One Month

In one month, if all continues well, I'll be standing at the base of Pike's Peak grinning goofily. It'll be early morning; I'll see the sun rise about 90 minutes before the first steps of race day.

But those won't be the first steps up the mountain. Those were in March, on Ogg Road, 3/4 mile with an average 11% grade and one section up to 18%. I said: "If I hate this and don't want to do it again, then it would be stupid to spend all summer doing it."

I ran, walked, hauled myself up, sides heaving. I turned around and ran back down and ran again. When I got to the top and was disappointed that I had to get back to work and couldn't run three times, the fix was in.

I wanted the legs and the lungs that could run up Ogg Road any time I felt like doing it. I wanted that not to be out of reach.

I've been running toward the mountain ever since.

I can't prepare for altitude. I can't prepare for solid climbing. The mountain will be different, and harder, than anything I could do to prepare. You can't really know if you're ready to climb a mountain until you've climbed a mountain. But here's what I've done to try to make this proposition less ridiculous.

  1. Get my legs used to hills. I run repeats up Ogg or the steep, scrabbly powerline by the singletrack.
  2. Progressively longer runs, on trail and hills as much as possible. I'll be running for at least five hours. In a month, I'd be able to run a road marathon with hills. (Wouldn't want to.)
  3. Long treadmill workouts with grades between 12 and 15%. I used Matt Carpenter's tools to create a Pike's Peak simulation with pace and goal times for myself (I'll post it tomorrow). On the treadmill I go faster than I will be able to on the mountain.
  4. In the gym, work on my core, upper back, and do lots of step-ups.
  5. More recently, hard intervals on the trail in my shorter runs.
  6. Tryouts of different kinds of nutrition and hydration.
I've also narrowed my boundaries for foodie treats. Keeping things simple with high-quality fuel.

All of this could fizzle out in a bad day of thunderstorms on the Peak. There's no guarantee. But I already got what I wanted. I can run up any hill, hurting and working as anyone would, whenever I want it. My legs can connect me to that amazement now, that bodily satisfaction.

Wouldn't the Peak be a grand way to celebrate a change like that?

Today's Tune: