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Penguin Journal

Dateline: Colorado Springs, Colorado

August 21, 2000

I made it. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't even that much fun. But I made it. 6 hours and 4 minutes after I left Manitou Springs, Colorado--nearly 8,000 feet of vertical gain later--I was standing at the 14,000 foot summit of Pike's Peak. I completed the Ascent.

As I write this, I am still trying to put the experience into some kind of perspective. I've had runs that were much more satisfying. I've run marathons that took nearly as long to complete. I even did a half Ironman triathlon which took LONGER to complete. And yet, there is something about this event that I can't quite figure out.

The climb, as you can imagine, is relentless. You start at 6,200 feet and make your way through a series of switchbacks on a VERY narrow trail, for what seems like forever. It's about then that you see a sign telling you that there are ten MORE miles to the summit. It’s at about that point that the reality of this particular adventure sets in.

For one thing, no one is running. Every now and then someone may try to give the impression that they are, but it doesn't last long. No, this is a hike, a walk, or SOMETHING altogether different. It ISN’T a run. Suddenly, all my pride and preparation as a runner are meaningless.

As the trail continues to climb, you observe instinctively that there is less and less oxygen. It really isn't a conscious awareness so much as a sense of being trapped in a sealed room and feeling as though you are running out of air.

Your conscious self looks around, sees blue skies and glorious panoramas, and seems to be concerned very little about the fact that your body feels like it is suffocating. Slowing down isn't an option, it's a requirement.

I remember (this is important because there's much I DON'T remember) seeing the sign saying that there was three miles left to the summit. Well, I thought, a 5K and we'll be out of here. A 5K. How hard can it be??

VERY hard. The final three miles took almost two hours to complete. The final mile alone took nearly an hour. Finishing became a process of moving forward by whatever means you had available, for as long as you could, then stopping to sit or lean until you persuaded yourself to inch forward again.

I consoled myself knowing that it would, indeed, end at some point. I also knew no one but me was going to get me up (or down) that hill. My only choice was to be as relentless as the course itself. That may be the lesson. The finish line didn't really bring a sense of satisfaction, only relief. I was glad it was over.

All that said, I must tell you that I am seriously considering going back and doing the round trip. Other runners told me that within five or six steps back down the mountain you begin to feel better. I want to find out if they're right.

EPILOG: The race itself is a first class event. The participants in both the ascent and the marathon are very well cared for. My hat is off to the race director, the race committee, and to the hundreds of volunteers that make this event so special.

Coming Attractions:
Sunday, August 27th, I leave for Kota Kinabalu, on the island of Borneo, to view the end of the Eco-Challenge.

Takin' it to the streets...



Penguin Wisdom
I run because I want to. I race because I need to. Racing is my conduit to reality. It's when I find out if I am telling myself the truth.



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Last Updated: September 18, 2000 21:27