Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barr Camp Run

If you can't tell, I love documenting these runs. As I type, I just picture myself 40 years from now reading about these adventures and reliving the experience all over again.

So the PPM course I talked about on Monday follows the Barr Trail up the peak. I've been reading a 12 page course description for a few weeks now. The course features many distinct parts that are separated by landmarks. The guide talks about these parts and how you should plan on running them. Quite honestly, it's a little overwhelming to read and try to visualize what you're going to do on marathon day.

The lightbulb went off and I decided to head down to Manitou Springs early last Saturday morning and attempt running the first half of the trail. I was on the road at 3:30am, drove through a herd of elk, and arrived at the trailhead an hour later. I got there a little too early as I had to wait about 20 minutes for the sky to lighten up a bit.

Once I started, the words I had been reading seemed to come alive as I came across The W's, The Rock Arch, No Name Creek, 7.8 to summit sign, and finally Barr Camp. Barr Camp is the halfway point of ascent portion of the marathon after climbing 3900' from Manitou. I felt great getting up there, but the thought of going another 3900' over six miles to reach the summit was daunting.

The day was overcast, cool & windy. I stopped and talked with several hikers that were heading to the summit. I sure hope they made it, but I have my doubts. The summit shot above was the only time I saw it the whole morning. As you can see, there is still quite a bit of snow, and I can only imagine how much more nasty the wind was up there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waterton Canyon to Roxborough State Park

Two Saturdays ago, I went on my first longer trail run. It was a 14 mile loop from Waterton Canyon over to Roxborough State Park. I like to get up and out early so I can get most of my run in while the ladies of the house are sleeping.

Despite living only 20 minutes away from Waterton Canyon, I had never been up the 6 mile dirt road to the Strontia Springs Dam. Wow, what a sight that was. It's 234' high! The water was gushing out the top and thundering as it exploded on the riverbed below.

The five miles of trail over to Roxborough were serene. It had rained the night before so everything glistened as the sun came up. Every twist and turn in the trail brought something new and beautiful to take in. I'm not kidding when I say I almost ran right into my friend in the photo above.

I really enjoyed this first foray into trail running. Leaving the pavement, people, cars, and intersections behind and finding forests, meadows, rivers, wildlife & wildflowers is a gift. Running is a gift and I'm grateful for the opportunity to use my legs this way.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Up next...the PPM!

On August 16th, I'll be heading down to Colorado Springs for what will no doubt be the most challenging running experience of my life. The Pikes Peak Marathon. The mountain is one of Colorado's most famous 14ers. It stands alone and can be seen from all along the Front Range. The race probably wouldn't be that bad if it started up high. No, the start line is in Manitou Spring at 6295' and rises another 7815' over 13 miles. The halfway point of the marathon has you standing at 14,110'...the summit. Then you turn around and head back down.

For obvious reasons, this marathon will be quite different than any other I've done. This is not a road race, nope...except for the first mile, it's all on trails. I've read that I should expect it to take the same amount of time it takes me to run a full marathon + 30 minutes...just to reach the summit. Needless to say, this is not a race that will have me running the entire time. Think power walking!

You're probably wondering why on earth I would ever want to put myself through the agony of ascending & descending 7815' over 26 miles. Well, I heard about this marathon a few years ago. I went to a trusty source for runner reviews,, and found the following review titles.

"This is freaking crazy!"
"Humbling, Inspiring, Life Changing"
"Holy cow, what a great marathon!!"
"Even Tougher Than I Expected"
"tough, beautiful, exhilarating"
"Remember it Forever"
"A must-do for love of running"
"The consummate running high"

I was amazed that everyone who did it, seemed to be in awe of the experience. Many come back to do it year after year. The full reviews can be found by clicking on the link below. - PPM Reviews

In 2008, the marathon filled its 800 spots in 20 minutes. Back in March, I thought I'd try to sign up, but figured I probably wouldn't get in. Well, I did. The race sold out in 24 hours this year.

