Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report

The Day Before

I got into COS on Saturday about 12:30, called Mike Q who was on the summit to see how the ascent played out, grabbed the bib, some lunch, and headed to the hotel. Mike was excited to meet PPA legend Scott Elliott on the summit. It rained the entire way down and I was a bit nervous about the weather after talking to Mike. I spent the afternoon watching the Olympics and then went to REI and bought a pair of thin SmartWool socks and a higher quality pair of gloves than I’d brought. Swung over to the awards ceremony and ran into a few other Fleet Feeters (George, Ken, and Andy) and checked out the who’s who list of mountain running in attendance. Grabbed some dinner at the pasta dinner and went back to the hotel to watch the women’s ‘thon. I wasn’t very social at any of the events and generally avoided convo. I had things on my mind, namely the race and how I’d handle the weather. I wanted to run well and I was a bit nervous. In contrast, GZ was jumping around, high-fiving, yelling, and entertaining the kids. Clearly, he loves this weekend. Got hungry again and ate a Clif Bar being going to bed at 9 PM.

The Start

I got one last pee break in and headed to the start a minute before the cannon fired. I’d done my usual 10 minute warm-up and was wearing a long-sleeve Dri-Fit under my FF singlet, SmartWool socks, short shorts with non-cotton briefs underneath and four Gu's clipped to the waistband, the Brooks T5’s, a cheap Big Lots toboggan, REI gloves in the waistband, and an old, cheap jacket wrapped around my hand. I’d planned to go out behind Bryan Dayton and Bernie Boettcher, thinking that Matt Carpenter would be off the front, a chase group would form of the 2-7 contenders, and another chase group for the rest of us hoping to break the top 10. At the start, all you hear is “Go Matt!” over and over. The town loves him. Everyone was strung out pretty quick.

Early Miles

Six minutes in, I caught Bernie on the first gentle uphill and wanted to just stay with him, knowing that I shouldn’t be ahead of him, but moved ahead anyway – it felt too easy. We’ve exchanged emails before and met at BB10K, but I wasn’t sure he remembered me and didn’t say anything. Further up, I caught Bryan Dayton and also moved ahead somewhat reluctantly. Eventually I caught the second place guy, who had initially gone out with Matt Carpenter, and moved ahead of him. I didn’t know how to pace the ascent, having never ran on Pikes before, and planned to rely on placing, but I felt good and decided to just go with it, knowing that I shouldn't be in 2nd. We went through the W’s together and on one switchback, I looked back to see bib #2 behind us, so I realized that it wasn’t Dave Mackey that I was running with. Ended up being ascent ace Daryn Parker. About 30 minutes into the race, he said something about working together and took over the pacing duty. He told me were on sub-2:20 pace and I about pooped my pants. I knew I couldn’t run a 2:20 ascent and gradually let him go. If he’d have said that we were on 2:40 pace, I probably would’ve thought “great” and went with him. Inexperience on the mountain.


About 10 mins later, Dave Mackey caught me and saved me from making a wrong turn. Continued pushing, feeling relaxed, but with the heart rate definitely up. Bryan Dayton passed me about an hour into the race on a flatter section and then I leap frogged back ahead when the climbing returned. I went through Barr Camp in 1:15 flat (4th) and saw Jeff Valliere spectating after doing the ascent the day before. Bryan soon passed me back above Barr Camp and gradually pulled away. He was moving well and picking it up.

Above A-Frame, I missed a left-hand turn. I kept going straight, the trail looked questionable, so I stopped and looked back until I saw someone. Greg Voelkel was coming and I yelled, “is this the trail?” He must not of heard me and didn’t answer me, but was coming in my direction, so I took off. After a minute or so, I didn’t see anyone, didn’t see him, and backtracked, initially back down towards A-Frame and then back up until I saw the turn I’d missed. Everyone ahead was out of view when back on the trail and unfortunately, he ultimately beat me by 2 mins. John Beech had said not knowing the course would cost me 2-3 places, turns out it was prob just 1 place, but the difference between 6 and 7 isn't too big of a deal. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Apparently this turn is well-known as a tricky spot and many veterans knew the exact spot.


I ditched the jacket about this point as we went above treeline and gradually slowed on the snowy, steeper, upper slopes. The T5’s weigh 5.9 ounces and are largely mesh, so my feet got wet in this stretch. I wasn't worried about that, but it would turn into a problem late in the race. No one else caught me, although someone was only a minute back. I didn’t walk any until the last mile, when I mixed in hiking as fast as I could with running where practical. The guy behind didn’t seem to be making any time up on me while I hiked. At the summit, someone was yelling “RUN! COME ON! RUN DAMN IT!” Thanks to whoever that was because it definitely helped.

At the summit in 2:47, I tagged a guy who was holding his hand out and then headed back down. He called me back up to make a little loop around a post, marked my bib, and I took the opportunity to grab some Gatorade while there. Looking at my summit time and splits, most would say I went out too hard. I’m a little less convinced though as I really maintained a pretty consistent effort and heart rate the entire time up. Making the turn back down, I immediately felt great and started blasting it back down through the snow, keeping my feet low to the ground and just above the rocks while weaving through runners going the opposite direction. Thanks to all of the runners heading up who stopped and moved out of the way for me to pass and sorry to the few women who I clipped with a shoulder.

The Descent

I saw GZ on the way down and he let me know that I was in 7th and I asked how many I could catch - 1 or 2. He paused and said 2 if I worked. I knew Greg V summited probably 5 minutes ahead, so I knew it’d be tough. Regardless, I was sure that no one who summited after me would catch me. Nothing against those guys, but I was pretty confident in my ability to blast the downhill.

