Saturday, August 18, 2012

Leadville Trail 100 Run

Distances: 100 mi (or to be more precise I think it actually was 103 mi)
As I was getting ready for Leadville to be my first 100 miler, other runners told me I choose a doozy to start off. But from my perspective there is no 'easy' 100 miler, may as well start with what you love and I love the high country. With 800 entrants Leadville has more starters than any other 100 I've heard of. This may be partially due to the low entry requirements, specifically it does not require any successful 50 mi finishes or volunteer work prior to the race. Also, coincidentally, less than half of the starters will finish which is a low finish rater even by ultramarathon standards. Lots of people talk up the big climbs, Sugarloaf and Hope Pass, but for me the flat area between those two hills was the most difficult part. It was a nice goal to focus on getting to the top or bottom of a hill, while just marching onto the endless horizon was exceedingly frustrating. The year I raced was the first year they were able to eliminate the dreaded, dusty road leading into the turnaround at Winfield in favor of singletrack trail. While I am generally in favor of more trail having two way traffic on narrow trail 50 miles into the race was challenging. As you'd expect from any 100 that's become an icon over it's 30 year existence the race was very well organized. I especially appreciated the enthusiasm from the townspeople of Leadville and the fact that every aid station had a decent crowd of cheering spectators no matter the hour.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Devil's Backbone

Distances: 50 mi, 50 mi relay
This is an old school ultra. It is a mostly self-supported race on a rugged but extremely scenic course. Just head up to a 10,000' peak then follow a rolling ridge 25 mi to the Windy Pass Forest Service Cabin where you will be thrilled to see a few people at your one aid station and get stocked up. (One of the main reasons they have the relay is so they can have the help schlepping stuff in and out of the aid station. Plan accordingly if you enter the relay.) Then just turn around and head back. Love, loved, loved, loved that trail. It crossed above several cirques which I looked out over and I thought 'wow, I bet the view out here is fabulous on days on days that aren't completely fogged in.' Even though the race is held in the height of summer, be prepared for any kind of weather. Though very well organized don't expect anything elaborate. No, I mean this is a really low fuss race. Take for example these actual pre-race instructions: 'The timer is in the relay. If there are any really fast guys here you could make it back before her. Just in case, we'll leave a sheet of paper here for you to write your own time down.' Only a very small number of racers are allowed entry, most of those who sign up are somewhat local, so the whole race has the feel of a family reunion. This race is worth your effort.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Beacon Rock

Distances: 50k, 25k
In both 2011 and 2012 I thought this race stood out for all the related social events. You could show up as early as Friday night to camp out for the Sunday race. Post-race there was not just a barbecue, but a live bluegrass band. The race course was a short stretch of paved and dirt road from the group campsite at Beacon Rock State Park to a figure-eight loop on dirt road and single-track, the 25k group does one loop and the 50k group does two. Aid station volunteers are always saints, but I was particularly impressed with the helpfulness of these volunteers. But maybe that's because I ran the 50k and we passed the same the aid station, strategically located at the junction of the figure-eight, four times in total and got to know the volunteers rather well. This is the first of the many races directed by James Varner that I've run and I would certainly be willing to do another of his events. Kudos to the Glenn Tachiyama, the 2012 race photographer. I find most race photos make you look awkward or pained, but he managed to take the single best running photo of me ever! (not to brag, but damn if he don't make me look good!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sun Mountain Trail Races

Distances: 50 mile, 50k, 25k, 1k kid's run
I highly recommend this race for the incredible scenery! This was a great first 50 miler for me, in part due to the well organized race and fantastic course. The first 20 miles of the 50 mile course are through rolling meadows with the spring flowers in full bloom and snow capped peaks in the background. Some of these trails are little used, so the route may not look like much but it was well flagged and I had not problems staying on course. Then the 50 mile course joins up with the 50k course and the two groups were together the rest of the day. The 25k course is mostly along the 50k course, but the two do split and rejoin once- which led me to momentarily panic thinking I might have made a wrong turn somewhere. The trails of the 25k/50k course were better used than the ones the 50 mi folks saw in the morning. Although this is a reasonably hilly course, most of the hills were "runnable," though there is, of course, a difference between "runnable" and what an ordinary mortal would choose to run in the middle of a 5 to 12 hour race. It did seem to me the hills got steeper as the race progressed, but it's tough to say if the hills actually got steeper or if it just seemed that way. I wish I'd had a little more energy to enjoy the views from the ascent and descent or Patterson Mtn between the last aid station and the finish. The race provided pizza, beer, and bluegrass music at the finish, but you might want to BYO camp chair. This is the ideal season and environment for ticks so do a thorough check for them once you get home in the evening.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Peterson Ridge Rumble

