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Pikes Peak Ascent

16/08/2014

Dumfries Running Club's Joasia Zakrzewski doubted that she had fully recovered from competing in the marathon in the Commonwealth games, but the other Scottish girls insisted she joined them to run the World Mountain Running Championships in Colorado on the 16th of August 2014. Jo reports...

Pikes Peak’s ascent was chosen as the 11th WMRC race. It starts at 6,300ft (1920m) and finishes at the summit at 14,115ft (4320m) so gaining 7,815ft (2382m) over the 13.32 mile course.

Jo tried to take it easy from the start from Manitou Springs, and left the tarmac after a mile and a half to join the Barr trail with an elevation grade of 13.4%. Due to the high number of runners and a narrow trail she was caught in a chain with no possibility to overtake for the next 3 miles. The next section flattened out and was more enjoyable running through woodland, but the after-effects of the marathon were starting to show and her legs felt lacking in energy.

After the halfway point the gradient increased again, but the trail narrowed. Jo was caught in a chain of fast walkers and was forced to go with them rather than running until the trail left the tree line at 11,500 feet. The thinning atmosphere was felt in the last 3 miles as the runners ascended above the tree line over boulder fields, needing to use their arms to help with the ascent. Jo was determined to keep going, and was encouraged to adopt a run-walk strategy by another runner (who kept encouraging her with calls of "come on sea-level!"), which enabled Jo to pass several men who were fading. The international runners had their surnames on their back and their first names on their front and it took Joasia several miles to realise that the ‘Jessica’ the supporters were shouting encouragement to was her, and not a lady just behind her that she could not pull away from.

Despite having no time to acclimatise to the altitude, she was very pleased to summit in a time of 3.18.37 in 33rd position, with the Scottish ladies' team finishing fourth behind the Americans, Italians and Slovenians. She and team members Claire Gordon and Shona Robertson certainly enjoyed the pizza and beer when they descended back to the start.

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