Pikes Peak Marathon 2014 Race Report

I’m back!

The Pikes Peak Marathon in 2012 was the last marathon I ran before I had to undergo knee surgery in June 2013, and it was great to be able to toe the line at the 2014 event. Sure, perhaps not the most prudent comeback race, but it just seemed right. If you’re going to come back to marathoning, why not come all the way back??

My recovery has been steady, and in the last month or so before the event I ramped up my mileage (~40mpw), and started cross-training through riding my bike to work and going to Orange Theory Fitness. I managed to get up to the mountain twice for workouts at altitude. My knee has been feeling fine, although I know I dont have the confidence at downhill running that I did (and I was never super aggressive before!)

I went down to the Springs Friday night with Erin – her mom and stepdad were doing the Ascent Saturday. We stayed at their place Friday night and got up to drive up to the top to watch the Ascent finishers. I love watching that event as the excitement of the weekend really starts in full swing (and, some last time at altitude). I saw a few people I knew finishing, and Bart Yasso was there as well, so we got our picture taken with him. He offered to buy us donuts and coffee, but Erin’s parents were ready to head back down to town :-/

Bart Yasso

Down at Memorial Park we picked up our race packets, and then stopped at Garbanzos for lunch. It was already close to 3pm but I wanted to be sure we took in enough calories before the big show the next day!

Although I’m not much of a napper, back at Erin’s parent’s place after lunch I laid down for about a half hour nap! Then we had dinner and soon enough it was time to crash – the 4:45 wakeup call was going to come early!

For some reason I had packed longish shorts to run in, but thankfully Erin had an extra pair she lent me. I wore my ReadyTalk tank, calf sleeves, a bolder bands headband and my new Nathan hydration pack. I filled the hydration pack with water and skratch, and carried some gu and honey stingers. Breakfast was toast with almond butter and banana and some vega pre-workout energizer. I also body-glided my feet, which was something I hadn’t done in awhile. I’ve had a lot of problems with blisters this training period, and I hoped this would help. (it did!)

We got to Manitou around 6:30, which was plenty of time to park, go to the portapotty and drop off my drop bag. I had packed flipflops for after the race. I saw a few people I knew (Liz was doubling!) and soon enough it was time to go!

I had three goals for the race:
1. 4 hrs to the top
2. 7 hours round-trip (so, 3 hrs down)
3. Don’t fall on the way down!

Honestly, the 3 hour descent seemed like a bit of a joke, I generally do around 2:25 down, but I knew I wasn’t as strong or confident as I have been in the past. And, you know, I haven’t run more than 15 miles in over a year..

We started off, and I felt ok. I definitely walked early on, but I didn’t let that bother me too much. Once I hit the trail, I set myself a plan: I wasn’t allowed to walk if there was space between me and the person ahead of me. I’m a very slow walker/hiker so if we were both hiking I tended to fall behind. This kept me moving forward (and honestly stopped me from just falling into feeling comfortable).

I didn’t worry about keeping track of splits and comparing them to past years, as I knew I’d just be doing the best I could and comparing it wouldn’t do be any good (and could risk discouraging me).

I had some nice chats with other participants: Hans, whose compression sock had torn around the ankle that morning, Lee from Wichita who was doubling (and had advice for everyone, but regardless seemed a nice enough guy).

I liked my hydration pack as I never had to stop for water, although I did grab a cup of grapes and jelly beans at a few aid stations.

So… I would love to post my splits here but my Garmin (that died during the race) is acting up and won’t upload my splits. So my narrative will have to do!

My legs felt fine during the Ascent – I felt like I wasn’t in the best shape ever but I wasn’t suffering too badly. I hit Barr Camp around 2 hours – not my best time but certainly not bad! With around 4 miles to go I mentioned to another participant that under-four was likely not going to happen today, and he gave me a bit of a pep talk. At that moment my watch said I was going at a 26 minute pace and I had calculated I needed to do 22.5s to get to the top in 4. He encouraged me that I’d be fine, and told me not to be discouraged. Sure enough, once we got through the congestion between Barr Camp and A-Frame I actually managed to pick it up! I feel like I’m one of the few people I see who can actually do some running above tree-line, which always feels great as people are trudging along.

The winner came past me at 2:49, shortly before I hit A-Frame. That was actually pretty standard timing so that was encouraging.

I had also brought my bike gloves so I slipped them on as we got to the rocky points (seriously, the hydration pack was super with all its random pockets! I also had kleenex and chapstick at the ready). That helped a bit with some of the rocks. Soon enough I was right up near the top – and the clock read 4:00:xx! I was a bit bummed that I’d caught up with some people who were walking right at the turnaround but thankfully with chip-timing I came in at 4:00:54, so I totally think that counts as meeting my goal!

