Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pikes Peak Marathon

Pikes Peak Marathon: ranked #2 on Weather.com's list of the Toughest Marathon's in the world...and I did it!!!!!!! Me!? The chubby girl who couldn't even run a mile a few years ago - let alone up a fourteener!!! I'll be honest though, it was a LONG day.

The week leading up to the marathon had me a little nervous. I had a weird dream the weekend before that I went down the wrong trail and was going to get disqualified. Then on Wednesday I went for a "calm the nerves" run on what is normally a beautiful, fairly easy trail run - Serpent's Trail in the Colorado National Monument, and ended up in a huge downpour afraid I was going to get struck by lightning. Saturday, I went for my last "shake-out run" and ended up running into a Coyote (I didn't literally run "into" it - but came across it). Then Saturday night after packet pick-up, I went to check into my hotel and they had given away my room (still upset about this - seriously - NEVER stay at the Manitou Inn and Suites at Pikes Peak - worst hotel ever)!!!

So needless to say, I felt like I had a bad omen over me surrounding this race. After the hotel ordeal (which worked out okay - my parents had a room and my dad let me sleep on the bed with my mom and he slept on the floor - so thank you!!!), my mom and I went to Safeway so I could get a bagel for breakfast the next morning and as we were coming back into Manitou Springs, there was a gorgeous sunset over Pikes Peak. I decided to take it as a sign that all of the crazyness had passed, and now I could rest up and have a good race the next morning!

My picture doesn't do the sunset justice!
The race started at 7:00am on Sunday, so I woke up around 5:30 and made it to the starting line around 6:30.  After joining some group photos (Marathon Maniacs and Team Beef), I circled through the porta-potty line, then saw my parents for a few minutes before making my way into the crowd at the start line. Even though there are two waves (I was in the slower wave), they don't actually separate them. They just tell people in wave 1 to stand towards the front, and wave 2 towards the back. So I found a spot at what I hoped was the beginning portion of the wave 2 runners (it's hard to pass once you get onto the trail - so I wanted to make sure I wasn't too far back).

Selfie at the starting line!
A few minutes before the start, a women sang "America The Beautiful" (which was inspired by the views from atop Pikes Peak), then Bart Yasso spoke for a bit, and then the gun went off! It was a clump of people until we crossed the starting line and we started running. The road section is a little over a mile until you get to a dirt road that leads to Barr Trail. Once you get onto Barr Trail is where the first major steep section, "The W's" start. The combination of the steepness and the heat got to me quickly and I had a headache through this section. It had already been in the 60's when we started, and this section of the trail had the morning sun blaring down on us. Luckily once we got to the "No Name" aid station at mile 4.3 and an elevation of 8,800 feet (which was also the first aid station with food), we were more shaded and it cooled down a little bit, which was nice!

In between this aid station and Barr Camp is where the trail gets a little more "runnable". It actually had a few sections of gentle downhill which was really nice. Despite this, the miles still seemed to take forever, and I found myself constantly wondering when we were going to reach Barr Camp. I think a lot of this was because when I did the ascent as a training run earlier this summer with Kellee, we were talking a lot and the time seemed to go by much faster (despite actually having a little bit longer of an ascent time). Eventually, I did finally reach Barr Camp (Mile 7.6 / 10,200 feet), which was a fun aid station! They had a lot of volunteers and cow bells and music! I grabbed some banana's and Gatorade before continuing on. The next aid station would be A-Frame in about another 2 1/2 miles.

I continued on in the line (the is one thing about this race - you're pretty much single file following people for the ascent portion) until about another mile or so when we finally saw the first place runner coming back down! And man was he flying. I honestly can't believe how insanely FAST some people can run down mountains with rocks and roots and things in the way. I figured we would start seeing a lot more runners, but it actually took another mile or so before we started getting more.

After several more LONG, SLOW miles, I finally reached A-Frame (10.2 miles / 11,950 feet)!!! Woohoo. A-Frame is the last aid station before you leave treeline (and then the miles get REALLY long). I had some Gatorade and grabbed a pack of Honey Stinger chews and kept on going (just keep swimming...just keep swimming :). One foot in front of the other. The Honey Stinger Chews didn't really go down that well and I felt nauseous for a bit - but I told myself to just keep moving and hopefully it would settle down. And it did after a bit.

