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Since I went it alone to the summit yesterday, I made a video to share my relief and excitement about my first journey to the peak.  I had never eve hiked a 14er before, yesterday I ran one.  So, next time I question whether the Ascent may actually kill me, feel free to comment as a reminder that I've made it to 14,115' before and lived to tell the tale.

So here's how the great Saturday adventure went down:

I started with two of the coolest runners in town (three if you count the best four legged runner in the state) at Elk Park Trail.  That first six miles, plus a detour to see some cool rocks, took just over an hour. I've heard from so many people this trail is a favorite - personally, I can't see why, it's not likes there's a breathtaking view or something.  Just kidding, Elk Park Trail is not only beautiful, but also really runnable which is nice when it's the warm-up before Barr Trail.

An awesome trail with friends flies right by, so we got to Barr Camp in what felt like no time.  Here we stopped, snacked, and went our separate ways.  I headed to the summit while the others ran back on Elk Park Trail.  There were certainly hikers and a few other runners heading up Barr, but the next 6 or so miles were long, lonely, rocky, and steep.  I felt like a fairly capable runner until I hit the marker two miles below the summit which also marks 13,300'.  It was there that I found the melting point for human lungs and in my state of oxygen-deprivation also coined the term "Pikes Peak Protein Shake" which refers to the hundreds of gnats and other tiny bugs waiting to be inhaled.   

Walk, run, stop, run, wobble, run to the next rock, stall and drink more water, walk, run, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There came a point where it felt like my brain and my legs just disconnected.  Apparently my nervous system realized that acknowledging pain/discomfort was futile because I had no intention of stopping.  

 It was definitely harsh - like tear your soul out, pound it with a sharp rock and then return it sort of harsh, or like undergoing a lung transplant while wide awake sort of harsh - but it wasn't as bad as I had made it out to be in my mind.  Thankfully I'm a very goal-oriented person and way too full of myself to give up.

Luckily, perseverance pays off on the mountain, when around every switchback there's view more stunning than the last.  Here's the view from A-Frame.  

There's a point at which you can see Garden of the Gods and the Catamount Resevoirs stretching out below you that is actually beyond words.  It made me feel so small and so lucky to be out there doing what I love.

So, how does one celebrate one's first 14er?  That's easy, in the Purple and Gold Nation you rehydrate with alcohol...

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Comment by Norman Mininger on June 29, 2014 at 7:44pm
So awesome! Congrats for getting up there, Mary! I'll be sure to remind you in the weeks ahead that you've been up there before, and you'll get up there again. Keep up the great work!
Comment by Mary Baldwin on June 23, 2014 at 10:15pm

Haha, Brianne...that pretty much describes it. I hitched a ride with some tourists from Ohio who were baffled by the fact that I ran to the top of a mountain...by the time we got down to Elk Park Trail their car smelled like it was on fire.

Comment by Brianne Pierson on June 23, 2014 at 8:35pm

Congrats on the Ascent! I haven't even been up to the top yet this year. I did Elk Park last month and it was beautiful! I rather enjoy hitchhiking. It's fun riding in the tourist's backseats as they fry their brakes on the way down.

Comment by Mary Baldwin on June 23, 2014 at 10:03am

Beagle, the rehydration routine goes a long way to numb the burning quads/calves!

Comment by Mary Baldwin on June 23, 2014 at 10:02am

I did hitch a ride, running back down would have taken delerium to a whole new level.  I'd never hitchhiked before, it was totally exhilarating:-)

Comment by Bill Beagle on June 23, 2014 at 7:13am

"brain and legs...disconnected"  yeah, that sounds about right. Nice to see you have the rehydration routine down. Now you only have 50-some 14'ers to do but at least you've knocked off one of the toughest. Like the "protein shake."

Comment by Sean O'Day on June 23, 2014 at 4:20am

Did you hitch a ride back down?  Anything beats finishing back up to Elk Park....that nice little downhill on your way out becomes your worst nightmare on the way back.

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