Tag Archive | "Pikes Peak Marathon"

Joshua Holmes – Denmark Dash 5K – Feb 2012 – Run It Fast

42 Mini Race Reports: Joshua Holmes’ 2012 in Review

42 Mini Race Reports: Joshua Holmes’ 2012 in Review

Here is a quick look at the 42 races I ran in 2012. That total is comprised of 32 ultras and marathons that averaged 50.50 miles and ten shorter races consisting of 10k’s, 5k’s, etc.

2012 Marathons and Ultras for Joshua Holmes

  1. Walt Disney World Marathon (26.2) – 3:32:23 – One of my faster marathons. Great training with James Krenis leading up to this race to help him to reach his goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. If you had to train for one marathon and really wanted a big, grand experience with a lots of sights and people then the WDW Marathon should be on your list.  – January 8, 2012
  2. Maui Oceanfront Marathon (26.2) – 3:37:58 – I broke a couple of ribs surfing two days prior to this race. I could only take half breaths and rib cage/chest/arm became extremely painful the last 15 miles. Couldn’t lift arm afterwards without extreme pain in ribs. Always fun catching up with the speedy RIF #70 Chuck ‘Marathonjunkie’ Engle. Maui Oceanfront is a beautiful marathon with amazing views the last 18 miles along the coastline. – January 22, 2012
  3. Jackson Jackass 50K (31.0) – 6:29:29 – A race I decided to put together to help a friend run his first 50K. I was nursing a broken rib so I was cautious throughout the race, yet still slipped and fell 10x on this very muddy and messy course from heavy rains the night before. A very challenging yet fun day. – February 4, 2012
  4. Carl Touchstone Memorial 50 Miler (50.0) – 10:22:07 – This was a very muddy and wet course. Over 80 water crossings, most thigh high and extended for 20-30 feet at a time. A tough day with the conditions but solid performance considering the conditions. The joy from this one was helping RIF #3 Jonathan Bobbitt train for this race and successfully complete it.  I also enjoyed running part of the race with RIF #12 Kevin Leathers and RIF #24 Emily Conley.  – March 3, 2012
  5. Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon (26.2) – 3:59:41 – Drove down to NOLA immediately after finishing the MS 50 Miler the night before. Big thanks to RIF #38 JD Favara for picking up my bib for this one.  I was horrible, sluggish and not very good for the first 18 miles. I was on a 4:15 pace to finish yet came alive the last 8 miles to slide under 4 hours. I enjoyed catching up with several RIF members from Jackson after the race including RIF #35 Todd Shadburn. – March 4, 2012
  6. Land Between the Lakes 50 Miler (50.0) – 9:25:33 – A new 50mi PR after setting one the prior weekend down in Mississippi. I felt pretty good for most of this race. It was cold at the start yet bearable. I pushed hard at the end to go sub 9:30. It turned out to be a comfortable and beautiful day to run. It was good seeing my good friend RIF #2 Naresh Kumar before, during this race, and at our post-race meal at the po’chop place.  – March 10, 2012
  7. Savage Gulf Trail Marathon (26.2) – 7:25:52 – An inaugural event that no one knew anything about. The most difficult and most beautiful marathon I’ve run to date. Lots of the course was un-runnable due to intense roots and boulders. A must do for the serious marathoner than is not afraid of a challenge. You will only PR at SG if it’s your first marathon ever. Met RIF #18 Rick Jarvis during the early miles of this one.  – March 17, 2012
  8. Umstead 100 Miler (100.0) – 23:36:11 – This was another 100 PR for me, and I had the chance to share the course with good friends RIF #57 Trent Rosenbloom, Beth McCurdy, RIF #88 Hideki Kinoshita, RIF #92 Steven Lee, etc. I was strong for the first 50 then my legs started to fall apart a bit. I walked most of the last loop and was happy to finally have a sub-24 hour 100 mile finish. It concluded a crazy March of racing. – March 31, 2012
  9. St. Jude Country Music Marathon (26.2) – 3:34:17 – I have historically ran very poorly at this event in the past. It was my only race scheduled for April and maybe that helped me some this time. I was coming off some minor injuries from Umstead but felt semi-healthy. This is the first race I ran in Hokas. A lot of people faded during this one due to the heat, but I stayed pretty strong throughout. Ran into RIF #63 John Hudson and RIF #35 Todd Shadburn shortly after finishing. RIF also had a large number of members show up for the pre-race photo. – April 29, 2012
  10. 34th Annual Strolling Jim 40 Miler (41.2) – 7:34:43 – Another event I haven’t performed extremely well to date at. I was off to a good day as it was overcast and cool the first 15 miles to start this one. Then at my mile 15 drop bag I downed 3 Boosts and a couple of other things. At about that time the sun came out to play and my stomach was never the same. I spit up various things for most of the last 25 miles but pushed hard, especially the last 10 miles, to have a relatively strong finish. Always a great party after the race and I enjoyed spending time with several RIF members and friends. – May 5, 2012
  11. Scenic City Trail Marathon (26.2) – 3:57:31 – I ran this race in 4:27:34 the previous year. So I went in wanting to go sub 4-hours as my goal. I pushed the pace early on the first loop and was able to keep it close to the first loop pace on the second loop. I was strong until the last 2 or 3 miles but being so close to sub-4 helped me push to finish under my goal. A great race put on by the Rock/Creek people. – May 19, 2012
  12. Run Under the Stars RUTS (10 Hours) – 55 miles – My most miles put down at RUTS in my three years running this race. This is a great event and one of my favorites. It’s like a party within a race or a race within a party. About 20 Run It Fast – Club members ran this one and helped make it a blast. Enjoyed watching good friend RIF #151 Chris Estes put down 63 miles. – June 9, 2012
  13. The Jackal Trail Marathon (26.2) – 4:32:32 – Another event that I put together that went off really well. It was a very hot mid-June day in West Tennessee that upped the degree of difficulty a bit. I felt good throughout, finishing third overall, and used it as heat training in case I decided to run The Last Annual Vol State 500K in July. – June 23, 2012
  14. The Backass Jackal Trail Marathon (26.2) – 4:52:51 – I ran the previous day like it wasn’t the first of back to backs. I ran about 2 miles before the race as I was trying to set up water coolers and find Sulaiman before the start. My legs were tired from the prior day, but I was competitive as RIF #151 Chris Estes and I battled throughout the day for the win which he ended up with. Five of us finished this one after doing The Jackal Trail Marathon the day before.  – June 24, 2012
  15. The Last Annual Vol State 500K (314.0) – 5:17:04:04 – An epic race that I did for the first time last year. I wanted to just finish the race in 2011, but this year I wanted to be competitive and see how well I could perform over this grueling slugfest that covers 314 miles on hot asphalt in Tennessee and touches several other states.  The weather was a chill 85 degrees the first day, and I decided to take advantage of it and see how many miles I could put down before finding rest. I recorded 93 miles in 23-hours before heading to the hotel where naturally I couldn’t really sleep.  During the next day I covered 49 very slow miles. To make a long story short I was in fourth place after four days and ended up with a mad fury of miles on the last day and sped up Sand Mountain to finish second place overall with a time of 5 days and 17 hours.  Special thanks to RIF #13 Mikki Trujillo, RIF #2 Naresh Kumar, RIF #183 Kirk Catron, and RIF #143 Scott Flowers for helping crew me for all or parts of this epic race.  – My Full Vol State 500K Race Report – July 12, 2012
  16. Blister in the Sun Marathon (26.2) – 3:58:16 – A challenging race in Cookeville, TN that good friend Josh Hite has put on the last three years. It’s a 5-loop course on what is usually a very hot day. I was still recovering from Vol State but didn’t want to miss this one since I’d get to see many of my best marathon running friends.  I ran a bit better than I thought I would considering my Vol State rust. I originally thought I’d take it easy and run something over 4 hours. I got in a groove though among RIF #79 Dallas Smith,  RIF #196 Bill Baker, and RIF #186 Danny Staggs and pushed probably harder than I needed to but was honored to finish just a few seconds behind the great Dallas. – August 5, 2012
  17. Pikes Peak Marathon (26.2) – 7:59:23 – For a West Tennessee boy from the flathills this turned out to be quite the challenge. I’m sure I was a bit dead-legged coming in but this turned out to be a really tough, dizzy, and staggering day for Cosmo.  The run starts at around 6,500 feet and goes up to 14,115 feet at the halfway point before gravity pulls you back down to the starting line to finish. I did pretty well the first 10 miles going up but then the altitude gave me a headache, made me a bit dizzy, and I started staggering like a drunk. If you trip to the left going up then you fall several thousand feet to your death. I took it easy as I didn’t feel right the miles leading up to the summit and for several miles on the way back down. I ran pretty well the last 4-5 miles. It was a beautiful climb and view from the top of Pikes Peak, but from a running perspective I did nothing that day that should be put into a time capsule. I did enjoy spending time with RIF #83 Brad Box who had a good race.  – August 19, 2012
  18. Lean Horse 100 Miler (100.0) – 22:41:28 – Leanhorse happened to be just a week after Pikes Peak, but I felt pretty good going into it. This was my second time running this race so that was worth something. This race takes place in beautiful South Dakota.  I stayed at a hotel close to the convention center where the buses would depart from for the starting line at 5:30am. I mistimed walking over that morning and missed the buses. Luckily, I was able to hitch a ride with an older couple at the hotel next door that was going to the starting line 15 miles away to see their daughter start this one.  Leanhorse has the best running surface I’ve run on at any race. It’s a very finely crushed limestone/dirt mixture that is smooth and easy on the legs.  Being late to the starting line, I forgot to take a pre-race Roctane and a couple of other things. Luckily over the course of a 100 miles you have time to remember that and catch up without falling too far behind.  I ran well at Lean Horse for a majority of the race. My bottle went dry a couple of times during the hottest part of the day and my stomach got a bit upset, but a sweet woman from Canada and Lanier Greenhaw gave me some ginger during the race and it settled it down. My goal was to improve upon my 26:30 time from the year before and go sub-24 hours.  I tired over the last 20 miles but kept pushing and was able to finish LH with another new 100 mile PR of 22:42:28.  A great 100 I’d recommend to anyone looking for a new one or for a place to run his or her first 100.  – August 25, 2012
  19. Tupelo Marathon (26.2) – 4:05:33 – Tupelo was the week after Lean Horse, but I had signed up for it months before and wanted to run it again and see many of my running friends.  Tupelo is a rolling course with some minor hills that starts at 5am in the morning, in the dark, before it gets too hot and humid. However, the heat never really came this year but it was extremely humid from the opening bell.  I felt like I struggled and had a mediocre first half but after a quick pit stop and reversing direction for the second half I ran well and passed many people.  I realized I was pushing too hard to go sub-4 during the last 5 miles or so. I finally realized I would likely miss sub-4 by a minute or two so I pulled back a bit and played it safe to finish.  I was still really drained and tired but enjoyed the food and fellowship after the race as a few others and myself waited at the finish line for everyone to finish. – September 2, 2012
  20. Endure the Bear 50K (31.0) – 6:29:46 – This was a first year race that took place in Big Bear Lake, California, which is high up in the mountains in a very beautiful Gatlinburg-esque town.  I had no clue what to expect going in to this one. What’s new, right?  RIF #5 Lisa Gonzales met me at the start with some Roctane (since I was out), and we caught up for a bit before this one started. It was a straight up-hill climb for the first 5 miles or so then it had big hills up and down throughout the day. One of the more challenging 50K’s I’ve run. I was very tired at the end but pleased with my effort overall. – September 9, 2012
  21. Big Sur Trail Marathon (26.2) – 4:07:02 – I gave RIF #5 Lisa Gonzales a ride up to this race since it would be way too risky and dangerous riding with her.  Big Sur was a beautiful marathon that took you up towards the heavens for the first 3 miles before dumping you amongst the big trees with sneak peaks of the blue Pacific Ocean from time to time.  I ran stronger and faster with nearly every mile and with the intense descent back down to the finish for the last 3 miles I blistered a couple of sub-7 minute miles to finish 10th overall and with a pretty fast time on a challenging trail marathon course. I also tweaked or did something to my left knee during those last couple of miles as well.  – September 29, 2012
