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Pikes Peak Ascent Race Strategy 101

As the Pikes Peak Ascent race is just over 6 weeks away, I decided to spend some time on my race strategy this week.

I first looked at the course on the Pikes Peak Marathon website.

This map shows the mileage, elevation, and aid stations along the race course.

And I knew I needed to memorize the cut off times as I am in wave 2 and am NOT a fast runner.

Next, I spent a long time reading Matt Carpenter's detailed description of the course on his site here:  

http://www.skyrunner.com/ppcourse.htm

And finally, I used his pace calculator to come up with goal times for each spot along the course.  I also took the information from his description of the course to also add the mileage to the calculations.

My MAIN goal is to finish the race before the cut off times.  However, I am setting a time goal of 5:30 for the race.  I will be power hiking most of the race as my lungs won't let me run uphill very long.  With some of my recent training, I think this goal time is very doable for me.  

So, here is what my race strategy might look like...

Here is the mileage with a couple notes I took from Matt's description of the course.

  • Ruxton = 0.42 miles
  • Hydro street = 1.25 miles (6.3% of Ascent time)  
    **don’t push too hard on the W’s
  • Top of the W’s (13 switchbacks) =  3.2 miles (20.1% of Ascent time)
  • No Name creek = 4.3 miles (29.3% of Ascent time)
    **there is a 2 mile section here where you can run a little and pass other racers
  • 7.8 to the summit = 5.52 (39.7% of Ascent time)
  • Barr camp = 7.6 miles (50.8% of Ascent time)
  • Bottomless pit =  8.52 (58.2% of Ascent time)
  • Aframe = 10.2 miles (71.2% of Ascent time)
    **JAM! Just Always Move!
  • Finish = 13.32 miles

I am a newbie to this race.  And I have yet to complete the entire course on a training run.  However, I am feeling confident that with more training on Barr trail, hiking 14ers, and staying physically healthy, I will reach my goal on August 16th and finish the Ascent before the cut off time.  

The mountain looms in front of me everyday from my front window.  However, I am preparing mentally and physically to conquer Pikes Peak on race day.

How about you?  If you are running the Ascent this year, what is your race strategy?

For those of you that have run the Ascent before, any other advice you would give me?  

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Comment by Shelley Hitz on July 6, 2014 at 4:42pm

Thanks Sean and Brianne!  The main advice I keep hearing is to be careful about going out too fast on the W's.  So although I will still try to get position early on, I personally will watch my pace and be careful not to burn all my energy up front.  Since my main goal is to simply finish before the cutoff, I think I'll be fine.  At least I'm hoping for the best!!

But, that makes sense Sean that picking your goal pace is the hardest part.  Any advice on how you pick your goal pace?

And I hope that strategy works well for you Brianne!  You have been hiking 14ers like crazy this summer so I think you'll crush it on the Ascent.  

I'll be cheering you both on!  :)

Comment by Brianne Pierson on July 5, 2014 at 8:57pm
I like to put money in the bank and go faster lower because of the death march at the top. I held back last year, missed my splits I marked on my water bottle, and psyched myself out to the point of discouragement when I got stuck in w's. This year I'm just going off of effort and making sure to power hike sections I know I can't run.
Comment by Sean O'Day on July 5, 2014 at 4:09pm

The pace calculator does a pretty darn good job of suggesting optimal splits - IF your goal pace is within your means.  That's the trick, though...aim too high and you'll blow up.  Aim too low and you won't know you aimed too low.

Comment by Shelley Hitz on July 3, 2014 at 8:21pm

Thanks Norman!  At this point, everything is helpful :)

Comment by Norman Mininger on July 3, 2014 at 6:16pm

I've done the marathon the last three years - this is my first year racing the ascent - and the main piece I can give you is to listen to your body. I know that sounds cliché, but you know what you're in for in this race. It's uphill, uphill, and more uphill. If you run too hard on the first few miles, you're going to burn your quads out. The course flattens out a bit in the middle miles from about 5.5 to 8, and that's where you can begin to run a bit more and longer and make up some time. With that being said, your body will let you know when it's able to run, or when it's being pushed too hard and you need to slow it down to a fast walk.

 

I know that wasn't much, but hopefully it helps!

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