As usual, I always love getting above treeline. Pikes Peak is actually a really nice trail above treeline for a 14er - rocky, but there's still a pretty defined, sandy trail. I was keeping up with the same group of people for a bit which was fun - we were encouraging each other and letting each other know when more runners were coming down to make way. The closer we got to the summit, the more and more runners we had to let pass. We were moving so slow at this point, that at least it didn't really make much of a difference to have to let them by.

With about 1 1/2 miles to the summit is the Cirque aid station (11.9 miles / 13,300 feet). I grabbed some pretzels and continued on. Up, up....move over and let people pass...up...let people pass...up, etc...SO SLOW.... Seriously though, this was the longest ever until FINALLY reaching the 16 Golden Steps!!! Woohoo!!! This seriously meant I was almost there. 32 switchbacks until reaching the top!!! Of course they're still incredibly slow, but it was that beam of light - I knew I was going to get there! There were a couple of tight spots on the trail, so we still had to get over a wait awhile, as by this point there were TONS of people coming back down.

Almost to the top!
I know I look terrible in this - but I was so excited to see the summit sign!!!
And then...I spotted it: THE SIGN. The Pikes Peak Summit Sign - yellow and beautiful in all it's glory at 14,115 Feet! I sped up a little and finally made it! They checked off my bib, I went over the timing mat, grabbed some food and then found a spot where I could stop for a minute and take a photo:

MADE IT!!!!!!
My parents rode up in the Cog Railroad and they took this! They had to leave before I made it to the top though.
I just like how this photo shows all the views looking out over the plains.
Despite reaching the top in all of its excitement...I was only half-way done with this race! So off I went - but this time at least I had gravity working in my favor! And now I got to the be the person with the "right-of-way" which was nice! The first mile back down was more of jog/walk since it's fairly technical, until passing the Cirque aid station when I really sped up until reaching A-Frame.

DOWN!!!!!!!! :)
I stopped at A-Frame for a minute and had grapes and cheez-it's (YUM!) before continuing on. Unfortunately, after the A-Frame station, the trail gets a bit more technical which made running fast a little difficult for me. I'm definitely a cautious runner on these sections, so I slowed down quite a bit from here until Barr Camp.

Reaching Barr Camp was awesome. One thing that felt weird about this race is that you're so grouped together on the uphill and then on the downs everyone gets so spread out. So when I reached Barr Camp I was the only runner around - so as I got into the aid station, I literally had 5 or so different volunteers all asking me if I wanted what they had and saying my name (because it's on my bib). So I had, "Katie can I get you water," "Would you like some Gatorade, Katie?" "Katie - do you want some grapes?" etc, etc. It was weird...and the whole Kat-IE thing felt weird (it was on my bib though -because I always use my full name on these big races where they're really tight on security). So anyways, I got various food and drink from the aid station and and headed on out.

Luckily, once I passed Barr Camp there were finally some more runnable sections again, so I was able to get my pace up a bit. With about 5 miles to go I started to feel some pain on the bottom of my heel. It felt hot - like I was getting a blister. Lovely - since every step I took put pressure on it! Ohwell, gotta keep going! So I kept going. I had been out FOREVER by this point, and I started counting down the miles. It helped to tell myself,  "5 more miles, but only 4 until I reach the road (and so on)." I went through the last couple of aid stations and tried not to stop for too long. Finally I reached the W's. I was also starting to pass a lot of people that were just out hiking for the day - in a way this was reassuring because it meant I couldn't be THAT far. My heal was really starting to hurt by this point though, so my pace slowed pretty significantly going down the W's.

On and on I went. Surely I would be off the trail soon? WHY WAS THIS TAKING SO LONG?!

