something training miles on them.  The best shoes I have ever used - on any race or run.  No debris inside during the race.  No blisters or black toenails after.  My feet did not hurt during or after the race.  To not even have to think about my shoes or feet during the race really helped. 
* Side note on that - my knees did not hurt at all during or after the race.  Those funny looking things have been my biggest issue on just about all of my runs in the past few years.  Why they didn't hurt is beyond me - but I am so grateful they didn't.
* I carried a 12 ounce water bottle that I tucked into my shorts.  Still drank fluids at aid stations but between them, especially the distance between Barr Camp and A-Frame - I didn't run out.  That was good and I didn't worry about thirst or dehydration at all during the race.
* I carried fingerless, Mtn Bike gloves that I put on and wore from A-Frame up and all the way back down through to the finish.  The 2 spills I took on the way down had minimal damage because I used my hands to break my fall and the gloves protected me (Thanks again GZ).
* Training: Doing the Slacker Half Marathon 8 weeks before the race really helped my downhilling on race day I think.  I did a good number of downhill training runs on the trail also - so my legs were used to the pounding.  They still suffered - but I think the quads did alright - and post race have really not hurt as much as I thought they would.

What went wrong?
* The dozen or so times that my calves (mostly the left, but also the right) had the momentary shot of hot, stabbing pain is a mystery to me.  It has never happened before.  After the race in the recovery tent I mentioned it to the medical crew there and I don't remember much of what they told me.  They checked my hydration levels and said I was fine.  I drank mostly water, or water with GU in it during the race, not a lot of Gatorade though.  I ate a decent amount of food during the race including gels, a banana at Barr Camp each time through and at the Summit.  Maybe I should have eaten more?  On the 360 day training plan I will experiment more with food on the run options.
* Did I taper correctly?  3 weeks out I ran 50 miles.  2 weeks out I ran 40 miles.  The week before I ran only 15 miles in 3 runs.  Each of those runs was mostly a fairly tough run.  I didn't feel fatigued at all beginning the race (or early on), but am wondering if I didn't quite get it right for the taper.  Will be hard to experiment with that one.

What could be better?
* Was the training plan right?  I made it myself based on a combination of what I thought I was capable of, what I have read related to the race (Skyrunner, race website, etc) and from what I saw on other people's blogs / websites.  While in general I think the majority of my training runs were purposed correctly - they didn't get me to the Summit in a time that I thought I was capable of.  Maybe that is because of me and my 44 year old body.  Or maybe I needed to do more.  One run that I didn't do that I will likely do next year (should do several times) is a run all the way to the Summit (and then hitch a ride back down, or hike down, or run it even).
* One of the main reasons to enter next year is to win something.  That would be awesome.  Next year I enter the 45 to 49 year old age group and while I don't like getting older, my chances of winning an age group award notably increase (at least for a year) when I leave the 40 to 44 year old group.  I was 12th this year in my age group.  My finishing time when compared to the 45 - 49'rs would have put me 2nd this year.  Silly me - I compared the last 10 years results and 8 out of the last 10 years I would have won an age group award.  I usually do fairly well putting those thoughts out of my mind on race days - that may be a downfall in races to come.
* Race day weather could not have been better.  Let's order that again.
* Race organization and volunteers could not have been better.  Thanks again to all involved.

Finally, what was I thinking?
* Race photos are coming out and you will not see a link to them here.  I do not take a pretty photo.  I have seen one of me just below the Summit on the way down with half a banana sticking out of my mouth.  Other photos I am left to wonder what was going on in my head.
* The 16 Golden Stairs were crowded on each trip through.  On the way up I let the people around me yell that the runners were coming through.  On the way back down, I was yelling just about the whole way for that 1/3 of a mile - way too much and way too obnoxiously.  Plus I was running pretty close to out of control and almost wiped myself and other runners out.  Did I really need to go so quickly through there?
* And what am I thinking for next year?  If I do this again I will say now that a 5:30 finish is the goal and would be disappointed if I don't achieve that.  5:15 would be the realistic target.  5 flat would be awesome (in reality: not likely).

360 day training plan begins.......

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

PP Marathon - post race

It's the day after the day after the race.  The dust has settled and the DOMS has settled in.  OWWWWWWWW !!!!  I hurt.  I ache.  I hurts to sit, to walk, to stand, to lie down, to go up stairs, to go down stairs.  But I can't stop smiling.  It is soooooooo worth it. 

Boastfully speaking - I rocked the downhill.  I'm proud of my race and especially proud of the results.  While trying not to come across as so selfish and prideful - it's hard not to write a race report or blog post in which the main focus is yourself - and not have it read by others and received as a guy saying "look at me, I'm awesome".  I'm really not.  So, some random stuff about other things that went on over the weekend in Manitou Springs and on Pikes Peak.

I'm not awesome.  Race winner (Kilian Jornet) beat me by 99 minutes.  In a post race interview he said the ".....the race was really hard because it was flat....."  Great Googily Moogily.

Kim Dobson had the most awesome race of the weekend.  To not only beat a 31 year old record, but to beat that by 8 1/2 minutes not only is deserving of the $8,000 prize money - but probably more recognition.  I'm curious to think what time she could have made if she continued and did the marathon course.  Sub 4 hours seemed likely which would have beaten that record too.

I'm also curious what kind of time Kilian could do if he ran the way he wanted to.  As in, straight up / off the trail above treeline.  It was clear and not too subtle in pre-race interviews that he is not a fan of the switchbacks.  I really don't blame him as that is what he is used to in the European Mountain races.  Trail-free, I'm sure he could go under 2 hours for an Ascent.

