RACE: 2016 Pikes Peak Marathon (Race Recap)

Race

I might be getting better at getting quality sleep the night before a big race, but I still managed to roll around and wake up at least a time or two heading into Sunday morning, when I’d face the daunting Pikes Peak.

Per usual, I woke up for good about 10 minutes before my actual alarm went off and proceeded to suit up into the clothes I had set out the night before.

After double-checking my Osprey backpack to make sure it had everything I could possibly need during the ascent and descent, Jen and I were off to Manitou Springs, Colorado.

For this extreme run, I most definitely over-packed, though I would happily have an extra pound or two on my back than to be without something critical when I might need it most.

I was wearing:

  • Saucony Peregrine 6 trail shoes
  • Injinji trail high socks
  • Janji Ethiopia 2-in-1 shorts
  • Under Armour short-sleeve t-shirt (with November Project tags, of course)
  • Ciele FASTCap
  • Osprey Rev 6 backpack, carrying:
    • Extra socks
    • Extra briefs
    • Body Glide
    • November Project buff
    • iPhones 6S
    • Under Armour sweatpants
    • Baltimore Marathon long-sleeve shirt
    • Gloves
    • Fed Thrill sunglasses
    • Tums (for altitude sickness)

The 50-ish minute drive went by quickly as we listened to music, enjoyed the sights of the mountains, and discussed our game plans for the day: my plan for the marathon and Jen’s for killing time in town.

Before we knew it, our GPS directions instructed us to get off the highway and take a few local roads for the final dozen or so miles to get to the bottom of Pikes Peak. Along the way, we kept trying to find Pikes Peak mountain, looking for the biggest, most intimidating behemoth in front of us.

Eventually, we did. To be honest, among the other mountains, it didn’t loom quite as monstrously as I expected, though climbing any of the peaks we saw through our window would be quite the feat.

See that lightish-looking mountain all the way back there? Yep, that's Pikes Peak.

See that lightish-looking mountain all the way back there? Yep, that’s Pikes Peak.

We parked in a community lot, picked up my bib, and wandered around the start area. With about 45 minutes before the race began, I had time to go to the bathroom– in one of the many open port-a-potties– and chat with Jen. We even met another November Project tribesmember, a woman from NP Boston who was as excited to run as me.

The anthem was played and runners were encouraged to enter their wave corrals. I said my goodbyes to Jen as the first three waves shot off and away. It was now time for my wave, wave No. 4 to go, and I was running.

For this recap, I won’t be able to provide mile-by-mile descriptions as it all was more drawn out and defined better by terrain and aid station. Bear with me, friends.

Start to Ruxton Creek (9:40/15:35 minutes/mile)

From the starting gun, I– and the hundred or so other runners in my wave– darted off, passing City Hall and continuing on the road of Manitou Avenue. I knew that the beginning would be on the road and that it’d offer a brief stretch of semi-flat terrain, so I tried not to push hard at all. My goal for the day, after all, was to survive. While I had finishing times in mind that were average for my marathon pace, I wasn’t concerned with a number. I wanted to finish with working feet and a smile on my face. Thus, I resisted the urge to run too fast at the beginning, when I’d otherwise bite thanks to race adrenaline.

We continued on the road for another little bit and passed the Cog Railway Depot– which houses the trams that are used to transport less adventurous tourists up to the top of Pikes Peak. Soon after, the road ended and we continued on a dirt road, parallel to Ruxton Creek. I knew that the switch from road to trail represented the elevation challenge ahead, so I slowly shifted from a jog to a power hike.

Ruxton Creek to No Name Creek (18:37/17:56/18:47)

Over the next 2.7 miles, I found myself jogging and hiking behind a particularly outspoken runner who seemed to know what he was doing. He was talking to another woman who was a self-described rookie at the course, and was explaining the upcoming turns, climbs, and aid stations. I decided to stick right behind them for as long as I could to not only soak up all the knowledge I could gather from the veteran, but also preserve some energy for the remaining ascent.

