KB Goes for Big Air at Pikes Peak

KB Goes for Big Air at Pikes Peak

KB Goes for Big Air at Pikes Peak
by Kreighton Bieger
Racing the Double at Pikes Peak

After three seasons of erratic results and frustrating finishes, I headed into the 2005 running season committed to two distinct goals: PR at the Bolder Boulder 10km in late May, and run a ?Sub-3/Sub-5? at Pikes Peak. The latter involves running the 13.3 mile ascent in under 3 hours on Saturday, and then running under 5 hours for the 26.2 mile round trip the following day. I was limited to four days a week to run, so I put together a simple schedule: Tuesday evening, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and Saturday morning. For the first few months, nearly every run was aerobic base building, mostly in the foothills near Boulder. Saturday was always a long cruiser that slowly increased from two hours to between 6 and 9 hours in late summer. Occasionally I did some hill fartlek or tempo running, but nothing was structured, just a focus on base miles. This was a continuing focus on base building I started in 2004 while recovering from ankle surgery. I was hoping to finally see the fruits of that effort this year. On top of base building, I felt track work was necessary because I?d never developed the form and economy to run smoothly below 6 minute pace. In mid-March I started weekly sessions of 400 and 800 meter repeats on Tuesday. In April I added in fartlek and tempo runs on flatter terrain. I scored two unexpected results that month: a 5km PR of 18:20 and a 7:06 pace at a hilly, muddy 25km race, good for 4th overall. In May I continued the occasional flat tempo runs and Tuesday track. Wednesday was a recovery run alternating flats, hills or a complete day off. This meant that about every third week I ran three days. My Saturday runs generally increased to 3 ? 3.5 hours in the hills at a very comfortable pace. In early May I ran a 25 mile race above 10,000? on a hilly course and averaged 7:43 for 5th overall, another unexpected success. In mid-May I ran a 5km on a gravel course in 18:20. The base miles were paying off! I was running faster both at an aerobic pace, and for shorter, LT efforts.

At the Bolder Boulder, my first test, I ran 00:37:27 ? an improvement over the previous year of 1:43, and a lifetime PR! I was shocked with this result on one day a week of track, some fartlek and a long slow run.

To train for Pikes Peak in late August I traded the track work for alternating uphill repeats (12-15 x 81-83 seconds) or uphill/downhill intervals (15 minutes: 9 up / 6 down). I started uphill tempo runs and rolling ?hill cruiser? runs on Wednesday. I ran more at altitude, but always remained focused on building my aerobic base. My total training volume peaked at 6.8 hours per week, and I averaged 6.7 hours per week.

In June I was faced with a possible stress fracture and switched to cycling for 2.5 weeks. During this time I did essentially the same workouts, only with more attention on steep uphill riding as I found I could recover much more easily from a hard day on the bike than in running. Once I was back to running in late June, I felt refreshed and like I had not lost any fitness.

At Pikes Peak I relied on my aerobic base and ran comfortably under LT for the Ascent and finished in 2:44:13, a 16 minute PR good for 13th overall, 2nd in my age group. I was shocked! Going into the marathon the following day I ran a similarly measured, controlled race and summitted in 2:53:46 (my 2nd fastest time ever) and descended in 1:38:47, a 9 minute PR for the descent, to finish in 4:32:33 ? a 16 minute PR on Pikes Peak, good enough for 16th overall and 3rd in my age group. This capped off perhaps my best two days of racing ? running, cycling or triathlon ? in over 20 years of racing. I was stunned.

Considering my average 6.5 hours a week of training, I feel like the most important factor in 7 hours of successful racing in two days was the solid aerobic base I started in 2004 and continued building in 2005. At times this meant I was running alone to maintain my ?snail?s pace?, wondering how I?d ever run faster on so many slow miles, but as the saying goes, ?Good things come to those who wait.? You won?t build a solid aerobic base overnight ? it takes months and months ? and you won?t build it by hammering with your buddies every week. But if you have the desire, determination and discipline, you will reap the benefits? in the form of a PR ? or three!

Kreighton Bieger is a former Junior National Cyclist and OK State TT Champ, who is now a trail runner who has been running and racing for over 20 years and still enjoys every minute of it. He lives in Boulder with his wife and children.


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