At the pre-race news conference it was kind of funny that he and the Womens Marathon winner (Emelie Forsberg) both noted that they were surprized to see the Summit house at the top of the Peak.   Thinking about it - it is a little odd that on the Summit of one of America's most iconic peaks - is a store selling t-shirts and donuts, with people walking around outside who have not hiked up it - and are smoking a cigarette.

Full disclosure - I don't smoke but have bought and eaten plenty of donuts there.   They are greasy, I'm sure they are full of fat, oil and other bad stuff for the body - but they taste great, especially after a run.  No doubt I will eat more donuts there - and enjoy them.

Back to the race.  Here is a Marathon result that is as impressive as just about any other on the weekend.  I don't know her, have never met her, likely never will meet her and was not there when she finished.  I wish I was there to see her finish.  Kathleen Morrow, 69 years young, finished with a mere 3 seconds to spare before the 10 hour cut-off time.  She has finished either the Ascent or Marathon 10 times.  Mrs Morrow - you are awesome, congratulations.

It was also awesome at the finish line for me to see some awesome people.  While my wife and kids couldn't make it due to a Soccer tournament, people showed up and cheered - for me?  Coming down Ruxton Avenue towards the finish line the crowds got bigger and the noise got louder as the runners get closer to finish.  Were they cheering because they knew each of the runners?  Unlikely.  Were they cheering because of what we had just done?  Sure, some of that.  I'm not much of a cheerleader - but on race day I was super grateful that hundreds of people were yelling and cheering as I finished.  It was such an encouragement.

When I crossed the finish line I immediately sat down on a chair - for at least 5 minutes.  While the world was spinning and the volunteers were making sure I wasn't about to pass out, I heard my name from behind and turned to see Brad (who had PR'd in the Ascent the day before), as well as Steve and Kathleen - who had literally finished a trail run and then driven many miles to watch the end of the race.

Thanks to Steve and Kathleen not only for this and other pictures, but to have run with Steve on several training runs, covering many miles and hours and then to come out and genuinely be as excited as I was about my race - that meant a lot.  Brad, Steve, Kathleen - thanks for being there.

After the race I was a mess - I looked like a mess, I spoke like a babbling 2nd grader, an emotional basket case almost crying several times, I felt like crap and yet I was feeling like I just conquered the world.  

I laid down in the finishing tent and was royally treated by 2 wonderful Physical Therapists.  As they rubbed my aching calves they got to listen to me ramble on about the race.  I must have seemed like a clown, or a flirt or just an idiot - but they kept at it and really helped me get back on my feet.   I saw somewhere that about 600 people volunteer over the weekend.  There are not enough thank you's to be said to those who had any part in the races.  Thank you so much.

After staggering out of the tent and chatting with Brad, Steve and Kathleen, picking up my drop bag and finishers shirt, getting some photos, and then seeing the initial results posted - and being instantly more upbeat with my placing - I wandered across the bridge to the Park Pavilion where the food was, where the awards were given out.

I didn't win any awards, didn't expect to.  I was there to eat food.  However, I really wasn't very hungry and I'm kind of wondering why in the 2 days since the race I have not had much of an appetite.  I have almost forced myself to eat because I know I need to.  Probably just the beat up system needs time to readjust to the enjoyment of food - and being able to chew and swallow while not running.  Trying to eat during the race was adventurous, certainly not easy.  It's necessary I know and I should try to figure that out better.

Razzleberry Pie is one of my favorite bad things to eat.  I'm the only one in my house that likes it and 2 days into it - it's getting better, can probably stretch the rest of it out another 4 days or so.  By the time I'm done with it - I'll be okay.

My mind is wandering and Jelly Beans seem very appropriate also.  I may have to mix them in with a salad later.  Let's just skip the salad and go straight to the sugar.

Back to the after race scene..... I had met George for the first time about 3 hours earlier that day.  It was mid race, about 12 miles up the Mountain and 7000 feet higher.   He was cruising downhill and I was leaning uphill.  So, it was good to finally meet up with him in the Pavilion and sit down and chat for about an hour, along with Jeff V (5th Master) and Dave M (7th overall) who GZ introduced me to. Thanks for chatting and the encouragement George, was great to finally meet you and I look forward to doing it again.

Finally I staggered back to my car - only about a 1/2 mile away but what a long, slow and painful walk.  My family called me as I was walking - my son spoke first and congratulated me (I had texted them shortly after I had finished w/ quick results).  As I am walking down Manitou Ave, with tourists and some other runners wandering around, me looking like I had just bathed by a snotty Camel (think: a slobbering mess) - I started crying.  My race was complete.

I drove home, hugged my family, lay on the floor for a while, took a shower and hugged my family some more.  My running is taking some time off now.  Kids Soccer games just about every Saturday (and 1 Sunday) for the next few months.  I've spent hours and hours running these past few months.  I've missed my family and they get priority now.  When you have a wife and 3 kids as great as mine are - I'm looking forward to spending so much more time with them.

I don't know when I will run another race.  Nothing is planned.  I will not run for at least a week as my body needs to recover.  I'll probably just run a few times a week in the months to come and will look to get out with some fellow runners to enjoy the local trails when I can.

