Pikes Peak 50 Mile Endurance Run Recap
On Saturday July 29, I completed the Pikes Peak 50 Mile Endurance Run in fourteen hours, fifty minutes and fifty-four seconds. I was forced to solve problems I'd never encountered before in more than twenty-five previous ultra finishes. Here is the story as I remember it...
Leading Up To The Event
First we needed to get to Castle Rock, CO and we did it over two days, Tuesday and Wednesday. Husker Inn is a cool spot in North Platte if you're ever out that way and need a place to stay. We got there Wednesday and stayed with an old friend and his family. If you knew me in college, Josh and I were pretty much always together so it was nice to catch up. It had been more than a decade since we'd seen each other.
Thursday Caden and I rolled out of bed and headed for Colorado Springs to scope out the aid stations that Caden would be able to meet me at. He hadn't driven in the mountains so it was good to just get that out of the way before the day of the event. We were also able to hop in a mountain stream too which was refreshing.
Friday was pretty chill. We went to the neighborhood pool for awhile, got everything prepped for Saturday and sat around and talked. It was the perfect day before an event day.
Saturday morning we were up at 3:38am in order to get out the door by 4:00 for packet pickup at 5:00 and event start at 5:30. I didn't even have my hydration vest snapped up yet when the gun sounded and we were off.
Bear Creek Regional Park to Lower Captain Jacks Aid Station (Mile 0-7.5)
Having done the 30k event here in 2019 during a long family road trip I knew what the first couple of sections would be like. We cruised around through Bear Creek Regional Park for a few miles then headed up High Line Drive to Lower Captain Jacks. The road wasn't as steep as I remember and I was actually able to run a bit which I'm thankful for looking back on how things unfolded. Caden met me there and I handed him my sunglasses. I didn't know it at the time but this was the last time I would see him until almost 7:00pm.
Lower Captain Jacks to Cheyenne Canyon Aid Station (Mile 7.5-11)
This section isn't very memorable to me. I was still fresh, we weren't really in the clouds yet and things were rolling right along. Coming out of Cheyenne Canyon though it was a different story.
Cheyenne Canyon to Pipeline Aid Station (Mile 11-16)
I asked at Cheyenne Canyon if there was much climbing on the next section just to see what his response would be and he said, "just a little". I would soon find out just how much sarcasm was buried in those words. The next five miles were straight up the mountain. We gained about 2000' in just five miles and I made it to Pipeline at 10000' just four minutes before the aid station cutoff at 10:05 with a bloody nose feeling like my eyes were going to pop out of my head (maybe slightly dramatic).
Pipeline to Deer Park Aid Station (Mile 16-23.4)
Pipeline is at about 10000' and Deer Park sits at around 11200' but between the two we climbed to 11800'+ and it got a bit tricky. From this point on I'd be chasing cuts all day. It never got quite as close as four minutes but this one I showed up 15 minutes early and needed to address some GI issues that were with me all day above 10000'. Above 10000' feet is where we would spend the next approximately eight hours.
Deer Park to Deer Park Aid Station (Mile 23.4-29.9)
This little six and a half mile out and back was pretty brutal. I was fighting GI distress the whole time, it seemed to go on forever and there was a climb near the end that really forced me to dig in. Many times during that climb I stopped just to catch my breath. During one of those stops I said to myself, "C'mon, let's go, keep moving, let's go, let's do this." There were many times like this along the way but this was the first time I really needed to pick myself up. There was no cut back to Deer Park but I knew I needed to keep moving fairly quickly in order to make Pipeline again by 4:00. At Deer Park I was talking with the aid station folks and one other runner who was there waiting to move again. His name is Mike. He's 22 from Pennsylvania, just moved two months ago and was attempting his first ultra! Just before leaving I said, and this was as definitive as it could be coming out of my mouth at the time, "I didn't come all the way from Minnesota to stop." It was game on at that point.
