Pike’s Peak Ascent

7,815 ft of vertical gain in 13.31 miles. This is The Ascent of Pikes Peak. The event (Ascent and Marathon) dates back to 1956 which makes it the third oldest marathon event in the US. At the race expo, I met Arlene Peiper who in 1959 was the first woman to finish ANY marathon in the US and it was at Pikes Peak. It was the only marathon she ever ran!

The race starts in downtown Manitou Springs(6,300ft)  and heads up the Barr trail through Pike National Forest to the summit (14,115ft). The weather forecast progressively improved during the week to the point where rain gear was not needed, at least for the runners that finished by 11am. Garmin router here :

The incline is relatively steady but once above 12,000ft, the oxygen deprivation effects your ability to concentrate and move. Passing runners the last three miles is almost impossible because of the air and terrain.

Dr Jay, Maureen and me. Pikes looms in the far distant haze of dawn at the start line. We had 19 people at this event from the running group….There is about a mile of road running before everyone squeezes down onto the Barr trail. If you want a decent time, you need to really bust out at the start and lock in your place before the single track power hiking begins on the W’s (switchbacks).

These are the “W’s” (switchbacks) at about mile 2. Not much room to pass and even if you do, you’ll be jammed up by the next group and be caught by the group you just passed. Best to conserve some energy.

After the W’s, there is a nice recovery stretch of trail below Barr Camp where you see the first glimpses since the start of the Peak. I find it best to just concentrate on one step at a time rather than think about the summit.

Just above Barr Camp was this rescue helicopter at about 10,000ft. I went off trail to snap this because of the impressive landing this pilot must have made. I “wasted” a minute or so do take it, but no matter, taking some pictures is not optional 😉

There was some running room above Barr camp, but not for long. Breaking above tree line into the higher elevations and difficult terrain jammed the runners up again. If I was interested in a good time next year, my strategy would be bust out at the start, steady through the W’s, chur and burn as much as possible through Barr Camp to the A-frame, then just hang on till the end.

Yep, there it is, only three easy miles left 😉

About to come out the tree line for good here.

With about two miles to go above 12,000 ft, this is the scene for the remainder of the day. Incredible views which include many runners (hikers).

Apparently this formation is called a cirque which is an ampi-theatre like rock formation caused by glacial erosion. You can see the tiny colored specks out there as I am looking back across having completed the cirque portion.

One more mile….and 600 more feet.

Looking back towards Manitou Springs form just below the summit.

The final test of the day is a section called The Stairs. Imagine being on a stair-master at 13,500ft for 30 minutes after having run for 3 hours (yep, that’s about the feeling). You can hear the crowds cheering at the finish line at this point with the summit right above.

Crossing the finish line in 3:40. 56th out of 203 in my age group. The top finisher in my age group ran a 2:29! The men’s winner ran 2:13 and most impressive, a new women’s course record was set at at 2:24 by Kim Dobson. Maureen took 4th in her age group and we finished at the same time. She should have had 3rd locked up but was kind enough to be helping someone in front of her who ended up being the 3rd place finisher….in her group!

The view from the summit looking north was worth the effort.

It has been a great 8 day stretch….18,000+ft and 60+ miles. This was my final goal before deciding if I feel I am capable of taking on Moab’s Alpine to Sliprock 50 miler in September. I am going for it!

I hope to try this again next year for sure assuming the Leadville 100 (the same weekend) does not exert it’s gravitational pull. Great day indeed!

4 thoughts on “Pike’s Peak Ascent

  1. Great blog!!! Enjoyed your accurate description of the human experience conquering those geographical landmarks, “W’s”, “Cirque” “stairs”…..& taking advantage of a photo op of the  “rescue helicopter at about 10,000ft…… Citing “the impressive landing this pilot must have made…”!!  Yes, it does take some serious skills to drop into that pucker-factor LZ, so I’ll  be sure to pass your compliment on to the pilot flying that day…..(my  hubby is one of those “Flight for Life” helicopter pilots …….but he wasn’t flying that day…….he & some of his crew members/friends joined you in doing the  “Pikes Peak Ascent”……Oh & btw, you even managed to get a pic of me @ the finish line, spectator of course :0 Hehe (light blue jacket, bottom right, back to camera, curly long hair)………again, great blog! Thanks for bringing us on the adventure with you! Maybe “I’ll” do the Ascent myself next year!!! Hmmmmm……

  2. Pingback: Fall in the Rockies – St Vrain Glacier | Single Track Mind

  3. I came across your post as I was searching for some first hand information on the race. Running the ascent for the first time this year! 🙂 Loved all the photos! What would be your biggest piece of advice for a first timer? Thanks for sharing your experience!

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