Listen up; I wanna tell ya about my friend from work. His name's Galen, and he just finished second in the Pike's Peak Marathon, and I'm really kinda flyin' high on his accomplishment. Yeah that's right, Pike's Peak Marathon. A full marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, only you run to the top of a fourteener and back down to the bottom. Roll that one around in your head a while and I'll wait.
I ran competitively in high school and never ran more than ten miles in a stretch, but I've thought a lot about the marathon as my uncle used to be rather fast at them in the 70's, and I have always been impressed when friends and family suck it up and run that far. But this, this "trail running" business, takes the marathon and turns it up to eleven. Think about it: you start in Manitou Springs, CO, and run to the top of a friggin' 14,110' high peak, turn around and run your ass back down to the Springs. Roughly 8,000' of elevation gain, plenty of time spent in the thin air above treeline, and of course the 26.2 miles of running. That's one hell of an effort, and a hell of a race.
Galen & I shared an office for several months last winter, as he was beginning his training for this race, and I've been asking a hell of a lot of questions about his progress all along; I've become fascinated with the race. It was to be a tough event this year, as it was designated the World Championship event for trail running, which attracted a larger-than-usual international field. On top of that, Matt Carpenter -- the course recordholder and owner of the second-highest ever recorded VO2max in history -- was running the race again, after skipping it the last couple years to run in some ultradistance races (in which he eliminated all competition and set course records for those races too). Galen won the Pike's Peak Marathon two years ago, and finished second by a nose last year. I could sense he wanted number one again. So, I got up at 5AM this morning and drove to the summit of Pike's Peak so I could see him in action. It was the least I could do.
I arrived at the summit around 9AM, put on two extra layers, grabbed my camera and headed for the course. I ran into Galen's dad, Buzz, who is quite the character. Race officials were getting word from down the mountain, Matt this, Matt that. Sounded like Matt was having another great day on the Peak. I asked the guy with the radio what number came through the last checkpoint after Matt, and "two" was his reply. Galen's number. Yeah!!
Settling in on a spot just below the summit, I watched Matt Carpenter emerge and methodically trot up the trail, turn around, and head on down. I waited for my friend. Buzz started pointing and shouting, and there he was, shuffling up the switchbacks.
"Galen!!, WHOOOOOOOOOO!!" Galen had said I'd have to be loud if I expected him to spot me up there, since he'd be out of it and wouldn't see me unless he knew where to look. He saw me. Flashed me a thumbs up and motored on by, steady as you please. I was so excited for him. After he disappeared back down the mountain, I enjoyed the view from the top of my second fourteener (doesn't really count since I drove up there, but the views were still just as good) for a few minutes and then ran to the car for the trip down to the finish.
Down in Manitou Springs, I met up with my buddy Zack from work and we grabbed a chunk of curb at the final turn just in time to see Matt Carpenter win yet another Pike's Peak Marathon. Galen appeared about nine minutes later, for a solid second place showing, which is basically first place among humans, since I'm convinced Matt Carpenter is a mountain cyborg. Galen destroyed his personal best time by like fifteen minutes, and destroyed the rest of the field as well; the third place finisher was about ten minutes behind Galen. I'm so proud of Galen; his race went exactly as planned and his nine months of hard work really paid off.
Way to go, Galen!
The pic below actually shows Galen on the descent. Can you see him? Thirteen miles to go, while his dad (green jacket) looks on. Amazing.