Pikes Peak Marathon 2011 Race Report (D-D-D-D-Doubler!)

I stayed in Colorado Springs after the Ascent, so I was able to sleep in before the big race. I’d slept in my compression socks and my legs and knee felt amazing! The marathon toaster had made the trip so I had a toasted English muffin with peanut butter and banana. Because I’d been hungry yesterday, I packed powerbar protein bites in my waist pack. I also took an advil and packed a couple for the trail. I wore the exact same thing as last year: pink under armor shirt, compression shorts and a hat. I stopped for coffee en route and made it to the starting area around 6:30: there was plenty of parking at the Briarhurst even though it meant a bit more of a walk to the start. It seemed a bit more overcast today although the forecast was for it to be warmer, but I decided to just bring my arm sleeves and gloves and forego the jacket. I also carried my water bottle.

I saw a few girls ahead of me as I walked, including one with two wristbands like myself (fellow doubler!) We started chatting: she was actually the gal who passed me right near the end. It was also her first time doubling.

I went to use the secret restroom again and soon it was time to start! The field for the marathon is a bit smaller than for the ascent, but people looked slightly more nervous 🙂 I chatted with more doublers: given the fact close to a quarter of the field was registered for the double, it wasn’t terribly unusual to spot them.

Whereas yesterday there were a few times I wondered why the heck I was doing this two days in a row, today I felt accustomed to the trail and just took it on. My legs didn’t exactly feel fresh, but they weren’t too bad. One of my thoughts for the day was “I wonder how long til my legs realize what I’m doing to them”. I was woefully under trained for this event, but for some reason my legs really never picked up on that!

I did tell myself that my goal was to be a faster walker when I was walking, so I tried to swing my arms more and take smaller, quicker steps.. interestingly enough, my arms ended up being really tired after the race!

Here’s my ascent splits, as comparison to yesterday:

M1: 9:21 10:11
M2: 13:39 14:38
M3: 16:47 17:02
M4: 16:03 16:03
M5: 16:20 15:57
M6: 12:01 12:35
M7: 13:13 12:54
M8: 17:54 16:27
M9: 20:35 19:17
M10: 22:08 21:39
M11: 20:58 19:56
M12: 22:09 22:10
M13: 23:35 24:47

During the marathon, the top gets a bit congested as you have two-way traffic. In the past, I’ve seen the winners pass me around A-Frame, but today I was a good ways past that point before Matt came down. There was then a big gap before the next male came through. I reached the top in 3:44:12 (faster than the day before!), and was the 12th woman to the top! Mike Everson was there and he told me the place I was in, and that I should just catch a couple of the women to get a Top-10 finish for my birthday! Oh, yes, I’d had fun en route telling aid station workers what day it was 🙂

I tried to be smart about fueling, eating my protein bites and some grapes. I actually grabbed a handful of skittles on the way up and my head felt weird after, I’m really not used to that much sugar and I decided that’s maybe not a smart idea for me anymore!

I really do let the downhill take care of itself in this race, and let gravity take over. My legs were still feeling fine, although I wasn’t running as aggressively as maybe I could have. Like every year, plenty of folks passed me on the way down. It took awhile before I realized my watch had turned off, so I didn’t know my time or pace. The course itself is well-marked but I wasn’t sure about my elapsed time. I twisted my ankle a bit once but nothing serious. I never lost my footing or anything, which I think was good for me mentally. I really just kept chugging along.

It started to get a bit stormy near the end, with a couple miles to go we heard a clap of thunder thought it never really started raining. It did help me pick up the pace though a bit!

With about 2 miles to go, a woman who’d been ahead of me at the summit ran by. I said something about her having a good kick, and she said “I have a bone to pick with the race director” as she sped by. Apparently she’d missed a turnoff and gone off course.

Knowing how close we were to the end (and possibly because I’d conserved energy over the past 11 miles), I really started to push at the end of the race. I figured I could come in around 6:10 or so, which I was really happy about. As I left the trail with roughly 1.5 miles to go, there was one guy and one girl in sight ahead of me. I hit the lap button on my watch as I hit the pavement, curious what I could do on the road. As I came up on the two impending roadkill, I’d motion to spectators that I had my eyes on the runners ahead. My energy was appreciated and met with applause and cheers from those on the side of the road. I passed the guy without problem. I made my move on the girl right before a spectator said there was a half mile to go, and I was actually afraid she’d overtake me again. I kept my speed up and turned the last corner… to see the looming clock that read 5:58:xx. Wha??? I had a chance to break 6 hours? I was glad I had the speed I did, and bore down on the finish line, crossing in 5:59:58. Wow! And according to my garmin, that last full mile was at a 6:40 pace!

A volunteer lead me over to a chair to sit down, but I felt fine. I grabbed a glass of gatorade and wandered off to pick up my finisher’s shirt. I’d completed 39.3 miles in less than 10 hours of running over 2 days! I just really feel like I shouldn’t have been able to do that, much less when the thousands of feet of elevation were taken into effect. I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

I saw the other doubler from the morning, and we chatted a bit, both of us feeling that the Ascent the day before had helped with today’s race. I wandered over to where they had snacks for racers, and then checked the results listing. I’d made plans to meet a friend for an early dinner after my run, but I had to call her to change the time: I had to attend the awards ceremony! While I’d let a few girls pass me on the descent, I still managed to place 2nd in my age group! While there were no official prizes, I was also 3rd female doubler overall.

There is just something so special about this race. I’m starting to recognize faces of runners and volunteers, and it’s not usual to meet people who’ve been running some form of the race for upwards of 10 years. It’s not just a road race where you compete against other runners: this one adds dimensions of weather and altitude as well.

I already can’t wait til next year! I endeavor to get back to running with the Incline club and get some really good training in: I made such a significant improvement this year just from being more physically fit, I can’t imagine the gains I’d see if I actually trained!

And I already have a partner in crime committed: fellow runner/skater KJ has a birthday the day of the race next year. The more the merrier!