Distances: 20 mile, 40 mile
As with the Homestake Pass 5-miler, a modest cash prize brings out all the competition, which in Oregon is substantial. The fact that it's also fairly flat means times are fast. The course is on a combination of single track and dirt roads. Sisters packs an extensive trail network into a small space so there are more intersecting trails and roads than can be adequately staffed by volunteers, and there are usually minor course changes from year to year. So, although the course was well flagged, it is really easy for an attention lapse to result in some bonus mileage. After racing the 40 mi in 2012, the one improvement I would recommend is to add a few signs indicating mileages. Maybe even just at the aid stations? All in all it was a well-organized race with well stocked aid stations, a scenic course, and a great supportive atmosphere for racers and supporters. The post-race burrito bar provided tasty options for all sorts of diets. Dogs are allowed in the 20 mile, which is an unusual addition for a longer race.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hagg Lake Mud Run

Distances: 50k, 25k
This race is all about the mud, so times can vary greatly from year to year. I've done it twice now, 2011 and 2012, both were, I think, considered 'fast' years but that mostly meant that conditions tended more toward the slick than the boggy. I'd recommend screw shoes for maximum traction if it weren't for the 1/2 mi of pavement as you cross the dam. The 25k is a short out-and-back followed by one lap on the single track around Hagg Lake. The 50k is a slightly longer out-and-back and 2 laps around Hagg Lake. The terrain is mostly rolling with the longest hill of at the start of the race on the out-and-back. This is a fantastic course for spectators because the trail comes up to the road 4-5 times on each lap. The 50k is run on Saturday with the 25k on Sunday. Post race burgers and grilled cheese were provided but even if it's sunny, Feb is cold for hanging out and nobody finishes dry, so most runners disperse an hour or 2 after they finish. There are a series of training runs in the months leading up the the event and the RD tries to give small benefits, like better parking spots, to the folks who attend them. The training events start very punctually, sometimes even a little early, so make sure you arrive on time! (I know one person who had to play catch up because he was in the porta-potty for the start of the 2012 race.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Don't Fence Me In Trail Run

Distances:5k, 5k dog walk, 12k, 30k
I've done the 12k in 2007 & 2008 and the 30k in 2009, 2010 & 2011. The 12k race hits the most popular trails in the Mt. Ascension and Rodney Ridge areas of Helena's South Hills. It's a hilly course, but none of the hills are much longer than a 1/2 mile or so. Which makes it a challenging course, but by trail race standards, not overwhelmingly so. The course was well-marked and the single track trail well-maintained, which makes it a good trail race for those new to trail running. The 30k was added in 2008 and has become very popular. I would particularly recommend it as an intermediate step for anyone considering their first ultra. The 30k course became notably more challenging in 2010 when it was modified to include trips up and down both Mt. Ascension and Mt. Helena. It also runs for several miles on the Helena Ridge Trail- one of most scenic trails in town by my book. Generally, the atmosphere at the race is very relaxed, attracting the full array of serious racers, not-so-serious runners, and people mostly interested in supporting the land trust. However, the 30k became much more competitive in 2011 when the race was made part of the LaSportiva trail series. All-in-all a very fun day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Monument Peak 15k

Distance: 15k
The course was on some fantastic trails east of Salem that seemed to be little used by runners, but are probably well-known to horsemen in the area. The race was staged out of a campground that hasn't yet opened for the year so racers had the place to themselves. It was mostly single track with some short stretches of dirt road. Theoretically, I think a spectator could drive around to see runners on one of the dirt roads, but the roads may still be closed for the season and I never saw anyone cheering. Hills on this course were different in that the climbs and descents weren't terribly consistent; for example, the 4 miles of climb in the middle of the race didn't have a very consistent grade but instead was a mix of flat, gentle runnable climbs, and steeper switchbacks. In general you're faced with a mile or so of downhill, a flat-ish mile, 4 miles of climbing, and then downhill mostly to the finish. There's one aid station slightly before the top of the climb, but I was surprised not to top out on a summit, or even a ridge, rather the grade levels off more and more until you realize you've been headed downhill for a while now. Race directors opted for cheaper entry and no t-shirts, which appealed to me as a veteran racer with a few to many t-shirts. I also liked that winners got small prizes (pizza & coffee gift certs.) while the big prizes (free shoes) were given away in a random drawing. I do think, however, the race director should tone down the Max King love fest. (Max King kicks ass, it was great to see him at a little race like this, but winning this was hardly a challenge for him.) It would make this a much more competitive race by changing the '$100 to Max King if he wins, or anyone who beats him' to a more standard '$50 each to men's and women's winners.'