Back around A-Frame, I very nearly bit it on some rocks. I took a few steps completely stretched out and managed to stay upright. I was very fortunate here as I was running sub-6 pace and likely would’ve been down for a few minutes after a hard fall. With about 8 miles to go, my left heel started hurting incredibly bad. Again, I wasn’t worried about anyone catching me, but I hated to stop as I really wanted to see what my descent time would be. But, it hurt so bad that I stopped, took the shoe off, and fished some rocks out. Back running, the heel started hurting right away again and I thought it could be a blister. With 4 to go, I took my first spill of the race and was smart enough to tuck and roll, rather than doing a Superman-dive. I scraped up my knee and elbow and didn’t think it was that bad until getting home and seeing the scrapes all the way up my right quad. Still, it didn’t affect my running any and I kept the momentum from the fall going and was immediately back on my feet. With 3 to go, my right heel started hurting incredibly bad, joining my left that had been hurting since 8 to go. I stopped a second time and took both shoes completely off, got all of the rocks out, laced up again, and it did nothing - they both just hurt like hell still. I knew both were likely blisters at that point then, but I was running the race I’d trained all summer for and couldn’t slow the pace down.


I hit the 1 to go mark and had to run a 5:30 last mile to go under 4:15. I ran 5:42 and finished in 4:15:12 for 7th. 2:47 up, 1:28 down. Matt ran a 1:25 descent, so I’m looking forward to seeing the splits and see how my time down compares – not that the race down matters, but still. If I can take 10 mins off that ascent time next year, not get any blisters on the descent, I may be able to give 4 flat a shake.

I was ushered straight to the medical tent where they cleaned off my blood. I made the doc cut the blisters off and here is what remains of my heels. It hurts bad to walk right now. I'll be lucky to run anything this week while the skin returns.


The field didn’t turn out to be as competitive as I’d hoped. Greg Feucht, Dave Heald, Kyle Skaggs, and Mike Smiley didn’t toe the line. Still, I was competitive and got the top 10 finish that I wanted, while wearing bib #128 based on my sandbagging prediction of 4:45 when I registered. I was pretty surprised to beat a 2:30 marathoner and also beat a former SkyRunner champion pretty handily. It was a really fun race though and training for it this summer was a blast. I loved getting up on the high mtn trails.

GZ completed his double. I believe he was 2nd doubler and he ran slower during the marathon than he’d hoped, but a double is a pretty serious accomplishment regardless of the time and he had a blast doing it. Matt won his 20th PPA/PPM then and picked up $2K and Dave Mackey, as much as he wanted to, couldn’t challenge Matt today. Bernie was once again a beast with the top 3 from last year returning to their same places this year.

Looking forward to a quick recovery, healing of the heels, enjoying GZ's home brew later this week, and getting back on the trails before winter hits.


Greg said...

Sorry Justin, I don't think I heard you ask me about the trail because I don't remember ever passing you. I remember being confused at that point in the race too because I thought the aid station was at A-Frame but the A-Frame sign was actually another couple of switchbacks up. I remember looking at my watch a lot through those turns because I didn't think my split could have possibly been that good for how bad I was starting to feel. Congrats on a great first marathon on Pikes, I'm sure you'll do better next year since you know the trail now. Greg V

Justin Mock said...

Greg, thanks - it amazes me how many random people find my blog! I swear, it's the hottest thing on the net. Yeah, wasn't trying to call you out and I figured you must've just not heard me or realized what I said (I think it was you anyway) and I shouldn't say that I would've had you otherwise, but I really wanted to try get that place back. Never saw you on the descent as hard as I pressed - you were out of sight and apparently running well. Post-race, someone said MC actually mentions missing that turn in one of his various articles on the race, so not sure why they don't mark it.

Nice work as well then and keep rockin the trails.

Brandon Fuller said...

I was sort of surprised that there were not more trail markers. As we spaced out on the way down, I found myself questioning a few turns and running a couple dead ends. Other races I have done have tape and flags so you feel good about the trail being the trail.

Strong work on the race.

Anonymous said...


I’m sorry if I scared you off running together. You looked strong and seemed to be running easy so I thought letting you know where we stood would be encouraging. We were at 28:00 at the top of the W’s, which according to Matt’s pace calculator is 8 seconds south of 2:20 pace. I was actually aiming for 2:20 which obviously didn’t work out too well for me. It’s amazing how much easier running up Barr is when you are working together.

Nice downhill split. Judging by your blisters I’m guessing you spent a decent amount of your downhill on your toes after those bad boys formed, good luck walking today. Shoot me an email if you are ever in the Manitou area, I’m usually game for a training run.

RunColo said...

Well done!

Do most of the top guys wear a racing flat and not a lightweight trail running shoe?

7th, I'm impressed.

Justin Mock said...

If conditions were completely dry, I think everyone would've gone with a flat. As it were, I know MC wore Nike flats with some screws added. I believe Mackey, Dayton, and Parker all went with some type of trail shoe. Not sure about Bernie. MC and I are both prob a lot lighter than those guys though, so that may influence the shoe choice on the rocks as well.

Jeff Valliere said...

Way to go Justin! It was cool seeing you tear it up out there and fun hanging out afterwards. Let's run again soon once those feet heal. Wish I had got video of you and George walking around town afterwards, that was some funny stuff ;).

Michael Quispe said...

Awesome performance Justin, you really earned it. The way you trained for this race I knew you'd rock it. Way to go!