A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 18th Edition
452.9 miles raced in 2009
Race: Pikes Peak Marathon
Place: Manitou Springs, CO
Miles from home: 603 miles
Weather: 40-70s; clear skies
This is definitely not how I thought this was going to go!
For a couple of reasons, this recap will not have the same girth that others have had. First of all, after the accident I had on Wednesday where my shoulder was severely separated, typing is not the easiest thing in the world. Second, a great deal of the lessons learned from this race are going into my second book, currently being written. Third, for my longest marathon time ever, I might as well write one of my shortest recaps.
First things first, after the accident on Wednesday, I had all but decided I was not going to be running the race. My decision to compare the difficulty of the marathon at Pikes Peak to Leadville's could only really be done if I was healthy for both. But after a confluence of a great deal of events, I realized I could probably still walk the uphill to the top and jog down safely and get my 100th marathon in the books. The time would be atrocious but the experience would be worth it. It was not until race morning that I actually decided to do it.
I was fortunate enough to have as my hosts, Eric and Sonia Seremet. Sonia is from my hometown of Titusville and during Fiddy2, when I ran the Estes Park Marathon, Eric was also a competitor there (and beat me as well!) When Sonia realized they would be in Titusville in time to run the Drake Well Marathon around the track in 2006, she signed Eric up for the race (but not herself, Eric says with shock.) This was a great opportunity to catch up with them and see what they were up to. Sonia is about to give birth and itching to get running again and Eric took the year off from competitive racing to recharge his batteries and begin a new job. A 6-time finisher of the Leadville 100, I have no doubt that he will have the bug again soon.
Sometime on Saturday, I began leaning towards running the race. The actual act of running did not hurt too much and as long as my arm did not swing, I wasn't in too much pain. I had been planning to run Pikes Peak as my 100th for quite sometime and when I realized that there really was no better way to celebrate this milestone, I decided I might as well do it.
So after hitting a few book stores in Colorado Springs to deliver some signed copies of See Dane Run, I went back to my bed and prepped myself for the run. I had to borrow shorts from Eric as I had not brought anything to run in. Fortunately, I was wearing a new pair of Spira trail shoes, which had been sent to me just for this occasion (my 100th marathon) and I felt I might as well wear them to the Peak, even if I wasn't going to run. They were comfortable enough to just wear around while I walked, something I think few trail shoes can boast!
As I was wearing my ROAD I shirt for the expo, I decided no better way to continue to promote how safe us runners need to be then to wear it up to the top of the Peak!
So I am clad in a rather ragtag bunch of clothing but I am going for no beauty contest. I am here to finish. The best surprise of the weekend came that morning. Of my 99 previous marathons, I have probably had friends at most of them in one form or another. But I am usually traveling alone and don't really have someone there FOR me. Well, for my 100th lifetime marathon my friend Allison surprised me by flying in to make sure I had someone there to celebrate with. Having bought her ticket prior to my accident on Wednesday, she debated not coming but must have known I was going to run anyway. As I am quite used to celebrating milestones by myself, I was quite prepared to do this one in the same fashion. But to have such a good friend there to share things with, I wanted to thank her here specifically. You rock.
Moments before the start, I was calm. They announced that this would be my 100th marathon over the loud speakers and I would be doing it in spite of being hit by a car. Many on hand had stopped by my booth during the past two days and had heard my story, including me saying I probably was not going to run. Loud cheers went up and I smiled.
The gun was fired and away we went.
First Aid Station: Ruxton (1.65 miles): Time to aid station: 19:50
I knew that weather conditions at the top could be far more brutal than the balmy conditions at the start, so I decided to wear a jacket at the start and take it off as needed. Plus, the one dangling arm of the jacket would make other runners more cognizant of my injury and hopefully less inclined to jar me.
After a bit of slow running just to get a feel of what the shoulder was going to be like, I settled into a nice easy pace. My breathing was more labored than I thought it would be at only 7,000 feet but I wasn't here to race. When we hit the first aid station I was pleased with the pace so far and was making lots of friends.