During this stretch, I felt like we followed the course of a children’s roller coaster, climbing up a turn, leveling out, and then descending down a rolling hill. It was a bit tough to get in a groove because of the changes, but it also was nice to give my feet different elements and my mind short stretches of running on which I could focus.

No Name Creek to Barr Camp (14:19/14:48)

As noted by the 10-time Pikes runner in front of me, the section between the No Name Creek and Barr Camp aid stations would offer some legitimate downhill sections and thus, could serve as a way to throw in a fast mile or two. He also said, however, that things would get trickier after Barr Camp– more specifically after A-Frame at mile No. 10.2– so I wasn’t trying to run too fast even when my legs wanted to get moving.

Barr Camp to A-Frame (20:43/22:36/28:52)

At this point, we hit more than 10,000 feet of elevation– up nearly 4,000 feet from the start of the race– and I was starting to feel it. Leading up to the race, I was constantly reminded to not mess around with altitude sickness and shortness of breath, so I most definitely took my time any moment that I felt a bit light-headed. Given my goal of surviving, I had no problem taking a 30-second timeout under a tree or by a rock during this stretch. It was encouraging to see a number of other runners, many of whom seemed more competitive stopping for a minute to try and suck in some more air.

During several of my breaks, I had to move out of the way as a few elite runners were already working on the descent portion of the race. The way they zipped down the trail, effortlessly maneuvering around rocks and roots, was inspiring but also horrifying.

A-Frame to Pikes Peak Summit (28:41/36:42:37:29)

As my splits indicated, this part was slower. Reaching the A-Frame took a lot out of me, but it was nothing compared to the three-mile death march above the trees and along the clouds, up to the top.

Too high for trees, the trail zigged and zagged back and forth all the way for what seemed like much more than three miles and those runners in front of me looked like little ants dragging onward.

Known as the 16 Golden Stairs, the 32 switchbacks remaining to the summit looked impossibly daunting, yet manageable. At this point, a lot more runners were working their way back down, so us ascenders had the extra challenge of getting out of the way for speedier racers.

This stretch of the course offered a ton of absolutely literally breathtaking views. Each time, it took a little bit longer for me to work up the energy to keep moving, but then again, I was OK soaking up the scene– and the sun, which was now shining down on us.

The trail turned from a mix of very small rocks to boulders along the course, and our march of hikers pushed closer and closer to the top. Soon, we could see the final climb, accompanied by a handful of volunteers keeping a close eye on the runners below.

pikespeakascent

High as a kite, and cheesing.

I took my time sliding through rock gaps and up short stretches of straightaways before the final turn to the top. Passing by even more volunteers and medical officials, I felt very supported and ready to make it to the top. We followed the course up to the top, over the timing strip to capture our ascent time, and next to a bunch of food to snack on before turning back around. I made sure to grab a bunch of M&Ms, as well as a banana, before asking a volunteer to take my picture.

 Halfway done, I looked down at my remaining half marathon and then out to the view in front of me. We were 14,115 feet up in the air and it was gorgeous. When I had my fill of views and snacks, I returned back down the trail I just followed up and began my descent.

Pikes Peak Summit to A-Frame (33:20/19:33/14:34)

With each turn, I descended a bit more back towards sea level and though it wasn’t physically clear that my regular breathing would return, it did feel good to know that the hard part was over.

It still wasn’t easy to run during these miles, but more and more frequently, I was presented with stretches of flat terrain. Thanks to my slowly restoring energy, my jog found more consistent pacing.

I was now on the descending side when passing by hikers on their way up and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel encouraging to know I was on my way down while they were still on their way up. I did, however, make sure to high-five or cheer on as many ascenders as I could.

A-Frame to Barr Camp (19:19/13:37/13:09)

Sure, I was running more and more, and faster and faster, but it wasn’t much easier than the climb up thanks to the added challenge of avoiding tree roots and awkwardly positioned rocks.

