Another Pikes Peak Marathon under the belt | SierraSun.com

Another Pikes Peak Marathon under the belt

Peter Fain
Running on Dirt

We have many uphill races in our area, but none match the monster mountain in Colorado Springs and#8212; Pikes Peak.

The Pike Peak Marathon is considered to be one of the toughest mountain races around (not including ultras), with nearly 8,000 feet of climbing, over 13 miles to get there and a long, relentless downhill to the finish. This demanding marathon climbs to over 14,000 feet before turning around and heading back down again. I was lucky to toe the line with some of the best mountain runners in the world last Sunday.

It was a great day for racing. The start was cool but not cold with not a breeze in the air. All the signs were there for record performances. They sang and#8220;America the Beautiful,and#8221; gave the mic to the first-ever woman who finished a marathon in the U.S. to start the race, and then we were off.

The start was fast but thinned out quickly. The contenders identified themselves without delay before passing the Cog Railway and beginning the upward trek. I settled in a ways back, as not to be overly ambitious in the beginning. Then the serious climbing began.

Iand#8217;d like to say there was some excitement between the start and mile 10 for me, but there wasnand#8217;t. I held my own until the trees left. Once above tree line, 12,000 feet, we still had 3 miles to go to the top. The air was thin and getting thinner, the wind had picked up to a howl and I did all I could do to prevent vertigo. I keep promising myself at the start of this race each year that I do this to look around and soak in the view. Well, I never do. Iand#8217;m too afraid of falling off the trail.

Once at the top, the officials marked my number and I began the long journey back down. Almost instantly my head cleared. With each step I felt better and better as I got just a bit more oxygen to work with. (At 14,000 feet, oxygen intake is 30 percent less than what we breath in Truckee, and 45 percent less than at sea level.)

Once back at tree line I was back to running like normal. I picked up the pace and did what I could to get down the mountain quickly. But I made two big mistakes. I didnand#8217;t drink enough water and I didnand#8217;t fuel myself properly.

With about 5 miles to go I was out of gas. The thermostat cracked 90 degrees by this point and I was no longer racing, rather trying to survive. I took a drink from my water bottle and down I went. Fortunately it was pretty controlled fall and#8212; only abrasions on my hip and shoulders as I rolled in the decomposed granite and tried to bounce back up. I struggled to drink more water beyond that, to my own detriment.

Finally I hit the final mile of pavement leading to the finish. I held on and made it to the finish with a cheering crowd on both sides and the announcer calling my name and calling our and#8220;Truckee, California.and#8221;

Scraped up and dehydrated with an eighth-place finish, the medics cleaned me up and got me feeling normal again. Another journey up the big climb under my belt.

and#8212; Peter Fain is a local trail runner who competes regularly in regional trail races and snowshoe runs in the winter. He may be contacted at runondirt@gmail.com.