Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon

Runners Forum => Race Info => Topic started by: Coloradorunnerftw on August 18, 2018, 05:01:09 PM

Title: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Coloradorunnerftw on August 18, 2018, 05:01:09 PM
I'll begin by stating the obvious.  Search and Rescue are awesome and they should always be supported and thanked for their service.

I'll state the next obvious point. The PPM organization made a huge mistake this year and let down hundreds of their biggest fans (racers) in a BIG way.  I'm sitting here in my yard in downtown Colorado Springs, the sun is still shining bright, the summit sits under BLUE skies and its 4:00 PM.  So much for the catastrophic storms that ruined the entire race for 2000 of us.  It's understandable to pivot a large event like this in case of weather but so much more could have been done instead. First off, was actual data used in this decision to "close the summit and mountain"?  With technology, did they actually see such a monstrous storm (it must have looked worse than any preceding race because this was the first time in its 63 year history that its been shuttered before the race begins)?  Being a CO native, it's well known that forecasts are somewhat meaningless and generally speaking, half the time there even is a storm in the forecast it ends up being a sprinkle or no storm in actuality.  Was the person making the call not using technology and actual data to come to a logical conclusion?  How could such a scary storm not only not hit Manitou (at all) but not hit any of the distant surrounding areas??? 

Oh and everyone who lives here knows the power of lightning storms so that's not at all a debate here, but we all signed waivers of liability so at the very least the race could have told all runners it was their personal choice to continue up the mountain or not based on storms incoming early afternoon. Every runner assumes risk, we don't need big decisions made on our behalf because we don't understand the risks (at least most of us).

Forecast in the morning of the race: storms from noon until the evening.  OK so anyone finishing after 5ish hours would possibly be in a storm.  Why not tell runners in the morning that based upon the noon storm looking so ominous that the cutoff times are changing for Barrcamp and A frame to X".  That way anyone finishing after noon would be turned around.  Still giving the bulk of the field the chance to finish?  These types of logistical adjustments aren't rocket science.

Perhaps the answer is that the race has gotten too inclusive.  I love races that encompass world class athletes and people who aren't but have the courage to sign up and attempt a world class event.  BUT i would say, when is enough enough?  Should the ascent have such lenient cutoff times and qualification standards?  Should there be 2000+ runners on the mtn at a time????  Doesn't that take away from the race having traffic jams for a lot of the race... I'll say again traffic jams on a beautiful Colorado 14er??  If you made the race harder to qualify for you wouldn't have to worry about storms coming at noon-1pm with a start time of 7am because no runners would be on the mountain still.

The amount of financial, mental, emotional investment into preparing for an event like this is so much more than the actual output on race day and given what seems to be a rushed decision on the part of the race staff it's a BIG disappointment.

By the way, I'm not ungrateful but for the lofty cost of the race (compared to every other big race I've taken part in over the years) there were almost no swag but a meaningless "finisher medal" for all of us non-finishers, a shirt (I did like the shirt), a slice of cheap pizza and a beer. Just to push the dagger in slightly further,  when we showed up at the tent, half of the beer was gone so the best  "freebie" available was mostly in fact unavailable.

Thankyou to all the great volunteers and aid station folks, you brought probably some of the only smiles to runners faces today. 

You may disagree with some or all of my sentiments but based upon my conversations and overhearing many on the hike down from Barr Camp and speaking to a few tear filled runners who invested so much for their first chance to run this race, many are feeling exactly the same as I, I'm just coming out and saying it.

Hopefully something can be learned from today's debacle and maybe the marathoners tomorrow who have put in even more work than those of us with the Ascent, don't have to be disappointed too.

Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Mark on August 18, 2018, 05:32:04 PM
I understand your frustration. I also understand that 20/20 vision is perfect. You could also be sitting in your house looking at golf ball size hail right now...
To be sure, I am not a race official, just a joe blow participant and sometime volunteer. The storms the last few days have been devastating to the surrounding area.
Past years, I bet this race would have gone out with a hitch...
Perhaps in the future they could let the first ** waves summit (the elite), and let the rest of the waves know that they will turn around at Barr Camp.. (added logistical complexity tho...)
Marathon is a whole different logistical complication!!!
I am betting that Insurance and the Lawyers are having a bit more to do with the decision making now a days....
This is one reason that it is America's Ultimate Challenge!

