Don’t worry, I wasn’t chased by bears or attacked by rattlesnakes. I should have listened to my old Marmot friends on Pikes Peak. This week, while I was acclimating, a number of marmots whistled at me indicating impending danger and sternly counseling me against this idiotic endeavor. They said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “no self-respecting marmot would run up Pikes Peak and a marmot’s time is better spent fattening up on tundra in preparation for the coming winter.” They also reminded me that a group of marmots is now called a “Madness of Marmots”. I was told that for many years a group of Marmots had no term in the English language. However, since the inception of the “Mighty Marmots”, and the Madness of doing the Ascent and Marathon as a group, the term has stuck. Many in the marmot community believe we’ve besmirched the venerated marmot reputation. Thankfully, the bipedal community in the Pikes Peak region don’t feel the same way. I digress…
If you read my pre-race musings, you’ll recall that my primary goal was to minimize my pain and suffering. In that regard, I failed miserably! I felt great through Barr Camp and the A-Frame (timberline). I was making pretty good time and thought I might be able to finish in maybe four and a half hours. But just above the “Two Miles to Go” sign, my legs began cramping. Pretty much every muscle in my legs cramped at one time or another and, more often than not, multiple muscles were cramping in both legs at the same time. A few times I found myself writhing on the ground on the side of the trail trying to get a muscle to unclench. When some of those muscles cramp, it can produce very strange looking legs. I wish I’d been able to take a picture of them. I was beginning to wonder how the heck I was going to be able to make it to the summit at all, when, thankfully, one runner gave me a vial of HotShot, designed to ease cramps. I’m pretty sure it worked. I still had a few bouts of severe cramps below the Cirque. But from the Cirque to the top, I only had some light twinges from time to time and no full-on cramps.
It was a hot day and many other runners were facing the same issue. We leapfrogged one another to the summit. I’d pass runners as they stretched and massaged their legs at the side of the trail and then they, in turn, would pass me as I did the same. The most frustrating bit was watching all the runners I had passed from Barr Camp to timberline, stream past me. And of course, I had to contend with a bunch of marmots on the surrounding slope whistling “we told you so.”
One thing I didn’t mention in my pre-race musings regarding training: It struck me during training on some steep sections in Mueller State Park and was painfully reinforced during the Ascent, that only running may not be the best approach at preparing for Pikes Peak. Quite a bit of the course is too steep to run for most competitors and we end up power walking. Power walking seems to use muscles in a slightly different way than running does. One would think that I might have hit on this realization in the first year or two of training and not after nine Ascents and two Marathons. Apparently, I’m not the sharpest marmot on the mountain!
The acclimation approach I used worked well. I didn’t notice the altitude at all and felt like I could have run some of the top, if I’d had the legs for it. I really think some steep power walking should be included in future training regimens. I’m not a fan of hanging out on the Incline with a few thousand of my closest friends. But there are a number of other less used steep trails in the region that I will certainly make use of.
I’ve had my post-race massage from the best masseuse in the world, Ashley Rees at Massage Fitness. I did give her an ear full for not anticipating my need and being on the trail below the cirque on Saturday to attend to my legs. She was suitably apologetic; however, it did seem like the massage was significantly more painful after I chastised her. I wonder if the two were related? Speaking of massages, I should mention that, some years ago during recovery from shoulder surgery, I realized I have what could be a serious mental problem: I laugh when I’m in pain. I laughed all the way through physical therapy and now laugh through my massages. The worst part of this affliction is that when I start laughing, then Ashley starts laughing and in turn bouncing on my painful muscle which then makes the massage even more painful!!! On the plus side, my laugh acts like a pressure gauge whereby Ashley can determine when she’s applying just the right amount of pressure. At least that’s what she claims. I think she just likes a good laugh.
Triple Crown of Running
I’ve never considered doing the Triple Crown of Running until this Mighty Madness of Marmots encouraged it. I have to say that it’s an excellent race series. It felt like it melded well with training for Pikes Peak and the other races were fun in their own rights. I certainly recommend it for anyone signed up for the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon, unless you’re in my age group and faster than me.