Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pikes Peak -- up once, up twice, down!

Pikes Peak stands alone in all its vibrant bare majesty. From anywhere in the area, you see all other hills dwarfed by this tree-less peak. The website talks about this race with a respect I havent seen anywhere else...
"There’s a reason trees don’t bother growing above 12,000' on Pikes Peak. They can’t! Makes one wonder if trees are smarter than runners. Above treeline most runners take 30 minutes or more, some much more, just to cover a mile. What little air remains can’t satisfy the endless stream of zombies hoping only to survive
their next step—a death march right out of a scene from
Dawn of the Dead"

We got there on Friday, the usual four and our crew, Roopa. We had decided to do the Pikes Peak D-D-D-Double, which is Ascent (13.3 miles, 7000ft gain) on Saturday, and the full marathon (ascent and return) on Sunday. Padma was to join us on Saturday, she was doing the marathon on Sunday.

Finally, the key to our success on both days was the ideal pacing. We refused to run up the hill, and kept a very steady pace. I also discovered the low oxygen makes me talk continuously. Santhosh bore the brunt of my verbal diarrhea including songs from Disney movies...

The above was just one of the lot. The hill when paced carefully and walked steadily didnt offer much trouble. Also, we won the altitude lottery. Altitude sickness is like a toss of a coin. You either get into trouble or you dont. Padma got into so much trouble, at 12000 ft she could barely coordinate her walking. She was forced to (prudently) pull out at the treeline. The first day, we chilled out at the Summit for a while (14100 ft) and promptly got a headache. The second day was much better. The chart below gives an idea of the elevation and profile we were climbing.

In the end, it all worked pretty well. The ascent took us 5:14 and the next day the climb took 5:09 with 8:20 for the full marathon. Had to hold Santhosh back on the downhills and we saved our quads in the bargain. Gaurav, Santhosh and myself finished hand in hand, while Ganesh came tumbling soon after.

On the first day, Roopa deciding to do her long run, walked up the course up to Barr camp, and got down, covering over 15miles! A very interesting race, and a hard one at that. But it gets a lot more roadies (road runners) and is a little extra hyped because of that. If you are used to ultra distances, this one is fairly straightforward. Only trick is the altitude. If you get sick at altitude, then this is not the race for you. Either that, or you have to get there three weeks early and acclimatize to the place. This was the second of our series of four races. Two down two to go. Details on the other two will be up soon.

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