As for next year?  Pikes Peak Marathon 2013?  Dunno.  This post has gone on long enough.  I'll save those thoughts for next time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pikes Peak Marathon 2012 Race Report

Where to begin?  America's Ultimate Challenge.  Toughest race of my life.  High's, Lows.  Pain never felt before.  The best race result of my life.   Grab a beverage - this is a long post.

I guess the best place to start is at the start line......

Photo: The Gazette

Pre-race feelings were a mix of excitement, nerves and curiousity.  I was happy with my training plan, feeling like I had prepared well, was hoping to do well, yet I didn't know what that would be.  My goal time was 5 hours, 30 minutes.  I would have been a little disappointed if I missed that.  And so 772 runners began as the gun went off along the first 1 1/2 miles or so on pavement.  I was thinking the first stretch along Manitou Ave before Ruxton was a place to kind of get a good start - it barely climbs at all and I didn't want to be too far back in the pack, to avoid being too slowed once we entered the single track trail on "the W's".  

From the roundabout on Manitou as we started going up Ruxton - the true climbing begins.  By the time we get to the Cog Railway it is clear that the mountain means business.  Shortly after the Cog we go past Hydro street and enter the steepest part of the course.  It's not too long, but it is steep, many runners walk it.  I have done this part of the course many times and although I can walk it just about as fast as I can slow jog it - I commited to run slow jog it.  It's really a mental thing as I have found in training runs that the more I walk down below, the more I resort to walking further up, especially in sections that I can and should be running.

Then the W's begin, 13 switchbacks of varying lengths, that if a runner thinks the Hydro Street stretch was really not that bad - this part of the trail will change your mind.  I have found in training that if I can run through them without walking (aside from a few rock step ups) - then I can usually run to Barr Camp.  On race day, I was succesful in running up the W's and got to the top of them just under 40 minutes.  That was one of my pre-race goals.

So far I was feeling good, not comfortable by any means but certainly confident that because I had run so far without too much suffering, I should be able to continue forward quite well.  Throughout the W's and beyond, the stream of runners was beginning to thin out.  No stopping and starting due to overcrowding like there was in the Ascent race last year - where admittedly there is at least another 1000 more runners doing it.

After the top of the W's I settled in and my focus during this stretch was to maintain a consistent effort, balancing the steeper climbs with a steady effort that matched the "flatter" sections above "No Name Creek".  In fact, the flatter sections I was able to stretch out a little and took advantage of being able to increase the pace, while maintaining that effort.

The miles were going by, I stopped at each aid station for quick bites and water bottle refills.  Legs were feeling good, head was in the game and I was making progress.  I had commited before starting the race to not look up at the Summit.  It's visible from the trail in several places - each time I have looked up before it seems so far away, so high and out of reach and honestly depressing.  I was determined that I needed to be mentally focused this day.  That meant not looking up, that meant running when I should be and moving forward always.

Barr Camp is a great place, almost like an Oasis in that it is in the middle of nowhere, yet when you are there it is the coolest thing that ever could be there.  Its cute, quaint and quiet - but on race day it transforms into an aid station, full of excited and cheering volunteers who load you up with food and fluids, but fill you up with encouragement - for the journey up and just as much for the journey back down.  I needed both.

Another pre-race goal was met as I got to Barr Camp just under 1:45.  According to the Skyrunner Pacing Calculator this was tracking me for a 3:27 (or thereabouts) Ascent time.  A quick refill of fluids, a mental check and I was feeling decent and still confident - then off again.

The stretch between Barr Camp and A-Frame I found in training runs to be one of the most testing stretches of the trail.  Approx 2 1/2 miles with approx 1800 feet of gain.  Aside from the stretch just below the Summit known as the "16 Golden Stairs" - this part of the course is the most rockiest.  Simply put - it's tough and the part of the course where I struggle the most with mentally and physically.  This was going to be a challenge.

The mindset going into it is: just keep moving.  You can run some of it.  You should definitely be walking some of it just to keep the energy levels in check.  It's the part of the race course that is the longest between aid stations, so it is important to fuel up at Barr Camp.  My pre-race plan was to add 2 gels to my water bottle at Barr Camp.  (I struggle to get them down if they are not mixed w/ water).  I was planning on getting some food in my system there also.  For some reason I didn't.  That might have been a factor later.

By the time I realized I hadn't eaten anything there I was already a 1/4 mile up the trail - too late.  I was hopeful though that the 2 gels in the water bottle would carry me through to A-Frame.  Pressing on I was commited to run as much as I could.  By this time there were more walkers than runners.  A couple of guys just ahead of me were running about as much as I was though - so I could keep my eye on them and that helped.

Eventually I made it to the A-Frame aid station - where new to this year's race was a timing station to record chip times - 2:28:48 for me.  That was about 5 minutes faster than my last training run up to that point - so with a new best time so far, one that was tracking for a 3:29 Summit - I was encouraged.   I ate some food.  I was actually feeling confident still because I had done several training runs from the Summit down to this point and back up and was feeling confident that I could do this stretch in an hour or less.

I left the aid station and took a step up on a rock and something happened to me that I don't ever recall happening before.  For a split second, on my left upper calf, I felt a burning surge of pain, like a spasm, felt like being jabbed with a hot knife, but only for a moment.  I had no idea what it was, it hurt and then it was gone.  I pressed on and tried to not think about it.

Above treeline the wind picked up, several gusts from the North, fortunately they seemed only noticeable in the mile above treeline.  I put my head down and kept running as much as I could, walking when I had to, passing more people, making my way closer to the Summit.