  22. Yellowstone-Teton 100 Miler (100.0) – 21:23:55 – This race was a lot of fun and amazing on several levels. It’s only the second race I’ve ever had a crew to help me out with. I was very thankful that RIF #5 Lisa Gonzales made the trip to Idaho/Montana to crew me for this one. She was really a great help outside of finding me a cheeseburger.  I have to admit it was a bit daunting at the start of this one. The race started in West Yellowstone at 6am. It was pitch black and 9 DEGREES. It was briefly overwhelming to be that cold, that dark, that early in the morning knowing I had 100 miles to run.  Three miles in my handheld was frozen solid. I ditched it and would only drink water when I’d see Lisa.  The sun finally did come up and the temperature did a bit as well.  It got up to about 46 during the warmest part of the day before dipping back down to the low teens once the sun hibernated again.  I was having a great day for about the first 30 miles then I tore something in my left knee that progressively got worse for the next 12 miles.  At about mile 42 it was so painful and uncomfortable that it was a struggle to walk much less run. I was about 98% sure I was going to drop when I decided to change shoes and put this compression sleeve around the knee. I then rolled the sleeve up and down until the pressure was so intense that I could barely feel anything.  The knee was still painful but with every step thereafter I was able to block it out more and more.  I then began to run more and walk less and thoughts of dropping started to recede from my mind with each mile I was able to click off.  I think the extreme cold helped once the sun went down. It was distracting and helped take my focus off my knee. I knew I likely could do serious damage to my knee and be out of commission for awhile, but I was on a PR pace and in the Top 10 for most of the day so as a stubborn ultramarathoner I kept ‘falling forward.’  I wasn’t fluid with my running over the last 60-70 miles, but I gave it everything I could.  I was able to finish with a new PR, a top 5 finish, and an age group win.  – October 6, 2012
  23. Javelina Jundred 100K (62.0) – 16:33:34 – This was by far my worst race of the year and perhaps my life.  I signed up for the 100 miler yet had only been hiking since Yellowstone since my knee was still jacked up and on strike. I think my meniscus was torn.  So my first step of JJ was the first I had run in almost a month. I didn’t know how my knee would hold up or respond until landing that first time.  I found out it wasn’t 100%, but it was never a concern for me on this day as too many other things turned out to be more pressing and depressing.  My first loop and a half (roughly 21 miles) I was great and ran extremely well. Then when I hit my second drop bag on the second loop everything went south. Like south of Hades south!  I drank a couple of Boosts, had some food, and switched water bottles since my strap had broken on my main one.  I don’t know if it was the JJ water or food poisoning but over the next few hours I visited the porta-potty about 15x and in a not to be shielded from the intense sun kind of way.  From that mile 22 point for the next 5-6 miles I was in a bad place.  I felt like I was getting stabbed in my stomach to the point I couldn’t even walk. Someone or something was holding me hostage within my stomach and they weren’t exactly abiding by the constitution. All I could do was bend over to my toes and wait for it to subside a bit so I could slowly walk some more.  At one point there was no porta-potty for at least 3 miles and I needed one bad so I wandered off into the desert (no trees) and finally found a small incline that would have to suffice as a prop.  From there, which was pretty low, I didn’t think it could get any worse but it did.  A few minutes later I was on all 4’s between two cacti puking once then twice. Dozens of runners passed, some laughing, as I was just happy to still be alive.  The puking helped a little. I was able to walk slowly after that. All I wanted to do was get to the aid station at 28 for porta again and then walk the 2 miles back to headquarters at 30 and drop. So I’m walking slowly towards 28 when I scoot over slightly for a runner to pass when I suddenly feel this piercing, striking pain in my right thigh. I look down and this cactus ball had jumped off the cactus and stapled itself through my shorts with over 100 of it’s barbed needles.  I had no words. I tried to pull it off and it wouldn’t come off.  I then decided to run with it before deciding better that I needed to get it out or it might cause some sort of infection or be poisonous.  So i finally grabbed the bottom of my shorts and ripped them away from my skin as hard as I could and it violently came off leaving 60-80 needles still lodged in my skin. I stopped to take them out one by one as I was literally shaking my head in disbelief.  Finally, un-barbed, I began my march again.  The Garmin data would later tell me I put down a 48-minute mile during this stretch. My stomach was still a mess, ginger wasn’t helping, and I was trying to get back to mile 30 so I could drop and go back to the hotel.  I finally finished the loop and I was still sick yet for some odd reason, instead of heading to the car, I took that first step onto the third lap (walking) as I did slowly for the next six miles. Finally, I started to feel a bit better and ran pretty well from 36 to about mile 50.  That is when the sun started to set. I also realized that due to my stomach that I had not consumed any calories in hours.  That reason along with the tricky footing in the dark among the rocks made me start to reevaluate my goal.  I didn’t want to injure my knee worse, and I also knew I’d have a hard time catching up on calories.  I then decided to make it back around to the headquarters and take the 100K finish that is offered for finishing 4 loops and count my blessings that I was able to push through for 40 more miles and finish 100k after my intense brush with the dark side earlier during the race.  I felt pleased with my effort and what I had overcome on this day to accomplish a meager 100k. One that will never come close to the personal record books but that will never, ever be forgotten. – October 27, 2012
  24. Catalina Eco Marathon (26.2) – 4:40:32 – This was a very beautiful race on Catalina Island. It’s a small island that takes 1-hour to get to from Los Angeles. If you can survive the ferry ride without losing your breakfast then that’s half the battle.  This was another race where we gained around 1,500 feet the first 4 miles before it leveled for some fun and scenic running. It was extremely windy throughout this one and it felt at times as if it was going to blow some of us off the cliffs.  I ran well until around mile 18 or 19 when I hit the Catalina Crush. I was already starting to be crushed before it, but the CC is a climb that can’t be run by us mortals. It’s extremely steep as you can only stare at the heavens as you walk up it.  I managed over the next 3 miles or so and then ran strong down the semi-technical trail for the last 3 miles back to the finish.  A must-do race if possible or within your budget. I’ll be back to this one at some point for sure.  I enjoyed meeting RIF #69 Nadia Ruiz Gonzales and Aaron Nowlin on the ferry over to Catalina. – November 10, 2012
  25. Malibu International Marathon (26.2) – 4:21:15 – RIF #5 Lisa Gonzales picked me up and hauled my tired legs and body to the start line of this one in Malibu. The first 10-12 miles is inland and boring. My legs were bored and tired as well from the beating they took the day before at Catalina. But around mile 12 we reached the ocean and ran on the Pacific Coast Highway along the ocean all the way back to Zuma Beach in Malibu. It was beautiful, scenic, and I saw a couple of dolphins jumping in and out of the water as I was running. It’s flat with a handful of medium sized hills near the end. – November 11, 2012
  26. Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon (26.2) – 3:49:30 – My favorite road marathon of the year and one of my all-time favorite races. I had to start with the early-starters due to a death in the family.  I missed out on some of the festivities having to do that but still had a lot of fun running this race on what turned out to be a cold November morning.  I was the first across the finish line (of the early starters ;) ) Many more finished ahead of me from the regular field. This race is such a great homecoming of great runners and friends from across the South.. The post-race spread is worth the price of admission itself.  Big thanks to RIF #57 Trent Rosenbloom for all the hard work he puts into making this event great. Thanks to RIF #151 Chris Estes and RIF #5 Lisa Gonzales meeting me before the early start. – November 18, 2012
  27. Black Diamond 40 Miler (40.5) – 6:22:48 – Another race I put together that went extremely well according to those that took part. RIF #65 Jonathan Harrison set a blistering pace for the first 30 miles as I couldn’t catch him. Then as we approached Humboldt I started to gain ground and passed him once we made it into the city. I felt good for the first 34 and PR’d 50K and other splits.  I ended up winning this race by about 9 minutes (and a new 40 mile PR). I had such fun watching several RIF club members set PL’s (personal longs) in knocking back 40 miles for the first time. – November 23, 2012
  28. Death Valley Trail Marathon (26.2) – 3:57:02 – There was great weather this year for the Death Valley Marathon after the wind cancelled the official version last year. This race has a slow gradual climb up until about mile 12.5. From that point it drops from 5,300 ft down to sea level (0) at the finish.  It was all about the Quad City DJ’s on that intense downhill. I left everything on the course and ran it as if I didn’t have another marathon scheduled for the next day.  I’d highly recommend this one to anyone who loves a challenging race with unique and powerful views along the way. – December 1, 2012
  29. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon (26.2) – 4:14:51 – Dead legs and just an overall cranky body from the Death Valley Trail Marathon the day before made for a miserable first 16 miles in Sin City. I ran into RIF #114 Rigoberto Tellez at mile 16 and seeing a fellow RIFer, that I was not expecting to see, among the masses picked up my spirits. We ran together and paced each other for the next four miles. I picked up the pace from there and finished with a decent overall finish. I had calculated around mile 15 I was on pace for a horrible 4:45 finish so I was pumped with how it ended up turning out. I also enjoyed meeting and talking to RIF #20 Laura Raeder before the start of the race. RNR did a great job fixing the problems with this race from the year before. – December 2, 2012
  30. Lookout Mountain 50 Miler (50.0) – 10:24:06 – LM50 was my first 50 miler a couple of years prior. I had no clue what I was doing that day back in 2010. Luckily, I’ve raced a lot since then and learned a lot along the way. I was curious to see how much I had improved since that first time on Lookout.  I came in with tired legs and a couple of nagging things but overall I felt pretty good.  Two years ago I ran this race in 13:02:23.  I ran well for the first 25 miles and had a nice split, but from 28-38 something didn’t feel right. I was off and struggled through those miles. However, I was able to sew it back together, and I finished strong over the last twelve miles and was very pleased with my time, knocking almost 2 hours and 40 minutes off my 2010 time.  However, my favorite part of this race was getting to run it with several RIF members including RIF #57 Trent Rosenbloom and RIF #65 Jonathan Harrison and  seeing RIF #83 Brad Box, RIF #221 Karl Studtmann, RIF #166 Nathan Judd, and RIF #185 David Pharr complete their first 50 miler.  It was a great event, and I hope to be back again next year.- December 15, 2012
  31. Trail of Fears (10 Hours) – 43.0 miles – A race I put together based on Laz’s Big Dog Backyard Ultra with a few tweaks and changes to it. The basis of the race being that runners have 60 minutes to complete a 4.3 mile trail loop. If they couldn’t then they were eliminated or if they didn’t toe the starting line for the restart of the race every hour they were eliminated as well until one runner remains standing.  The time was dropped by a minute after four loops/hours and eventually got down to 50 minutes for the last loop. I got in 10 loops/43 miles and was pleased with my effort. I could have done a bit more, but I wanted to take over as RD and cheer my friends along and enjoy the show.  A great day and event as I got to witness many friends and Run It Fast – Club members go further and beyond distances they had done before.  I was 85% sure it would be my last race of the year.  – December 22, 2012
  32. Across The Years (24 Hours) – 100.8 miles in 19:49:39 – Well it turned out I had one more race in 2012 to run. I felt like I needed one more long tune up before the HURT 100 in January so I decided to drive over to Phoenix for the ATY 24.  A race I’d been eying for several years. I had wanted to do the 72-hour, but I knew I needed to play it safe and run the 24.  This is a great event where a lot of really cool runners show up to hang out and put down a lot of miles. I enjoyed running with RIF #66 Robert Boluyt and RIF #121 Ed Ettinghausen. I put down some fast splits for the first 30 miles then struggled mightily from 30-40. Mostly it was just tired legs and a bit of fatigue. During this time, Vikena Yutz gave me some great advice that helped with my dead/tired legs the rest of the way.  For several miles from 30-40 I just hoped to get to 50 so I could call it a day, but I hit 50 and kept going. I was on a PR/sub-20 pace and I kept nailing my splits as I crept towards the century mark.  It helped drive me that I had never gone sub-20 hour before for a 100.  Long story short is that I had it timed perfectly to go sub-20. Then another runner reminded me for the math to work right I’d actually be going 100.8 miles.  So I pushed hard the last 10 miles to make up for that extra 0.8 and ended up hitting 100.0 in 19:39 and 100.8 where I stopped in 19:49:39.  I could have easily kept going or walked the last four hours and won the event (as it turned out), but I did well to keep my focus on the HURT 100 and not getting hurt at ATY. Another great event that I hope to be back at in 2013.  – December 29, 2012
All the Smaller Races of 2012