Sunday, October 17, 2010

South Hills Annual Trail Series Race 4- Goat Grind

Distance: 4 mi
This is a tough one out in the Elkhorn Mtns. You run through a horse pasture, then down a steep road, across a very sketchy bridge, up a steep hill to a loop of rolling, technical single track, back down the steep hill, across the sketchy bridge, up the road and then finally down a short hill to the finish. This race really calls on all your trail running skills- uphilling, downhilling, technical footing, and your ability to stay on course. The trail series in general is a great place to hang out with the Helena running community and this last race is especially good because the awards for the series get handed out after this one at the post-race pancake breakfast. It is usuall pretty cold, so have plenty of extra layers to put on after the race.
*disclaimer: I have helped put on this race in the past, though for the last few years my help was limited to typing up the results*

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Portland Marathon

Distances: marathon, half-marathon
I did the marathon in 2010. The course was fairly flat with the exception the climb onto the bridge around mi 18. After the climb, I was looking forward to a downhill to get off the bridge on the other side, but there really wasn't one. The number of fans cheering at the start at 6 AM was impressive. There were also drummers playing near the start and I found it really hard to stay slow and on pace when I heard them. They don't provide water in the starting area, so I'd recommend bringing your own in a disposable bottle. I was kind of surprised they gave us a participant shirt and medal, as well as a finisher's shirt and medal. I wouldn't mind just finishers shirts/medals. (What am I supposed to do with a participant medal?) It was well organized with one glaring exception- the drop bag pick up. I waited nearly an hour in the rain to get my warm clothes. At the start there were several trucks for drop bags, but it seemed like everyone dumped their bag in the 1st one- making finding any specific bag nearly impossible. Unless they do a better job of controlling who drops off their bag where, choose the truck for the back-of-the-pack folks. If you want to do the half-marathon, it fills quickly, so register early.

Friday, September 24, 2010

South Hills Annual Trail Series Race 2- Goats In The Dark

Distance: 3.1 mi
This is a night race, which intimidates a lot of people. I think it's a fun twist to run in the dark. Your brightest headlamp will be helpful, but the course is well marked with glow sticks, so if you stay alert you shouldn't have any problems. It starts out running down a road for maybe a 1/3 mile before it gets on single track trail at the Tubbs trailhead. Do your best to establish an accurate position before you turn onto the trail, because passing is difficult. Most everyone has seemed to be pretty polite about stepping aside if someone comes up behind them who is moving faster. You return to the road about 1/4 mile from the finish so you have space to open up for a finishing sprint. There is a right turn about 1/2 way through the race which someone missed every year until 2010 when the race director took the overdue step of posting a volunteer there. There is usually a post-race gathering with beer and snacks at the race director's house.
*disclaimer: I have helped put on this race in the past, though for the last few years my help was limited to typing up the results*

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mt. Helena Classic

Distance: 5.6 mi
This race up Mt. Helena has been around since 1975 so it is definately a classic. I enjoyed it, but it is TOUGH. The race starts downtown, winds through a few neighborhoods to the Mt. Helena trailhead, then up the Prairie Trail, Backside Trail, and Hogback Trail to the summit of Mt. Helena. Then down the 1906 Trail to Mt. Helena trailhead, retrace your steps through the neighborhoods back to downtown. You will see some technical footing on the Backside and Hogback Trails and at the top of the 1906 Trail. The main challenge of this race is in the 1300 foot climb, but coming down the hard-packed 1906 Trail can also be a bit tough on the ol' knees. In 2008, the sponsorship of the local outdoor store was a nice addition.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Badlands Trail Run

Distances: 10k, 5k

I had not expected North Dakota to be this beautiful! Make sure you have the time to explore the trails in the nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There aren't many hotels in Medora, but camping is available in the National Park (Cottonwood Campground), a state park (Sully Creek), and the National Grasslands (Buffalo Gap).