Photo: The Gazette

About a 1/2 mile above treeline, the eventual race winner, Kilian Jornet came surging past looking very strong.  About 5 to 6 minutes later, local runner Alex Nichols came through.  Was nice to see a local guy doing well against a top field of National and International runners - he held on to second place.

As for me - as runners started to pass me I was keeping a mental count, wanted to know where I was in the race.  As I went further up the trail I got more frustrated though.  It wasn't the other runners coming down, or the other runners I was gradually passing on the way up - it was that I was walking sections that I had trained on that I had taken note that were runnable.  Instead,  I was walking them.

On top of that mental battle I was getting into - the calf spasms kept coming and going.  I had no predictor of when they would come and none seemed any different than the other - they would just be a moment of hurt - I yelled out each time they hit me.  By the time I got to the Cirque Aid Station I committed to getting a lot more fluids down and realized that a 3:30 Summit wasn't likely.  This was my mentally lowest point of the race.

I'm a stubborn person though, I had trained for this race - a lot -and I didn't want that to go to waste.  So, leaving the Aid Station I kept moving forward, trying to run as much as possible and walk as hard as I could when I was reduced to walking. 

Just above the Cirque sign - a place that makes me weak in the knees at the thought of falling over the edge - I met a guy that I have been waiting to meet for a long time.  I had previously thought I would have met him already before now, maybe at the beginning of another race, or in a parking lot of a trail.  So, I wasn't really expecting or planning on meeting George 12 miles in to a marathon that at that stage of it was about 13 1/2 thousand feet above sea level.  He was on his way back down (eventual 3rd place Master finisher = Awesome!) and as he came by I recognized him - and yelled out "Hi George, I'm Craig and I'll see you at the finish".  A few moments later I heard him yell back "Go Knuckledragger!!!"

Good encouragement - at least for a few moments for me - I pressed on.  More and more people were coming back down now.  By this time I had given up and lost count of them.  As I got to the 16 Golden Stairs the jamming of the trail with runners coming and going started.  I was curious before the race as to how much of this would happen.  Downhill runners get the right of way - so to let them past - uphill runners pull to the side of the trail and often stop.

More frustration on top of that was now both calves were doing the spasm thing.  Not having ever experienced that before I started to wonder how much worse that it would get.  I was also ready to start the descent and as I neared the Summit and the cheering, supportive crowd and race crew spurred me on - helping run some more.

Summited in a chip time of 3:32:27.  17 minutes better than last year's Ascent which is good, but about 5 minutes slower than I really wanted and thought I should be.  Looking at the race results and split times - it looks like I was in 101st place at the Summit.  I stopped there, added my last gel to the water bottle, drank a few cups and ate as much as I could in a hurry.  I needed to get going but fortunately had the presence of mind to eat and drink - knowing in essence that I was about to begin running the hardest part of the hardest race of my life.

Sure, getting up to the Summit and by doing so: gaining 7800 or so feet over 13 miles is an incredibly difficult thing to do.  But then turning around, hurting and exhausted and going down again - as fast as possible - this part of the race was at least as difficult as the first half.  Plus, if I wanted to beat my goal time of 5 1/2 hours - I was already behind schedule.

I took off, now I was facing the runners coming up, there were runners in front of me going down also.  Add to that, we were in the 16 Golden Stairs where the trail is very narrow, rocky and technical.  In training for this approx 1/3 of a mile stretch I have never been able to get through it fast and although I didn't keep track of time on race day through there - I know I went down faster than ever before, to the point of almost losing control - I didn't, but I was flying.  I pushed hard and according to the race day splits - only 22 people went faster than me between the Summit and A Frame on the way down.

I got to A-Frame and I realized I had probably pushed too hard.  That same rock on the way up that I had stepped up on and my calf had spasmed - did it to me on the way back, causing my leg to buckle a little but I stayed upright.  I grabbed a quick drink and something to eat at the aid station there and kept moving.

By this time almost all of the uphill runners were now at or above treeline.  I had passed a bunch of people in the first 3 miles but they were thinning out, so by the time I was back in the trees on the trail - it seemed like no-one was on the trail.  I would run for what seemed like forever without seeing anyone.  Suddenly a runner going down would pop up in front of me, I would pass him and then was instantly alone again.

The next difficult phase began for me here - my stomach began to hurt.  I stopped to try to pee to see if that would help.  I couldn't, so I stretched over to touch my toes - that didn't help much either.  So I kept moving but my pace was slowing - thought I was going really slow but would still be passing people going slower than me.  That encouraged me - not that someone was going slower - but that I was going fast enough to pass people. 

A trip and a stumble over a rock or root that swung me off the trail onto a large boulder woke me up - I didn't fall completely over and it really didn't hurt me too much, just twisted me around and stretched my lower back.  I stopped again to catch my breath, bending over again to try stretch the back out, reminded myself that I needed to stay focused - and pressed on.

Made it back to Barr Camp where I could now describe my condition as at best: "wobbly", in reality: "bloody awful".  I held on to the Aid Station table, eating and drinking I felt like I was about to throw up.  Teresa, one of the Barr Camp caretakers asked me if I was okay and I said that I just needed to burp, or throw up.  She said either of them is fine if it makes you feel better.  I burped.  It did feel better and my stomach wasn't much of an issue the rest of the way.

About 6 miles to go, the flat sections on the way up now were on the way back and they were uphill.  They were tough, my legs were tired but each time I pressed forward - it was hard, but I felt better just doing a very slow jog than a walk up them and I knew that after a climb or flat section was a downhill.  Plus, I was still catching up to and passing people.