  1. Denmark Dash 5K (3.1) – 19:50 – Ran pretty well. Finished 8th overall, 2nd age group. – February 25, 2012
  2. Run for Haiti 5K (3.1) – 20:47 – Finished 3rd overall, 1st age group. – April 14, 2012
  3. Milan Glow in the Dark 5K (3.1) – 20:47 – Pretty warm nighttime 5K. Finished 2nd overall, 1st age group – April 19, 2012
  4. West TN Speech & Hearing 5K (3.1) – 21:50 – Cold and very windy. Ran poorly. 8th overall, small field. 1st of 2 races on this day. – April 21, 2012
  5. Leadership Jackson 10K (6.2) – 44:08 – Ran well after doing a 5K right before this one.  Finished 2nd overall, 1st age group. – April 21, 2012
  6. Strawberry Festival 10K (6.2) – 43:11 – Planned to take it easy. I was in 10th place after three miles then everyone in front of me peeled off for the 5K finish so I had no choice but to Run It Fast and win this one. – May 12, 2012
  7. Zoom thru the Zoo 4 Miler (4.0) – 28:25 – A very hot and humid afternoon in Memphis. I gave a strong effort and finished 31st out of about 1,200 runners.  – May 24, 2012
  8. Buford Pusser 5K (3.1) – 20:57 – One of my favorite 5K’s in West TN.  It’s always hot, humid, and very sunny for this one.  I finished 6th overall, 1st in my age group.  – May 26, 2012
  9. Milan Knock Out Cancer 5K (3.1) – 21:02 – Small field of 20 runners. I won this one. It was hot and humid and no one was close to me for the last 1.5 miles. 21:02 should never win a 5K though, even in the Sahara.  – May 28, 2012
  10. Bluesfest 5K (3.1) – 19:32 – Hot June day. I ran well and scored a new PR while finishing 4th overall and 1st in my age group. – June 2, 2012

I want to thank all the great people in the Run It Fast family, my friends, and especially my family for all of their support in helping make 2012 such a great success for me. Remember that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. The mind is stronger than the body. – joshua holmes

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Brad Box 2012 Pikes Peak Marathon

Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report – Brad Box (2012)

PIKES PEAK MARATHON – August 19, 2012

Many of my past running journals were painfully long, going into every intricate detail of my subject experience.  With this entry, I want to hit the high points and hopefully preserve a great memory without writing a book.

My friend Karl Studtmann convinced me to register for The Pikes Peak Marathon.  He actually registered for me while Angie and the kids and I were on a spring break cruise.  Unfortunately, Karl suffered a knee injury and was unable to run the race.  As always, Karl was a great friend and support throughout the entire experience.  I know he was disappointed that he wasn’t returning to Pikes Peak in 2012, but he only expressed excitement for me and my chance to run this race.  He followed every detail of my training and advised me along the way.  He checked in with me right up til the night before the race and made the experience even more special

As with every such event there is lots of planning and discussion that went into it, not to mention a whole bunch of training.  For this event I trained differently in that in addition to trail work, I also did weekly treadmill steep incline workouts that were much tougher than I anticipated.  Once a week, I would put the treadmill on an 18% grade and then put in over an hour as fast as I could manage to go.  That workout is tougher than any speed work that I have ever done.  On the trails, I logged countless hours, and ran the marathon distance or farther 5 times between May and August.

Another friend, Josh Holmes was also registered for the race and with Karl out Josh split the hotel in Manitou Springs Co with me.  It was really nice to get to visit with Josh because we had never spent any one on one time together. We both arrived the day before the race (I flew in late because August 18, was my son Weston’s 13th birthday!!).  Nothing like 12 hours of altitude acclimation!  On my flight from Nashville to Denver, I spilled the drink of the guy sitting next to me and so I bought him a replacement.  He was so grateful that he started telling me that he was a digital artist and he gave me one of his signed art pieces.  Pretty cool!

I drove from Denver to Colorado Springs and then on to Manitou Springs.  When I drove into Manitou I could see Pikes Peak looming, glaring, intimidating.  I remember sending Karl a text and saying “OMG, What have you gotten me in to?”  What an incredible mountain.  Manitou Springs is an interesting little town.  It’s like you stirred Gatlinburg and an adobe village together in a bowl.

Josh and I met up and went over to the registration and then ate at the pre race pasta dinner.  We listened to the guest speaker, Bart Yasso give his talk.  Afterward we got to meet Bart and had our pictures made with him.  Bart is called the Mayor of Running and the Yasso 800s are named for him.

Josh and I made the ritualistic night before prep for the race and then I went to bed.  I slept surprisingly well considering that it was the first night at altitude and the fact that I had a race the next day.

On the morning of the race, we awoke at 5:00, ate a bit, and got ready and planned to walked mile to the starting line.  Interestingly when we made it to the street a race volunteer pulled over and offered us a ride.  Just as we got in the car, we saw two huge mule deer bucks, with giant racks still in velvet, just hanging out on the edge of the main drag through Maintou Springs.

We took pictures at the starting line and then waited anxiously for the start.  We had the first female marathon finisher to give the official start.  The first mile is on the roads but it is a pretty steep incline through the storybook little town.  Thereafter, you hit the trail and go up and UP AND UP!!  To say that I could feel the altitude from the start is an understatement.  Nevertheless I was proud of my time during the ascent.  The race is historic and it has numerous well know points: No Name Creek, John Barr Trail, Barr Camp, The A Frame, Cirqure, and of course a little spot called the summit which is over 14,000 feet up.

The scenery is breathtaking.  Another one of those places where you get a overwhelming sense of how our Creator made our world in a way that is far beyond what can imagine, describe or capture with a photo.

The vegetation changes as you climb and I wish I knew more about the flora and fauna to describe what I saw.  Initially, there is heavier vegetation and mainly fir trees.  Around 8000 feet or so, it seems to become more Alpine, and the evergreens are blended with Aspen trees.  After so many years of snow skiing, I kept having the urge to cut off the trails and start carving my way down the mountain through the trees.

I really surprised myself over the first dozen miles.  I was able to run pretty much whenever the traffic would allow me to do so and I was getting really excited about the time that I was making.  I felt good considering (considering that there is no oxygen).

I am not sure the altitude above which the trees can no longer grow, but the moment you breakout above the tree line, it is like being on another planet.  The Rocky Mountains have that name for a reason.  With no tree cover, the wind feels like its howling.  The temperature from 12,000 to above 14,000 feet stays in the 30s or below pretty much year round.  The view is indescribable so I won’t try.  I had to fight the temptation to look at the mountains and take my eyes off the trail.  I learned a month or so before the race that “God Bless America” was written from Pikes Peak, and now I know why.

The last two miles before the summit became a little frustrating because of the runner created bottle neck.  The elite runners, including the winner Killian Jornet, had reached the summit and were making their descent.  Uphill runners must yield to downhill runners, so despite the fact that I had the physical strength to run at miles 11-13, I was forced to hike or climb at a 20+ minute pace.  Thus, instead of reaching the summit in under 3:30 as I was thinking, I reached at about 3:50.

The summit was awesome, but candidly I regret that I didn’t stop and savor it a little more.  I looked around very briefly and then made the turn to start the descent.  Karl told me that I would immediately feel relief as soon as I started back down and he was right.  The mile below the summit is really a rock quarry and there is as much climbing as there is running.  Thereafter, the rocks and boulders are a little more spread out and running becomes easier.  At some point before I made it to the tree line, I met up with Josh.  He took a picture of me running down the trail above the tree line.  It will be one of my all time favorite running pictures.

