Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon Double

The reasons for running up Pikes Peak have been eloquently explained by RMR Silke, but why anyone would go back the next day to do it again falls squarely in the category “why?”

In 1981 the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon were held on different days for the first time. One runner, Hal Winton, entered himself in the marathon to celeberate his 50th birthday, while a friend entered him in the Ascent. He decided to do both, and became the first Pikes Peak Doubler. The number of Doublers has steadily increased since then to about an eighth of the marathon field of 800 runners.

Having completed the Ascent two years in a row, I decided it was time to up the ante and signed up for the Double this year. As the race weekend approached, I got steadily more anxious about what I was about to do. On a casual run a friend who was signed up for the Leadville 100 remarked that that sounded like a tough weekend. The last workout before the race went poorly. Not exactly confidence builders!

How does one strategically race the Pikes Peak Ascent one day, and the Marathon the next? I can’t tell you. Standing at the start line of the Ascent, I still hadn’t decided what to do. But when the gun goes off, things just happen. Sunday would be difficult regardless, so better make the most of it now. I took off fast on the first mile-and-a-half of road, trying to get in a decent position on the single-track up the W’s.

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I settled in at what felt like a reasonable effort and started putting away the miles. My steady effort paid off. By the time I reached treeline, I was picking off runners. Silke, however, would not go down easily! I passed her, and for a while didn’t see her behind me, but on the switchbacks above the A-Frame I noticed her not more than a hundred yards back. I resolved to keep her off if I could. Running where possible and lengthening my stride when hiking, I pushed for the summit as hard as I could. In the last few switchbacks, I nearly passed out from the lack of oxygen and had to stop briefly and steady myself. Drawing upon what little reserves remained, I made a mad dash for the finish to outkick one more runner, and I was done.

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I grabbed my drop bag and sat down on a rock. Not a minute later, Silke stopped by, solemnly declared that she felt awful, and promptly left to let me contemplate my fate. The clock had shown a somewhat disappointing time of 3:09:00, two minutes slower than last year despite better preparation and much harder effort. I was spent, miserable, and sure tomorrow’s race would be a disaster. I grabbed some food and water and made my way down the mountain once my stomach settled. Talking with other runners on the bus I was relieved to hear that everyone found it harder than last year. I ranked better than last year in a stronger field, so perhaps things weren’t so bad after all. I tried to rest and eat as much as I could for the remainder of the day.

Stepping out of bed early the next morning, I felt the fatigue in my legs. I would not be racing today! I went out slower, aiming to reach the summit in about 3:20. Coming out of the trees at the A-Frame, I spotted the first runners coming back down. These guys were moving! I switched almost exclusively to hiking at this point, and reached the summit perfectly on track in 3:19.

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I started feeling better immediately after turning around, passing several runners in the first mile.

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A mile or so past the A-Frame, I found myself strangely alone. I had passed all the runners still going up. The runners that I had been with going up were behind me now, and I could not see anyone ahead of me.

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Occasionally, I would come up behind someone, pass them, and I would be alone once again. A runner passed me and was soon out of sight. The only reminder that I was in a race was the cheers ringing out in the forest when a runner ahead or behind passed through a nearby aid station. I made short work of the trail, passed two more runners on the last section of road and finished strong in 5:02:09.

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After coming to my senses a bit, I took a look at the scoreboard. I was stunned to find out this was good enough for 5th in my age group! My combined time was 8:11:06, making me 7th overall fastest Doubler this year. By the end of the day, I had shaken the hand of Arlene Pieper and high-5’d Bart Yasso. What a weekend!

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Everyone completing either or both of the Pikes Peak races deserves congratulations, but special mentions go to fellow Boulder Track Club members Silke for 7th overall female in the Ascent and Tony Molina for 5th in his age group in the Ascent, and Jim Snow for completing the Double 3 years in a row.

 

 

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