I had made a point to stop looking at my watch after the Summit, I knew that a 5:30 finish time was requiring an overall average pace of 12:30 miles.  At Barr Camp I was still above 14 minute average.  Mental math didn't work at all for me there in my state of mind - all I could figure out was that I needed to press to meet the goal.

With rapidly tiring legs, gradually passing the signs indicating how far to go, getting a little warmer the lower down the trail I went, downhill runners popping up seemingly out of nowhere - passing them and wondering if they would then pass me back - but they didn't.

Finally, the top of the W's and about 2 1/2 miles to go.  Gravity: please help me now.  Brain: stay alert.  Legs: don't give out on me yet.  Finish line: where are you?

There's an aid station at what is known as the 12th "W" - right up along side the Incline.  These volunteers haul the aid up there.  Other volunteers pack in supplies to the other aid stations.  Literally hundreds of wonderful people support us crazy runners achieve crazy dreams of running up and down the mountain.  They are out there for hours, some are there for twice as long as we are on the trail - these volunteers are awesome.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

I had a brief conversation with the ones at that aid station on the W's.  A few steps before it is a rock step down.  As I stepped down my calf went nuts again and instantly I was on the ground, almost at the foot of the aid table.  I was wearing gloves though (thanks again GZ for that recommendation after my last big tumble on the trail).  No real damage, A slight scrape on my elbow and knees, plus a decent trail rash on my hip that I found later.

I crashed right in front of the volunteers.  Wonderful.  Immediately they were asking if I was okay, if I needed water to wash anything off.  I managed to say something like "unless you see a bone sticking out, I'm gonna finish".  So, I picked myself up and ran.  I was so tired, so ready to be done.  I made my way down through the W's - trying to be careful with the rock hopping sections, yet still trying to push as hard as possible, passing still more people, not looking at my watch for fear of falling or being depressed that I would miss the 5:30 goal.

Finally, the last W.  I passed 2 more guys right there, one I recognized as someone that is in my age group, that always beats me in races - was this my time to finally beat him?  I wanted it.  He is faster than me, so I was expecting him to just latch on a few steps behind and then dust me at the finish.  But I had a new purpose - to beat him.

Photo: The Gazette

I pushed harder and finally hit the paved road with just over a mile to go.  Now was the steepest section.  I have read the Course description so many times and remembered this part how it says something like "by now your legs are shot - just let them go, you are almost done".  So, on the steepest part of the course I was pushing as hard as I could - couldn't help but briefly think how much it would hurt in the days after (it does).  But I wanted to stay ahead of the 2 guys I just passed so I knew I needed to just go.

Past the Cog, 3/4 miles to go and people started populating the sidewalks - they didn't know me but they were cheering as though they did.  As I passed them I would listen to when they would start cheering for the next person behind me.  Was someone right behind me?  I couldn't tell.

With a 1/3 mile to go to the finish line, the crowds were full and they didn't stop cheering - amazing - but, I still didn't know if there was someone right behind me so I pushed even harder.  Finally, the last corner came up and with just a few steps left I was almost done.

Photo: Steve
With a dizzying head, legs throbbing, chest pounding and heart racing - I crossed the finish line in 5:19:05

No more than 3 steps after crossing the finish line I went straight down onto a chair and watched the world start spinning around me.  This is what it feels like to be truly exhausted.  It felt AWESOME.

As I was sitting there in the chair, literally dazed as the world was spinning, trying to catch my breath and get to grips with what I had just done without breaking in to tears - the guy I thought was right behind me finished over 30 seconds behind me.  Victory. 

I looked at my watch - descent was 1:46:33  Checking results later: was 26th fastest descent on the day.  I passed almost 50 runners on the downhill to finish in 52nd place (739 finishers).  The disappointment I had at the Summit was gone - I had just run the best race of my life.

Photo: Steve

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Last "High 5" on Pikes Peak

Got my last Summit training run in yesterday afternoon.  I have been fortunate enough to carve out 7 drives to the Summit for training runs (totalling 61 miles) in the past 4 weeks - should hopefully help me out on race day.  I'm sick of driving up and back.

5 miles starting from the Summit.  Went down 1 mile easy, (rolled my ankle a bit - nothing too major but still feel it today - should hopefully be right by Sunday), then back up to the Summit (17:04), turned and went back down to the "1 mile to go sign" - which is just a little bit longer than a mile - but near enough.  Turned and went back up again in 17:40.

Got snowed on briefly - if memory serves me right I think I has snowed (or something sort of like snow) 3 or 4 times while I have been up there running.

Then I went back down a 1/2 mile and back.  Those 16 Golden Stairs are tough, with several of them requiring big step ups and the use of all four on the floor to pull myself through. 

Who knows what I will be feeling on Sunday when going up and back down them.  I'm curious as to how congested it is going to be w/ other runners going the opposite direction through them.

Other items I am curious about on race day:

* How far up the trail I will be when the first runner(s) come flying back down?

* Who will win the thing?  Kilian Jornet is the favorite and it will likely be an upset if he didn't win.   Max King could give him a good run for the money.

* Will Matt Carpenter race?  I believe his wife is doing the double and maybe he is her support crew?  Or is he working at his Ice Cream store in Manitou that day and can't get out of work?

* How much will I be suffering when I come back down the trail?  Gravity will help for sure but the further the distance travelled - the more tired and sore I will definitely get - meaning focus and concentration could stray and that gives more opportunities to crash.  I really don't want to crash - have done that enough in training.  But, I will be wearing gloves in case.