Just after I reentered the tree line, a Texas A&M fan spoke to me.  I was wearing an official University of TN running team singlet, and I had people comment on it throughout the day.  This particular runner and I started talking about A&M joining the SEC and about the upcoming season.  I became so focused on our conversation that I didn’t focus enough on the trail.  I took a step onto a big flat boulder and my foot flew out from under me.  I went down hard and hit my head.  I was really shaken up and it took me a long period of limping, then hiking, before I could try to run again.  Even after I was able to run, I felt unsteady on my feet for most of the rest of the race.  I actually fell three more times.  Rocky mountain rocks are sharp, jagged, and generally unpleasant.  I looked a little like I had been through a meat grinder.  At every aid station from that point on, the EMTs and volunteers offered to treat my wounds.  I declined, the blood running down my legs were badges of honor.

As I came back down to 8000 feet or so, it became really hot.  I don’t know what the high for the day in Manitou was, but I was cooking for the last hour of the race.  When I came off the trail, there were tons of spectators cheering along the mile and a half to the finish line.  At one point I looked down and realized I was running about a 7 minute pace.  Nothing like fan support and a finish line to make you push.

After the race I had only a few minutes to savor the finish line festivities.  I had a flight from Denver to Orlando to make so I hitch hiked the three miles back to the hotel, jumped in the shower to scrub the rocky mountain gravel out of my wounds with a wash cloth, tied them up with bandanas because I had no bandages, and hauled it from Manitou back to Denver International.  I was communicating with Angie, and Karl and all sort of friends and family on the way back.  I remember Karl sending me a message, saying “good luck getting out of the car!”  He was right, and that proved to be one of the biggest challenges of the day.

All the falling, and unsteadiness probably cost me a half hour of race time, but I have no regrets.  PPM is a unique and special race.  It requires unique prep and planning, but certainly one of the most prized items on my running resume.

THANKS BE TO GOD!!

– Brad Box (2012)

Posted in Marathon, Race Reports, RunningComments (0)

Trent Rosenbloom 2006 Pikes Peak Marathon

Trent Rosenbloom’s Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report from 2006

Pikes Peak Marathon Race Report (2006) – Trent Rosenbloom

Pikes Peak or Bust –

The Pikes Peak Marathon is in a class of its own, distinguished by Pikes Peak itself, one of Colorado’s most notorious 14ers. Among the 53 or 54 mountains in Colorado higher than 14 000 feet at the summit, Pikes Peak carries a reputation for challenge and a history of intimidation. Pikes Peak derives its fame and reputation from being easily visible for many miles to the east, more so than any other of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It has long been the single goal for homesteaders and then miners headed westward.  For these early westerners, Pikes Peak was once thought to be unconquerable due to its elevation, conditions and location. While it is now clear that the Peak can be readily summited by car, foot or rail, the Barr Trail up its eastern face remains among the most challenging footpaths around.

From town, the round trip up the Barr Trail to the Pikes Peak summit is just shy of twenty-six miles. It would seem logical to create a marathon that covers the up and down route, right? Well, the Pikes Peak Marathon is not your usual marathon. It is not a road race since most is on trail, and it is not a typical trail marathon because it starts and finishes on road, has a large field with plentiful aid stations along the course, and takes most participants far longer to complete than other marathons. Furthermore, because of the big mountain that occupies most of the course. For most, the Pikes Peak marathon is actually two events: it is first a long 13.1 mile fast run/hike over an average 11% grade path that includes a road, a narrow trail and numerous switchbacks and rocky step-ups to a point well above treeline; second is a tough as nails, body-beating downhill half marathon on the same course, with a clock timing the whole thing as a single event. As you climb from below 7000 feet elevation to above 14 000 feet, the air thins, your thinking muddles, your legs tire and your mind despairs. But time flies and before you know it, you are headed back downhill. Most runners cannot actually run the whole way up.  Yet a few feet from the turnaround point, you feel the air return and your thoughts clear. This occurs just in time to feel the burning in your quads and back. Pace is vital; run ahead of your abilities and predicted time and you will risk burning out.  Run too slow and you will risk spending too long under the dangerous conditions on the mountain. The average finish time for the past five years is 7:06 for men and 7:36 for women. Last year’s winner finished in 3:58. These are very long times for a run at marathon distance, speaking to the difficulty of this course.

This past March I signed up to run this marathon, which was a strange thing for me to do.  I never really saw my self as a runner or an endurance athlete, and until recently I never put in consistent miles. I had grown up an introverted and asthmatic kid and participated in very little physical activity, instead preferring schoolwork, camping and computers. The madness leading up to my registration actually began about thirteen years ago. I remember a friend taking me to a running store to buy my first pair of running shoes.  After that, the two of us would periodically run and walk/run a three mile loop near my home. My friend was always stronger and faster than I, but he patiently helped me along and to build a small base.  At that time, I was in school and the running helped both to clear my mind and to challenge me. But I never ran seriously, competitively or regularly. Over time and with effort I improved, and eventually I was able to complete the three-mile loop near my home without stopping.  I had many other interests and activities in my life, however, and for many years I ran only sporadically and never more than three miles. I remember back six and a half years ago when I realized that I wanted to attempt to run a marathon. I had watched folks on television running the inaugural Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN, and figured that if they can do it, so could I. Some time later, I actually started to train. But I had no idea what I was doing, did not really take the training program I had downloaded off the web very seriously and did not properly build up my miles. I ran the second annual Country Music Marathon, bonked at mile 12, and then did not run again for three and a half years.

Things changed a little over a year and a half ago when I was inspired anew to run. My older daughter had been running cross-country in grade school and I realized that I missed the sport. Shortly thereafter I learned that I was going to be near Duluth, MN over the weekend of the 2005 Grandma’s Marathon.  From friends, I had heard great things about Grandma’s Marathon: it runs along a beautiful and flat route along the shores of Lake Superior during the cool of the Minnesota early Summer. To run Grandma’s, I had only 7 1/2 months to build my mileage base back up from nothing. That very evening I tied on my old running shoes, ran a mile and didn’t collapse from the effort. The next day I ran two. Then three. Within a month, I was actually up to about 20 miles per week. With this base established, I started training regularly the following January. I first trained with a local running club, the Nashville Striders, for the 2005 Country Music Marathon.  Country Music Marathon was scheduled to occur seven weeks before Grandma’s that year. My goal in training for the Country Music Marathon was to benefit from the local training program, and to allow myself a seven-week window to recover should I become injured or sick during training. By good fortune I did not get injured or sick and so I ran the Country Music Marathon, and then Grandma’s Marathon 7 weeks later. My times were not special, but I was able to keep going and completed the distance. Somewhere along the way I thought it might be fun to complete five marathons in ’05.  This goal was both silly and arbitrary. But what the heck? After three marathons in the Fall, I completed this goal.

I met 2006 without any significant running goals. I wanted to break 4:00, which I did easily in my first marathon of the year, and I also ran a few tough marathons in the following weeks, including really hot Country Music and Grandma’s Marathons, and a hilly, long (i.e., it was about 26.9 rather than 26.2 miles) Grandfather Mountain Marathon. Finishing the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, I had tallied up nine marathons in 14 months and ten in my life. These were fun and it is always great to go through the finish line at a marathon. But I wanted more of a challenge.

A group from Nashville had run the Pikes Peak Marathon during each of the past few years, and they always have had great stories to tell and pictures to share.  Last year they went out early and ran a few races in the weeks before and had a blast. One of them in particular, Diane, is very convincing and very nice, runs a lot of marathons and ultramarathons, and when she says “c’mon”, it is really easy to follow. So this year, when registration opened and she made sure I knew it had opened, I gave Pikes Peak serious consideration. Because last year was the 50th anniversary for the Pikes Peak Marathon, interest in the run was high and the marathon was expected to fill in less than 24 hours.  I knew I had to make a quick decision. I checked with my wife (who was not sure what she was getting herself into) and she said, “Whatever you want to do”. So I registered. Once registered, I knew that I had to put my shoes where my money went. From Nashville at an elevation of 500 feet above sea level, with hills that max out at about 400 feet, I somehow had to train to complete a marathon at high elevation that climbs vertically nearly one and a half miles in elevation gain over its course, then drops the same before the finish, with the whole thing taking 150%-200% of my normal marathon completion time.

When asked to name the hardest marathon in the country, many runners name Pikes Peak. The Pikes Peak Marathon carries the moniker “America’s Ultimate Challenge”. When asked about Pikes Peak, many veterans equate it to a tough ultramarathon. They make this comparison not because of the total distance, which after all is just 26.2 miles. Rather, the Pikes Peak Marathon is equated with ultramarathons because of the long time required to finish, the strategy required for completing it, the fact that it is mostly on steep rugged trail, and that it requires as much effort as many ultras. In addition to the trail conditions, the elevation and the length, Pikes Peak adds the potential for extreme weather; it could be hot and sunny, raining and slick with lightning, or even snowing and sleeting (as was the case last year). And runners may experience all of these conditions during the course of a single run. To compound the drama, people running this thing occasionally die. As in dead. I was fortunate to have had a conversation with Jack Menard, an ultramarathoner who recently completed the Badwater 135 mile Ultramarathon that starts in Death Valley and finishes at the base of Mount Whitney. Menard stated that Badwater is just a long walk in the heat, while Pikes Peak is really tough. I think he may have been exaggerating, but there is truth in every lie. Many runners jump off from running Pikes Peak into ultramarathoning because after the Peak, 26.2-mile races on flat asphalt courses just don’t compare. What was I thinking? My wife keeps telling me that she needs to buy more life insurance for me.

Living in Nashville, how was I supposed to prepare for this challenge? How could I ensure that I would complete the marathon and come away uninjured and with positive memories? How could I do as well as possible on such a tough run? Well, the first thing I did was go over to Matt Carpenter’s website, www.skyrunner.com. Carpenter lives, trains and runs at the high altitudes of Manitou Springs, the home of the Marathon. Carpenter sets records on nearly every course he runs, including the Pikes Peak Marathon. Last year he took a break from Pikes Peak to run the Leadville Trail 100 mile Ultramarathon, and crushed the record there by finishing in 80% of the time of the prior record.  Carpenter knows a thing or two about running hills and distance at high elevation. From the website, his basic suggestions for those who live close to sea level and without major mountains (i.e., so called “flatlanders”) is nonetheless to emulate the Pikes Peak Marathon as much as possible. To do that, one needs to: 1) run several times for more than four or more hours; 2) run at inclines of 10-12%; 3) run as much as possible on rugged trails; and, 4) learn as much about the course as you can. Carpenter comments that for flatlanders, there is no way to emulate the effects and feelings of running at altitude short of actually running at altitude. That said, I had received other advice that any time I spent at high elevation in the days leading up to the marathon would help. Since I have a day job and could not go to Colorado for weeks or months of high altitude training, the best I could do would be to spend a single week beforehand climbing some of Colorado’s 14 000 foot mountains and sleeping at 10 000 feet above sea level. Just a week at high elevation would not suffice to permit my body fully to acclimate. However, it would allow me to begin a physiologic adjustment, and would lead to some mental acclimatization. By that I mean I would learn what low oxygen feels like and have a sense of how to deal with the chest palpitations, dizziness, nausea and headache that it brings. It was also possible that spending the time at altitude would reduce the chance I would feel those symptoms during the marathon itself.