FINALLY I reached the junction where we leave Barr Trail and get onto a wider dirt road until the last aid station right before reaching the pavement. I have never been so relieved to see pavement. I didn't really actually want to run on hard pavement - it was more that I was using it a symbol that I was almost there! As soon as my feet hit the pavement, my heal BURNED in pain. I don't know why it made such a difference, but it did. I tried to run on the ball of the foot instead of the heal, but it just felt weird. I also knew I was getting really close to the 8 hour mark and I really wanted to finish under 8 hours - so I just powered through the pain. After all, I was going to have to get through it anyways - it might as well be sooner rather than later.

As we got closer into town, there were more and more people out cheering. Finally, I saw Kellee and her group of friends! They all cheered me on which was fun and helped me push through the pain in my heel more easily. Shortly after passing them I saw my parents! I must be almost there!!!

I turned the corner off of Ruxton street and was in the finisher's shoot! Almost there! And then...I did it!!! After almost eight hours of being out on my feet and covering almost 8000 feet of elevation gain plus another 8000 feet of loss - I was a PIKES PEAK MARATHON FINISHER! In 7:54:34. A little over 2 hours to spare. I have never been so excited to cross a finish line and get a finisher's medal!

LOVE the finisher's medal!
They had a pretty large finishers tent, so I sat down immediately (so nice to be able to sit - I hate the races that have no place to sit at the end!!). After a few minutes of catching my breath, I decided to take my shoe off and check out the damage. And...here it was:

I knew it was going to be bad, but it looked WAY worse than I was expecting. Luckily they had a whole team of medical staff, so a nice lady helped me with it. She cut off the excess skin (after having to wet it down because it was all hardened - yuck!!), then covered it with gauze. Once I got all situated, I headed out of the tent to catch up with my parents and get my finishers shirt and some pictures!

Pikes Peak Marathon Finisher!
Finisher's Medal and Finisher's Shirt (unlike most races - they don't give you your shirt unless you finish)
In front of the finish line - with my battle wound all bandaged up!

Race: Pikes Peak Marathon
Date: 08/17/2014
Distance: 26.2 Miles
Starting Elevation: 6,300'
Summit Elevation: 14,115'
Finish Elevation: 6,350'
Weather: Sunny and HOT at the lower elevations, but nice at the top!
Bib Number: 803
Gun Time: 7:55:01
Chip Time: 7:54:34
Ascent Time (to the summit): 4:45:06
Average Pace: SLOW... 18:06 min/mile
Overall Rank: 471 / 697
Gender Rank: 103 of 182
Division Rank (F 20-29):  14 of 22
Garmin Splits:
Miles 1-10: 10:16, 17:44, 21:05, 20:19, 19:21, 15:29, 16:19, 22:17, 25:17, 31:05
Miles 11-20: 28:49, 31:45, 36:09 (summit), 18:07, 14:07, 12:44, 18:54, 14:26, 14:25, 12:50
Miles 21-26: 12:03, 12:12, 13:46, 15:20, 12:20, 10:06 (Garmin died during this last mile!!)

Race Map and Elevation Profile:

So post-race thoughts and likes/dislikes:

LIKES / What Worked Well:
  • Fun atmosphere - nice expo, the whole town seemed to be excited for it.
  • Lots of awesome course support
  • Choice of clothing, OTHER than whatever led to the blister (obviously socks or shoes - but I'm thinking it was more the socks and a combination of so much up and down)
  • My Nathan Hydration Pack - I only carried a small, 12oz bottle in the front that I refilled at aid stations, but had my rain jacket and a few layers in the backpack - the weather ended up being great and I never used any of my clothing layers, but it was reassuring to know they were there if needed!

DISLIKES / What Didn't Work:
  • HOT!!! (I know this is probably better than it being really cold - but oh my goodness the miles at the beginning and end were so hot).
  • So long and slow - haha not sure there's much that would help with this, but oh my goodness EVERY SINGLE mile felt SO long.
Overall, I definitely am glad I did this race. Even though I did the Leadville Trail Marathon back in June, which has similar conditions ("only" 6300 feet of gain though), this truly did feel a lot harder. I think just the CONSTANT up wears you out so much in the first half, that even though the second half is downhill, it still feels really difficult. I felt like I had energy for the first several miles back down, but after A-Frame, I was just ready to be done (and there's still 10 miles to go at that point).