BTW: Hope to see you Marathoners up at A-frame tomorrow
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Huskers on August 18, 2018, 09:10:30 PM
I agree with everything you said. I had the same disappointing day today. I was looking at Facebook and mostly seeing people praising them for their decision. Then I look at some of the faster runners Strava data and how bummed they were. Two completely different views.

This was my first Pike's Peak Ascent and I woke up this morning fully expecting to have a race to the top. No e-mail from the race organization. Instead, I found out later there was a Tweet and a Facebook post. A little unprofessional if you ask me. They had just been e-mailing me the past week about their schedule and plan of events.

I would really like to see the weather forecast they were looking at. From what I can tell, there is also a chance of storms tomorrow during the marathon. My guess is they won't cancel the race, but it will storm. Pretty much the opposite of today. Who knows. I can't control what the race organizers do.

I traveled from Nebraska and got here a week early just to prepare for this race. I had been training for it all summer and then some. This was pretty much just a budget Barr Trail Mountain Race except we had the delight of walking back down the trail. Really? It took me 93 minutes to get to Barr Camp and longer than that walking/jogging back down. At that rate, I would be at the summit. When I got back down I checked my phone to see the Pike's Peak Cameras to see no "inclement weather". I can only imagine what international runners are feeling right now.

I'm fine with the entry fee for a prestigious race, but I agree the swag and food was disappointing to say the least. I've been in half-marathons for less than the entry fee for this race that have better swag (hats, koozies, shirts, calendars, race booklets) and better food (energy drinks, cold unlimited bottled water, BBQ sandwiches, cake). I could go on and on.

Also, another major disappointment I had was with parking. It was an absolute nightmare. All of the lots listed on the race website were full (park, schools, street) and we were there at least 45 minutes early. Being from out of town, where are all of the parking lots? Seems like Manitou has none. Most marathons have plenty of police and volunteers directing traffic. I didn't see a single soul helping direct traffic besides a few arrows indicating parking when in reality the lot was full and we just had wasted time.

I was under the impression that this race was top of the line, a classic, an honor to even be entered. A 63 year old race is better than this. I'm not even sure if I'll be back next year based on how much of a disaster this was.
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Yoni Fridman on August 19, 2018, 08:00:56 AM
I wanted to post yesterday but decided to sleep on it so as not to speak from emotion. And Mark says hindsight is 20/20, but everything I say below, I also said yesterday before the race, after I arrived in Manitou and got gut-punched by the announcement. I agree with Coloradorunnerftw, disappointing is a huge understatement.

Yesterday was my 10th straight year of doing the PPA and/or PPM. I love these races like no other. But my devotion to them went down a few notches after yesterday’s events. Racers, myself included, invest significant time, money, effort, and emotion in preparing for these races. People plan a year in advance. Racers fly in from around the country and world to run. Family and friends fly cross country to watch their runners cross the finish line.

I understand that safety comes first. The concern is that yesterday’s decision was made on the potential for bad weather, rather than on imminent bad weather. There was expectation of weather moving in around 11am, from far away, hours ahead of time. With ever-changing mountain weather patterns, that expectation shouldn’t be enough to cancel the whole race (and I say ‘cancel’ because we don’t train, plan, travel, and invest in order to run to Barr Camp). To be fair to the forecasters, some weather did hit the peak just after 11. But I believe it was short-lasting and not severe, and it was isolated, without further threat of weather behind it.

The forecasts improved significantly in the 12 to 18 hours before the race. If race organizers were so hesitant that the morning forecast scared them into shutting down the race, they should’ve given warning of that possibility in the days before, when the Saturday forecast looked much worse.

To repeat the previous posters, there were other options. Lowering the cutoffs at Barr Camp and A-Frame. Let faster runners through (as there was virtually no threat of storm before 11). Let the race start with the warning that runners may get turned around if bad weather nears. Those options complicate the logistics, including accounting for race personnel on the mountain, but it’s been done before in much worse weather. As Search & Rescue says, there’s always the potential for things to turn bad up high, some times more than others. But the race organizers understand that, and if they can’t be prepared to run the race (with proper contingencies) on a day like yesterday, it provides little confidence for future runnings. I know when I sign up that there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to run the race, but yesterday’s handling of things wasn’t good enough.

Whoever had to make the decision yesterday has a thankless job, and I’d guess they’re as frustrated as the runners. But I had the same thought Mark did, that maybe insurance and lawyers have gained more of a say. If that’s the case, and these races have entered a new era, racers need to be made aware that things will be different going forward. For ten years, every March I’ve been at my computer excited to sign up. If this is the new norm, we have the right to know, as I’m not sure I’ll continue making the investment given the uncertainty.

Yoni Fridman
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: BaristaLady on August 19, 2018, 10:32:18 AM
After sleeping on it and reading hundreds of posts, I have to agree with Coloradorunnerftw.

I was all over NOAA.gov that morning and there was a chance of weather moving in after noon, just like any other summer day in Colorado.  We're adults.  We sign a waiver.  Let us decide.  The faster runners would have had no problem.  Turn around the slower ones at Barr Camp or A-Frame.  It was heart-wrenching to get to Barr Camp without a cloud in the sky.

Also, what time was this decision made?  Why was a mass email not sent out?
I would have gone somewhere else to do a run with my dog instead of slogging it out with 2000 people on a run I've done a million times.
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: ChicagoRunner on August 19, 2018, 07:06:43 PM
At 6:30 in the morning I called my wife crying. They had cancelled the race and we would only run to Barr Camp. She understood immediately why I took this so hard. I trained all winter and all summer for this day. I'm a flat-lander from Chicago, and the largest hill in the city is 30 meters tall. I had spent beautiful evenings stuck on a treadmill running at 15 degrees incline for hours. I had run the day before and after my father's funeral in July because I was so deeply committed to not only attempting, but summiting Pikes Peak. The mountain has captured my imagination for over a year. And here I was, on the morning of the race heartbroken - I still am.

I'm also just a little bit angry about the situation. I understand the need to make a tough decision due to safety. But this was a cancellation hours and hours ahead of any actual weather development. I agree that if race officials are going to turn more cautious in the coming years they should adopt new practices to ensure racers get a shot at the top. I'm expecting race officials to formally address the Ascent decision and waiting to see what they say about future weather decision making and new race practices so this doesn't happen again.
Title: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Coloradorunnerftw on August 19, 2018, 07:07:03 PM
My Wife and I plan to do our own FULL Ascent Saturday Augsut 25th (next weekend) at 5:30am leaving from the starting line near Memorial Park in Manitou.  Anyone is welcome to join, to see all of their training, financial investment and mental preparation not simply be absorbed by disappointment.  Anyone who comes, should go at their own pace but we will be in it together on the same mountain that we all trained for, for so long.  Obviously, we will all have to carry our own hydration/snacks but that will only make the challenge even more great to overcome!
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Suzan Pruitt on August 20, 2018, 10:21:39 AM
@coloradorunnerftw I might be interested in doing this with you and your wife saturday. I was so disappointed in the decision they made to turn us back at Barr Camp. I don't think it was a good call whatsoever and am still feeling that frustrations of not getting to summit after all that money and time that I put into it.
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: SkywayRunner on August 22, 2018, 09:18:41 PM
@coloradorunnerftw Count 2 more in for the unofficial more official ASCENT - see y’all Saturday
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Suzan Pruitt on August 23, 2018, 03:52:59 PM
Everyone that is running this Saturday, can we start an email so that we can all confirm with one another on times, meeting place, etc?
My email is [email protected]
Title: Re: Disappointment = Ascent 2018
Post by: Suzan Pruitt on August 23, 2018, 04:34:38 PM
Oh and I have a 6 passenger vehicle that we can shuttle some down if needed. I'll have room for 4 extras :)