Monday, August 1, 2011

Pike's Peak Summit

I've been a slacker blogger. Life has been pretty wild here, so much going on and not enough time to barely breathe let alone blog.

Cowboy's parents came for a much needed visit (thank goodness I have the world's best in-laws, seriously) so there was scrambling to get the house cleaned and prepped to less embarrassing standards. Dog and cat fur was vaporized, a craigslist steal was found in the way of a spare bedroom set, and fridge was stocked with good eats. We had a GREAT time and found time slipped by fast.

I did a few strong runs during the week in preparation for a planned run up Barr Trail to summit Pike's Peak, one of my running bucket list to-dos. Cowboy and the parents were quite uncomfortable with the idea of me driving down to Colorado Springs solo and camping out in my car the night before for an early trailhead start. This one was not Argos-friendly in terms of length or elevation so I had no "backup" when it came to safety. Stubborn as I was, I waived away their concerns with "I'll be fiiiinnneee."

The run was planned for Monday. Saturday late at night my coworker, good friend, and oober ultra runner asked me if I wanted some company up Pike's. "Heck Yeah" I replied. He said he had to clear some prior plans and would let me know the next morning. I love spontaneity!

Having a partner in crime, the family was now calmed and soothed. The three of them were going to attempt to schedule a cog railway trip to the summit and meet us before we headed back down. To say I was excited was an under statement. This was going to be the first Fourteener I was going to summit via RUN!

I did a final gear check, set out necessary nutrition/water, and laid out my clothes for the next day. A lengthy quiz to Paul, my now running partner,  along with Matt Carpenter's website gave me some down and dirty details on what to expect, how to pace myself, and where to get water. Paul assured me I would do fine and the fact that he was going to be there eased any concerns I had about finishing the marathon-length run.

I tucked in early and got a good night's rest. I was worried I would toss and turn as I normally do before an exciting event, but I fell right to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Everything was packed and ready to go for a pre-dawn start.

We met at the trailhead about 0530ish. I hopped out the car and was giddy with anticipation. I bounced, I flounced, I might have even twirled. Paul willingly fed my childish behavior and joined in on the whoops and yippees of my excitement. We headed out around 0600 onto the Barr Trail.

 Gotta love the pre-run warning signs.

The climb up was more of a very strong hike with a handful of rolling runnable sections in between. Surprisingly we reached Barr Camp (approximately halfway point to the summit) in no time. I felt the run thus far was relatively easy and I wished I had run more of the ups to this point.

Paul showed me around Barr Camp and we dawdled awhile here to take in the full experience. I was awed. What a cool place!

 Paul (on the left) 

back sleeping quarters of Barr Camp. These cot-beds were lined up end to end.

We filled our water bottles up at the babbling brook right outside the camp and plopped in some purifying tabs. Potable Aqua came out with a new product called Potable Aqua Plus which I grabbed from REI to try. You drop in one tab per liter of water, wait 30 minutes to purify, then drop in a tab from the second bottle and wait five minutes. The second tab neutralizes the iodine taste, making it safe and tasty to drink. The thirty minute wait was not an issue since I carried a 1 liter bladder in my pack along with an Amphipod Hydraform handheld. I drained my pack bladder first to get the weight off my back then dumped my handheld water into my bladder. The creek water went into my handheld so while that water was being treated I still had clean water in my bladder to sip on. The tabs worked well- no sickness and no iodine aftertaste. 

From there we continued on towards the A-frame at a decent pace. Along the way we came across a bunch of hikers that called us crazy and one dude who was seventy-something. He was resting near the A-frame, dabbing his brow, and sipping some water. We took a short break upon seeing him and Paul struck up a conversation only to find out he was the top runner in his age group for the Pike's Peak Marathon. He was out here training, getting acclimated for the race. I believe he said he was here from a few states over and was staying out here until the race. He was in great shape!  

I'd say right around here I started really feeling the elevation. Breathing was a touch labored and I felt my neck jumping with my rapid heart rate. I had to take pauses frequently (only about 30 seconds or so) to try to calm my body down. 

 Nothing much living up here but rocks, marmots, picas, and a few head swooping swallows. 

 cool rocks.

 The Golden Stairs? Oh my! It was pretty tough here on up, hand on leg step-ups.

 looking back down. WOW.

Yay we made it!!!  Paul: You are SUCH a badass, truly. 

At the peak I felt a tad light headed every once in awhile but no other altitude issues. I patted myself on the back for controlling my hydration and nutrition well. 

We hung out in the store/restaurant after deciding we would wait it out to see the fam. We tucked into a booth, propped our legs, bought some snacks, and refilled our water bottles. I bought some fudge (avoided the cake donut- not my fav) but after noshing on so much GU on the way up, the fudge was too darn sweet to enjoy. I ended up buying a salty soft pretzel and split it with Paul. It was most excellent and hit the spot for some salty carbs. 

 Cowboy and parents met us about an hour later for a quick pic and a handful of delightful 'atta girls before we headed back down for some warmth! The skies were getting darker by the minute and a chill was setting over us.

I warmed up immediately once we got down off the summit. It was fun opening up (after such a long albeit much needed leg rest) and actually 'running' downhill. My legs felt great and I cranked some tunes.

Everything went perfect until the last few miles. The afternoon sun was beating down on us relentlessly and it was around 98 degrees at the bottom with no breeze and very little tree shade. I suddenly got super hot, like my clothes were lit on fire. I kept sucking down water thinking maybe I was dehydrated but then I felt sloshing in my belly and knew I was taking in too much water too quickly. I started feeling like I couldn't breathe well and still the fire inside my body became nearly unbearable. I finally started taking little walking breaks and told Paul something felt wrong and I was just too hot. He was patient with me and told me that we were in no rush. I felt bad for slowing us down but I really couldn't get control over my body. 

We finally made it down to the parking lot and high-fived each other. We did it. 
I didn't feel like puking and within a few minutes my body started to cool to a bearable level so I was happy. It was an amazing experience and I'm glad I had someone as cool as Paul to share it with me and help me through the rough patches. 

After Paul left, Cowboy walked up from the cog and helped me sling my solar shower over a tree where I proceeded to take a shower (yes I had a shower curtain enclosure!). Salt was caked all over me and burned. It felt like heaven taking that shower and pulling on fresh clean clothes. We met up with the parents at La Baguette in Manitou for some to-die-for French onion soup, walked the streets for some shopping, and ended the day at a used book store. What an amazing fun filled day. 

Pike's Peak and 25 miles of wonderful trail: you are now check off (though I wouldn't mind running you again Barr Trail!)!!


Momp said...

What a day! What a trip! We had a blast and so enjoyed our time with you and Cowboy. One of the highlights in talking about our trip to friends is bragging that our daughter RAN Pikes Peak! We are so proud of you and Cowboy!

momp said...

Oh, and thank you oober ultra runner for going with her. Thinking wildchild might be going it alone did make me worry. I was also happy to meet you albeit a brief meeting, lol.