Wow, what an adventure today was! Last night I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. to get an early start on my day photographing the Pikes Peak Ascent, but the alarm proved to be unnecessary as I awoke at 4:20 a.m. on my own wired up and ready to go! One cup of coffee and a couple of toasted frozen waffles later I was on my way down the pass. My parking plan worked perfectly as I pulled into the end spot in the free parking area at the middle school. A short walk down the hill and I was in the midst of the action, albeit an hour early.
I needed a few minutes to get my equipment ready and talk to the race officials so that was fine with me. A couple of nice people described to me in detail how I would be able to get a ride to the peak in the media van and I just wanted to pat them on their heads and say to them, “Silly people, if you only knew me you would know that there isn’t a chance on God’s green earth that I will be in that van when it leaves.”… Got some great shots of the race start, including some of our next Runners World Cover Girl, Jill Howard 🙂 Sure enough, when the time came the media van was nowhere to be found but I fortunately ran across the guys hauling the time keeping equipment to the top and hitched a ride with them.
Pikes Peak Highway is amazing. It winds around all over that mountain giving fantastic views in almost every direction imaginable. From there I could see Woodland Park and Rampart Reservoir, the Springs, South Park and from the summit you can probably see the Atlantic and Pacific if your eyes are good enough! Well that could be a slight exaggeration, but suffice it to say you can see a long ways.
On my way through the Summit House at 14,115 feet I reached into the pocket of my photography vest to get my sunglasses and felt a piece of paper. What do you know if it wasn’t a $20 bill. So I bought some food and as I ate breakfast I knew this was going to be a great day! It only takes the fastest men a little over two hours to run the thirteen miles from Manitou town center to the top so that only left me about 20 minutes to get into position. I hiked down the mountain a few switchbacks and found a spot with a good view and waited for the action. It wasn’t long before I had the first place man and woman in the bag so I headed down a bit further for a different view.
I had found out from Jill what her predicted finish time was and I liked my original location better so as the time for her finish drew near I hiked back up the trail to try to get a shot of her nearing the finish line. And right on time, there she was with a big smile and a greeting! After all these years I finally met her in person 🙂 At that point with almost 500 images on the chip I decided to just make my way to the top and chat with her and William for a while. So great to talk with them in person after so many years of internet friendship.
I heard the train whistle for the Cog Railway and I have been wanting to get a shot of that train for so long… so up to the peak for the train shots. Word to the wise.. there could be two trains, not one! The train headed out and I ran along the tracks to get a shot of it descending down the mountainside when I heard another whistle right behind me. Yikes… a second train bearing down on me. Fortunately it didn’t have time to get up much speed at that point so I just hopped off the tracks and took advantage of a second chance at the pictures 🙂
After that, nothing much to do but get back down to Manitou. There were plenty of shuttle vans taking the runners back down and my handy staff and press pass badges were good for a free trip back to the bottom. Once my feet were on the ground in Manitou, dressed for 14,000 feet I thought I was going to die in the 90 degree heat. Luckily it was only a few blocks to my air conditioned Miata. Now… to process 500 pictures and write an article for the Examiner. I’m sure it will be an easy task to write of such an awesome experience 🙂
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