The race was an out-and-back course through the rolling hills just south of National Park. It's pretty much all singletrack, so stay alert for oncoming runners near the turn around. The trail was easy to follow and not very technical, making it a good race for those new to trail running. Note that Medora is near the boundary between time zones; all times are Mountain time.

Beartooth Run

Distances: 4.2 mile, 8.4 mile

Despite its long history the event didn’t draw many runners. Both races are point to point, finishing at the Vista Point scenic pull-out. The races start at the same time, with the shorter one starting at about the midpoint of the longer one, farther on up the switchbacks. Buses shuttle racers from the Lake Fork parking area to the starting lines. The buses are exclusively for one race or the other so make sure you know which is which! Plastic bags are provided to carry warm, dry clothing to the finish.

The course is all uphill with a 4% average grade and middle and back-of-the-pack runners can run most of it. Elevation gain is about 2000 feet for the 8.4 mile race. With the finish line at over 9000 feet elevation, you will likely notice the elevation (and the amazing views!) before the race is over. The number of water stations was more than adequate. (I don’t believe any offered snacks.) Due to the early start, the course lies almost entirely in the shade. It was a cool with no wind at the start and most people went with bare arms or shoulders. However, with the big change in elevation and exposure, unexpected winds could make it miserable for slower runners looking at a couple hours on the course without enough clothing.

Motels in nearby Red Lodge are pricey this time of year; therefore, many people camp at one of the nearby campgrounds.
****reviewed by a guest reviewer****

Saturday, August 7, 2010

HURL Elkhorn Endurance Runs

Distances: 50 mile, 50k, 23k

The 50k was my first ultramarathon and it may have turned me on to this ultra corner of the racing world. It had a great family atmosphere. The volunteers at the 6 aid stations were very friendly and helpful. There is about a mile and a half of dirt road at the beginning and end of the race, but everything else is singletrack. Although the course is adequately marked, this is not a heavily used trail, so stay alert for flagging and other trail markings as you cross the meadows. There are a lot of substatial climbs and descents in the course- almost 7000' of elevation gain/loss in the 50k and nearly 11,500' in the 50 mile. The 23k was added in 2010 to provide an option for carpool buddies, spouses, etc. The intent is to keep the 23k small and entries for it are likely to be limited so it doesn't overwhelm the ultras.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

XTERRA Wild Horse Creek Triathalon

Distances: long course (1200 yd swim, 16 mi mtn bike, 6 mi run), short course (600 yd swim, 7 mi mtn bike, 3 mi run), long course relay

Hyalite Canyon was a great venue for an off road triathalon. The short course racers did one loop of each route, while the long course folks did two. The run course was on a fairly technical trail with a number of short steep climbs and descents. Since I'm a mostly lousy mountain biker, I found the bike course more technically challenging than the run course. Course marking was good, but there were a few spots on both the bike and run courses which may have benefited from having a volunteer there as well.

I generally enjoyed this event, but I had two complaints. First there was the problem of some early finishers loitering around the finish line and blocking the start of the run course for racers still coming out of the bike-run transition. Also, a race this long should have food available to finishers. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but a few bagels or some fruit would have been very welcome and all I saw was water and a few abandoned gel packets.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wulfman's Continental Divide Trail Run

Distance: 14k

This fantastic trail run has become quite popular since it started in 2008. In 2010 it filled in May, so it's best to register early. This is a point-to-point race along the a newly constructed section of the Continental Divide Trail. The race switches directions every year, heading south in even years and north in odd numbered years. Since it is all single-track, it is too narrow for the standard mass start. So the race is run in a time trial format with one runner starting every 10 seconds, fastest runner starts first, then the 2nd fastest and so on down the line to the person with the slowest predicted finish time. The course is rolling with two notable hills. Both climbs are longer, but less steep than those on the Prickly Pear 12k course. If you are running southbound, you know you're at the top and can start a steady, switchbacking downhill to the finish when stunning views of snow-covered peaks appear in the distance. Sadly the views are behind you when running northbound. This is definately a course where running the trail in advance will benefit you. Expect distance markers every kilometer and one aid station about half-way through. The trail is in good shape without too much technical footing.

I've found this an exceptionally well organized event, particularly given the challenges of a point-to-point race. I would prefer if the slowest runner was started first, working up the fastest. This would lead to more passing, but I think the trail was wide enough and the runners polite enough to handle it. It would also allow more time for the timing crew to get from the start to the finish. I highly recommend this race for new trail runners and old veterans alike.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pengelly Double Dip

Distances: about 13 miles, about 6 miles, 1 mile
Another particpant mentioned that he had a love-hate relationship with this race. To love: all on trails, great views, friendly atmosphere. To hate: HILLS!! Almost all of this race is spent going up or down a hill, some of them quite steep, so brush up on your power hiking skills. The course starts near the University and heads up to the "M," then goes around the south side of Mt. Sentinel and up to a saddle on the ridge. From the saddle, (here's where you get your 'dips') you go east up the ridge to a peak, back to the saddle, then west up the ridge to the top of Mt. Sentinel, back to the saddle, and finally all the way back down the north side to the start area. 'Single dippers' turn off before the saddle so they don't properly get any dips, though that trip up to the 'M' at the beginning still makes it a hilly course.
I've run this in 2008 and 2010 and noticed a big improvement in organization between the two years. Aid stations were better stocked, they made course maps available, and it was generally easier to get information. It would, however, be nice for the race to start punctually. In 2010, the awards took place in the evening at a local brewhouse. So if you're traveling from out of town, you may want to plan to spend the day in Missoula and swing by the awards before heading home. This event seems to be growing and the Double Dip is limited to 200 entrants, so this blogger recommends early registration.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Distance: 12k
Probably the biggest race in the pacific northwest. Since I grew up in Washington, I've been hearing legends about the difficulty of Doomsday Hill... and when I first ran it (in 2006) ended up almost disappointed with how easy it was. Which is not to say the course, or Doomsday Hill, is easy. It is a tough, hilly course for a road race. But the LEGEND of Bloomsday's difficulty was created by the majority of participants who train to do just this one race every year. Any runner who has trained to race a 12k should have no problems. I enjoyed it immensely and have been particularly impressed with how good natured all the volunteers and participants seem to be. Even though they use chip timing, if you are hoping to put in a fast time, try to get into the second seed. Things are just far less chaotic at the start and finish. Even from the first box of the general starters, there are so many people to weave around that it's hard to do more than 7 min/mile for the first 2 miles. Second seed has gotten more difficult to get into, so you will need to 1) register on-line with a qualifying time from a past Bloomsday 2) mail a qualifying time from another race to the Bloomsday folks in advance or 3) cross your fingers and get to the check-in as early as possible on Friday. Start is cold and there are no drop bags, so wear old clothes, hang them on the trees in the start and they will be collected and given to thrift stores. Lots of food booths in the finish area so I recommend bringing a little money so you can hang out in the park and have some lunch after the race.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Big Butte Run

Distances: 1 mile, 5k, 11k
I did the 11k in 2007 and 2009. The only overlap between the 11k and the 5k is the finish. Starts at the World Museum of Mining up a steep hill on single track trail. Before the end of the first mile, you've gotten onto a dirt road that is rolling with a slight downhill grade. About halfway through you turn onto a paved road for about a 1/4 mile then turn up a different dirt road which is rolling with a slight uphill grade. There is another steep hill right before the finish back at the World Museum of Mining. It's mostly low key, but since it's probably the first "trail run" of the year in Montana, it can get competitive. The check-in and awards were originally held outdoors, which could be quite cold. Moving those indoors was a nice improvement. Not a bad early season race.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Race

Distances: 3 mile, 6 mile
I did the 3 mile in 2010 and the 6 mile in 2007. This race attracts a decent field despite its poor organization. For example, in 2010, the race started 40 minutes late because they didn't have enough busses- 1/2 an hour after the race was supposed to start an empty bus came to the 3 mile start, picked up ONE person too dumb to figure out the bus system and took them to the 6 mile start! There's no drop bags to bring warm-up clothes from the start to the finish, so that was a long time to be waiting in the cold. In addition, there was only 1 porta-potty at the start for several hundred runners. The course is fairly scenic with a steady downgrade, making it a fast course. Both races start in the hills west of Anaconda then run into town and finish on the main street. Participants in the 6 mile should expect weaving through the walkers in the 3 mile for the last 2 miles. It would be nice if they could make some effort to keep the 3 milers on one side of the road so the 6 milers can run through. If the race organizers can update their race to accomadate it's increasing popularity, it would be a nice way to start off the Montana running season.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Powderhound Winter Triathalon

Distance: 1 event with 5k run, 10k mountain bike, & 5k cross country ski
Disclaimer: I'm a lousy biker and tried skate skiing only a handful of times prior to race day. Keep this in mind when I tell you how difficult those legs are.
This was a fun mid-winter event, and I wouldn't be afraid to show up if you aren't comfortable racing one of the events because most people seemed prepared to have fun. The run was two loops on an ungroomed path- which meant you post-holed on the first loop and ran through churned up snow in the second. The bike was also two loops on a groomed x-c ski trail. The bike course got really torn up and became increasingly difficult to ride on as more people had been on it- which gave fast runners a distinct advantage because they saw better conditions. (The second loop of the bike was so bad the organizers have PROMISED a one-loop course for next year). The x-c ski leg was a single loop. There is a short overlap in the x-c ski leg between people leaving the exchange zone and the finishing stretch so be alert. Terrain for all events was rolling hills.
As with all the events I've participated at the Homestake Pass Lodge, it was well organized with a great atmosphere and they provided a post-race meal/socializing opportunity, in this case, a chili feed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

South Hills Annual Trail Series Race 3- Goat Pursuit

Distance: 6.6 mi
My favorite of the whole trail series! But then I might be biased because this is the first race where I was able to set a course record, and it still stands. The race starts at the far end of the Mt. Helena Ridge Trail and runs toward town to the Dump Gulch Trail head. The first mile or so is a climb to the ridge and then it's downhill almost the whole way to the finish. The unique thing about this race is that it is run in a time trial format. Slowest person starts first, then every 30 seconds the next faster person starts. I like the fact that there is always someone ahead of you to pass. Cross your fingers for good weather because both the 2008 and 2009 races were snowy. My hat is off to the runners who started first in 2008 who had to break trail through a foot of untracked powder!
*disclaimer: I have helped put on this race in the past, though last year my help was limited to typing up the results*

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mesa Falls Marathon

Distances: marathon, half-marathon, 5k, 1 mile
It is a beautiful place and a fun race. Apparently, it is also a destination race as there were running clubs from Lawrence KS and Austin TX as well as Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters from all over. Mile 11 of the marathon goes by the overlook to the Mesa Falls.
The highlight of the race for me was the hometown participation. Ashton is small and this race fills every motel room and restaurant. The locals made the spaghetti dinner and deserts while their kids helped dish it out. Pre-race morning there were bagel and homemade jams as well as fruit, donuts and coffee. All finishers received a huckleberry shake from the ice cream shop on Main Street.
****reviewed by a guest reviewer****

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon

Distances: marathon, 13.32 mi
Pikes Peak Ascent is a butt-kicker and an education. The Ascent starts in Manitou Springs, CO and finishes on the 14,115 ft-high summit of Pikes Peak --a vertical gain of 7815 feet. The Marathon is out and back --or more to the point --up and down. Both races draw participants from all over the country and the globe. The Ascent starts in two "waves:" the first for more competitive racers and the second, 30 minutes later, for everyone else. Qualifying times from past races are required to get in. The course, except for the short stretch through town, lies on a trail that gradually becomes more narrow and rocky as the hours go by.
It's a first-rate event with a 54 year history and a lot of extra-curricular events. The course itself has many aid stations with water and Gatorade, though most racers also carry their own hydration. Food is available at a couple of the aid stations and free beer was offered just a few yards from the summit (!) and again after touching down back in Manitou. Sweat bags are available for Ascent runners to send dry clothes to the summit. The volunteers were extremely boisterous and enthusiastic, which I appreciated toward the end of my race. You don't get anything for entering, but a finisher's medal and a very nice jacket await you at the top if you beat the cut-off times. Views from the course are unrivaled but along with that often comes severe weather. In the past there have been lighting strikes, large hail, and even a blizzard that forced a mid-race cancellation and resulted in several cases of hypothermia. It is strongly recommended that all racers carry additional clothing to put on during the race.
The average grade is about 11%, so most middle- and back-of-the-pack runners will find this a power hike. But even that can become a faint hope if your race turns into the legendary "death march" for the last miles because you started too fast despite all the warnings not to. (That was my Pikes Peak experience and I was lucky to finish.) It would have been cool to see the winners; they're world class. I was impressed by many of the older (70's!) athletes who were all business and showed humbling strength.
****reviewed by a guest reviewer****