During this leg, I started actually passing some people. I felt like a rag doll at times, just flaying my arms and legs out in front of me as I bombed the downhill segments, but it had worked up until this point, so why not change it up?

Barr Camp to No Name Creek  (11:56/11:47)

More of the same rag dolling and faster jogging over the next two miles. I nearly bit it a couple of times as I clipped my feet on a rock or root, but each time managed to catch my footing and avoid a disastrous tumble. I swear I looked like an idiot to those out there, but then again, I was passing most of those people, so good riddance.

No Name Creek to Ruxton Creek (9:47/10:39/11:56)

I picked up the pace even more over the next few miles, but towards the end of the trail, I ran out of liquids in my Osprey, so I spent more time at the aid stations before returning to my award-winning posture and form of downhill trail running. In between some of the downhill segments that made me look like a fool were some flat and slight-uphill sections, where a lot of people were walking. For me, I was under five miles from the finish and while my feet hurt from the hammering of downhill running, I kept running. Maybe it was the long runs during my marathon training or maybe it was just the experience of running marathons in the past, but I wasn’t about to take a break on these sections. I was too close to finishing. I kept running and kept passing people. I wasn’t stopping until I crossed the finish line.

Ruxton Creek to Finish (11:34/8:30)

Running right through the last aid station– who needs water with under two miles to go?– I finally reached the road again. It was much more of a downhill run than I expected, so I continued with my goofy stride until it flattened out. I was still running, though, and as we got closer to civilization, more spectators appeared, offering me internal boosts of adrenaline and encouragement to keep on going.

Down the home stretch!

Down the home stretch!

I passed a few more runners, high-fived a few more spectators, and rounded the final corner, entering a sectioned-off bit of the road that funneled right into the finish line. I saw Jen, blew her a kiss, and ran through the finish as I heard an emcee announce my name and finishing time.

Finish Timing
Time: 7:53:45
Overall:
427/696
Gender:
341/520
Division:
26/35

A volunteer handed me a medal and then I found myself sitting in a chair in a tent where medics could look over runners to make sure they were OK. Someone placed a bag of ice on my neck– which I can only describe as the most relieving feeling ever in the history of the universe– and then a kid gave me one cup, and then another cup, of Gatorade.

So cold, yet so refreshing

So cold, yet so refreshing

After a minute or two just catching my breath, I got up and found Jen. I picked up my awesome finisher’s jacket and even gave my legs an ice bath in a creek by the finish before heading to the car and going back to our friends’.

On the drive back, before I entered a blissful phase of half-sleep, half-runners’ high, I checked my results. As you can see above, my times weren’t great– but I didn’t care, I finished and lived to tell the tale.

There are, though, two key points I’d like to make now.

  1. I must love finishing.
    According to not-exact heart rate monitor in my Garmin Forerunner, my pulse was faster at the finish (188 bpm) than at its fastest over any point during the course (179 bpm). As strenuous as the climb was, my heart was trucking along even faster on the flat section at the bottom, with the crowd– and more importantly Jen– cheering me on.
  2. I’m not a fast hiker, but I can awkwardly run like a rag doll with the best of ’em.
    Looking at my official times across each marker on the Pikes Peak Marathon results page, I did some serious work from the 1-Mile Down marker to the finish.1-Mile Down
    Overall: 618/696
    Gender: 471/520
    Division: 33/35

    Finish
    Overall: 427/696
    Gender: 341/520
    Division: 26/35

    From Mile No. 14 to Mile No. 26.2, I passed a total of 191 runners. Again, I didn’t earn any style points, but it’s still something of which I’m proud.

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RACE: 2016 Pikes Peak Marathon (Training & Pre-Race)

“Your fingers might get swollen.”

“Are there oxygen tanks available at the peak?”

“Make sure to exhale deeply or else you might get sick with extra carbon dioxide in your lungs.”

“If you die, can I have your [fill in the blank]?”

Heading into the 2016 Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent, most of my friends were practically placing bets on whether or not I’d survive the 26.219 miles that “America’s Ultimate Challenge” had in store for me.

