Monday, August 22, 2011

D-D-D-Doubler? 2011 PPA

Pikes Peak is the 30th tallest mountain in the state of Colorado.  At least 42 other peaks are classified as more technically challenging than Pikes.  It lacks many of the jagged, heavens-searing features that many other peaks sport.  It's terribly unremote - one can have better luck grabbing some solitude in a shopping mall than on the summit of Pikes.  So what is it about this giant pile of rocks that seduces me so?  As I reflect upon this past weekend and my experience on the mountain, one thing is clear:  over the last five years, this mountain has practically become a part of me.

Previous to the weekend
Moved to CO in 2003.
"Ran" the Ascent in 2005, when I weighed 25 lbs more than I do today.  4:04.
Tried again in 2007.  3:10.  Began to think breaking 3:00 was possible.
2008 - 2:53 in a blizzard as a warm-up race for the last Ironman I ever did.  Thoughts of sub-2:50 entered my head.
2009 - 2:44 with a meltdown up Barr Camp in 1:15.  Thought I could get into the 2:30's.  Laid out the plan - post a good time in 2010, move on to Leadville in 2011.
2010 - more fit than 2009.  Easier pace through Barr, 1:17.  Blew up horribly anyway, finished in 3:21.  Left a terrible taste in my mouth.  Couldn't believe I had squandered another possible sub-2:40.  Decided I had to come back - Leadville could wait.

But why the double?
I wanted more on my plate.  Shaving a few minutes off of my PR simply wasn't enough to get me going.  After many years of scoffing at the idea of coming back down the mountain, it suddenly sounded appealing.  Just before signing up in March, John O'Neill caught my ear and suggested I double.  I was lukewarm to the idea at first.  After all, how would I run a strong round trip on tired legs?  Two factors eventually sold me:  1)Doubling seemed like a rite of passage.  I knew too many people who had done it, and had seen from afar some who had even done it successfully.  It would be fun to try and join that crowd.  It also seemed to play better into my eventual transition to longer distances.  If I shy away from a 39-mile weekend, how could I expect to go after 100 miles in a shot?  In the end, I ponied up for both races.  In the weeks before the races, I started to think about dropping Saturday to focus on the round trip.  I must've changed my mind one hundred times.  It wasn't until a few days before the weekend before I finally committed to the Double.

Weekend Goals
My season had gone well.  I managed to PR at Barr Trail when almost everyone else struggled.  I ran well in Vail, Salida, and Buena Vista.  Knowing how I screwed up in '09 and still went 2:44, I figured I could possibly run in the mid-2:30's.  My workouts up top had gone well.  The pace calculator matched up with my efforts.  It was all laid out for me - I would leave nothing on the trail Saturday.  Once done with the Ascent, I would only then begin to even think about the Marathon.

Ready to rock.  Gun went off, familiar faces surrounded me.  Ratcheted down perceived effort a couple of notches from my previous time trials, but still came through Hydro a little hot in 9:30 (2:30 pace).  I must have been in 50th place at the time.  Tried to tone it down a notch, still on the fast side at the top of the W's in 30:35 (2:32 pace), still around 30th.  More conscious effort to hold back saw me at the 7.8 sign in 1:01:20 (2:34 pace) feeling comfortable.  A spectator told me I was in 25th.  A struggling Kevin Morgan said he had been in 23rd when I passed him.  I felt for him; hurting so early was a bad omen.  So far, so good.  Barr Camp came and went in 1:19:10 (2:36 pace) - slower than 2010, and significantly slower than 2009.  I'd done a ton of work up above timberline this season, so I felt I might have finally solved this mountain.

Bottoms up, Kevin!
Wrong.  Bottomless Pit sign in 1:31:31 (2:37 pace) and my only company was a struggling David Phillips.  As I made what turned out to be my final pass of the day, I began to realize what my splits were already telling me - I was SCREWED.  My hamstrings began to tighten up.  I started walking...just a step here and there at first, but by A-Frame I was doing more shuffling than running.  By now, the bottom was falling out.  A-Frame in 1:56:30 (2:44 pace). Visions of my 2010 meltdown came screaming into my head...I couldn't bear the shame.  It was deja freaking vu.  Few people passed me in that next mile, but the line was approaching.  That's the horror of struggling up see your fate.  Not just the pain above you, but your fate below you in the form of all the others who are there to make you pay for being stupid.  2 to go in 2:15:34 (2:47 pace).  For the third time in 4 years, Michael Hagen passed me on the long straightaway. 1 to go in 2:33:19 (2:51 pace) and people were passing me left, right, over, under, and through me.  I was dizzy, definitely not feeling good, and just trying to get off the mountain by this point.  Kevin Morgan, who was in a world of hurt himself, caught up to me and joined in my pity party for a bit.  With a little less than a half to go and our respective races both in the tank, we accepted a kind offer for PBR from "Nacheaux" a crew of rabid fans.  We tipped our glasses to a better run in the future, took a few pulls,  and then went about our business.  Kevin's business involved passing by me just after the pit stop.  When the noise of the crowd hit, there was nothing in me to go.  My last mile ticked by painfully slow in over 22 minutes, bringing me home in a disappointing 2:56:30, which was good for 44th place.  Results here.

I really wanted to stay up top and catch up with so many of my friends.  I fought the urge and got off the mountain on the first van down.  Did the best job I could of refueling and refocusing.  For having such a struggle, I bounced back quickly and felt surprisingly strong by Saturday afternoon.  I began to think I might actually be able to get up the mountain in a respectable time on Sunday.

Looking at my splits from my armchair, it's quite obvious I was out too fast.  It's also interesting to see how the splits were telling me this IMMEDIATELY, yet I thought all was good until past Bottomless Pit.  One more reason why I think things like splits should be respected.

But this is the part I still struggle with.  If I'm capable of a 2:35 yet 2:30 pace even for 10 minutes puts me in the tank, how come everyone else that runs a 2:35 can get away with it?  While it seems I'm out too fast, THE ENTIRE FIELD is out too fast.  Kim, who ran 2:34 and rocked the world, must've been through Hydro in 9:00 and the top of the W's in 29:30.  I'm confused.

Nutrition.  I'll get more into that on my PPM report.  For PPA, it was scant.  Carried two Accel Gels.  Hit up an average of two gatorades at every water stop.  Ate Gels near Bob's Road and A-Frame.  Had to pee the entire race, finally pulled over around 2 to go for over 60 seconds.

Regardless, I changed some things up on Sunday.  The results were...different.


  1. You should have worn the green shirt on Saturday.

  2. Good stuff. Sorry things didn't work out as well as you hoped on Saturday. Eager to hear tale of Sunday!

  3. It is simple but high altitude. Even though is between the 40s. You can expect that it is quite challenging.