Some Hiking History

The Thing I’m Doing This Year #1

After riding my bike the last five years, the thing I’m doing this year is hiking. I want to beat my best time to Barr Camp, which is about six miles from the trailhead, the halfway point to the top of Pikes Peak.

Barr_Camp_1I’ve hiked to the Camp 26 times. I keep track. I’ve crossed the camp bridge in less than two hours three times all in 2006.

In the summer of 2005, I was diagnosed with diabetes, which scared the shit out of me and I went on a serious diet … a-can-of-tuna-and-yogurt-for-dinner diet. Turns out all I had been eating for decades were carbs. Who knew? Very quickly I lost 21 pounds, getting down to 181. A couple months later, after three weeks in Italy for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, I still weighed 182. By April 2006, I was a svelte 185 — I stopped starving myself — and it was time to hit the Barr Trail.

There are three actual “signs” on the trail that I use as mileposts. The Incline Sign (3.1 up), the 7.8 Sign (4.6 miles) and then the Barr Camp (6.3 miles). The Camp sits at 10,200 feet in elevation. Hiking to the camp, you get to enjoy 3,800 feet in elevation gain with an average 12-percent incline.

At that time, I had never broken an hour to the Incline Sign and my fastest time to the Camp was 2:06. So on April 2, 2006, on my first hike of the year, I touched the Incline Sign in 56:59, crushing my personal best.

Two weeks later, I crushed my record to the 7.8 Sign.

I adapted Olympic marathoner Jeff Galloway’s walk/run method to the trail. I’d go hard for 6 1/2 minutes and then stop for 30 seconds, concentrating on my breath and tying to slow my heart rate by using advanced Jedi mind tricks.

Two weeks later, I was quick on the hill, crushing my 7.8 Sign record again and then unbelievably reaching the Camp in 1:55:56, a 10-minute improvement on my personal best; I was so happy.

On May 21, I broke two hours again, but I didn’t get a PB.

I started examining the splits, the times between the mileposts: the top of the W’s, to the Incline Sign, the 7.8 and then the Camp. If you go too fast at the bottom, you won’t be able to run later in the run-friendly sections higher up. You got to run if you want to break two hours. I’d tinker with my rest intervals, my breakfast, what food I’d bring and when I’d eat.

I brought a little notebook with my top splits, so I’d know exactly how I was doing. I was a little psycho. I wasn’t stopping to take selfies.

On June 4, I got to the Incline Sign seven seconds faster than the April 30 hike. Now seven seconds probably doesn’t sound like anything, but when you are trying to push your body every positive impulse is needed. I was telling myself, “You can do this!” It’s hard to say that to yourself for two hours straight, if it isn’t true.

I had a lifetime bests from the Incline Sign to the 7.8 Sign and from the 7.8 Sign to the Camp. I crossed the bridge in 1:55:25, my all-time best.

Generally speaking, that’s a pretty good time for an average guy who doesn’t hike regularly. In 2006, that time was faster than 70 runners to the camp in the Barr Camp Mountain Race (out of 350). In 2013, that time was faster than 50 runners in the same race out of 260.

But I haven’t approached that time since … haven’t been under two hours since … 2:01:36 (2010), 2:01:38 (2007) and 2:01:39 (2009). I haven’t been to the camp in four years. I basically stopped hiking to start biking.

The thing I’m doing this year is hiking. I want to beat my times from 2006.

The next installment … ‘This Goal is Impossible’

I’m doing the Tour de Cure this fall.
For more information, to join or donate, go here.

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