* Will I be able to do well between Barr Camp and A-Frame (both going up and down)?  It's about 2 1/2 miles and 1800' elevation gain during that stretch.  Then another 2100' (or thereabouts) for the 3 miles between A-Frame and the Summit.   Having run each section several times - the lower section is just as hard as above treeline in my mind, possibly harder.  I say that because there are more runnable sections above treeline - that part ain't easy either. 

* Will I finish in the top 50 runners?  It's kind of a goal and will be a great (self) achievement.  On the other hand - if I spend any kind of time during the race focusing on racing other runners, instead of trying to stay constant and consistent in my own efforts - I will likely not do so well.

* What will my Ascent time be?  What will my Descent time be?  What will my finishing time be?

* How much will I be hurting and for how long in the hours and days after the race?

One last 4 miler today (from Start line up 2 miles and back), then packet pick up tomorrow (along w/ a trip to my chiropractor).  Kids Soccer tournament on Saturday - (will try to avoid too much time in the Sun), then Sunday the race starts at 7 am.  I'm Bib # 378.  I'm ready to run.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pikes Peak Marathon Training Plan

This is my training plan that I used in the weeks leading up to the event on Sunday, August 19, 2012.  Feel free to use it, steal it, burn it, ignore it - you've made it this far - you may as well read it, then let me know what you think.

It was built by me (a self confessed, Knuckledragging runner who during training, managed to train on the race course / trail about a dozen times in the 8 weeks or so prior to race day.  I'm 44 years old, blessed with a great family who have more promising speed than I do and for race references / results - I usually finish well behind race winners and a little ahead of the "middle of the pack" runners).   How it plays out on race day is yet to be determined.

Admittedly this training plan was drawn up in pencil, it changed a few times as things happen in life.  I started in earnest training for the race on July 1st (7 weeks before race day) - this was a week after running a Half Marathon.  So, I had a good base already built. 

My "weekly training" ran from Sunday's through Saturdays and I ran 5 days each week (although 1 week had only 4 runs).  Prior to really training specifically for PPM - I had run up Barr Trail each month of the year to Barr Camp at least, sometimes further up to A-Frame and back.

The plan was laid out on a calendar - here it is not.  Instead I have formatted it as a narrative.

Week 7 (Jul 1 - 7): 3 runs + a 25 mile hike of Pikes Peak w/ my son, up and down (where I jogged and walked some of the way back down).  Total mileage 47 for the week.

Week 6 (Jul 8 - 14): 3 runs of 4, 8 & 10 miles during the week.  Then on Saturday 20 miles on Barr Trail - from PPM start line up to A-Frame and back.  42 miles for the week.

Week 5 (Jul 15 - 21): A 6 miler on Sunday.  Then 6 mile runs on Tues, Wed, Thurs.  Saturday I did the Classic 10K.  So, only 30 miles for the week - but each run was w/ a decent effort.

Week 4 (Jul 22 - 28): Due to the 10K the day before, did my long run on Sunday: 14 miles on Barr Trail.  Drove to the Summit, went down 6 miles and back up, then down 1 mile, back up.  Ran on Tues, Wed, Thurs 8 miles each day.  Then Saturday my longest run (distance) of the training period - 26 miles at the USAFA on Falcon Trail.  64 miles for the week.

Week 3 (Jul 29 - Aug 4): After 2 rest days, ran Tues, Wed, Thurs: 12, 8 & 10 miles respectively.  Then Saturday another 20 miler from PPM start up to A-Frame and back.  50 miles for the week, including 3 runs totalling 42 miles on the race course.

Week 2 (Aug 5 - 11): Beginning to taper but still wanted to work hard with 2 weeks till race day.  Ran a 6 mile tempo on Sunday, then 8 miles each day on Tues, Wed, Thurs.  These were close to full effort each day.  Saturday long run of 10 miles from the Summit of Pikes Peak (Down 4, up 3, down 1, up 2 miles).  Weekly total = 40 miles (26 on the race course).

Week 1: (Aug 12 - 18): The week before race day and a time to take it easy with only 15 miles of running.  Tues 6, Wed 5, Thurs 4.  I am posting these prior to actually doing them.

Some notes about my training:
* I did 11 runs over 2 hours long, including a 3 1/2 hr run, 3 runs that took 4 to 5 hours, my longest run was 5 1/2 hours (on the race course, taking longer than it should have, but it was extended due to a fall / crash and resulting painful walk back to my car), and then there was the 8 hour round trip hike / jog and walk back of Pikes Peak.
* I ran a lot uphill and downhill.  5 times I ran between 2000' - 3000' of vertical gain.  4 times I ran 3000' - 4000' of vertical gain.  4 times I ran 5000' - 6000' of vertical gain.  The Summit hike was over 7800 feet of gain.  After each of these "ups" - I then came back down.
* The Summit of Pikes Peak:  The drive up to and back from the Summit was time consuming, often tiring and I often questioned if I really should be doing all of this.  But getting in all the work up there helped me with several things: 1) Getting used to the Altitude a little better.  2) Getting familiar with the trail both going up and down.  3) Getting used to the Weather patterns up above treeline.  4) Getting used to what kind of effort is / should be needed above treeline on race day.  All told - I ran 61 miles over 7 runs that each started and ended at the Summit during the 4 1/2 weeks before race day.
* Most of my training runs were by myself - for the most part they were boring and lonely - but I am okay with that.  Several runs though were highlighted because Steve (Happy Trails) joined me - full of encouragement and willing to suffer with me: most notably in the thin altitude and also on the 26 mile run.  Because I only ran 5 days a week - each run had a purpose: either tempo, elevation gain, long run, altitude training, downhill running, running after falling (not planned - but could happen race day as it happened in training).
* With the training comes results and improvement: better ability, better speed, better endurance, painful crashes.  I left several DNA samples on Barr Trail and have the scars still to prove it.  Although not afraid to fall during the race (and half expecting it) - I know and learnt the hard way that I must remain focused at all times (and not with my time), both going down and up - yes, I fell going uphill, more than once.
* I usually rested / did not run - on Mondays and Fridays.  Some Sunday's after a particularly long / hard run I also rested.  This old guy needs his rest days.
* I tried to stretch a lot during the week days - working on my hips especially.  Also doing planks (including side planks) and burpees w/ a medicine ball (10#).   I found that these exercises helped with general and core fitness.

