Monday, August 20, 2001

Race Report Pike's Peak

August 19/01

Good News/Bad News (for Maddog)!Good News: I was happy to finish the Pike's Peak Marathon under my time goalof 6 hours and place 3rd in my age group.Bad News: I was disappointed and upset that I failed to win my division/agegroup title because of three bad falls on the descent.The weather turned out to be sunny and very HOT. This was good for the ascentbecause it was a balmy 60 degrees at the summit but we paid dearly on thedescent when the temperatures rose to a tortuous 85+ degrees when wereentered the tree line below 11,500 ft.I completed the ascent (all 7815 vertical ft to the summit at 14,100 ft over 13.3 miles) in 3:35 - 10minutes faster than my target time in spite of one minor fall on the steepand rocky trail around 13,000 ft. My target time for the descent was 2:15 butsince I was ahead of schedule and feeling good at the summit, I decided topush it hard on the descent to see if I could make it in 2 hours? I was doinggreat until the 18 mile mark when I had to jump down about 3 ft from a hugeboulder. The jarring impact when I landed caused my right hamstring to crampand lock up. I immediately collapsed onto the trail, and after a few minutesof stretches and massaging the muscle I was able to get up and start walking.I lost about 5 or 6 minutes before the hamstring relaxed enough that I couldrun again. Now I figured that I had to pick up the pace even more to make upfor the lost time. I began flying down the mountain - flying being a relativeterm because an 8 to 9-minute pace was as fast as I could safely manage whiletrying to avoid rocks, logs, tree roots and other hazards while running onbeat-up legs.Everything was going great again until 22 miles when I tried to round asevere switchback and my feet slipped on some gravel and flew out from underme. Fortunately I landed on my big soft butt but my damn hamstring locked upagain - this time tighter than a drum and no amount of stretches and massageswould relax it. I actually thought the race was over for me at that point andstarted walking down the trail stopping frequently to stretch and massage theleg. About 5 minutes later the hamstring did relax enough to allow me tostart running again. Now I was very concerned that I was going to miss my 6-hour goal due to all the lost time so I started hauling ass and takingchances on the trail. I was lucky until the final switchback at 24.5 miles!Again I slipped on some gravel and sprawled face-first down the trail. Onlyby getting my arms and hands out in front of me and sacrificing my hands tocuts and bruises from the gravel did I save myself from a full face plantonto the gravel trail. But the worst part was that the abrupt change inmomentum caused BOTH of my calves to cramp and lock up tighter than banjostrings. As I was laying in the trail screaming in agony a few runners passedby and asked if I was OK but did not stop to help. Unbeknownst to me two ofthose runners were in my age group (1st and 2nd place!). After a few minutesI was able to crawl to the side of the trail and use a tree to pull myself up- I couldn't stand up or bend to massage my calves without exasperating theproblem. After another few minutes I was able to walk and stretch the calvesand finally start running again.At that point I had no idea if I still had a chance to break 6 hours - but Iwas not giving up! So I ran as hard and as fast as I could on beat-up,pain-ridden legs! Only 1/2 mile later I reached the end of the trail andarrived at a paved road in Manitou Springs - 0.9 miles from the finish line!Time: 5:42! I now realized that I could walk or crawl to the finish line andstill make my goal.Since my body was extremely overheated, totally exhausted and beat up Idecided to ease off and jog to the finish line. Even so it still took everylast once of energy and willpower I had to keep my legs moving for that very,very long 0.9 miles but I struggled across the finish line in 5:52:23!Only later when I hobbled over to the results board did I discover that I hadmissed the age group title by FOUR minutes and 2nd place by ONE minute!But as upset as I was/am about the results I have decided that I will have tolive with it because I am not going back to do it again. This unique andchallenging race taught me two very important things about my body: 1) Mylegs either do not like or are not suited to trail running. In all threemountain trail marathons that I have run to date I have suffered severe legcramps and bad falls. In the first two races I blamed the mishaps on lack oftrail training and experience. BUT I trained very hard and smart for thisrace and yet I suffered more and worse problems? 2) 5:52:23 is the longesttime I have ever run full out and I have discovered that it is the maximumphysical limitation of my body. I have run two marathons (Brazil and Greece)where I crossed a finish line in worse 'medical' condition but never have Irun a marathon where I crossed the finish line as hot and physicallyexhausted as Pike's Peak!Now that I have hopefully piqued your interest in testing your physicalcapabilities against this challenging course, please feel free to ask me morequestions and details about the course and the race.

No comments: