Wow! There’s a word that’s almost as overused as awesome. However it succinctly sums up all of my feelings in one, tidy, three-letter word. The Ascent was the exclamation point on one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, i.e. participating in all three Triple Crown runs. I can heartily recommend these three runs to anyone who is seeking a very attainable challenge. I say attainable because, out of all of my teammates I believe I was the most “casual” runner. I wouldn’t say I trained excessively hard but I did put enough into it to make it a healthy experience. That is to say at the end of each event I felt great, not like death warmed over or as if I’d left my guts on the trail. Sure, a little more effort and I would have broken 5 hours on the Ascent which would have been, for me at least, a big thrill. As it was, I was only four minutes past my goal of five hours. Close enough to leave me extremely pleased and again, feeling just great on the summit. In addition to my smart looking PikesPeakSports.usTripleCrownRunners singlet, I also wore a goofy, ear-splitting grin for most of the route. I was really beaming as I crossed the finish line and nearly broke into tears I was so happy. However that stupid male gene that keeps a lot of us from crying, kicked in and left merely moist-eyed. When they put the medal around my neck I told them it was just as good as standing on a podium in London would have been. Therein lies the beauty of events like this, even if you aren’t a world class runner, even if you don’t set a personal best, you know that you’re doing something that a lot of people wouldn’t even attempt. Sure there were some 1,600 people who summited and it’s exciting that this event is so popular and so successful but there are far greater numbers that will never know this feeling. High? Oh yeah and a LOT higher than just 14,000 feet. I was up in the clouds somewhere after crossing that finish line. It’s you and the mountain. No excuses, no hard feelings, just give’er (as they say in Wisconsin) and let the timing chips fall where they may, either below your goal or a little bit above. It was interesting to note that some of my teammates were less than thrilled with their times but deep down I know they are rightfully proud of what they did. There are many reasons I would recommend the Ascent and one of the big reasons is that this, in my opinion, is an incredibly well-run event. You feel safe the entire way, which, considering the environment you’re running in, says a lot. Credit for this feeling of security goes to the event organizers and the volunteers they recruit. The volunteers were absolutely amazing, in their numbers and their enthusiasm. I left every one of the 7 aid stations feeling pumped up by these great people. I wouldn’t have cared if I had another 10,000 feet of elevation to gain, they had me jazzed to the point where time and distance just didn’t seem to matter. They did a lot more than hand out liquids and snacks. They nourished my mind and heart as well. People take for granted the physical conditioning that goes into these endeavors but your psyche better be in shape as well and these volunteers went out of their way to make every participant feel like a winner. I am extremely grateful to all of them. A lot of participants thanked these people every chance they got and we also thanked the members of the El Paso Search and Rescue team. There were so many on sites throughout the course that one of their leaders told me they were just hoping they didn’t have any serious emergencies out in the county during the weekend because most of their members were covering the Ascent. It was one of those volunteers that offered the best line I heard all day. When the runner in front of me thanked the SAR people, one of them replied “Thanks for being vertical.” Yup, you have to be vertical to get all of the vertical. The Ascent was beyond exhilarating and the bonus of the entire weekend was the opportunity to meet so many great people, from all over the country. The stories I picked up through various conversations could make this blog go on almost endlessly. A story for each individual out there. If you ran it you know what I’m writing about and my hope is that you A) finished safely, injury-free, B) were pleased with your effort and C) had a good time. So, exuberant as I am, would I do it again? Good question. Despite the effusiveness of this particular blog, the reality is that the Ascent does present a serious challenge and you’d better be committed to preparing for it properly. There will always be those with enough natural ability to “wing” something like the Ascent but for most of us, we have to put in the work. That said, the payoff is huge, a great sense of accomplishment and the joy of the view from standing atop one of Colorado’s great, iconic 14‘ers. Also, I can't imagine topping this experience. The weather was absolutely perfect and that's never a given on a mountain. I would be remiss if I didn’t, one last time, thank Tim Bergsten, Ron Ilgen and Mike Mazzola for their sponsorship and encouragement. You helped make this fun and rewarding. Lastly and far from least, thanks also to my teammates, Don, JT, Katie, Phoebe and Sharon (alphabetical order) for your friendship and encouragement. You all brought the party and I’m sure we’ll see each other from time to time (if you aren’t going too fast when you pass me...don’t blink!) on a trail or in a pub. Be well, run safe...okay, or recklessly if you wish (I know you well enough now!) and Excelsior!