I taped this course outline to my office wall the day I registered for the race.

I taped this course outline to my office wall the day I registered for the race.

Training

With plenty of caution and warnings orbiting around my head, I spent much of this summer building up my mileage as I would for a regular road marathon, but also getting comfortable running on different surfaces.

Two months earlier, I somehow successfully ran ~38 miles from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., so it wasn’t hard to work my way back up to longer long runs. I averaged 41.5 miles a week during  my Pikes Peak training and hoped that my legs would be prepared for 26.2 miles come August 21.

In developing my mad scientist's concoction of a training schedule, I often referred to this guide, written by Matt Carpenter-- 12x PPM winner and current record-holder for fastest marathon time.

In developing my mad scientist’s concoction of a training schedule, I often referred to this guide, written by Matt Carpenter– 12x PPM winner and current record-holder for fastest marathon time.

As for the different terrains I’d face in along the trail up– and then back down Pikes Peak, I threw in long (7-13 mile) trail runs at the nearby Patapsco Valley State Park, hill repeats along Federal Hill, and more stairs at Rash Field– the Wednesday home of November Project- Baltimore. Would these weekly challenges be enough to train my feet, ankles, and legs for the diverse surroundings in Manitou Springs, Colorado?

An even bigger, more frequent question that I had for myself, but others also had for me was about the altitude. You see, Baltimore resides at an adorably low altitude above sea level. Google says Charm City is 480′ up.

The starting point of my race up Pikes Peak is 6,300′. Thirteen miles of switchbacks later, I’d be at the summit, 14,815′ above sea level. Not only is it hard to train for altitude without being at altitude, but the threat of altitude sickness loomed ominously. Until I got to Colorado, I’d have no way to replicate the conditions.

Pre-Race

Thursday

In order to gain short-term acclimation to a higher altitude– to maximize on the beauty of Colorado for a mini-vacation– we flew out to Denver Thursday afternoon, with the race on Sunday.

{source: Route40.net)

{source: Route40.net)

Our lovely hosts– and good friends that used to live in Baltimore– cooked Jen and me a fantastic dinner, comprised of Brussels sprouts, , roasted potatoes, and teriyaki salmon; and I had several portion’s worth. Hey, I had to carboload, after all.

Friday

Friday morning, Jen and I woke up early– though it wasn’t hard because we were still on Eastern Time– to drive downtown and hit up November Project- Denver. This was our first chance to #traverbal– work out at a different city’s tribe– and it was awesome. We met the co-leaders, got some advice for Pikes Peak (“have fun!”), and quickly learned about the challenge of working out at altitude. Even though I was taking it easy because of Sunday’s race, I managed to get my heart racing and my whole body sweating. It seemed that being a mile high did a doozy on your ability to run, jump, lunge, and even high-five. After, we received the coveted 5280 tag, the symbolic spray paint tag representing the Denver tribe.

Showing off our new, hard-earned NP5280 tags.

Showing off our new, hard-earned NP5280 tags.

Back at the house, we watched some of the Rio Olympics– specifically some speed walking– while devouring some very large bowls of cereal. Thanks, Amy!

A nap and shower later and we were back out the door for some Friday fun playing tourists in and around Colorado.

We hit up some nearby outlets, where I grabbed a stupid cheap pair of Adidas running shorts, before grabbing lunch and heading to the city of Morrison.

First, we stopped by Dinosaur Ridge, a chunk of land with trails containing prehistoric animal and plant fossils. We walked around a bit, soaking up as much dino-knowledge as we could before heading out for the next stop on our tour: Red Rocks.

We had tickets to see Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, with Lake Street Dive, at Red Rocks, one of the coolest concert halls around.

Best way to train for Pikes Peak Marathon: drink Pikes Peak beer, of course.

Best way to train for Pikes Peak Marathon: drink Pikes Peak beer, of course.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Friday night was worrisome. We grabbed some food and drinks in the town of Morrison, narrowly avoiding getting dumped on by an insane thunder storm. It was so rough that the power went out in a lot of the town, including the liquor store we went to and Red Rocks, itself.