Second Aid Station: (2.8 miles): Time to aid station: 20:24
The switchbacks began here. Footing was great and there was very plenty of walk/jogging going on. I laughed internally as people pumped their arms and tried to run and I walked along behind them at the same pace. People were mostly courtesy with their "on your lefts" and other trail type etiquette. Again, I was pleased with my pacing here and thought maybe a 3:15 summit time would be possible.
Third Aid Station: No Name Creek (4.3 miles): Time to aid station: 25:40
When you are hiking up pretty steep stuff and not moving very fast, you make friends with those around you. Bad jokes are hilarious at high elevation and my stating that, by definition, "No Name Creek" actually gives the creek a name went over smashingly. Every once in a while there would be the smallest of downhills in this section and I would jog past those who were doing the same. This was the first twinge of anger that my accident had taken away my ability to run this course as, even with one arm wrapped tightly against my body, I could still motor when I needed to.
Fourth Aid Station: Bob's Road (5.3 miles): Time to aid station: 17:23
On my way to Bob's Road, I befriended Joyce McKelvey. Joyce was 64 years old with eyes as clear as the sky above our heads. She was just a joy to be around and we would switch places on the trail as I would take the turn to walk and she would march right on by. After a few more miles I would not see Joyce for the rest of the day (until the descent) but she finished in 7:38:18, beating 38% of the field!
Fifth Aid Station: Barr Camp (7.6 miles): Time to aid station: 31:16
Barr Camp is a big aid station. You must make it to here before 3 hours (?!) into the course or you are turned back. We made it in 1:54:36. And for the first time I realized that my arm was wound TOO tightly around my chest and was making my breathing extremely difficult. As I wasn't really using my arm at all, I loosened the bandage and instantly had a rush of oxygen.
A woman had passed me in this section and after speaking briefly, began to pass runner after runner. With my new found O2, I decided to fall in behind her and do the same.
Sixth Aid Station: A Frame (10.2 miles): Time to aid station: 46:30
As we neared the treeline, Gina (the aforementioned runner who was actually doing the double: having completed the Ascent to the top the day before and now doing the marathon!) and I kept knocking off runners. I could not wait to get to the top and turn around. I might actually break 6 hours for the race (yes, SIX) once we got rolling on the descent.
Right after leaving the aid station and climbing onto what really looked like the mountain for the first time, Matt Carpenter, the semi-surly legendary runner and multiple winner of this race came flying by. He had made it to the top in 2:12. Unbelievable.
Seventh Aid Station: Cirque (11.9): Time to aid station: 45:33
I had now more or less fallen in lock step with the same runners. The footing had gone from wonderful to more or less horrific and there was little to no way to pass. The below picture illustrates one of the better portions of the trail.
Here the race became mush more dangerous. At my pace a vast majority of runners were either approaching the top or coming down from it. And flush with energy and oxygen, some were flying. You did the best you could to either lean against a rock or step out of the way. Unfortunately, my best was not enough. One runner ran full tilt into my shoulder. Searing white hot pain shot through my body. Cussing so loud I think I woke the mountain, I dropped into a sitting/leaning position against the nearest rock. Runners around me, who had become quite familiar with my plight, all stopped to see if they could help. I waved them all on and stood there for a full 90 seconds until the pain ebbed.
It was time to get to the top.
Summit (13.32): Time to aid station: 34:00
You can see the treacherous footing as you approached the slightly more than halfway point. And once you got there, there was no time to rest (or room for it). I found this to be a little disconcerting as I figured I was not the only one who need to collect their wits before moving forward. Plus, I needed to rewrap my ace bandage before heading back down.
I was also surprised that we weren't, exactly, at the top. As you can see from below, another 50 yards of trail or so led to the actual "top". Not quite sure why we did not go there.
My time to get to 13.32 miles? 4:01:03. Oy.
Here is where my real story begins.
I immediately felt wonderful bounding down the hills. Still being extremely cautious of my arm, and with no left side stabilization, I was nonetheless chomping at the bit to run. After getting back down to Cirque in less than half the time it took to get up to the Summit from that point, I took advantage of a plethora of runners refilling their stomachs and zoomed by into some semi-empty trail.
A little less than half of a mile away, the trail opened even more. I knew in like a mile, the footing would be even better and I could really make some time. A 2-hour descent was completely possible.
Then a runner in front of me came to a dead stop. I could not. My foot caught on a stone and I went flying. Crashing down on my left side I buried my separated shoulder into the trail. I thought I had felt pain earlier when the runner had ran into me. No, this was pain. All I could think about was that I had done the hardest parts of the race and now I was going to have to be medivac-ed out. As runners converged on me, the looks on their face were sheer horror. My right hand quickly went to my shoulder. No broken collarbone. Thank God. I felt the separation to see if anything was protruding or smashed. Nothing. In fact, after the initial surge of pain, I was feeling pretty decent. I thrust my right hand into the air and asked to be helped up. A person calling the medics on the walkie-talkie asked if I was OK. I said I thought I was and took a step.
Well, the reason I probably did not hurt my shoulder more is because my hip apparently took the brunt of the fall. I got all jiggly legged and realized I had 11 more miles to go with 6,000 feet of total descent and a leg that wasn't working. You have got to be kidding me!
I began to walk, Slowly. I kept going until I could bear that pain and then I jogged gingerly. Soon I was moving forward even more. At the next aid station the notified medic pulled me aside. They asked about my shoulder. I told them to check my hip. Only in this circumstances can one man ask another to get behind him, put his hands on his hips, feel him up and down and not have the slightest twinge or feeling weird. When he pronounced I was just cut up a bit and everything seemed normal, I said "thanks!" and left before they could pull me out of the race.
As I approached the treeline, I was beginning to manage the pain more and more. I knew what I could and could not do. I cursed as what could have easily been 8 minute miles were closer to 11 minute miles as I carefully picked my way down the path. I took one last look at the Peak behind me.
I would be remiss to mention that I took another tumble with about 7 miles to go. This time I was fortunate enough to flip over, land on my right side, do a somersault and be back on my feet in about 2 seconds. The runner behind me said: "That was the coolest thing I have ever seen!" It really left me with no more pain but a renewed sense of scrutiny to how fast I should be running. Obviously my left hip and knee were just not going to be able to keep up with the energy and pace I desired to maintain without further incident. I just wanted off the mountain!
Each aid station passed by in a blur as I grabbed a drink, said thanks to everyone and shooed away the EMT people who were just awesome but not people I wanted to see anywhere near me on the odd chance they would find out how much pain I was in and say I could not go on. Can't say enough about how great both they and the volunteers were. Wonderful people.
The next few miles began to feel real good. With 5 miles to go, I thought I might not break 7 hours. At one point my watch had been stopped and I wasn't sure for how long. As such, I did not know that the official race time was but I knew I was running with renewed vigor and it would be close.
As each mile slipped by I was still running gingerly with my eyes glued to the trail but I knew I was picking up speed. I was passing a ton of runners, all who were gracious enough to step aside when they heard my footsteps and then give a great little cheer when they realized I was "that guy." For them to use any energy at this point on anyone but themselves shows what great people runners are.
Finally off the mountain and onto the last mile of the course on the streets of Manitou Springs, I gritted my teeth and sped forward.
I made it through in 6:42:53. 100 marathons down. I joked all weekend how the number 52 is everywhere. I saw it all the time during Fiddy2 and I see it all the time now. And i think they were a little slow with their trigger finger because my time should have been 52 seconds. :)
But now, I have 100 marathons done. My total cumulative time for all 100 marathons is 332:52:26. There is that darn 52 again. And the 26 seconds thrown at the end to to signify my love of marathons, apparently. Now the healing begins.
Already today, just one day after that marathon, my knee and hip are feeling exponentially better. My shoulder is sore as heck but somehow feels a little better than it did a few days ago. I will somehow force myself to not exercise the next few weeks. I need to practice what I preach with regards to restraint and being smart with your body. But I will be back soon. Until then, I have the memories of having taken on adversity and succeeded. Someone told me that I was like the Energizer Bunny. Perhaps I do keep going.
I know no other way to live.