I couldn't resist getting out for a harder effort to the top of Horsetooth yesterday. It's only 2.5 miles (with ~ 1,800' of climb), and I was in the mood to run a little harder than usual, so I threw caution to the taper winds and pushed out what would probably be considered a lactate threshold effort. I was definitely careful to keep the run under control, never getting into that gunk-building zone, so was exceptionally happy to record a summit of 27 minutes, less than a minute off my PR.
This was a nice little confidence builder just days before I take on the Big Hill. Prior to this run, I was in a pretty negative frame of mind with regards to Pikes, thinking I would be lucky to summit in the 2:35 I managed last year, and almost certain that a sub-4-hour run was not going to happen. With the return to mental positivity, I am once again confident that with a good run I can dip under 4:00.
What will it take? An absolute minimum of 2:35 on the up, which would leave 1:24:59 for the down - a number that may or may not be realistic. Having never raced the down, I just don't know. Given that Mock has gone down in 1:28 (a time that included two stops for shoe adjustments), I have to think 1:25 is doable, but I doubt there's much more room to be made on the down. However, I honestly believe that with a stronger run above treeline than last year I can run a 2:30 ascent or better. If I hit that number on the climb and fail to break 4 hours I think I'll come away disappointed.
So anyway, I have a couple of races within the race going on as well. While I have already taken the five-race series against Senor Burch this year, there is still some talk (on Burch's part) of lifetime cumulative head-to head times, a number he apparently owns due primarily to a very poor run I had a couple of years ago at the Blue Sky Marathon. I'm not exactly sure what the cumulative time differential is, but I think it's in the 5-10 minute range. If I do finish ahead of Ryan, I doubt it will erase my deficit, but it will at least be another little dent in the right direction.
The second match-up is the direct head-to-head with Top American/Last Ass. This one is a classic match-up between someone with significantly more road speed (2:29 vs 2:43) and someone who thinks he has significantly more trail and mountain chops than his adversary. Quite frankly, I think I'll have the race sewn up somewhere between A-frame and the summit, but I know Justin will be charging the down once the air gets a little thicker and the trail a little less technical - so there'll be no give up from either of us, a fact that will hopefully spur us both to our shared sub-four-hour goal.
Any which way it shakes out, this weekend promises to be a lot of fun. I'll be heading down with Dana and Alistair on Friday night - staying chez PitBrownie - and then taking the family up to the peak on Saturday morning to watch the Ascent play out, before hanging out in Manitou for the rest of the day to soak up some atmosphere and hopefully eat some good food.
And as a last note, good luck to everyone else running this weekend at Pikes, Leadville or in the Transrockies race, on what is - without a doubt - the biggest trail racing weekend on the Colorado calendar. And the amazing thing about this weekend of racing is that all three events were sold out weeks or months ago. August is simply a great month to be running high mountain trails in this gorgeous state we are lucky enough to call home.