I do think it would be neat to do the "Double" someday (the Double is when you do the Ascent on Saturday AND the marathon on Sunday). But I'm definitely not making any immediate plans for that since right now the thought of doing this again is still not very appealing...in the slightest ;) - but it'll make a good addition to my bucket list!

So, in conclusion, if you ever get the chance - I do recommend doing this race. Is it fun? Maybe at times, but honestly - not really. Is it beautiful? DEFINITELY! Will it teach you to persevere and push on despite being dead tired and in pain? DEFINITELY! And will it make you feel like a total bad a$$ when you finish? HECK YES!!!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon

I first heard about the Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon back in the fall of 2012 at the Black Canyon North Rim 8K. I was still a newbee runner at this point and when I overheard some people talking about it, I was in awe that they had ran it! A Half Marathon still seemed WAY unfathomable to me at this point (who would've thunk only a month later I had decided to take the plunge and sign up for my first half the following spring).

Anyways, I would've done this race last year, except that I had already signed up for Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon on the same day. They were offering $15 registration in February and what can I say, I'm a sucker for a good deal (of course I hadn't thought it through that Georgetown was 4 hours away and would require a hotel). But anyways, that's neither here nor there, I actually had a great time at GTIS last year - but this just meant that I had to finally do Mt. Sneffels this year!

The race started in Ouray on Saturday morning, so I drove up to Montrose on Friday night and stayed with my friend Lori. We got up nice and early the next morning and carpooled down to Ouray with Karen and Jan, making it into town with plenty of time before the 7:30am start time. It was pretty chilly out, but I knew I wouldn't be complaining about that once we started running.

Mt. Sneffels was gorgeous in the morning light as we drove to Ouray!
After waiting around for a bit, it was just about time. The race starts right by the visitors center off of Highway 550/Main Street going into Ouray, so I walked up to the highway to get in with the crowds. I saw Vale, and we exchanged our hello's (and I admired her awesome Colorado themed shorts - must get a pair!) and then we were off. You run into Ouray, past all of the shops downtown before making a u-turn , heading back towards Fellon Park and the visitors center before looping back south again onto some dirt roads before finally getting onto Highway 17 and towards Ridgway.

Just after the start!

What was cool about the U-turn part of the race, is that you can see the elite runners go by!

Since the race was only one week before Pikes Peak Marathon, I told myself I wasn't allowed to push it too hard, and just go out and have fun. I started my Garmin, but instead of wearing it, just put it in my pocket so I wouldn't pay attention to the pace I was running at, and instead just go off of effort.

So I dropped my phone around mile 2 while trying to take a picture, and for some reason it kept taking pictures during the fall... I thought the progression was pretty funny!

Shortly after we got onto Highway 17, I stated chatting with a girl, Camilla, who I knew from Instagram but had never met in real life. We actually ended up running together until about mile 12.

Because of the looping section throughout Ouray at the beginning of the race, my pace was pretty slow for the first few miles because there was a decent amount of uphill. Luckily as you start heading towards Ridgway, you get a nice gradual descent. This 10ish mile stretch is actually what I used to do my first out-and-back 20 miler when training for my first marathon last December. Coming out from the Ouray side, it's pretty shaded for the first several miles. Unfortunately as you get closer to Ridgway, and later on in the day, it gets more exposed and turned HOT!

About 4-5 miles in, I saw David Knapp on his way into Ouray while running the full marathon (the full is an out-and-back of the Half course). I chatted with Camilla quite a bit which was nice to help pass the time by. Right before mile 11 is where the giant hill is....(everyone talks about the giant hill - in a way it's kind of annoying because you go into the race thinking this will be the only hill - but it's most definitely not - it's just the most prominent. Anyways, up the hill I went - nice and slow. There's a nice aid station right at the top which is awesome. I grabbed some food (I think I had gummy bears?), and continued on. Only 2 more miles to go!

