Mt. Evans Ascent – 14.5 miles – June 9, 2018
I signed up for the Mt. Evans Ascent mostly to get in some altitude training. I haven’t really ran at altitudes that high, and I knew it’d likely be a run/walk situation. Nonetheless, good training no matter what.
Weather warning from the race director:
“The weather at the start line has little to do with the weather you may experience once you pass Summit Lake at 9 miles. We have had a beautiful and calm start, but the wind above treeline was blowing at a steady 50 miles per hour. We have seen snow, hail, and lightning at the finish line more often that we see sunshine. We have also had runners stopped for 30 minutes at over 13,000 feet when a Flight for Life helicopter landed on the road to meet a rescue crew with an injured climber. Anything can happen, so we ask that everyone come prepared for the worst.”
This is exactly what I wore, minus my UD Vest
Having climbed multiple 14ers, I knew they weren’t kidding. We were required to bring a long-sleeved shirt, which I️ ended up wearing anyway. Having a cool race in June is pretty awesome, as it has already gotten really hot here on the front range in CO. I wore my Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta, and carried: my UD Ultra jacket, Buff, gloves, a water bottle, my phone, and one pack of Cliff Shot Bloks. I wanted to ensure I was prepared for anything, and I really didn’t even notice the pack on my back. That vest is comfy!
I drove up Mt. Evans road and was stopped about 1.2 miles from the start line. I had to park there but was able to hop on one of the shuttle vans to the start. I was able to find a “secret” bathroom located in the campground by the start so that worked out really well! I’d attempted to just squat in the woods but folks kept coming by and I didn’t want to flash them.
The start line sat at about 10,600′ at Echo Lake. From the lake, they had the road to the top closed to the public and any spectators. In previous years, the shuttle vans had major problems getting to the top and back down. Plus, there are no guard rails along the sides so it can be quite dangerous to runners.
14 of the 14.5 miles to the top are uphill. The only real downhill part wasn’t until mile 8-9.
There is a cutoff time at mile 9 of 2 hours and 30 minutes. You had to finish the whole race before 11am (that’s 4.5 hours to finish the whole thing).
You get a special rock with a placard on it if you finish under 3 hours (for ladies) or under 2:40 (for guys). William earned a rock for his one and only time doing the race (ya freak!).
It’s literally a piece of rock with stickers on it. Haha
Once we started, I was actually able to run a mile or so before I started taking quick walk breaks. Starting on a hill is always hard for me and I tend to need a few miles to warm up. For something like this, there was no way I was going to do any warm-up miles beforehand. Pffffffft! I passed quite a few people and finally ended up in the group of folks I would play leap frog with the rest of the race.
Honestly, the race was quite uneventful. Run, walk, run, walk, run, walk. I ran when I wanted to and walked when I wanted to. Everyone else around me walked pretty often too. If I fell behind someone I’d been running with, I’d make a goal to catch back up to them. I feel like there is always that token runner that drives me bat-shit crazy. The one for this race literally talked strategy the ENTIRE time. I felt bad for the guy he was running with because he would not shut the hell up. He even used the word strategy many times. “I think I saw this curve on Google maps.” “Around this bend, it flattens out just a little bit.” Let’s run until that pole up there.” “I don’t see a pole or another landmark to use as a start point! What should we use this time?!” “We are using good strategy for this thing.” Shut. The. Hell. Up.
Around mile 8, I hit the only downhill section and tried to make up as much time as I could. This was also the only section where my knee hurt – uphill doesn’t bother it at all. Go figure. If I was going to get the sub-3 hour rock, I’d have to average a 12:something pace. That wasn’t happening, and that was 100% fine with me. I hit the 9 mile cutoff at two hours (30 minutes ahead) so I knew I was good to go for the rest of the race. They had aid stations at miles 3, 6, 9, and 11.5. The only thing I was getting at the aid stations was Gatorade, and it was STRONG! They didn’t have it watered down nearly enough so I tried no to drink too much – from previous experience, I’d get a tummy ache if I did. However, the only thing I ate the entire race was one block of my Cliff Shot Block packet. This may have played a role in how I felt later.
