Pikes Peak Ascent 2015 Race Report

Pikes Peak remains one of my favorite races. Since moving to Colorado 7 years ago, I’ve completed 8 Pikes Peak races:
2009: Marathon
2010: Marathon
2011: Double! (Ascent and Marathon)
2012: Double! (Ascent and Marathon)
2014: Marathon
2015: Ascent

I decided to skip the marathon this year as my Mom and fiancee Sara had also decided to join in the fun this year and do the Ascent. I didnt want to spend all day Sunday running if my folks were visiting for just the weekend. I thought I would focus on trying to run the Ascent my fastest as I didnt have to worry about the downhill.

In about June, however, my training sorta fell off the rails. I started having some trouble regulating my body temperature and my breathing was labored on hills. I found myself with a pretty negative attitude about running and I actually stopped running for a few weeks. Between the physical challenges, work has been really busy and stressful, and I just didn’t need this one more thing. But it meant leading up to race day I needed to lower my expectations on what I was truly capable of.

Sara had had her own struggles. We’d done some high altitude hikes and she was consistently getting altitude sickness. The Ascent was also slated to be her third half marathon (she had just done her first in March of this year) and I think she was pretty intimidated. As a result, neither of us were really sharing a ton of anticipation for this year’s event. Thankfully we had my Mom excitedly doing trail runs and hill repeats up in Canada and posting about them on Facebook; she had enough enthusiasm for all of us!

We came down to the Springs Thursday after work for some “celebration of running” event, but it was pretty lame. Sara and I worked remotely on Friday and then Friday night we went to the Expo/Peakbusters event. Sara had decided the Sunday prior that she was NOT going to do the race, we had attempted to hike a 14er and she got sick. She had debated not even coming to the Peakbusters event, but she did… and hearing the stories and advice of the ladies who’d done this race year after year prompted her to change her mind and try! She hadn’t brought her hydration pack but she did have a small handheld bottle so we cobbled together a long sleeved shirt and snacks for her to bring. Neither of us had our Garmins (mine is MIA again….) but for this race, that really doesn’t matter much.

Saturday morning we rose around 5:15 and had breakfast (Dave’s Killer Bread with PB – couldn’t find any GF at the grocery store we went to). Dad dropped the three of us at the start, where we had enough time to use the restroom and then it was time to line up! They’d implemented a wave start for the first time so I started right at 7, Sara at 7:18 and Mom at 7:19.

I had my ReadyTalk singlet, shorts, injinji compression socks, hokas and my new Flatirons Running hat. I carried my Nathan vest with arm sleeves, nike windbreaker and gloves. I did wear my Garmin vivofit, which I hadnt worn in a few months. I wanted some sort of timepiece even if it wasnt recording splits or anything.

I knew my 3:30 goal wasn’t really achievable, so I settled on 3:30-4:00 as my goal. I had read some previous race reports the night before and had noted arriving at Barr Camp at 1:47 and at 2:01, so I had in my mind that I was hoping to arrive by 2:00 and that it’d be another 2 hours after that.

The wave start was really nice, it eliminated a lot of the early congestion. I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace right away. I hit the cog at 10 minutes.

I was disappointed in having to walk even early on. It was warmer than I would have liked. I worried a lot about Sara, who struggles with heat and would be starting even later. Thankfully there was a decent amount of shade and it never got crazy hot. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and reminded myself that I love this event and it’s not a REAL race. :0)

I hit Barr Camp at 1:52, which I was really happy with. I grabbed some grapes and skittles and kept going. I didn’t feel like I had the same great exchanges with other runners as I have in past years, but I think that’s often during the marathon when people are more in an “endurance” frame of mind. Most of the conversations this year were “have you done this before?” “Yes/No. You?”

I definitely felt like I walked a lot more than in past years, but I just tried to keep in good spirits. It was definitely less congested than in other years due to the wave start, so I think it helped just not to have to adhere to other peoples’ pace.

The last few miles actually seemed not to be as heinous as previous years – and I have spent a lot more time above 10K feet this year than in other years, between camping, the relay and climbing Quandary Peak last weekend.

I was thrilled to be approaching the top in under 4 hours. As I got close, I heard Erin and Aaron (and a few other people they’d recruited) chanting “And-re-a! And-re-a!”. I love the support!

I crossed the line at 3:56. Not my best, not my worst. I was glad I came in sub-4, which is about 4 min faster than last year.

I met my dad and we sat inside for awhile before we went outside to wait for Sara and my Mom. We were just deciding where to sit when I saw Sara! She was already done!! I had been thinking she’d be close to 5:30 or 6hrs to play it safe with her altitude sickness, but she finished in 4:47! I was so incredibly proud of her!!!

We got her some water and snacks and waited for my mom. She crossed the line in 5:35 – 4th in her (F65-69) age group! A great day for all of us!

ppafamily

It was really so special to share my beloved Pikes Peak with my family. Everyone had a great special day, couldn’t ask for anything more!

… and Sara said she would definitely consider doing it again, and has already discussed how she’d train differently. That’s why I’m marrying her 🙂