So, I'll be hitting the hills in the early mornings this summer as the shift to trail running is on. No more pounding pavement. Whatever happens on 8/16, I'm excited to bag another 14er and experience what they call "America's Ultimate Challenge"!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ryan & Bart

When we went to the expo to pick up my packet on Saturday, I was amazed at how big the event was. It took up the entire San Diego Convention Center. After wandering around a bit, I got all giddy when I noticed some familiar faces in the Nissan booth. I couldn't resist the opportunity to get in line for an autograph from Ryan Hall and Bart Yasso.

You may not know who Ryan is. He recently placed 3rd in this years Boston Marathon. He also holds the record for the fastest debut marathon by an American runner (2007 London Marathon). On top of that, he is the US record holder in the 1/2 marathon (the only American to finish 13.1 miles in under an hour) at the 2007 Houston Half Marathon.

Bart, the older guy, is a running legend. He works for Runners World magazine, but it's his amazing running escapades which are chronicled in the book, "My Life On The Run", that have elevated him to legend status. He also invented a training workout called "Yasso 800's", which are a predictor of your marathon finish time.

I've been following Ryan Hall since last year's Olympics in which he placed 10th. The more I've gotten to know about him, the more I'm impressed with his character. I finished Bart's book a few months ago and was enthralled with all his stories. Needless to say, it was an absolute treat for me to meet BOTH of them and get their autographs on my race shirt!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Finish

About a month or two before the race, James emailed me a link to a YouTube video. The video was of some guy at a past San Diego RnR marathon that did a flying leap across the finish line. James stated that he wanted to come up with his own version of the flying leap. This shouldn't have surprised me as James is the one who introduced me to 14er leaps.

My initial reaction was...he’s crazy!!! He has no idea just how ridiculously heavy & in pain his legs are going to be. Yet, I was supportive and encouraged him to make that decision at mile 26...when he had only .2 miles left in the race.

As we approached the finish, he indicated the jump was on. Still dumbfounded...I figured that it would be a great way to celebrate my 8th marathon by trying the unthinkable with him.

With about 50 feet to go, we moved into a pocket with no other runners in front or behind us. We gathered a bit of steam right before the line and then launch into our synchronized leaps! Amazingly we didn’t land in a pile of crumpled flesh & bones. No we landed on our feet! It was over! I now look at this picture and have no idea how James was able to grab his legs in mid-air. Incredible. My legs don't bend after running 26 miles.

Monday, June 8, 2009

San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon Recap

On Sunday, 5/31, I ran the San Diego “Rock ‘n Roll” Marathon with James. It was his first one and let me tell you…he rocked it!

The day started by hopping in a mini-van with six other runners including James & his sister Wendi (who was also running her 1st). We were dropped off at the start at 5:00am by Wendi’s gracious husband, Jeff. Right at 6:30am, all 20,000 runners got it going and crossed the start line.

The weather was ideal. 60 degrees and very cloudy with a light breeze. The course hits many of the sights in downtown San Diego before cruising north and circling Mission Bay. There were a few hills, but the last 12-14 miles were relatively flat. The bands on the course were great. My favorite was one that was playing Dave Matthews songs. They sounded great!

James was our pace setter and we were hitting an 8 min/mile pace for the first 10 miles or so, before settling around an 8:30 pace. What was incredible was that James never slowed down from that pace. He was still hitting it at miles 25 & 26!

With a stellar run going, James shattered his goal of a 3:45 by crossing the finish line in 3:38:48. That is an incredible time for a 1st marathon! Oh yeah…check back tomorrow for more about the crossing of the finish line!

The picture above was taken at the 10 mile mark. At the top of the biggest hill, we had a big crew of cheering fans to greet us. Tanya & the girls, as well as, Steve, Jennifer, Katie & Andrew all got up early to cheer us on.