10559940_10152255595600079_6205644880848380149_nThen was the downhill – as far as I’m concerned, this race is really about getting to the top, and the downhill looks after itself. Except.. today, I couldn’t just let myself go. My knee wasn’t sore, but I just wasn’t as confident on some of the rocky drops. Or as fast running, just in general. I very quickly let people pass me as they came up. I honestly probably had more people pass me on the way down (where I would move to the side and let people fly down) than I did going up.

One of those people was Erin – she had done 4:07 to the top but easily passed me less than two miles later on the down. She’s a strong downhill runner so I wasn’t surprised to see how quickly she caught me.

The top few miles were ok but then I hit my personal no-man’s land, around mile 16 between A-Frame and Barr Camp. This was where I twisted my ankle and fell back in 2010, and all the roots were treacherous. I felt my ankle buckle a tiny bit a few times and so I just slowed right down and walked. You know, for probably a couple miles. It was at this point I also got hungry and wished I had something more substantial to eat than carbs.

I started to get really frustrated with my decision to do this race – My downhill has never been great and I knew it was worse after my surgery. I had met my goal in the Ascent and I wondered if I should really have just done that and been content. But I had miles to go, so I just kept moving forward. I did text Kitty (Erin’s Mom) to let her know I was going to be well after my 7 hour goal, and wasn’t going to want to talk about it.

Finally I reached Barr Camp, and I asked the Search and Rescue peeps for some Advil for my ankle (it wasnt bad, but I figured it was better than not taking anything). They couldn’t give it to me, but they gave me the package and let me take some. I also had a pickle at the Aid Station, which was AMAZING.

Barr Camp is really a great milestone, and it’s familiar territory. So here I got a second wind and started actually running. And feeling great! I ran like I used to run, and felt good. I caught several people who’d passed me in the previous section. I was glad to be on the trail. Sadly, my watch died so I can’t show you how much better I was doing, but I was 🙂

The miles flew by and with only about three more to go, a volunteer was giving me directions when I pitched forward. I had the wherewithal to see a big rock in front of where my head was going, so I managed to get my feet underneath me for a couple more steps before landing on my right side. Elbow, hip, knee. Yikes! But oddly enough, it knocked the negativity out of me – perhaps because I no longer needed to have that fear of falling? I was right by an Aid station so we poured water on my wounds and I had a couple glasses of gatorade while chatting with the guys. I joked that now I had an excuse for my crappy time. One of them pulled out a clorox wipe to clean me up – HECK NO! I grabbed one last cup of water and started walking down the trail.

By this point it was nearly 7 hours after I had started climbing the mountain. I was actually pleased (after checking that math in my head several times). When I fell in 2010, I had come in barely before 8 hours. This wasn’t going to be a PW (Personal Worst!). I got out my phone and posted:
(1) Andrea F Hill - Still on the course. This prob wasn_t a great...

Then after a bit of a walk, I started running again. I came up on my buddy Hans, who had twisted HIS ankle (turns out he needed the ankle support his torn sock would have provided him) and just as I came up on him he twisted it again! Apparently at this time in the race, it’s the walking wounded. I recommended he keep walking on it so it wouldn’t swell too bad, and went on to wrap up the last two miles of the run.

In the last 1.5 miles on the road I passed two guys to the joy of the crowd, and then turned the corner to se 7:08 on the clock. Not so far after 7, even with my fall!

10385467_10152253799005079_3640243871319978967_n
I was lead into medical where I first made them take a picture and then let them clean up my wounds. I felt fine overall and was excited to see how Erin did – she had set a 2 min course PR. I grabbed my finisher’s shirt, briefly stood in the outdoor mister, and then we were ready to go. Other than my wounds I felt fine – legs and hips weren’t too bad at all!

We wandered back to the car and then Erin, Kitty and I went for lunch. Sadly, we pulled into the Adams Mountain Cafe just as they switched the sign to “closed”. So we went to the IvyWild School, which was a really cool venue and I had amazing white bean hummus and root beer. 🙂 I started to get a bit stiff later but really nothing too bad at all considering I’d just run a marathon (a 7 hour marathon!!).

PPM Injury 2014

It’s funny how something like that becomes part of you. This was my 35th marathon and it just seems like what I’m supposed to do. But it’s not for bragging rights or anything – at work on Monday when people asked about my injury I ended up just saying it was from a trail run rather than a marathon. Being a marathoner is certainly part of who I am, but it’s changed somewhat from being an achievement to just being a past-time I enjoy.

I can tell you that at this point I am considering just doing the Ascent next year and seeing how fast I can do it. I just really struggle with confidence in that one downhill section of the race and it makes the whole thing less enjoyable. My Ascent PR is 3:39 from a year when I was going to do the marathon the next day and I feel like if the uphill were my sole focus I could get up there in less than 3:30… at least that’s the thought today. It could be really tough for me to willingly pass on the marathon..

Well, onto the next one! New York, 75 day!