I have written about my own personal hike up the great Majestic Lady, Pike’s Peak. That trek was a pre-event to the Ascent Race, which is why I went up the mountain in the first place. Doris and I were there to assist in running an aide station. After the summit climb, we met with our team captains, Amy and Jeff Solverson, got our camp made, and had a very welcome dinner. There are a number of aid stations on the mountain for the Ascent and the Pikes Peak Marathon. They are designed to support the racers with water, Gatorade, fruit, candy, and medical help, which is given by the El Paso County Search and Rescue teams. Everything that is needed for that support is packed in from the top or the bottom of the mountain and then back out when the races are over. There are pounds and pounds of Gatorade powder to bring in, water purification equipment, food, cups, bowls, the all important duck tape, trash cans to hold the water, Gatorade, and of course, trash. Volunteers are crucial to the success of these two interesting races. I have realized after this experience – volunteers make the world go round!
There was a pretty constant rain through the night and our race day dawned foggy and quite cool. It didn’t dampen our anticipation for what lay in store as we were to support the 1800 runners that were competing in the run up the mountain. Yes, the participants RUN up the 13 miles course! Many runners consider it a ‘must do’. The course can be run in a short time, just over 2 hours! Hard to imagine until you see some of the runners go up the mountain. Totally astonishing! Like a herd of gazelles, hopping over the rocks and almost dancing up the trail. Makes you think for a moment that it is easy. Having hiked the trail, I know better!
Most of the supplies had been packed in over the three days prior to the race. Almost a dozen volunteers packed in fresh fruit, food and additional supplies that morning; staying to help hand out water, keep track of runners, and clean up. It was a great thrill to cheer the runners on, especially in the fog. That particular morning there was no way for the tenacious runners to locate themselves on the trail. The thick fog was deceiving and could be somewhat disheartening, even if you were fairly familiar with the trail. From our high location, we saw the runners before they could see us. Our shouts of reassurance would visibly lift them and give them strength to push on – they were ‘almost’ up the mountain. Often as they rounded the switchback before us, we would be greeted with a smile of thanks for our support. We must have looked like an oasis in the desert on that foggy, cool morning. What a great group of volunteers to work with!
Doris and I hiked out to Barr Camp just before the cutoff times on the mountain. We were able to encourage those still below ‘A Frame’ and give them a bearing on the trail. I know several would not have made the cut off times had they not gained strength from our words and the information we shared about the trail distance and cut off time. If you don’t make the cutoff times, you are turned back down the mountain.
Doris had finagled a ride off the mountain to Manitou Springs from a point just below Barr Camp. Rain was starting to fall as we began the rollercoaster ride, as we called it, down from the aide station. I am sure the road we were traveling on, would have rivaled any amusement park roller coaster! Up, down, and around, then up, down, again! The rain was coming down pretty hard in Manitou by the time we arrived there to meet Matt, making us especially grateful for the ride down the mountain. We would have been soaked to the bone had we hiked the whole way. This was a fabulous adventure and I have added it to my calendar for next year. Hard work but what a fun interaction with great people and the athletes are something to behold! Come join me next year, as a volunteer or as a participant. For more information on the Ascent, the Marathon, to volunteer, or to read an analysis of the trail and see what a mega hiker I am – tee hee, go to http://www.pikespeakmarathon.org/.
PS I was so tired when I posted the first story about our hike earlier this week, I placed the race pics at the end of the first story. Hope you enjoyed them!