We drove up to the Red Rocks parking lot only to find that they weren’t opening doors for another two hours because of the outage. We people-watched in the car and admired everyone else’s cold-gear wardrobes that suggested we were out of place with our t-shirts, shorts, and sandals. We did have ponchos, though.

Finally they started letting people in, so we braced against the rain and wind to go find our seats. It was coming down really hard still and our rain-resistant ponchos were becoming less and less effective.

(I grabbed this from YouTube. Our seats were a bit higher up…)

Lake Street Dive began playing and we enjoyed their whole set, but sadly by the time they finished, we had our fill. We knew that Grace Potter and co. wouldn’t come on for another 30-45 minutes, so we unfortunately had to call it; we retreated back to the car to drive home. It wasn’t a complete waste, however, Lake Street Dive was awesome and we avoided getting the flu.

Saturday

Usually, the day before a marathon is full of lots of inaction. This time, though, our trusty host and tour guide had a hike in store for us. It’d be “semi-tame,” he said, so as to not stir up any problems with my muscles for Sunday.

At the Royal Arch, atop the Chautauqua trail in Boulder.

At the Royal Arch, atop the Chautauqua trail in Boulder.

We drove to and then immediately fell in love with the town of Boulder before setting out on a 3-hour hike up and down the Royal Arch Trail in Chautaqua Park. I managed not to hurt myself and we took in some gorgeous views. Mission: accomplished.

After the hike, we grabbed brunch in downtown Boulder before exploring the city, enjoying some drinks, and having an early dinner.

Jen and I split up with our friends early so we could get to sleep at a reasonable time. On the drive back, though, we grabbed smoothies, because: carboloading.

By the time we got home, I was tired, but not exhausted, so after setting out my clothes for Sunday, I fell asleep relatively fast.

RACE: Pikesville 5k

The last time I ran in a 5K race, I was six days removed from a marathon and more concerned with the 6-pound post-race milkshake than my finishing time.

While I’ve run quite a few marathons and half marathons over the past two years, I haven’t run any short(er)-distance races, so I sought out to try for a new 5K PR. My previous best, 22:35, was earned at the 2014 Freeze Your Buns Run 5K. I figured I had a very good shot at eclipsing that time considering I’ve been doing more speed work through marathon training and weekly November Project workouts for more than a year.

Eventually, I found the Pikesville 5K, a summer race that takes place in my old stomping grounds of Baltimore County. Much of my family ended up registering for the race, so I had a bit of an added pressure to do well.

Pre-Race

Pikesville5KclothesHeading into the race, I was aiming for sub-21:00, though taking home an age group award would be pretty awesome, too. I think I got spoiled, though, because at the 2014 Freeze Your Buns Run, I placed 3rd AG. I knew it’d be harder to podium this time around, but when we arrived at the race and saw a handful of legitimate runners, I curbed my expectations and focused on just setting a new PR.

After a one-mile warm-up run around some of the course, I took one more visit to the bathroom before heading over to the start line. There, I put names to some of the faces of fast-looking runners, including Dave Berdan, a two-time Baltimore Marathon winner and current cross-country coach at Stevenson University. He, and several others around him wore the short shorts and singlets that are synonymous with seemingly effortless speed.

Just like my new expectations, I took a step back from the group I assumed would be the lead dogs. I cued up my watch– which was set to beep if I ran a pace slower than 6:45– and, a moment  later, the race director announced the start. We were off.

Race

I mentioned that I set my watch with a maximum pace, but I also should’ve set a minimum pace. After the opening straightaway and turn, I found myself about 10-20 yards behind the lead group, but I was still going too fast. Like I said, my goal was to PR, not to break the speed of sound. Yet, for much of the opening mile, I was running at a sub-6:00 pace. It seemed the adrenaline of having the lead pack within sight was enough to boost me to previously unimaginable speeds. The first mile clicked off and nearly one-third through the race, I was running faster than I ever have before.