What will the result be?  I have no idea.  I have thoughts about that - will post later this week.

Monday, August 13, 2012

PP Marathon training - H.A.T.

Woke up Sunday morning tired.  Weary.  I was planning on running an easy 5 miles.  Didn't.

This past Sunday morning indicated one week till the goal race of the year.  When I finally rolled out of bed, at the moment when my feet touched the floor, I decided that it doesn't really matter how much (or little) I run, or how hard, or where I run this week - the training is over.  Race day is getting closer, much closer.

My last long run on Saturday may have been a bit much.  Maybe not.  I didn't fall or get hurt, I didn't over exert myself, it just made me (more) tired.

My Saturday began by watching and cheering on my family in the local Panerathon 5K - insert bragging spot here: my 11 year old daughter took 1st place in her age group and my 7 year old daughter threw down a 34:10 time.  Not too shabby and makes a Daddy proud.

Then I drove up to the Summit for what I have written down in my training plan as H.A.T.  (High Altitude Training).  As mentioned, easy pace - down 4 miles, then back up 3 miles.  Turned and went down another mile, then back up to the Summit for the top 2 miles.

10 miles on the day, just under 2 1/2 hours and just over 3500' of elevation gain.  40 miles on the week w/ over 9400' vertical gain.  That, coming after a lot of training leading up to this thing, was the reason I didn't run Sunday, nor will I today.

The plan for this week: 6 miles Tuesday, 5 on Wed, 4 on Thurs, rest days on Friday & Saturday - and that's it (Race day Sunday). My body is thanking me for these 2 rest days.  This time next week - my body likely will not be thanking me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

PP Marathon training -- minute madness

Starting at the race start line, warmed up easy through Manitou, up Ruxton to Hydro street - then the madness began.  1 minute hard / full effort followed by 1 minute recovery (which was a walk) - then do it all over again x 20 sets.  These are the hardest hill repeats I have ever done.

I did this about 2 weeks ago - so I sort of knew what a tough training run this was.  It wasn't any easier although I got a little bit further than last time (just).  A pleasing note was that despite all the walking breaks, I made it up to the top of the "W's" in just over 40 minutes.  Was one of my better times to that point, including all the other times I have "run normally up the W's" - if there is such a thing.  Still didn't quite get to Balanced Rock however. 

Turned and came back down at an 8:30 pace.  8 miles total. 

Earlier in the day I had stretched wrong and did something to my mid rib area.  Just saw my chiropractor and he put back 2 ribs into proper alignment.  No wonder I had trouble breathing.

If I can keep myself from falling apart before race day - and I'm half tempted to show up at the starting line wrapped in bubble wrap and wearing a crash helmet - I should be ready to run hard.
Checked the entry list this morning a few names missing that were once there.  Notably 2 Masters runners that I'm fairly certain were on the Marathon list a few days ago (Bernie B and D Mackey).  Just checked again (this update came an hour or so after the original post) Mr Mackey is now doing the Ascent instead.   Oh wait (I checked the list again middle of the afternoon and another update) - now his name is back in the marathon list.  I'm getting dizzy - where is the bubble wrapped helmet?

Less Master's runners certainly doesn't change my chances of getting on anything close to the leaderboard - so I need to beat that thought into my head.  I just need to focus on my run / race - all while trying to stay upright. 

If I do crash - I very well could make the list of spectacular weekend race injuries.  But, with that being said - it will take a fair amount of damage to my body to keep me from finishing. I just don't want to end up in this movie:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

PP Marathon training - tempo test

According to my self prescribed (don't know if I really have much of a clue of what I am doing) training schedule for the big race - this week began the taper period.  On second / third / fourth look at it - going from 50 miles per week to 40 for this week ain't much of a taper. 

Side note - I plan on only 20 miles during the week before race day next weekend.

Another side note - long range forecast has chance for showers next Saturday, dry on Sunday:
Back to the point of my post..... This week I am running less overall miles, yet focusing in on some good hard runs.  Tuesday I got back up to the Summit and went down 4 miles, wiping out (minor, just a little blood here and there) only once (hmmm - I sense a theme of what happens when I lose concentration for a moment).  Then turned around and went back up.  Good, improved pace both directions.  I really think the high altitude training has been good for me.

Yesterday early evening I went back to the Greenland trail, have not been there since May, for my last 8 mile tempo run.  But also with my eye on seeing if I could break my previous best time there: 61 minutes, 22 seconds.  An 8 mile loop w/ over 500' elevation gain = good test.