The giant hill at mile 11...it looks much worse in real life ;)

At about the mile and half to go mark, I saw Vale up ahead! So I sped up a bit and caught up with her to finish together in 2:06:26.

The Finish Line!
Finisher's Medals!
The finish line festivities were pretty fun. We got a cool finishers medal (of course, with Mt. Sneffels on it) and a free beer as part of our race entry. We ended up hanging out for quite a while which was fun. And we were still there when David Knapp got in from the full, so we got a picture together:

Shortly after that, we went back to Ouray for a trip to the hot springs and then lunch (with margaritas - yum) downtown. It was a lot of fun!

Race: Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon
Date: 08/09/2014
Distance: 13.1 Miles
Weather: Chilly at the start, then sunny and hot
Bib Number: 160
Gun Time: 2:06:35
Chip Time: 2:06:26
Average Pace: 9:40 min/mile
Overall Rank: 196/446
Gender Rank: 89/280
Division Rank (Females 25-29): 17/43
Garmin Splits: 10:13, 10:00, 9:34, 9:09, 9:34, 9:39, 9:39, 9:40, 9:24, 10:06, 10:41, 9:25, 8:50

More Pictures:

We got in the paper with this photo!

Jan, Vale, and Me at the finish line.
All the awesome swag!!!

Overall I really enjoyed this race! It's a great size - I think they had around 700 people for both the half and full marathoners combined. There's lot of local people I know which makes it a lot of fun, and the swag was awesome: shirts, hats, pretty full colored personalized race bibs, and a unique finisher's medal! My only complaint was how hot it was at the end - but obviously there's not much you can do about that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Silverton Weekend: Black Bear Pass & Columbine Lake

The last weekend in July was my last available weekend for a long training run in the mountains before Pikes Peak Marathon and so I knew I had to do something good! I had tossed around the idea of doing the Grand Mesa 60K, but ended up deciding a little bit shorter of a run than that (60K is 37 miles!!!), but with more elevation gain would really be better training.

There entered the idea to run Black Bear Pass - a 4-wheel drive road that starts half-way between Ouray and Silverton and ends in Telluride. When I first started running with Vale (who lives in Ridgway - this was before the move to Grand Junction), we had talked about running Black Bear Pass (as training for Pikes Peak for me, and Imogene Pass Run for her). With the move and summer being CRAZY (it always is, isn't it?), I was afraid it wasn't going to happen. But luckily...it worked out! We decided to meet at the start (right after the top of Red Mountain Pass on Highway 550) on Saturday morning at 7:00am, to do 8 miles one-way towards Telluride and then back for 16 miles total (to run all the way into the town of Telluride would've been about 10 one-way - I had wanted to do the whole thing, for 20 total - but was still feeling the effects of Aspen Valley Marathon from the weekend before).

Another nice surprise for the weekend was that Scott didn't have to work! So, since I was going to be headed south anyways, we decided to make it into a weekend getaway and stay in the mountains from Friday night through Sunday. After trying, with no luck, to find a hotel in Ouray, I ended up finding one in Silverton that wasn't too pricey and allowed dogs - we could even bring Argie! We were all set! We headed down Friday after I got off work and got into Silverton around 8:30. For the first time ever, we stopped at the little turn-out/overlook right off of the Million Dollar Highway and I was surprised to find out, there's this huge waterfall, just right underneath the road...(I've driven this road how many times and never know this!?!).

We stayed at the "Benson Lodge" in Silverton - which was interesting. It was a historic building and very cute, but definitely not your typical hotel, and not what I would consider a "lodge." It was essentially a room in an old building. No front desk, no receptionist. There was a keypad next to the door with a code I had been given over the phone which would supposedly open to give me the actual key. Yeah...it didn't work. I had to track down the lady in charge of the hotel, who I found out worked at the bar across the street. Haha...the good news is, we did get everything figured out and I was able to get some sleep before waking up at 6 the next morning for my run!

After eating a nutri-grain bar, I left Scott and Argie, and headed up towards Red Mountain Pass. It ended up being a quicker drive than I was expecting, so I took a few pictures while waiting for Vale to meet me there.


