As part of my Badwater 146 training, I recognized early on that Tennessee would not sufficiently prepare me for the altitude I would experience on the ascent of Mt. Whitney. So to help me acclimate to the higher altitudes, I wanted to climb some of the highest peaks in Colorado. Yesterday’s adventure landed me in Manitou Springs, CO, an eclectic town located at the foot of Pikes Peak. The plan was to conquer the Manitou Incline and then hook onto the Barr Trail leading to the top of Pikes Peak. I have always been fascinated by the Pikes Peak Marathon, and was excited to tread the path that is used for that event.
In reading about the one mile Manitou Incline, I learned that some accomplish the 2,000-foot gain in around the 20 minutes. Gazing up the incline was intimidating. I wanted to test myself on the mile incline without pushing too much because I knew I had 12 miles after the incline to conquer before reaching the top. Trail running is not my area of strength; I am more of a roadrunner. I welcomed the experience to see how my body would tolerate the altitude and the trail. This was also a good opportunity for me to test out my Spot Gen 3 satellite-tracking device that I will use during Badwater 146.
I completed the first mile in around 32 minutes and then hooked onto the Barr Trail. As I merged onto the Barr Trail, I found myself alternating between hiking and jogging. This allowed me to average around a 20 minute pace overall for total 13 mile trek up to the summit. At Barr Camp, 10,200 feet, I started to recognize the effect the altitude was having. I began to feel a little dizzy and just “off” from my normal self. I was concerned because I knew there was several thousand more feet of climb to go. Although I did experience this general dizziness and my footing felt a bit unsure, it did not seem to affect my ability to keep my pace at an acceptable level. I maintained my forward progress and the symptoms did not dissipate, but they did not worsen either.
As I embarked on this experience, I found myself reflecting on the value most endurance athletes place on pushing their body to the limit. As my body was tested up this mountain, my mind kept returning to the village of Ojoche, Nicaragua where I have come to know and love many of its people. It is the need for water that brought me to these dear villagers, but it is the relationships we have forged that make this place so special. The water crisis for me is personal. I know and love people it affects and for that reason my mind is often consumed by thoughts of my Nicaraguan friends who also test their bodies’ daily. The difference is that their struggle is born of necessity and mine is born of adventure. For example, a common scene of late is the manual digging of 3-4 feet wide, 25-30 feet deep wells by some of the village men. The rudimentary system in use involves a hammer, shovel, and bucket pulley system to dig a well. The children at the top of the well operate the pulley to bring the bucket up and pull the debris out of the hole. The only sustenance the men will have to fuel their body day in and out is tortillas and salt. Run 4 Water has committed to supplying block and mortar to help these villagers complete their wells as well as filtered pumps to supply the family with clean water.