However, before I even started I was already making mental and physical excuses: too hot (upper 80's), too tired (day before had over 2800' vertical gain - all above 11,000'), too bad.  I needed to try hard, putting forth a good effort and get this run in.

Result: despite really suffering, especially towards the end in the last 2 miles and slowing as a result / not having anything left to push with - I beat my old best time by a whopping 6 seconds.  Still, pleased with that and was kind of left thinking if I wasn't quite so tired I should be able to beat that time too - yet not really caring about trying to anytime soon.  So, the new PR is 61:16.  Still don't think I can get under 60 minutes, but sub 61 is doable.

On tap is another tapering suffering run this afternoon - doing the one minute madness repeats up Barr Trail from the Cog Railroad.   Then the real taper begins, albeit after a testing 10 miler back up on the Summit on Saturday.

Monday, August 6, 2012

PP Marathon training - A Frame

Less than 2 weeks now till race day, so Saturday morning was my last long training run.  The plan: 20 miles on Barr Trail beginning at the race start line and getting up to A-Frame and back.

The result: made it without crashing like last time 3 weeks ago.  Not only did I not fall over going either up or down - I made it up to A-Frame over 10 minutes quicker this time.  I also ran the entire way down at a 9 minute average.  Actually - most of the way down I was going slower than that, but I gradually picked up the pace through the W's to get down to a 9 minute per mile average descent.

The big issue of the day was lack of food / resulting in lack of energy.  Silly me, I need to learn and plan better as this has happened before (more than once) - but I took with me only one Gel / GU and about a dozen jelly beans, along with 2 bottles of water.  Hydration was fine however as the temparature was fantastic to run in.  Lack of food was evident - on race day I need to must bring more / eat more.

I really think that if I had more food early on the way up I would have done much better - especially above Barr camp, the trip down would have been better too.  But still - made my best time up to A-Frame (2:34:20) and a 90 minute trip down for a total time just over 4 hours, covering 20 miles and over 5700' elevation gain.

In an encouraging sign of fitness - I recovered very well post run and next day was able to push out a good 6 mile (flat) tempo run.

Now - it is taper time - still plenty of miles and vertical to run - but coming off 5 weeks of averaging nearly 50 miles per week, with over 45,000' vertical gain in that - my body is tired and needs some revitalising.

With the hard training behind me - I still don't know what to expect or what I am capable of on race day.    Wishful thinking says I will summit in under 3 1/2 hours and descend in under 2 hours.  Reality may be worse than that - or better.  I just don't know.  2 weeks of mental gymnastics could be fun (or not).

I am very pleased with my training - this same time last year, due to July knee surgery, in the month of August I had run 2 (very, very slow) miles, on a flat treadmill.  So, a lot different and a lot better prepared going into it this year.

Friday, August 3, 2012

PP Marathon - Summit Training

The drive to the Summit yesterday afternoon featured an awesome thunderstorm starting at Glen Cove which stuck with me till the Summit.  Heavy rain, hail, lightning and thunder resulted in a slow(er) drive up.  Summit temp was barely 40 by the time I got there and waited for the storm to pass - which wasn't too long of a wait.

After the rain stopped I scouted around, could see other rain clouds in the area - none seemed too threatening - so I got going and while running, fortunately no thunder or lightning came too close - just getting wet with some rain for a while was the worst impact.

From the Summit: went down 3 miles, then back up 2 miles, back down a mile, then 2 miles back up to the Summit.  Grabbed a quick snack then went back down a mile, and finally - a tough mile back up to the Summit - there is just no way for me to try get through the 16 Golden Stairs quickly, especially when tired, going either up or down. 

Summary: Totalled 10 miles with 3600' elevation gain - all above 11,000 feet, in about 2 1/2 hours.   Good to put that in the bank.

Nothing blazing about the speed and who knows how it will play out on race day - but I am getting much more familiar with the trail, specifically what is runnable vs walkable, where the most difficult spots are (answer: just about all of it), and getting more excited about race day with only about 10 more training runs left.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

PP Marathon training - 7.8 miles sign

Coming off the 26 mile training run on Saturday I was curious to see how effective I could be at a moderate or better effort on the run from PPM start line up to the "7.8 miles to Summit" sign - which is just a bit under 6 miles.

I started at an easy pace through Manitou Springs accompanied by some light rain, rumbles of thunder and noticeable humidity.  After the Hydro Street turnoff I upped the effort and got to work.  I would call the effort and result a few notches below the desired goal on race day - which for yesterday I am okay with, cause it turned out my splits to the Top of the W's, No Name Creek and finally the 7.8 mile sign - were tracking a summit time of 3:26.

I went a few yards past the sign to round up the distance to 6 miles, then turned and came down at an 8 minute per mile average - which seemed to come fairly easily.  Total distance 12 miles, 2 hrs 10 minutes and just over 3200' of elevation gain.  Quite pleased.

A monthly summary of note (to me at least).  July was my best month of training ever.  195 miles (19 runs) and over 35,000' of elevation gain (my previous best was about 21,000').  Yesterdays run bought me up over 122,000' of gain for the year to date - in doing so gave me more vertical than the whole of last year.

What does it mean? 
1) I have trained more and more effectively than last year. 
Therefore 2) It should hopefully pay off. 
3) I'm really looking forward to see how it pays off.
4) More work to do yet though - still 2 1/2 weeks till race day.
5) I still need to run a smart race (especially at the beginning, but really for the whole thing I need to be mentally sharp).