In my experience there are different levels of hard. These levels reveal themselves when needed, not before. It's interesting to me. I was talking with my friend on Friday as these moments approached and I kind of knew what I would come up against. What I didn't know is how I would respond. I liken it to coming to almost like mirror moments. We're unable to project anything during these times. They are just too tough and we're too broken down at least initially. What happens is we see ourselves for who we are in the moment. Our true attitude is revealed and there isn't much we can do about it. Once we see who we are, then if we have strategies in place, we can switch gears, if necessary, to become who we want to be. I've seen many of the places and handled them in many different ways. In this case I was thrilled to be in a determined, gritty, positive place that deep down wanted to find out more about what is on the other side of this hard. I was relieved in the moment to have that realization and moved all day with a positive sense of purpose that I would find a way to make it to the end in the allotted time.
Deer Park to Pipeline Aid Station (Mile 29.9-34)
We had done most of our climbing for the day and most of the time spend above 10000' was coming to an end too so I was optimistic I would be able to move more freely and the GI stuff I had been dealing with all afternoon might subside as we started descending. The cut at Pipeline on the way down was 4:00 and the sweep caught me at about 3:20 with just a half mile to go to the aid station. I got into Pipeline at 3:30 and it was off to Mt. Rosa.
Pipeline to Mt. Rosa Aid Station (Mile 34-39)
Mt. Rosa was said to the be the highest point on the course. I had been tracking elevation on my Apple Watch up until it died. The highest point I had recorded is 11800'+. They were telling me Mt. Rosa would be at 11500'. They also said the views were amazing and it would be a beautiful day on top of the mountain. The trail up Mt. Rosa is a lot like the Superior Hiking Trail. It's kind of like the south side of Carlton's Peak climb except two miles long from 10000' to 11500'. The up wasn't so bad actually. It usually isn't as long as I can go slow. The down is where the damage is done. The top was as spectacular as advertised. I spent about five minutes up there until I started seeing stars and needed to head back down. Mike was up there and a new friend joined us, Kylah. Kylah is from the Mad Moose Events family, is a decorated high school runner and she was sweeping the course so she followed us down the technical trail to the next aid station, Mt. Rosa.
Mt. Rosa to Cheyenne Canyon Aid Station (Mile 39-44)
We rolled into the Mt. Rosa aid station and it looked a bit ominous in the sky. I grabbed three oranges, filled my water bottles with Skratch and said, "I'm not going to get any closer to the finish standing here." As it began to rain I took off down the trail. That rain turned into pea size hail and the lightning was all around us. It's monsoon season after all and I had totally come to grips that getting struck by lightning was a very real possibility. I was up for anything at that point. Kylah was still sweeping and we spend a good 45 minutes suffering on down the trail together. At one point we needed to take some cover under one of the pines from the hail. I didn't have a heavy rain coat but I did have a Patagonia shell and I carried four buffs. I was drenched to the bone and it was starting to feel a bit cold so I slopped on the shell. At the same time my head was getting pelted with hail so I took two of my buffs and put them on under my hat and folded them over in there so they would provide some protection. It worked great. Once the rain stopped Kylah and I were moving pretty well and we came upon Mike. He was cruising right along and we rolled into Cheyenne Canyon with about ten minutes to spare.
Cheyenne Canyon Aid Station to Finish (Mile 44-50)
As we trotted down the road into Cheyenne Canyon a bright rainbow appeared over the mountain. It turned into a double and was quite the sight to see. Caden met me at Cheyenne Canyon and I grabbed my heavier rain coat and gloves. It had gotten cold after the rain and the wind was picking up so it felt really good to have some warmth. It's pretty much straight down High Line Drive after climbing for a mile coming out of the aid station. This is the kind of descent I prepared for doing hill loops at Hyland Hills so I was excited to roll down the trail a bit. We ran the same road on the way down to the finish as we did on the way up and the trail through Bear Creek Regional Park is the same too. The sun was setting and I was alone. Mike was behind me but I didn't know how far. I enjoyed being alone and having a few moments to myself.
Often times as events come to a close I find myself not really wanting them to end. It takes a lot to manufacture that amount of discomfort and pain. There is also a lot to learn in times like that. Many of us don't get to choose our hard. In all of us I would imagine there are times when we don't get to choose our hard. The more we experience though the more comfortable we get there and the better we can manage those hard situations in life. This wasn't actually that hard.
I hope you enjoyed my recap of the Pikes Peak 50 Mile Ultra! If you've got an event coming up or would like to put one on the calendar, this is what I do and I'd be happy to help coach you to your next finish, no matter what the event! Take a look around the site here and reach out or sign up if you see something you want to pursue.