Prelude (a.k.a., boring retrospective and self-indulgent crap)
T-32 hours: As the race draws near, I am feeling nostalgic. Pikes has been the goal all year and I look forward to a relaxing late summer and fall when I can concentrate on things other than running for once. Which is not to say I haven’t had a great time this season, it’s just that I’m glad there’s a definite goal and deadline. We did some great early season runs down here and I’ve racked up half a dozen noteworthy and wonderful mountain “training runs”. On the downside, the novelty, excitement, and camraderie of last year are not quite the same this year; Peter is running Leadville and has been on a weird binge/purge training schedule while Chris has become an ultrarunning obsessive and junky doing all sorts of strange and abusive runs. We’ve been pulled in different directions by and large, but we have all matured as runners. And as far as I can tell, we’re all having fun.
I said it last year and it’s even more true this year; I’m in the best shape of my life! From a pure statistics point of view, I’ve logged 460 miles this year versus about 200 by this time last year. I can still go uphill like crazy and my training runs, both major and minor, have been longer, harder, and more ambitious than their equivalents last year. I have a much better feel for my capabilities and weaknesses and have begun to realize that nutrition and pacing are important as well.
Now don’t get the impression that I’m not nervous. It’s not like last year with the insomniac worrying about cut-off times and inclement weather, but there is still a sizable pre-race jitter factor to contend with. Unlike last year, I have a pretty good idea of what I can expect from the race and from myself. Last year, I put myself down for a 5:30 finish and even my most wild pre-race estimates put me at 4:20, yet I ended up finishing in 3:40. This year, my goal is sub-3:30 which is only ten minutes faster than last year. Seems pretty feasible. But can I do better? Can I do much better, again? Seems unlikely… but that would be pretty cool!
The biggest point of concern and biggest unknown is the Marathon. I’ve done the Ascent before and my goal for that race seems pretty achievable. Even the Marathon seems plausible by itself. I’ve been training on some downhill runs lately (Bear Peak, Mt. Alice, Sawtooth), and feel like I can handle it for a reasonable period of time. Can I handle 13 miles of it? Dunno. I’m sure I could do reasonably well in the Marathon by itself. But stacking the Marathon the day after an all-out Ascent will be tough.
While Pikes is the pinnacle of my training last year, it feels like the season finale of a TV series that’s already had some two-hour “must-see” episodes. Pikes is still a big deal and will be one of the highlights of the year, but, frankly, after the Grand Canyon earlier this summer, nothing will ever be all that big a deal again.
What of the future? Perhaps it’s too early to start thinking of Post Pikes quite yet, but I have to wonder. The Double should provide my fill of Pikes for now and I’m not planning on doing it again. I know that peer pressure will push me toward Leadville next year, but I really have no interest in 100 milers. Other runs? Sure, the Rimrock Run looks interesting (in November) as does the Imogene Pass Run next season. Maybe the HotRock 50K in February just so I can say I’ve got an official ultra under my belt. Maybe even the San Juan Solstice 50 miler. Or maybe not. It’s been fun doing all this running this year, but I’ve missed out on a lot of other great Colorado fun. I miss rock climbing, mountain biking, mountaineering…. When you come right down to it, I miss sleeping in on weekends and having adventures that don’t involve getting up at two in the morning, subsisting on energy gels, traveling 20+ miles by foot, and anything rated as “suffering” or “type-II fun”. Doesn’t that sound nice?
Anyway, see you on the flip side.