Mile No. 1 (6:01)

For another six-tenths of a mile, I continued on the out section of the course, trying to avoid the 6:45 beep on my wrist. The honeymoon of running with the wolves was starting to wear off. I noticed I was panting and sweating like a mad man. At one point, I tried propelling some loose spit out of my mouth and onto the sidewalk, but managed to get it all over the side of my face. Fortunately, few people were around me to see the discombobulation that was trucking along. Only a dozen or so runners had made their turn before I did, so I figured I was doing alright.

Mile No. 2 (6:28)

Just a mile-and-change to go. As I ran for my life back to the finish line, I saw more and more runners on the out section. I ran by my dad who rooted me on and said that I was “Lucky Number 13.” With no time to do the math in my head of whether or not I could still place top-three in my age group in the 13th overall spot, I continued running as fast as I could.

It was clear that my legs lacked the fuel to keep up with my prior splits’ pace, but I did know that I banked a bit of time by running well faster than the 6:44 pace I needed to hit sub-21:00.

The final mile included a lot more of my watch beeping that I was running slower than my goal pace, but I still felt confident I could PR.

Mile No. 3 (6:41)

Thanks to some downhill straightaway action, the last chunk of the race was relatively enjoyable. Two or three runners did pass me at that point, but after we hit the final turn, I managed to use every ounce of energy I had remaining to sprint and edge them out at the finish line.

Mile No. 3.1 (5:33)

I crossed the line, paused my watch, and let a volunteer take my chip all before looking up at the clock. Could it be? Did I really run sub-20:00? My watch read 19:51.

Post-Race

One chugged water and 60 seconds of catching my breath later, and I walked back up the course to cheer on the rest of the team. Jen, my uncle, and eventually my little brother and dad all hit the 2.9 mark, where I jogged them in to finish. Soon after, we all gathered at the finish line to see my mom and stepmom finish strong. It really was a family affair.

Once everyone finished, it was time for the overall and age group awards. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I also knew that I had a shot. I figured that I was somewhere in the top-15, so if many of those ahead of me were either top-3 or in different divisions, my chances of securing a spot in glory would increase.

Unsurprisingly, Dave Berdan was announced as the No. 1 overall finisher with a time of 16:20.1, a 5:16 pace. A friend I follow on Strava picked up the No. 2 spot, and a teenager grabbed the No. 3 spot.

Next, they went through the female award winners. I compared my time against each group and realized only the No. 1 female finished faster than me. It also turned out that the No. 2 female was one of the runners whom I passed in the final meters.

Finally, it was time for the male age group winners. I didn’t do the math in my head as it happened, but in some of the younger divisions, runners had faster times than me– which was good for my chances. When they were about to announce the male 19-29 year division, I knew that if they announced third place had a time faster than 19:50, than I wasn’t going to place, but, the race director said my time and my name along with “third-place” and I scurried up to pick up my award and take a picture with the No. 1 and No. 2 finishers in our division. I was smiling from ear to ear!

I know it’s not a huge deal, but I’ve only placed in my age group once before, so I was stoked.

Pikesville5Kpodium Pikesville5Kaward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Results

Time: 19:50.1
Pace: 6:24
Overall: 12/492
Division: 3/18

After taking some celebratory pictures, I finally had an appetite, so I went over to the brunch spread and devoured a few plates of food.

Then, later that day, as promised to my Instagram followers, I ate an entire box of cereal because I set a new PR. It was the most victorious four gigantic bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats I’ve ever eaten.Pikesville5KMeal

 

How Far? How Fast? How High?

May’s 31-day run streak– and its accompanying cereal love fest– has come and gone, so now what?

Through the completion of my month-long streak, I learned a bit about myself. I learned that I can stretch preconceived notions of what is physically feasible. It wasn’t a particularly dramatic realization, but May’s success– despite fears of awakening an old, nagging injury and worries that I’d go broke from all my cereal consumption– lead me to June, the beginning of the summer, and bigger, OK much bigger, questions to answer.