This was the bottom of the downhill section and just past the Mile 9 cutoff aid station
Around mile 10, the wind started to pick up and I started getting a little chilly when I wasn’t facing the sun. The wind was whipping through my thin long-sleeved t-shirt and buff. My arms and ears got quite chilly. I still managed to feel pretty good and was able to run/walk until I hit mile 12 at 13,500′. It was getting pretty steep and I wasn’t able to run very much, but any time I did try to run I’d feel really light-headed. I don’t think I ran any during the last two miles. I was just proud that I knew I was going to finish and I just didn’t care about my time.
I crossed the finish line at 3:29 and was handed my medal and a water bottle. We had to then wait for a shuttle van to pick us up (because they’d all headed back down to take earlier finishers). I hadn’t packed a summit bag because I thought my UD jacket would be enough to keep me warm. I was wrong. Some folks were making the 134′ trek to the actual summit of the mountain, but I didn’t give a fuck about that. I’m glad I didn’t because they had a few 15 passenger vans and several 6-8 person Suburbans, but I still had to wait in line about 30 minutes before I got on one. I was FREEZING and shaking by the time I got into the warm van. I was also feeling quite nauseous and my head was pounding. Luckily, I was able to sit in the front seat of the van, but I still felt quite queasy when were making the switchback turns. I honestly felt like I was drunk and could puke at any moment. I took deep breaths and made sure the keep my eyes straight forward. I felt bad for the driver because I couldn’t carry on a convo with her the whole way. I think she got it after the second question she asked me where I just nodded. Sorry!
My watch was a whole quarter mile off by the time I finished…
When we finally arrived back at the start-line where the post-race food was located, I still felt really bad. I went over to a picnic table and just sat there. I saw others eating the food, BBQ and baked potatoes, and I thought I was going to puke just smelling it. I finally got up, took a GIANT deuce in a porta-potty, and started the 1.2 mile walk back to my car. I did have a guy stop me to say thank you for the pace that I had kept because he was just trying to keep up with me the whole time. That was nice! I also got behind a couple guys I’d followed the whole race and talked to them about the race while we walked.
Once I made it back down to I-70 at Idaho Springs, I think I was at about 7,500′ and I felt 100 times better. I was also HUNGRY. I wanted Chick-fil-A and knew I’d have to wait until I got almost home to get some. It was SO GOOD.
Yesterday, I went to a local trail running festival where they actually ended up having the women’s winner as a guest speaker. She ended up talking to me for a bit after someone else there told her that I’d run the race too. She said something about it being hot at the top when she finished and I thought, I guess it may have been warm the hour and a half before I got there.Haha! I was going to run a few shake-out miles but two of my co-workers came and I ran/walked a mile and a half with one of them. The temp was sweltering and too hot to run during that time of day anyway.
Today, and the whole time since the race, I’m not sore at all. I’m not kidding. I can’t even tell that I ran uphill for 14 miles! That just goes to show how sore downhill running can make you. I also didn’t have any kind of blisters or hot spots on my feet either. I think running downhill makes all the awful shit that can happen, happen.
I did get some adjustments and needling for my back from my PT this morning. I tweaked it a little doing too-heavy deadlifts last week. I knew better. The Leadville Heavy Half is Saturday and I’m excited and nervous! I just hope my stupid knees hold up. I’m already anticipating them hurting because of this elevation profile…
That downhill after Mosquito Pass is gonna HURT. Ugh.
I’m just going to have to power through and deal with the aftermath later. I plan to use some Rock Tape to see if that helps mitigate anything.
Does anyone have any knee tricks I can use? I tried a patellar strap but it did nothing.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for another race report!