We started on time, and headed up towards the pass. Since you're already starting close to the top of Red Mountain Pass, it's actually only about 3 miles and 2000 feet of elevation gain to the top of Black Bear Pass. Since we hadn't seen each other in awhile and were chatting a lot, this part went by pretty quickly and we were at the top of the pass in no time:

Then it was time to start the descent towards Telluride. The wildflowers were incredible - I seriously couldn't get over it. I wish I had had my good camera, although if I had, I would've been stopping A LOT! I did have my iPhone though, and got some decent pictures:

First views of Telluride way in the background!

Getting closer to Telluride!

Around 6 miles in (3 down from the Pass), the road gets rough. I do not know how people drive this in a Jeep - I would be freaking out! This one fairly short section was all rock, but crazy steep:

Shortly after the 7 mile mark, we reached the top of the famous Bridal Veil Falls, and the hydroelectric plant. You can see the falls from town, and Scott and I drove to the base of the falls back in 2012, but I had never been to the top yet - so this was new for me! They have the road blocked off from cars a ways away from the hydroelectric plant, but you can walk in and overlook the back side of it:

If you look closely you can see Bridal Veil Falls in the distance!
The Hydro-electric plant from the back.

I was surprised that you couldn't really get that good of a view from here though, so I headed down a little further on the road to get a better shot before Vale and I decided to go ahead and start heading back. It had taken us a little longer than expected to get here and the weather was sounding iffy.

So pretty!

This was the part that wasn't so much fun. We had 4 miles of constant uphill to do. And it was pretty steep - especially the first 2 miles back up, over the incredibly rocky section. We were also having to constantly get over to let more and more jeeps pass by. As we got closer to the pass, the weather started to look more and more worrisome. We continued on, until finally reaching the top! This meant it was all downhill from here!

So many Jeeps!
We ended up finishing with 15.5 miles in a little under 5 hours!

I headed back to Silverton, grabbed us some lunch and then met Scott and Argie back at the hotel for a bit. Later that afternoon, we stopped by the Visitor's Center to get some idea's on where to hike the next day. I already had 2 hikes picked-out and wanted to know which they recommended: Highland Mary's Lakes or Columbine Lake. The guy at the Visitor's Center recommended Columbine Lake because there would be significantly less crowds. We wanted to start early the next morning while it was still dark, so we decided to go check out the trail that afternoon to make sure we knew where we were headed the next day. There were still more wildflowers (so pretty!), so got several more pictures:


We were up at 4:30 the next morning to make so we could start right around dawn. We ended up parking about a mile from the actual trailhead - as we weren't sure if the Subaru could make it all of the way there. There was no one else out, so we decided to let Argie off the leash to see how we would do, and he was SO excited! It was adorable.

Just as I had found out the day before when talking with the Visitor's Center, the first 2 miles (once we actually got on the trail - so it was actually miles 2 & 3) were very steep. The first mile was switchback after switchback until we made it above treeline for the first of the incredible views!

Argie loved being "Free"!!! (He also was my model for the day - I think he's in at least 10 of my pictures)
I like including people in the pictures because it just shows the scale and how grand these places are!
We had about 4 snow crossings to go through and Argie loved every single one!
At about 3 miles in, the trail, while still going uphill, flattens out a little - however we spent just as much time doing this last mile as the first two, because we were both taking lots of pictures!

At about 4 1/4 miles we finally reached the lake! And it was gorgeous (of course). We took turns taking pictures:

Family picture! It was too bright out though, we're all squinty eyed :)
The Amazing Argie Dog!
After spending a solid 45 minutes or so at the lake, we started the hike back. We didn't see a single other person on the trail until about 1/2 mile back down. After that we saw several more groups - it was pretty sweet to have the trail to ourselves for the several hours!

We made our way back down enjoying the views along the way:

SO many wildflowers!
Overall, I loved this hike! It was gorgeous and had barely any crowds. The trail isn't well marked and there isn't much parking though - so if you're not planning on starting super early, that could be an issue.

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...