Can I run 31 days in a row? Yes. I know that now. So, let’s think bigger. More appropriately, let’s think farther, faster, and higher.

How Far Can I Run?

June 18, 2016 – 2nd Annual Monument-to-Monument Run

Those not familiar with Baltimore’s geography might not know that the District’s Washington Monument isn’t even the oldest Washington Monument in the area. Completed in 1829, the Washington Monument of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon Place will serve as the starting line of my first official, unofficial ultra-marathon.

m2mCreated last summer by a bunch of my faster and crazier-yet-smarter November Project brothers, the Monument-to-Monument Run takes runners 38.6 miles down Route 1 to D.C.’s Washington Monument.

There is no registration fee or finisher’s medal, but that’s fine with me; I was insanely jealous of last year’s M2M runners and look forward to joining their ranks on the 18th. I’m cautiously optimistic about my success over the course of the estimated seven hours of running– between a group pace of 9:30-10:00 minutes/mile– but I’m also prepared to take the run with a grain of salt and appreciate however far my legs take me. Don’t tell anyone, but I won’t be too upset if I stop at Mile No. 29, otherwise known as the University of Maryland’s always satisfying Bagel Place.

How Fast Can I Run?

July 10, 2016 – Pikesville 5k

p5kThe last time I ran an official 5k, I was more excited for the 6-pound milkshakes and 1.5-pound deli sandwiches that followed: my 26th-birthday festivities at the 2014 Freeze Your Buns Run 5k, where I ended up finishing in 22:35, fast enough for third place in my age group.

Now, two-and-a-half years later, I’m eager to see if I’ve gotten any faster. Since then, I’ve begun toying with speed work during marathon training and plenty of sprints courtesy of November Project.

I have an “A” goal finishing time in my head, but I’ll save that for later.

How High Can I Run?

August 21, 2016 – Pikes Peak Marathon

This one is a real doozy. To other runners, I’m not sure how it compares to the M2M run, in terms of bad-assery, but let’s just say some of my loved ones are worried about my survival as I ascend 13.1 miles up Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, before tripping, stumbling, and/or falling back down to total one measly marathonppm.

In all, Pikes Peak will serve up 7,815 feet of elevation gained. And oh yeah, I’ll be starting at an altitude of 6,300 feet, so I’m already going to be gassed.

I’ll most definitely be talking more about this challenge in the coming weeks– because I’ve been working on a very specific training schedule to try and resemble a tiny bit of the climbing and challenges associated with the third-oldest marathon in the United States.

Questions will be answered this summer. What upcoming challenges are you looking forward to attempting?

31 Days Later

The month of May is in the books. With it goes my run streak and cereal countdown. While I’m technically still adding to my run streak– because of a new training schedule– here’s how my month looked in retrospect.

Total Miles: 209

A new personal best for total miles in one month. According to my log, my previous high was 204 miles when I was training for the Charleston Marathon.

Total Time: 31 hours 23 minutes

In all, I ran for about 1.25 days. That’s enough time to watch every single Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in succession.

Total Run Commutes Home from Work: 21

Running home from work almost every day in May, I feel like I’ve completely eliminated the need for public transportation as long as it’s not monsooning, blizzarding, etc… outside. Depending on the route I take, it’s about 3.5-4.0 miles from work to home, which can take as little as 28ish minutes. That’s faster than the subway and Charm City Circulator, anyway!

Total November Project Workouts: 4

Each Wednesday morning in May, I either ran or got a ride to Rash Field for increasingly difficult workouts. This past month, I high-fived, hugged, squinted, burpeed, push-up’d, sprinted, staired, crunched, planked, jogged, and sweated the life out of me, while smiling and laughing some life into me. We even got to take a stab at besting our record at Baltimore’s new PR day: BAL1. With a score of 7.9 this month– my previous best was 6.8– I raised the bar, though I’m still working towards an 8.9.

