At the start. Very cold, and the snow was just starting to fall.
Not sure where to really begin with this short race report. I have been nursing a very sore toe lately, but had also already signed up to run the Mt. Evans Ascent. I have been going very easy this past week so that my toe can heal (assuming it's not actually broken). I told myself that I would take a stab at the race if the toe was pain-free last night. Signing up for such an event, in of itself, was a pretty idiotic thing to do for someone that was coming to Colorado from what basically amounts to sea level. Throw the toe-factor in though, and it's really idiotic. Last night, I had no pain in my toe after babying it for basically three days. I had already decided that if I did try to "run" the race, it would just be a scenic 14.6 mile fun run...NOT A RACE. Looking at previous years results, the fastest runners average, maybe, 8 minute miles. I was aiming more for 11-12s considering the course.
So about the course.
You start at 10,600 and finish at about 14,100. It's all on paved road, but it is also ALL climb. Quite simply, you go up...for 14.6 miles.
High altitude does weird things to the human body. It affects everyone differently. After years of hiking in high mountains, and running at Leadville...I haven't been able to quite nail down how, specifically, it affects me. I know I perform at a lower level, and that it DOES affect me....just not sure how. Today I think I finally nailed it down. I have had a week in Denver, so I am acclimatized to a slightly higher elevation that in PA, but not much. Running up to about 12,500ft I generally do ok. It's when I get near 13,000 that it begins to really hit me. I monitored myself today to try to understand just what altitude does to me. At Leadville two years ago, I noticed I was stopping to break a lot and I didn't know if it was because I was exhausted, or because of the altitude. I watched people all around me today getting hit with different altitude symptoms. Some people simply couldn't breathe and were gasping for air. Others, had dizziness symptoms. I heard a few people talk about their headaches, and I even watched one person after 13 miles simply collapse (as if she'd run 100 miles). Here's what I noted for myself today:
My heart-rate was not affected much. I ran slower than usual, but my heart-rate was just about average...so I guess it had to work a little harder. I never got dizzy, headaches, or bloody noses. I never had a problem breathing and even a mile from the finish was breathing slowly and calmly. My problem is simply energy. For the first 11-12 miles I ran, albeit slowly, but I ran. I kept a good pace and watched as others around me had to stop constantly for walk breaks. When I got to mile 12 (~13,000 feet), is when I truly began to notice it. Trying to run, or even walk, I felt like I was at mile 88 of a 100 miler. That completely spent, utterly exhausted feeling that you get after burning all of your energy and working all day at a race. I walked a good portion of the last two miles (due in large part to the insane winds - more on that in a bit), and it felt like I had been running for 50 miles. Perhaps I need to breathe harder and faster to bring in more O's, but doing my usual routine at 14,000 feet puts me in what I call the "Mile 25 of a Marathon" position. It's really hard to explain, but if you can recall a very taxing race where you were close to the finish and felt like you could collapse at any minute....it's sort of like that, only more artificial. By the time I drove back to Denver, I felt absolutely fine again.
Quick note on the weather: It was INSANE. At the start it was in the 40's and snowing lightly. A man got on a loud speaker before the start to tell us that he'd just driven down from the summit where the winds were gusting and the temps were below 20F. I had planned ahead and packed a couple of layers, gloves, and a hat. I was glad I did. There were people standing at the start with singlets on and shorts. I had three shirts, a hat, and gloves. The first 7-8 miles weren't too bad. Cold, but ok. The second half was brutal though...gusting winds easily over 50mph, right in the face. You'd literally be running in place or get pushed to the side of the road. It made it almost impossible to even try to jog slowly. Walking was actually faster. My lips, fingers, and ears all went numb, and let's not forget I work in a freezer and in Antarctica. Needless to say, it was a wee bit chilly.
Overall, mission accomplished. I jogged slowly, chatted with volunteers, and only walked a bit after mile 12. It still took me 3 hours though. 3 hours to go 14.6 miles seems ridiculously slow, especially considering I ran the Pocono Marathon in 3:21, but it wasn't a race for me. I stopped to take pictures, and enjoyed the most amazing scenery on any run I've ever done...except for maybe the Leadville 100.
Didn't cause me any discomfort during the run, but is a little pissed off post-run. D'oh! I'm going to baby it again tonight and hope that it's just a little tender. I tried to go very easy on it during the run.
So that's it. It was a fun, albeit cold and windy, day. The scenery was amazing, and I got to participate in the "Highest Road Race in the United States". Cool.
(Official times and pics will be up on the event's website some time later)
Echo Lake before the snow clouds rolled in this morning
Couple of "Unofficial" Action shots: