Twice the fun but wait till youre done
By MATT CARPENTER
The Pikes Peak Marathon, dubbed Americas Ultimate Challenge, is seeing a new twist. In 1991, twenty-seven people competed in both the Ascent and Round Trip compared to only twelve in 1990. But this is only half the story. When comparing each runners Ascent time to their time on the ascent portion of the marathon something unexpected was found the twenty-seven runners average two-day ascent times were nearly identical. In fact the average was only 1/3 of a second slower on day two!
From personal experience I did not find this too hard to believe. Although both my attempts at doubles resulted in ascent times a good bit slower (5m35s and 12m37s) the second day, I found a pattern even then. My time from Barr Camp to the top was the same or faster on the second day. After talking with 3 of the people who doubled that year we all came to the conclusion that the top half of the course felt easier on the second day.
This apparent success on day two I attribute to the acclimatization factor, both in altitude and attitude. I believe on day two the body is better adjusted to breathing and therefore exercising at high altitude. Notice I say exercising for even the winners dont really consider their pace running (about 11 mins/mile for the top half). As far as attitude, I think day two produces a smarter approach to the run. One person I spoke with after the race summed it up best when he said, I went out too fast and died during the Ascent, for the Marathon I went out easy and had fun. He ended up third overall and ran 3:26 faster for the ascent portion of his race than the day before.
Though I am not saying the best way to get a PR in the Ascent is to do the double, I think that if we all took a smarter approach to our races we might see some impressive results. If you are looking for a PR on the Pikes Peak (or in any race) or if you do not want to feel as dead as you usually do after a race, you might consider some of the things that those that do the double take for granted (or more truthfully, learn by accident).
This article was updated in 2001 after doing a more thorough analysis of the double which can be found here. In the original version I had not found some of the doublers and that resulted in an average time that was 1m19s faster on day two. The point of the story remains the same.