Total Long* Runs: 6
*10+ miles

Six times across the month I ran more than 10 miles at once. From social long runs, like a spontaneous 13.1-miler with a friend and a 10-miler to a local ice cream paradise, to grueling sweaty by-myself long runs, like a 16-miler after work on Friday, I logged some distance because I didn’t want to start from scratch when I begin training for longer mileage events this summer.

Total Cereals Ranked: 31

From Cocoa Krispies to Honey Bunches of Oats, my list of 31-tastiest cereals might not jive with everyone, but it’s my list and I encourage anyone who disagrees to run for a month and then put together their own list.

I left out Reese’s Puffs, Grape Nuts, and French Toast Crunch for a reason, people. So move on.

Now that's what I call cereal.

Now that’s what I call cereal.

Final Streaking Thoughts

Prior to the May run streak, I never ran more than four or five– six on a good week– days in a row. Now that I’ve logged 31+ straight days of running, I do feel much stronger and more capable of putting in some miles even if the weather is crummy, or I’m feeling tired, or the Orioles are playing.

Through this streak, I’ve developed a new layer of dedication to running. I’m still going to be hypersensitive to any aches and pains, to prevent another injury, but I also feel much better-suited to the idea of a six-day/week training schedule.

Which leads me to a bit of a tease. I have some big plans in place for this summer. Over the next three months, I’ll be putting my body and mind to the test in three very different environments. That’s all I’ll say for now, but stay tuned!

Run-Streaking and Cereal-Ranking

  • May 1
    • 2.0 miles
    • No. 31: Cocoa Krispies
  • May 2
    • 9.0 miles
    • No. 30: Cinnamon Toast Crunch
  • May 3
    • 4.0 miles
    • No. 29: Froot Loops
  • May 4
    • 4.0 miles
    • No. 28: Wheaties
  • May 5
    • 5.0 miles
    • No. 27: Honey Graham Oh’s
  • May 6
    • 8.4 miles
    • No. 26: Fruity Pebbles
  • May 7
    • 5.0 miles
    • No. 25: Kix
  • May 8
    • 10.0 miles
    • No. 24: Rice Krispies Treats
  • May 9
    • 8.0 miles
    • No. 23: Apple Jacks
  • May 10
    • 8.7 miles
    • No. 22: Rice Krispies
  • May 11
    • 4.0 miles
    • No. 21: Vanilla Chex
  • May 12
    • 5.2 miles
    • No. 20: Heart to Heart
  • May 13
    • 6.0 miles
    • No. 19: Honeycomb
  • May 14
    • 13.0 miles
    • No. 18: Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch
  • May 15
    • 10.5 miles
    • No. 17: Crispix
  • May 16
    • 4.1 miles
    • No. 16: Oatmeal Squares
  • May 17
    • 7.2 miles
    • No. 15: Go Lean Crunch!
  • May 18
    • 4.9 miles
    • No. 14: Cookie Crisp
  • May 19
    • 6.4 miles
    • No. 13: Island Vanilla
  • May 20
    • 16.0 miles
    • No. 12: Lucky Charms
  • May 21
    • 4.0 miles
    • No. 11: Special K Red Berries
  • May 22
    • 13.2 miles
    • No. 10: Golden Grahams
  • May 23
    • 4.0 miles
    • No. 9: Frosted Flakes
  • May 24
    • 4.0 miles
    • No. 8: Corn Pops
  • May 25
    • 3.7 miles
    • No. 7: Raisin Bran Crunch
  • May 26
    • 7.0 miles
    • No. 6: Honey Nut Cheerios
  • May 27
    • 13.1 miles
    • No. 5: Life
  • May 28
    • 5.4 miles
    • No. 4: Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries
  • May 29
    • 4.1 miles
    • No. 3: Honey Smacks
  • May 30
    • 4.0 miles
    • No. 2: Frosted Mini Wheats
  • May 31
    • 5.0 miles
    • No. 1: Honey Bunches of Oats