Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report (#30!)

The Pikes Peak Marathon was my first race as a 33 year old, as it took place the day after my birthday. I didn’t do as much training on the Peak this year as last, although I’d say overall I have been working out much more.

The race weekend was going to be busy, with roller derby the night before. Also, if you read my race weekend post, you may have noticed a conspicuous lack of mention of dinner the night before the race. When I have a derby bout, there isn’t a good opportunity to eat a hearty dinner.

Last year I ran the marathon in 6:42, with 4:12 to the top and 2:30 down. This year I knew I wasn’t going to better that, so I told myself I wanted to make it to the top between 4:15 and 4:30. A three hour descent would be nice, but ultimately I wanted to finish in less than 8 hours.

This year instead of staying in Manitou, we drove down that morning. Which meant rising at 4:45.. and because of all the excitement the night before, I didnt get to bed til 2:15ish. I’d fallen on my knee in derby so when I went to bed I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d run the next day. But I rose and decided to see how it’d go. Elyssa and I headed down south, but had some trouble finding a parking spot. We made it to the starting line just as the gun went off, but decided to take a bathroom break before we started to run. We weren’t going to win anyway 🙂

As a result, once we started running, we were the only ones on the road so we had plenty of fans cheering us on as we started our adventure.

It was a warm day even at the start, I had a tank top and shorts, and carried a rolled up jacket for the top just in case. Because we started at the back, we actually managed to avoid some of the initial congestion at the trailhead. Knowing I wasn’t in the same shape as last year and just content to be participating, I didn’t push myself too hard. I’d love to be able to look back and compare to last year’s times, but alas, it seems either the mountain changed or my garmin isn’t super-consistent:

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marathonproofOverall I felt ok the whole way up. I was aware of the fact that I hadn’t had a good dinner the night before so I grabbed skittles and grapes whenever they were offered. I was actually impressed by how the sugar kept me feeling all right. On the way up stepping on a log bridge I did twinge my ankle a bit, but nothing too bad. I just kept trucking up to the top, and felt all right continually passing people as I made my way up.

I hit the top in 4:32 (which would put me under 4:30 if you take into account the three minutes late we started). I wanted to be sure I didn’t bonk so I grabbed an entire cup of skittles and grapes for the way down. I was in great spirits, chatting with volunteers and other runners. I did have to get away from an overly talkative Texan who had advice for everyone, but other than that I was just enjoying my time. When I run this race, I really only consider it the first half: the second half looks after itself. So once I turned around, I just let my legs take me. I ran into Elyssa on her way up, looking a bit overwhelmed but ok. Once I got past the really rocky parts at the top, I flew down towards A-Frame. Compared to last year, my 14th and 15th miles were significantly quicker (again, assuming my Garmin was accurate)

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And then it happened. About 5 hours into the run, I pitched forward on my knees and forearm. Another runner asked if I was fine. I felt physically ok so I got back up and kept going. But less than a half mile later, I twisted my left ankle something FIERCE! As in, I saw stars fierce. My ankle was sore, but beyond that I felt like I needed to face up to the idea that the hard weekend was possibly catching up with me.

But ya know what? I wasn’t going to win this thing – heck, the winner had already finished. It was the day after my birthday, a gorgeous Colorado day and I was completing my 30th marathon. So I started walking.

Anyone who’s run a marathon and ‘hit the wall’ knows how long those last few miles can be. So imagine having 10 miles left, on a challenging trail race. But I simply changed my perceptions to ‘doing on a beautiful nature hike – with a medal at the end’. I came up on a first aid tent and cracked some jokes and visited with the guys while we bandaged my ankle up. I didn’t want them to clean up my knees or forearm because I wanted the picture once we were done!

Eventually the nature walk got old, so I alternated walking and jogging. There was a bit of ego at play when folks I’d passed passed me back, but I’m sure they didn’t play roller derby the night before! I was a bit surprised when at the Barr Camp aid station they gave me ibuprofin, I always thought that was something you weren’t supposed to give endurance athletes. But I took it!

At one of the first aid stations, one of the medics mentioned to a hiker that they were predicting a storm to roll in within the next few hours. Although the sky was cloudless for most of the day, I could see things were starting to change. Although I wasn’t in a huge rush to finish, I knew a downpour would definitely put a damper (HA!) on my day. My watch had died, which was actually nice as I was forced to just progress as was comfortable, without worrying about any sort of time. I checked in, and I had several hours to finish within the cutoff period, so there was very little pressure in that regard.

PPMRoughly the last mile of the course is on paved road, so with every mile marker “to go”, I subtracted one to gauge how far I had to go. The road didn’t count 🙂 I was actually feeling reasonably strong as I neared the bottom, and the energy I’d been conserving needed to be burned off. In the last mile I let loose, and felt pretty good. I chatted briefly with a marathon maniac from Washington state who’d volunteered the day before. He said he so enjoyed that experience, he’d consider coming back just to volunteer. Then that was enough talking and I let go. I didnt have any real sense of time, but then the next thing I knew, I was staring down the 8hr self-imposed goal time! Despite all the walking and first aid station stops, I was able to cross the line (looking strong despite dripping blood) at 7:56:45.

I walked through the chute, picked up my shirt and headed over to the road to watch for Elyssa. Part of me was concerned that somehow she’d passed me and we weren’t connecting, but before too long I saw her headed down the road, beaming. I felt so much pride when she called out “I dont know how anything can compare to this”.

I went and met her in the finishing chute where they gave us water and gatorade. She was doing great, especially for a flatlander 🙂 After a little while we headed back to the car, took a war photo of my arm and headed out. We drove through Garden of the Gods where she took some photos, and then stopped part way home for some good old burgers and milkshakes at Rosie’s Diner

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We made it home, where I cleaned my wounds and Elyssa ice-bathed to try to bring us back to the land of the living. Once again, the Pikes Peak marathon is an amazing experience, and I already know I can’t wait til next year to do it again!

So this next photo is purely to see how long after I post this entry, my Mom will see it and call me 🙂

My ankle felt ok the day of the run, but the next morning I woke up and was shocked to see how swollen it was! I’ve had a few sore ankles this year from derby and trail running, but nothing like this! It was odd that it didn’t hurt to walk on, but obviously something wasn’t quite right. Finally, I decided that it’s time to nip this all in the bud and see a physical therapist to figure out my muscle imbalances, ankle issues, etc. But that’s a post to come!

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EDIT: mwa ha ha – I posted this at 10:20 and my Mom emailed me at 10:36. 🙂