So I did my best to follow Carpenter’s guidance. I ran a few marathons this Spring as training runs, including another tough and hilly Grandfather Mountain Marathon in Boone, NC seven weeks before Pikes Peak. I pushed my weekly miles higher than they had ever been, purposefully flirting with overtraining. I ran fairly technical 4- and 7-mile trails that include some major steep climbs and descents. And I read the Pikes Peak Marathon route description several times. I ran as often as I could in the boiling hot and humid Middle Tennessee Summer to grow accustomed to running dehydrated and under uncomfortable conditions.  Then, having done all I could in Nashville, I went with our local Pikes Peak Marathon group to Colorado nine days before the marathon to run, climb mountains at high elevation and begin to adjust to the altitude. The marathon was on Sunday, so we flew out to Denver Friday a little more than a week before to begin the process.

Our plan for the week was to spend as much time sleeping, sitting, hiking and running at high elevation. Saturday, we ran the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon. The run started at 8500 feet elevation, then dropped 1000 feet over its course, despite a few rolling ups. I ran feeling short of breath and lightheaded, with heavy spaghetti legs the whole way. All the runners in our group ran about a minute/mile slower than our usual half marathon pace. Upon completing the half marathon, we went to Leadville, Colorado to spend a couple of nights sleeping at an elevation of 10 000 feet above sea level. On Sunday we ran the Leadville Trail 10k over a course that covers the first three miles of the Leadville Trail 100 mile run, and goes down a 400-foot steady drop over the course of 3.1 miles. At the halfway point you turn around and return to the start up the same hill. Again, we all ran relatively slow, and my pace was a little more than a minute slower than my usual 10k pace, but one member of our group took 4th overall, beating out many of the runners who are well accustomed to the altitude. The next day, Monday, we climbed Colorado’s highest peak, Mount Elbert. The climb covered 4.6 miles and rose an average 23% (and a maximal 50%) grade, over trail, piled rocks and scree, with no real switchback to soften the climb. We spent an hour at the summit, over 14 300 feet, eating cold pizza and granola bars. From the summit, we RAN back down to the cars to get a feel for running down from high elevation, with a severe grade and on a questionable surface.

On Tuesday, we drove up Mount Evans to get more time at high elevation. Mount Evans is another Colorado 14er and has the highest road accessible point in the country. We drove to avoid overexerting ourselves in the week before the marathon and to allow some recovery from the efforts the days before. Just below the summit, at about 13 000 feet, there is a lake (called, surprisingly, Summit Lake) with a few nice trails around it that we hiked. Of course, our hiking was limited by the growing pain in our quads and calves from that 4 mile downhill run the day before. On Wednesday, well rested, we climbed another 14er called Mount Democrat. Mount Democrat required climbing an average 23% grade, but this was mostly over small boulders and scree through a poorly marked trail; the 2 mile climb took almost as long as the 4 mile climb up Elbert. After an hour at the summit elevation, the icy wind and menacing dark clouds convinced us to head back down. Halfway down, we decided to call it a day rather than attempt the adjacent 14ers, Mounts Lincoln and Brosse. On Thursday we drove back up to Mount Evans to spend the entire afternoon at elevation. We sat atop the summit reading and relaxing for five hours through changing weather that brought sun and 60s at one moment and sleet and snow with a cold wind at another. Elevation training done to the best of our abilities, on Friday it was off to Colorado Springs to get ready.

Marathon weekend brings two events to Pikes Peak: the Ascent, a 13.32 mile race from Manitou Springs up the Barr Trail to the summit on Saturday; and the Marathon, a 26.2 mile round trip from Manitou up to a point just below the summit, then back down to town. Approximately 20% of the runners participate in both events, accomplishing a feat known as the Double. One member of our group, the same Diane who got me out here, signed up for the Double.  The rest of us tried to retain a small shred of sanity by running just the Marathon or the Ascent. Our plan was to arrive in Colorado Springs, pick up our packets, visit Garden of the Gods (an attraction comprised of beautiful red-rock boulders balanced at precarious angles, rising above a conifer forest, then grab dinner and get some sleep. The next morning, Diane was to awaken early and go to the Ascent, and we would drive up on the road that wraps around the Peak to meet her at the top. We registered and went to the small marathon expo at the center of Manitou Springs. There, we met a few other runners, including the publisher of the magazine Marathon and Beyond and, by sheer coincidence, one of the people who registered for the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon, a new tough and hilly marathon in Nashville that I have had the pleasure of organizing. After a quick dinner and a trip to Target to stock up on some last minute gatorade and dark chocolate M&Ms, we all went to bed. The night was punctuated by numerous intense storms with powerful lightning and earth-shaking thunder. The quantity and persistence of the rain was uncommon for Colorado Springs, and threatened to make the trail conditions tough for the Ascent, washing out deep ruts and pushing boulders into the way.  Diane woke up dutifully and took off on the Ascent. After a pancake breakfast, we hopped into the minivan and drove to the densely fog-enshrouded summit to meet her and breathe just a bit more 14 000 foot air.

Waiting for Diane at the top, we had the opportunity to see many of the Ascenteurs finish and talk to them about the nature of the trail, the weather and the effort. We learned that, for the Ascent, the dense clouds kept the course cool and that the rains of the night before did not wreak too much havoc on the trail itself. While there were a few wet or washed out areas of the trail, it was mostly intact. At the summit, the bright yellow finish line banner was obscured by the fog; one could barely see it from just a few yards away. As each runner crested the final switchback, an announcer would call out their name and hometown. Because of the fog, this was nearly the only way to know who was finishing. But runners finished and emerged from the fog to begin their recovery. The top finishing times for the Ascent was 2:18 for men, 2:46 for women. Diane’s plan was to finish much later to ensure that she had enough energy to complete the Double the next day. So we sat near the finish line in the icy and foggy cold, enjoying the excitement and watching everybody finish.  We occasionally went into the Summit House to warm up and eat. And yes, while there I did enjoy the fudge, hot cocoa and the “World Famous Donuts” in the Summit House. The thin air, you see, makes the donuts puffy, crispy and greasy. Yum!

Sitting atop the summit, we also recognized the significant changes that had occurred over the week in our physiologic responses to the high altitude. When we arrived, even walking at an elevation of 10 000 feet above sea level would cause our hearts to race and our heads to spin.  Atop Pikes Peak waiting for Diane, we found that we were much more comfortable. Seven days before, in Leadville, my resting pulse was in the low 90s and around 110 while walking, compared to my pulse in Nashville, where it is usually 56-58. Sitting the day of the Ascent atop the Pikes Peak summit, 4000 feet higher than Leadville and over 2 1/2 miles higher than Nashville, my pulse was just 80. And I felt comfortable walking around, was not lightheaded and could think fairly clearly. I had made definite progress against the effects of altitude, our week in the mountains seemed to have helped. The diminished effects of high altitude combined with the relatively fresh appearance of Ascenteurs finishing in about the time I expected to summit the next day reassured me.

Well, Diane finished feeling strong. We drove down the mountain to get some food and some rest before the big run.

***

Purple Mountain’s Majesty –

Marathon morning began with our hotel wake up call at 4:45 AM. The weather forecast was calling for partly cloudy skies with a temperature in the 60s at the starting line, 30s at the summit and 70s at the finish. With the fog and rain the day before, marathon morning was offering beautiful mountain weather. We collected the items we would need for the run, including fluids, energy gels, sunscreen and sunglasses. A quick bite at Denny’s, and we were off to the starting line. The sun began to rise as we drove to Manitou Springs, lighting the top of Pikes Peak in a brilliant orange glow. Beneath the peak, there were a few wispy clouds that had settled into the alpine valleys just below treeline. The deep blue sky framed the orange peak, the silvery clouds and the dark green forests as the scene dominated the western horizon ahead of us as we approached the marathon. Once there, we joined the crowd of runners, all lining up for pictures with the mountain in the background and the starting line banner in the foreground. I bumped into a couple of runners I knew and we too posed for pictures in the crisp morning air. We were just a few moments before the starting time, and we felt the excitement rising.

The Pikes Peak Marathon starts and finishes in the town of Manitou Springs, just outside of Colorado Springs. The course climbs from town up to the Barr Trail. The Barr Trail is an approximate 12-mile path that winds its way from the base of the mountain, up over Mount Manitou and then up Pikes Peak to the summit. The trail includes over 250 switchbacks, large boulders and roots, scree fields, dense forests, streams, mountain and valley views, vast boulder-strewn expanses above treeline, and several structures built at different times during Pikes Peak’s recent history. Many of these landmarks serve to mark the runner or climber’s progress up the trail towards the summit. While there are also mile and elevation markers, marking progress by miles is fraught with problems. Running up the Barr Trail, with its changing grade, terrain, available oxygen and topography forces the runner substantially to vary pace at different places. The effort required to run the first mile at a given pace is very different from the effort required to run the twelfth mile at the same pace. Carpenter’s advice is to determine a goal time to the summit and then use race statistics from over the years to determine approximately how long it would take to reach certain landmarks. To help with this, his website offers a calculator which estimates landmark-based intervals. Using the calculator, the time to reach the landmark known as Barr Camp, a structure about halfway into the run and 10 000 feet above sea level would take 50.8% of the ascent, or just over two hours for a four-hour ascent. Armed with the expected times to the various landmarks along the way up, the runner should be able to adjust their pace so as not to run too fast or too slow.

The approach to the Pikes Peak summit includes several other landmarks indicating how far you have gone in terms of a percentage of the total effort to reach the top. Estimating when you should pass each landmark requires that you have an idea how long it would take to get to the turnaround point at the top, 13.32 miles into the run. Having never run the Pikes Peak Marathon, I did not know the appropriate time it would take me to reach the summit given my abilities. The common rule of thumb is that, for flatlanders like me, getting to the summit takes your best recent marathon time plus 30 minutes. For example, if you can comfortably run a four-hour standard marathon and you have adequately trained for Pikes Peak, you should be able to reach the halfway point near the summit in about four hours thirty minutes. Getting back down to the finish line requires another 60% of the summit ascent time. I had completed my last fastest marathon in 3:50, which would predict 4:20 to the summit and a little over 7:00 to complete the marathon according to Carpenter’s calculator. Given that the average male finisher time over the past few years was 7:06, I decided to shoot for a finish time of 7:00 or less. To achieve a 7:00 marathon, and assuming that I would follow the split schedule as predicted, I would need to summit by 4:18. No problem, right? So I wrote down a pacing chart that included the major landmarks along the way, and the times I should reach them if I were to run a 7:00 marathon. I also wrote down the times for a 6:30 marathon, just for kicks.

Given that the thin mountain air would become even more sparse as I climbed the mountain, I elected to use my heart rate to help guide my marathon effort. This would supplement other information I had while running, including my general sense of wellbeing, the strength I perceived in my legs, my thirst and my hunger. I planned to maintain a heart rate between 155-165, which should represent a sustainable effort. In addition, given the tough incline that I would have to climb, my heart rate would serve as a guide for when I could speed up and, more importantly, when I needed to slow down or walk. However, I also knew that the altitude and thin air could cause my heart rate to climb higher or, weaken my effort to the point where my heart rate would drop lower. My monitor included GPS capabilities, so it would help me gauge distance covered and elevation above sea level. These data would be equally useful to help me monitor progress both in terms of linear distance and climb up the mountain. I could use the information to check off every altitude landmark as I ascended from 6300 feet to 14 050 feet, and again as I descended.

The race started in the heart of scenic Manitou Springs. There, with a couple of minutes to go before the start, the race director made the usual announcements to inspire us and make sure we understood the rules of the road.  Then, a choir of school children sang “America the Beautiful”, which was inspired by Pikes Peak itself, and was written after the song’s author, Katharine Lee Bates, visited there in 1893. The singing before any race can evoke an emotional response, but standing there with the Pikes Peak summit in sight on a beautiful and cool Colorado morning after months of preparation and angst, I became choked up. My sunglasses hid tears of joy, excitement and nerves as the children sang and the crowd grew silent, just seconds before the starting gun. And then, “on your mark, get set, go”, a gun shot into the air, and we were off.

***

Oxygen is Overrated –

The first section of the Pikes Peak Marathon course goes through the center of Manitou Springs, along Manitou Avenue and among hundreds of cheering spectators, then veers left up to Ruxton Street and Hydro Street as it makes its way up to the trail. On the side of the road, Trish, who ran the Ascent and who is the wife of one of the runners in our group, was cheering us all on and calling out our names as we went by. Another spectator was blasting the tune from Chariots of Fire (a movie more about fast short distance running, but no matter, it is always inspirational). While running, the field thinned just a bit, and many people quickly passed me. I had been warned to take it easy and let folks pass; either they had the ability to maintain their pace, or they would quickly burn out on the long road ahead. The morning remained cool as we progressed up the hill towards the Barr Trail. My times to the first two landmarks were ahead of schedule: 4:37 minutes:seconds to Ruxton versus 5:17 for a 6 hour 30 minute run, or 5:41 for a 7 hour run (herinafter listed as actual time/6:30 finish predicted split/7:00 predicted split, or 4:37/5:17/5:41 for Ruxton, then 14/15/16 for Hydro Street). I was ahead of schedule, and felt good and light. My heart rate was right at 160, I felt air in my lungs, my thinking was clear and my legs felt pretty limber. A good start, and I hoped it was sustainable.

Shortly after passing the Cog Railway, a railroad that carries tourists up and down from the Pikes Peak summit, we turned right and entered the trail. The trail begins with a series of thirteen switchbacks, known as “The Ws” because of their appearance as stacked Ws on a map. There is one aid station at the bottom, and another just below the top of the Ws. The trail itself is made up of a narrow, single track path with rocks, roots and steep sides that all together make passing prohibitive. The term single track means that the trail is wide enough for a single runner only, and at times the designation seemed to have been an exaggeration, so narrow is the Barr Trail. Much of the trail on this section is also steep as it traverses through a dense conifer forest, still misty with the morning humidity. On this section, many of the runners were vying for position, passing each other when they could barely squeeze by. I passed a few people in this section, and other runners passed me. At the top of the Ws, after taking some Gatorade Endurance Formula and some grapes at the aid station, I found myself even more ahead of schedule, 43/48/52. At this point, I did not feel quite as strong from the recent climb, but my heart rate remained in my target zone and my thinking remained clear. So on I went.

The next portion of the route winds through the woods and includes a few small climbs, switchbacks and flat sections. In this part of the marathon it is fairly easy to establish a running rhythm and simply to float on through. The hills often required fast walking to climb, but the flats really allowed some smooth running. During this part of the run you get your first glimpse of Pikes Peak. In the hour that had passed since the start of the run, the Peak had become even more spectacular. At this point, it filled the view, framed by the dense green forest and the large granite boulders jutting out above the trees. Some wispy clouds remained in the valleys above and below, and the sun was at just the right angle to illuminate the entire scene. As we ran through the hills below Mount Manitou, in the foothills of Pikes Peak, the views were continually breathtaking. I almost stopped on several occasions to dig out my camera and take pictures, always a great temptation for me, but I was still feeling good and wanted to press on. Shortly after ducking under a natural granite stone arch and climbing another hill, I reached the next landmark, the No Name Creek and aid station: 1:05/1:10/1:15 hours:minutes. I was still ahead of schedule, my heart rate still in zone, and I felt reasonably good. I drank some fluids, ate some grapes and energy gel, and then moved on.

Above No Name Creek, the trail climbs higher through more woods and includes a traverse over to Pikes Peak proper. This section ends at the Barr Camp, an old lodge on the mountain.  According to the calculated splits, runners should reach Barr Camp in just over 50% of their total ascent time. As before, this section mostly winds through the forest, over generally well-kept trails of dirt and gravel, with occasional tree roots and clusters of small to medium sized granite rocks. The technical quality of the trail and the climbing grade forces the runner to pay attention with every step. There are occasional views of the mountain above in the clear open sky, and the city below, now mostly enshrouded in low-lying clouds. At this point, the running field had thinned considerably, and you could see only a handful of runners ahead and behind you. Passing runners was fairly uncommon at this point, although it did occur at the aid stations along the way. As I climbed higher, I began to notice that my legs felt heavier and heavier and that I began to feel weaker. I was not lightheaded. I was not nauseous. I was not dizzy. Mostly I just felt tired and a bit sluggish.  I remained ahead of schedule, but by a shrinking margin: 1:30/1:35/1:42 to the sign that says 7.8 miles to the summit, and then 2:00/2:01/2:11 to Barr Camp. My heart rate had begun to drift lower at this point, and now mostly rested in the high 150s, suggesting that my actual effort was dropping while my perceived effort was increasing. But I pressed on. Just past Barr Camp was the seven mile marker, and my elevation was just over 10 000 feet. I was more than halfway to the top, and still moving forward

The trip from Barr Camp to the treeline is the trail section where most runners really feel the air thin, the elevation climb, their legs slow and their heads spin. There are numerous switchbacks, steepening climbs, and more obstacles on the trail. The trees remain dense, but the clearings come more frequently, the pines become more stunted and scrubby, and large orange-red and white flecked Amanita Muscaria mushrooms are everywhere along the forest floor. Here, those marathoners who are still running finally begin to walk, and the rest of the field begins to walk more slowly and with more attention to pushing each foot ahead.  Step by step.  The trees begin to thin and the bright sun becomes more intense. From here, hydration, sun protection and determination all become more important. I continued to push forward, but by this point my legs had begun to feel notably heavier, while my heart rate remained in the mid to high 150s. The elevation gauge on my GPS device kept climbing, which was a reassuring sign. But the work was beginning to get hard, and I began to feel the first thoughts of despair:  What am I doing? Can I finish this?  As I approached the treeline, marked by an A Frame cabin and another aid station the leader, Matt Carpenter, came flying back downward towards his finish. He appeared as something between a gazelle and a sparrow. And then he was gone and my climb continued. I made it to the A Frame somewhat slowed, but still ahead of my schedule: 2:55/2:50/3:03. The A Frame is at an elevation of about 12 000 feet above sea level, and just below the spot where the trees gave way to the tundra and open boulder fields that continued all the way to the summit. I stopped, took some deep breaths, a few cups of fluid, some energy gel, some Jelly Bellies (yum!) and some grapes. After a minute or two I felt a bit refreshed, and took off to complete the last three miles of the upward climb. Past an old burnt forest marked by barren weathered tree trunks interspersed with scraggly pines, and I was above the treeline.  By definition, trees do not grow in the conditions above treeline.  My wife has commented that there must be a lesson in this fact.

The rules change above treeline. That’s the general dogma for climbing or running up mountains. In this case, that means all the pace plans go away and any forward motion towards the summit is good. Climbing the remaining 2000 feet of elevation in over three miles to complete the climb up the Barr Trail generally takes the ascenteur far more time and effort than anything that came before. Add to that steep switchbacks which do little to flatten the climb, closely placed boulders that you must slow to climb over and substantially thinned air, and there was no good way to predict how long this section would take. Even the fastest runners struggle here, and nearly all of them walk or crawl. According to my schedule, it should take between 65 and 85 minutes to finish the climb. Along the way I would pass three major landmarks, each one attesting to my progress across the otherwise featureless rock field: the 2 miles to summit sign, the Cirque–a scenic view from a 1400 foot dropoff to the valley below–and the 16 Golden Stairs, a set of 16 switchback pairs just below the turnaround point. While these points indicate progress towards the summit, they also point out the runner’s ever-slowing pace.

On this morning above treeline there were large patches of fresh snow covering and surrounding the route, as well as snowmelt turning many trail sections into small streams. The air was cold, about 36 degrees according to the signs on the way up. A strong wind blew across the boulder field that made up our route, sometimes to our backs and sometimes to our fronts, as we zigzagged up the switchbacks. Looking forward I could see the summit, still appearing far away and high above, but now with a visible stream of marathoners winding up from where I was enduring my own struggle. Occasionally somebody ahead would call out, “runner” as one or more of the faster marathoners would come craning down the path, headed back to oxygen, the trees and the finish line. In the meantime, I was part of the slow march upwards. By this point, my heart rate was bouncing between 147 and 153, my legs were heavy as lead, and my head occasionally spun with exertion. I felt forced to take occasional breaks just to regain my focus and breath. At one of these a woman stopped, looked into my eyes and asked me if I was okay, and then did not seem to believe my reassurances that I was. But she eventually moved on and soon I too pushed forward.  In most marathons, the runner begins to encounter a feeling of despair and doubt around mile 18 or 20, wondering just what they are doing running such a distance. During the Pikes Peak Marathon, I experienced this doubt around mile 11. But I had to push on and up. Slowly on and up I went.  I made it to the 2 miles to summit sign still ahead of schedule, but just barely: 3:20/3:14/3:29. And then up past Cirque. And then up past a few switchbacks. At 3:50, two friends who were also running the marathon passed me on the way back down to the finish, both focused on the route and both appearing happy to be headed towards the air.

