2010 Pikes Peak Ascent

Well, I did it… I finished the 2010 Pikes Peak Ascent (PPA), the final leg of the Triple Crown of Running.  My facebook status on Saturday after the race read:

I had some good moments, I threw up, I cried… I finished.

And really, that about sums it up.   My PPA race report in a nutshell.

the weather

Saturday was sunny and warm with no surprises!   I had heard the stories, particularly of the 2008 race, enough times to be anxious about what might happen on the mountain but as far as the weather went, this weekend, I lucked out.   I know some runners would have preferred cooler weather, not so much heat  – but I was happy . I didn’t carry much with me – a pair of gloves pinned to my fuel belt that I never used and some sleeves that I used off and on above tree line.    So after a week of compulsive weather.com visits, I breathed a sigh of relief heading out to Manitou in the morning.

gorgeous peak on race morning

pre –race

Nerves… I was full of nerves glancing out the window at Pikes Peak during the ride to the start.  My brother –in-law dropped me, Mark and Joe off near the start at Memorial Park just as wave 1 runners were getting ready to begin their journey up the Peak.   So with a half hour to go before our wave 2 start and the quickest gear check that I have ever experienced, I spent my time pee and re-peeing.  Yes, I went, got back in line, went again until it was only 6 minutes to start.  nerves.


Like most races, after the gun went off and I began my run, the nerves started to disappear.  I felt pretty strong running to Ruxton and up the hill… things were looking good and I was upbeat as I finished the paved portion of the race and entered the trail.

I felt great for the next 2 hours and 20 minutes… really great!  I shuffled my way up the Ws feeling strong, picking up my pace on the ‘flatter’ sections and made it to Barr Camp about 5 minutes ahead of schedule. I had written down some splits on my arm for a 4:45 Ascent – it was a reach but I thought do-able.  I was feeling particularly good about my goal with the 5 minutes to bank for the 2nd half of the race!

running the Ws

Barr Camp to A-Frame

I started this section feeling strong and optimistic.   Unfortunately, this elation lasted for only about 30 more minutes before some major nausea set in.  I was fueling with tried and tested Gu gels but something wasn’t settling well with me.    I eventually gave in and tossed my cookies  (well, my gels) about a mile after Barr Camp.  The nausea came and went after this point but I only lost it like that once.   I started to slow down – I slowly made my way through the remaining 1.6 miles to A-Frame and realized I had lost my 5 minute gain plus another 5 minutes – and I wasn’t feeling so strong or optimistic anymore.  I kept my water bottles filled – one Gatorade, one water and kept hydrated but I wasn’t able to eat any significant calories after this point.

felt pretty beat down after tree line

A-Frame to Summit

What can I say?  I was starting to hurt – my legs were heavy, my back was killing me and I was feeling beat down.  As I trudged my way toward the summit, I could hear the announcer at the top, cheering in the finishers.  I still had over an hour to go – the first threat of tears started.  I sucked it up, willed myself to hold it together.  Every time I stumbled (which happened quite a few times), the tears would start again – but I finally pulled it together at the Cirque (1.5 mile to go) aid station.  I am very glad that I had completed a full Ascent during training because there were too many times during these last three miles where I questioned whether or not I could finish the race.  As much as I was hurting, I kept moving… slowly.  Many other runners had pulled off onto rocks – sitting down.   I managed to eat a few grapes at Cirque and focused on conquering the next mile and half – counting off each tenth of a mile on my Garmin.   Finally I saw the 16 Golden Stairs sign – and I felt I was going to make it.   With the finish in sight – I heard my friends Julie and Kathleen cheering me on.   Fellow springs runner, Jim took my picture, capturing a surprisingly upbeat snap of me.

hearing the announcer at the top
photo by Jim Kerr – I am holding it together
closing in on the finish
with the end in sight


I crossed the finish line, got my medal and then I saw my husband and I let it go – flood gates opened for a moment and I just cried.   I dried my eyes and turned to Julie and the first thing I said was “I am never doing that again.”     5:14:59 – I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with my time.  Maybe my 4:45 goal was a bit of a reach, but I honestly thought I had a good shot for under 5 hours.   The second half of the race just didn’t go my way this year.   It’s ok  – I am ok about it now…the Ascent is the hardest thing that I have ever done and I simply didn’t have any more to give on Saturday.

A big congratulations to both Joe and Mark who finished in 4:11:18 and 4:12:36 respectively – both of them qualifying for wave 1 next year if they choose to run again!

just barely holding it together


my wonderful friends Julie and Kathleen at the top

Mark and me @ the top

Next year?

I guess I am ready to start thinking about next year despite my initial post race denials.  I don’t know if I will do it but I can at least think about it now.   Even more than the pain experience, I need to think about whether I want to spend another summer training for such a unique race.   Ascent training can be logistically difficult because it is ideal to train on the mountain – but you gotta get there, get up the mountain and figure out how to get down … not as easy as running out the front door of your house for a long run.  Anyway, we’ll see.  For now I am satisfied.  I did it.  Every once in a while I look out my window at the mountain in awe and wonder… humbled.  I don’t think I will look at Pikes Peak in quite the same way ever again.

15 thoughts on “2010 Pikes Peak Ascent”

  1. Congratulations. Good report – and anytime you know you left it all out there, then there is nothing to be disappointed about. Inspired about, yes, disappointed – no.

  2. Your blog is incredible. Congrats on this amazing feat you just accomplished!!

    I am a fellow vegan running blogger 🙂 I am at runwithkate.blogspot.com

    I am finally discovering other vegan runners out there, and know that I am not alone.

  3. Loved reading your re-cap! I felt like I was on the journey with you, while reading it 🙂 Oh wait, I was supposed to be on the journey with you, haha! That's why I have to find a way to persuade (bribe?) you to do it again next year. Great job, girl! You are so strong and don't even know it.

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  6. The details of your blog are very promising. The pictures are fantastic and the experiences that you’ve shared are quite remarkable. Keep blogging and have fun! 'til the next Pikes Peak Ascent challenge!

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