Soon it would be my turn to head down as well. I continued to traverse the steep stone fields. I passed more landmarks.  One mile to go. Then the Golden Stairs. I counted them off, some switchbacks short, some long. I counted them, one, two, three, four, and so on. The rocks were slippery. Each switchback required a big effort to climb. I occasionally had to use my energy to move aside for a downhill runner. There was no air. My heart rate was dropping even lower, as my perceived effort continued to climb. But as I got closer to the summit there were people yelling and clapping and shouting encouragement. These were spectators who had driven up or taken the Cog Railway to witness the turnaround. Trish, who cheered us far below and long ago, was at the top again calling out my name and holding up a sign. Fifteen switchbacks, sixteen, seventeen. I could see the turnaround sign, hear the music, feel the top. Twenty six, twenty seven, twenty eight. And then, I was there. I reached the summit, took a few breaths of air, some fluids and grapes and looked down at the mountain. I made it right behind my goal time: 4:19/4:00/4:18. But that was fine; I hoped to make up that minute on the downhill. And so after one last look around, downward I went.

On the way down, within a few steps, runners suddenly can breathe, feel the strength return to their legs, and notice their heads clear. My experience was no different. I was barely below the Golden Steps and I felt like I was running a new race, albeit on tired legs. Now it was my turn to have the right of way; all the marathoners coming up moved to the side to allow me to come down. In my renewed excitement, I plummeted downward with near-wild abandon.  Several other runners tentatively heading downward made room for me to pass as I flew by. I saw several friends headed upwards and I passed along the same encouragement I had received from downhill runners as I headed up. I was so excited to be moving that I stopped only briefly at the first few aid stations for fluids.  And while some of the switchbacks and boulders required that I slow down, for the most part I found that I could run smoothly and consistently. My pace improved from approximately 15 minutes per mile on the more technical sections up high, to 12 minutes per mile as I passed below treeline, and then to 10ish minutes per mile below Barr Camp where oxygen awaited me. The trip down was great fun as I dodged the rocks, roots and ruts in the trail, passed numerous runners and vied for position with others, stopping occasionally to grab fluids and candy at the lower aid stations. There were a few small uphill sections that felt great on the way up the mountain, but were difficult on the way down; many of these we walked. The trail wound its way down all the switchbacks we had previously climbed, through dense forests and among light clearings, with occasional mountain and valley views to distract from the mounting fatigue. On the way down, I saw a few runners who had fallen while running at speed on the trail; many had gotten injured. One was covered in blood and bandages after receiving stitches for her injuries.

Heading downward, the time flew. I passed each mile marker, keeping a close eye on my watch and pace to make sure that I would reach my goal time of seven hours. At treeline, with ten miles to go, I had been running about a fifteen minute pace and had two hours remaining. I would not make it. Three miles later, at Barr Camp, I had seven miles and an hour and twenty minutes left, and was running at an increasing pace. I might make it. The further down I went and the more my pace increased, the more confidence I had that I would make it. In the last few miles, however, another factor emerged; it was becoming fairly hot and humid. I knew that I was sweating and losing fluids and salts. I stopped to drink more at every aid station, but my increasing pace made it hard to digest the fluids comfortably. I found myself in a tough place; as I descended, I began to cramp from the drinking, and began to feel a little weak from not drinking enough. I was close to the finish and ultimately decided that it was best just to push on. Fortunately, the aid stations were placed regularly enough that I could take small amounts of fluids frequently and keep an even pace. And I found the descent portion the easiest second half of a marathon I have ever run.

And so on I went, headed to the finish and hoping for a sub-goal time.  Down past Barr Camp. Down across the traverse to Mount Manitou, then onto Mount Manitou and No Name Creek. I kept a close eye on my altimeter: 11 000 feet elevation, then 10 000, then 9000. Down through the granite natural arch. Down several switchbacks and some significant steep drops that I did not really remember from the climb. Down to 8000 feet. Then 7000 feet. Three miles to go, then two. Then the Ws, counting them down. At the bottom of the Ws, somebody was again playing Chariots of Fire. Then, immediately past this, one mile to go, and again I became choked up. And then asphalt. And then cones to guide us. And then a steep downhill. And then turn the corner to Ruxton Avenue. And then the crowds started to appear with kids waving for high fives. And again, Trish calling out my name and holding up a sign.  Excited to be nearly done, I threw my Camelback to Trish so I would not have it in the finish line photo. And then down through the enclosing crowds and swelling cheers.  There is my name and hometown being announced. And then around the corner, the finish line. And I was done. 6:48:17. Ahead of schedule and happy as can be.

– Trent Rosenbloom (2006)

Posted in Marathon, Race Reports, RunningComments (0)

Pikes Peak Marathon Medal_2 2012

Pikes Peak Marathon Medal (2012)

This is the medal for Pikes Peak Marathon that was held on August 19, 2012 in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

The marathon starts at 6,300′ and climbs to 14,115′ at the summit before the runners return back to the start! Insane! It’s America’s Ultimate Challenge all right. I like how the medal incorporated the mountains into the shape and that it declared the marathon’s bada$$ery on the back.

Congratulations to RIF #83 Brad Box and RIF #1 Joshua Holmes for completing such a tough marathon!

Here’s one last photo of the medal:

MORE PHOTOS OF MARATHON/ULTRA MEDALS AND BUCKLES

[Medals and photo submitted by RIF #1 Joshua Holmes - follow him on Twitter @bayou]

Posted in Bling, Featured, Marathon, MedalsComments (0)

Where Run It Fast Runners Are Running This Weekend (August 18-19, 2012)

Where Run It Fast Runners Are Running This Weekend (August 18-19, 2012)

Where Run It Fast Readers Are Running This Weekend (August 18-19, 2012)

Storified by Joshua Holmes · Fri, Aug 17 2012 12:50:51

Here is a look at where everyone is running this weekend. We had 24 responses this week. Good luck to everyone and Run It Fast!

To join Run It Fast – The Club then click HERE to read more details.

@runitfast Pike’s Peak Marathon in Manitou Springs, Colorado on Sunday. #runitfastJoshua Holmes
@runitfast Milesplit Xc season opener #GCUTyler Bowman
@runitfast had 7.5 mile trail run in CVNP today, 5k in columbus sunday. #dogjogWilliam Jordan
@runitfast I’m racing Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest, a 5k at Milwaukee’s Lakefront!Sun Torke
@runitfast running the @Edm_Marathon in support of @mustardseedyeg as part of Edmonton’s plan to #endhomelessness.Jeff Dyer
@runitfast I’m running the Leading Ladies Marathon in Spearfish, SD on Sunday! #runitfast #5Lisa Gonzales
@runitfast Celebration of Running 5K in Orlando, FLBelaymonkey
@runitfast 6mi run. Taking it easy this weekend. Jacksonville, FLE. Smith
@runitfast Got the @Tavern2Tavern5K in Cambridge, MA on Sunday. Should be a great race and post-run party!Brian Eastwood
@runitfast I’ll be running the 8 mile perimeter of Mackinac Island, MI on Saturday! #gottaloveitconstancegail
@runitfast #TNFLaCalera2012 the North Face 50K trail run challenge in La Calera near Bogotá Colombia.Juan M. Escallon
@bayou @runitfast Big Wild Runs aka Anchorage marathon this wknd!Scott Stader
@runitfast KalmarIronman tomorrowDaniel Öjergren
@runitfast Tidewater Strider Mile in Virginia Beach.Greg Smith
@runitfast Springmaid Splash ‘XStream’ 10K Trail Race, Spruce Pines, NC #runitfast #RIF15 #lovetorun !!!Amber Goetz
@runitfast My own private #halfmarathon tomorrow.Amy Bailey
@runitfast granbury txBritni W. Bird
@runitfast A training run early on Saturday morning through the city streets.Janelle McCoy
@runitfast I’ll be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Providence Half Marathon Relay! so excited!Kelsey Stevens
@runitfast usual gulf coast beach rungreg stanford
@runitfast swimming 10km on Sunday with @EventslogicukLuke Shipway
@runitfast running a #marathon on Sunday. It’s my 2nd in 2.5 months! Gonna rock it at the @Edm_Marathon with @DrCalbertaTinaFab
@runitfast pushing the baby jogger on the beautiful greenway in #cltKate Meier
@runitfast #firefly 5K! Tonight in Denver,CO!!! Cant wait!Kelie Kyser

Posted in RunningComments (0)

Nadia Ruiz Gonzales’ Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons

Nadia Ruiz Gonzales’ Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons

Veteran marathoner Nadia Ruiz Gonzales has run 74 marathons to date.  She ran her first marathon at the age of 14-years old at her hometown Los Angeles Marathon.

Here is a look at some of her favorite marathons that she has run from the West Coast all the way to Europe.

Nadia’s Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons:

20. Rock’n Roll New Orleans Marathon – (Website)
Location: New Orleans, LA
Race Date: 2/13/11
2011 Finishers: 3,140
2011 Race Temps: 40F/55F
2011 Results: 3:20:48 BQ, 54th total

Looking for a fun city on a fun weekend full of beaded necklaces, boas, masks, drinks, and more? New Orleans is the place to be during Mardi Gras! The race offers a flat course with several turns, cool temps, and typical Rock’n Roll pre and post race support providing very favorable conditions for PR attempts but watch out for uneven roads at times. I enjoyed this race with friends and hitting a PR made it even sweeter!

19. Extraterrestrial Midnight Marathon & 51K – (Website)
Race Location: Rachel, NV
Race Date: 8/14/11
2011 Finishers: 173
2011 Race Temps: 50F
2011 Results: 4:37:08, 1st FOA 51K

Starting at midnight, the marathon and 51K ultra start at the infamous black mailbox outside of Area 51 for a point to point scenic course in the desert. You run under a full moon and star lit sky going slightly uphill continuously for the first 13 miles then rolling hills thereafter. Be aware the RD from Calico Racing does charge extra for glow in the dark items, required reflective tape, and shuttle bus ticket from Vegas. 1st overall award was a glass bottle of salts. Still very entertaining race with neon lit runners and alien themed. Don’t get abducted!

18. Red Rock Canyon Marathon – (Website)
Location: Red Rock Conservation Area, NV
Race Date: 3/5/11
2011 Finishers: 175
2011 Race Temps: 35F/50F
2011 Results: 3:38:59 BQ, 2nd FOA, 55th total

Another race from Calico Racing as it offers an absolutely gorgeous out-and-back course at elevation with views of red rock formations but be prepared for a large amount of hills on the roads! I love scenic courses so here is one that the views and hills will not disappoint. Watching the sunrise over the horizon is as breathtaking as they get.

17. Pasadena Marathon – (Website)
Location: Pasadena, CA
Race Date: 5/15/11
2011 Finishers: 868
2011 Race Temps: 57F/61F
2011 Results: 3:20:04 PR, BQ, 59th total

With slight hills on this road race, the course meanders throughout the beautiful homes and greenery of Pasadena with some beginning miles around the Rose Bowl Stadium. The course is not your typical PR flat course but I was well trained for hills that spring season so I earned my PR that day. If you like a small, very well organized marathon, this is a great one! Check their FB fan page as they often offer contests for free VIP entries.

16. Malibu International Marathon – (Website)
Location: Malibu, CA
Race Date: 11/15/09
2009 Finishers: 330
2009 Race Temps: 50F/69F, windy
2009 Results: 3:38:01 BQ, 7th FOA

Point to point course begins in Camarillo and ends in Zuma Beach: first 10 miles are flat through the fields of Camarillo then the remaining 16 miles are along the beautiful CA coastline on PCH with possible strong headwinds and significant rolling hills. Beautiful beach marathon with a large towel and reusable lunch bag for finishers. Since its inaugural year in 2009, I have returned every year and the race continues to grow in participation where marathon participation was almost 500 in 2011.

15. Bermuda Marathon – (Website)
Location: Hampton, Bermuda Island
Race Date: 1/18/09
2009 Finishers: 76
2009 Race Temps: 60F
2009 Results: 3:58:11, 22nd total

Take a vacation during Bermuda’s low season off the east coast and enjoy the beauty of the island’s two-loop course through its neighborhoods all along the shoreline. The locals are friendly and very welcoming to tourists. They also offer their Bermuda Triangle Challenge for runners interested in racing three days for extra bling!

14. Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon – (Website)
Location: Two Harbors-Avalon, Catalina
Race Date: 3/10/12
2012 Finishers: 382
2012 Race Temps: 50F/70F
2012 Results: 5:16:32 pacer, 3rd Div.

Starting in Two Harbors and finishing in Avalon, you will run on trails through the hilltops of Catalina with miles of ocean views. Offering over 3,500′ of elevation gain, the course is enough to challenge any runner but merciful so you can enjoy the beauty of the island. Generally the rule of thumb is add about 1hr +/-15min to your regular road marathon time to predict a finishing time on Catalina. Watch out for buffalo!

13. Bellingham Bay Marathon – (Website)
Location: Bellingham, WA
Race Date: 9/26/10
2010 Finishers: 401
2010 Race Temps: 62F, light rain
2010 Results: 3:38:48 BQ, 48th total

Commented by many reviews as “the most beautiful marathon in the Pacific Northwest,” you will run along the beauty of Bellingham Bay, San Juan Islands, with mountain views running on roads, bridges, and a touch of trails. A wonderful variety of beauty with slight hills definitely a favorite of mine.

12. Napa Valley Trail Marathon – (Website)
Location: Calistoga, CA
Race Date: 3/29/08
2008 Finishers: 45
2008 Race Temps: 40F/55F
2008 Results: 3:40:13, 1st FOA

Capped at 300 participants for the full, half, and 10K, the Napa Valley Trail Marathon offers a challenging yet rewarding course on a single track in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Surrounded with lush greenery all around and running streams as your soundtrack, the course does require hill preparation for a great experience! Even though I twisted and sprained my ankle in the second half (grade I sprain), it was sweet to cross the finish line for my first win in this intimate, friendly marathon.

11. Nike Women’s Marathon – (Website)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Race Date: 10/16/11
2011 Finishers: 6,322
2011 Race Temps: 64F/69F
2011 Results: 3:37:29 BQ, 65th total

With an entry via lottery only and a very large female representation, this race offers many nice perks such as a four day Expotique with several fun free vendors, finisher’s Tiffany’s necklace given by firemen, and a hilly course finishing at the beach offering something slightly different than the San Francisco Marathon. Very large event with most of the participants in the half marathon so be prepared for large crowds but still very fun.

10. Napa Valley Marathon – (Website)
Location: Napa, CA
Race Date: 3/4/12
2012 Finishers: 1,794
2012 Race Temps: 39F/68F
2012 Results: 3:22:47 BQ, 72nd total

Named the world’s best little marathon, it had made many top lists such as Top 10 marathons worth traveling for, Top 100 road races in North America, and it sure made my Top 20. In it’s 34th year, it still takes care of their runners with cool swag of giving runners a duffle bag, tech shirt, spinner medal, and a great post-race festival with warm soup, massages, showers, & more. If that doesn’t excite you, the beautiful, peaceful course through the vineyards of Napa are certainly a plus. Net downhill course but do be aware of the continuous, gradual uphill in the last 10K. This race closes every year so sign up early.

9. Barcelona Marathon – (Website)
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Race Date: 3/7/10
2010 Finishers: 4,054
2010 Race Temps: 45F/60F
2010 Results: 3:37:52 BQ, 38th total

Traveling internationally for me is such a treat and to be able to combine it with a marathon makes it even more memorable. Europe travel in the spring is in its low season and much more affordable plus you will find favorable cooler racing temps. The course travels through many tourists sights in Barcelona so you get a great taste of the city. Enjoy a paella de Mariscos, great bottles of wine, and make it a vacation to remember! Note: European marathons tend to have fluid stations only every 5K.

8. Walt Disney World Marathon – (Website)
Location: Orlando, FL
Race Date: 1/9/11
2011 Finishers: 13,522
2011 Race Temps: 44F/49F
2011 Results: 3:23:01 BQ, 52nd total

Want to be a kid again and run through multiple magical kingdoms as the sun rises before the crowds hit the amusement parks? The race is a hefty price tag but travel to Orlando in January is in it’s low season so why not. Enjoy the magic of the race with the half, full, or be Goofy and do both! Always sells out so sign up early.

7. San Francisco Marathon – (Website)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Race Date: 7/31/11
2011 Finishers: 5,920
2011 Race Temps: 57F/60F
2011 Results: 3:35:06 BQ, 61st total

Want a marathon in the summer with almost guaranteed cool race temps and an early 5:30am start? SFM is the only race where it shuts down the Golden Gate just for its runners. The first half is hillier than the 2nd half but it isn’t as bad as SF could be. I personally love running on the Golden Gate, Embarcadero, Golden Gate Park, and other SF hot spots so I’ve ran this race for 5 consecutive years. It’s definitely a favorite and an excuse to have some seafood in SF.

6. Pikes Peak Marathon – (Website)
Location: Manitou Springs, CO
Race Date: 8/21/11
2011 Finishers: 728
2011 Race Temps: 68F/60F
2011 Results: 8:41:47, 62nd total

As “America’s Ultimate Challenge,” it fulfills its name. Claimed as the most difficult marathon in the US if not the world, the race begins at 6,300′ elevation climbs for 13 miles to the summit at 14,115′ and then you have to run back down. Ask any mountaineer, the mountain at that elevation controls the day so be prepared for anything and to have slower than normal mile splits. Add anywhere from 2-3hrs to your regular road marathon time. I was on target for a 2hr addition but when a hail storm hit the summit, the boulders became slippery, and I sprained my ankle at Mile 18. I hopped to the finish and grateful that I did. I love mountains!

5. Boston Marathon – (Website)
Location: Boston, MA
Race Date: 4/19/10
2010 Finishers: 22,588
2010 Race Temps: 42F/52F
2010 Results: 3:28:32 BQ, 40th total

Down to the Top 5! It’s many runners’ dream to qualify and run the infamous Boston, and it definitely delivers a memorable experience. Marathon Monday is a holiday for Bostonians, and they welcome the running community with full energy. It is full of excitement, cheer, emotion, and thrill from the moment you start to the moment you finish. I’ve been very fortunate and grateful to qualify every year for the past 13 years; however, travel to Boston during this race weekend is sure to surprise you with its prices. Fortunately with friends to share the experience, I will be returning anxiously for a 3rd year in 2012. Work for it friends. It’s worth it at least once!

4. ING NYC Marathon – (Website)
Location: New York City, NY
Race Date: 11/6/11
2011 Finishers: 46,795
2011 Race Temps: 40F/65F
2011 Results: 3:39:37 BQ, 66th total

As one of the largest marathons of the world, the unheard of energy of this race is in great competition with Boston. I was pleasantly amazed with the great organization of this race as it runs through the five boroughs of NYC. Don’t look for your fastest time here with the multiple bridge crossings and so much excitement to absorb in this amazing race! It’s NYC!

3. Rome Marathon – (Website)
Location: Rome, Italy
Race Date: 3/22/09
2009 Finishers: 11,010
2009 Race Temps: 39F/55F
2009 Results: 4:01:21, 25th marathon

Passing through over 20 tourist sites in Rome, some course highlights are running through the Vatican City, Pantheon, Fountain de Trevi, but most notable is starting and finishing around the infamous Coliseum. The entire run is as majestic as they can get and listening to the spectators cheer you on in Italian makes the entire experience unforgettable. Nothing disappoints in Italy: it was the best pizza, best wine, best city, best gelato, and best company a runner can ever ask for earning the #3 favorite of marathons in my heart. Make it a week long vacation and you will not regret it.

2. Big Sur Marathon – (Website)
Location: Big Sur to Carmel, CA
Race Date: 4/25/10
2010 Finishers: 3,442
2010 Race Temps: 49F/70F
2010 Results: 3:45:08, 41st total

Beautiful, gorgeous, and breathtaking do not give the Big Sur Marathon justice how magnificent the course really is. It is the only marathon that closes down PCH for its runners from Big Sur to Carmel running along the jagged edge of the western world. You have miles of green beauty to the east and miles of blue beauty to the west. You will be mesmerized almost every step of the way especially when you run across Bixby bridge and listen to the echoing harmony of the pianist playing just for its runners. This is a must in a runner’s lifetime!

1. Los Angeles Marathon – (Website)
Location: Los Angeles-Santa Monica, CA
Race Date: 3/1/99
1999 Finishers: 16,861
1999 Race Temps: 55F/73F
1999 Results: 4:05:55, 1st marathon

And finally for #1, the world renown LA Marathon. Over the fourteen years of my running career, I have ran LAM every year and experienced several course changes, changes in management ownership, and a variety of weather conditions from scorching heat waves to the monsoon that hit LA in 2011. Now with a net downhill course still with several rolling hills, it runs from the Dodger stadium to the beach in Santa Monica. What brings me back every year? The memory of running 26.2 for the first time with my father: we ran our first together in 1999 and we continue to run the LA Marathon every single year. Then in 2012, it was the first time I ran a sub-3:20 earning myself a 3:18:17 PR. As they say, you never forget your first!

“I hope you enjoyed my Top 20 marathons. Continue to make your memories. Continue to make your heart beat with excitement for your races. Continue to make your journey yours! The world is our playground and I intend to keep playing as long as my legs will carry me.” – Nadia

Nadia’s Blog
Nadia’s Facebook Fan Page
Nadia’s Marathon Results

Honorable Mentions:
Carlsbad Marathon
California International Marathon
Philadelphia Marathon
Rock’n Roll Denver Marathon
Surf City Marathon

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