Ring The Peak Trail thoughts.10/13/2007
Although I now live in Bozeman, MT, I still harbor a deep appreciation for the public lands and trails of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region in general. This past spring there was an announcement that Colorado Springs Utilities had agreed to open portions of the Pikes Peak South Slope area as part of a new multi-use plan that would, among other things, allow the completion of the venerable Ring The Peak trail. I am a supporter of nearly all things concerning preserving open space and public lands and promoting the maintenance of current trails or the construction of new ones. I believe that abundant trails are a key part of providing people with the opportunity to connect with and become open to and aware of the power and magic of the land.
Ever since I read that article in the Gazette last spring the prospect of some day running the entire Ring The Peak trail, i.e. circumnavigating Pikes Peak on foot in one single push, has been marinating in the back of my mind. Then, this past summer there was a fever of Tour Du Mont Blanc excitement that reminded me of my interest in running around the Peak massif. In turn, I was even further excited about the thought of some day being able to direct a 100 mile race in the Pikes Peak region–call it the Pikes Peak 100.
I admittedly know nothing about directing a race, but once I have been around the circuit a few more years I would absolutely love to direct a 100 mile race around Pikes Peak that would hopefully be managed in every way that I believe constitutes a great trail race.
First, a trail race must have a spectacular setting. Pikes Peak provides a wonderful playground on which to stage such a race–there are miles and miles of wonderful trail, and the Ring The Peak circuit would offer the novelty of a Tour Du Mont Blanc-type event circumnavigating an iconic mountain.
Second, I would want to allow the best competition possible to enter the event. I would attract competition by inviting top runners and offering them complimentary entry and by providing substantial prize money (ideally, ~$5000 for the winners). Of course, now I’m talking about having significant corporate backing, but this is all hypothetical anyways.
I don’t know anything about access issues: who I’d have to negotiate with (Forest Service, Colorado Springs Utilities, etc, etc., I imagine), what permits I would need to secure a desirable route, and on and on, but I like to think that Colorado Springs could host a great event. In my mind, the route would be something like this:
This course would start in Manitou, hop on the Ute Pass Trail/Ring The Peak Trail up to Waldo Canyon, run around Waldo Canyon clock-wise to the Williams Canyon Trail down and then up to Rampart Range Road, up RRR to Rampart Reservoir, around Rampart Reservoir, down a road to Crystola, along a frontage road to Chipita Park and then hop back on the Ring The Peak Trail there for the circumnavigation of Pikes Peak.
I have no idea if hosting a race would even be allowed in these places, but this is just an “off-the-top-of-my-head” conception. Surprisingly, MapMyRun.com only gives this route a total vertical gain of about 11,000′. That’s pretty weak for a mountain 100 miler. However, even though the race would start and finish in Manitou Springs at about 6300′, the majority of the course would be run at elevations between 9000′ and 11,000′ with a high point of about 11,300′. Looking at it that way, the Pikes Peak 100 would essentially be the Leadville 100 without Hope Pass, i.e. a pretty damn fast course. Interesting. Of course, I don’t know if I would be happy with the long road section to Rampart Reservoir. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is incredible, with absolutely stunning views of Pikes Peak, but all things equal, I prefer singletrack (as do most trail runners, I assume). I’ve run this section of road dozens and dozens of times (especially in the winter), and it’s gorgeous and dirt, but again, I think it would turn a lot of people off. I think it would be hard to come up with a decent 100 mile course near Pikes Peak without using Rampart Road, though.
Of course, I would much prefer to incorporate the Barr Trail into a Pikes Peak 100 race course somehow, but Matt C has told me that the Forest Service will likely not tolerate another race on that trail (there’s already the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent, obviously, and Matt’s own fantastic Barr Trail Mountain Race to Barr Camp and back).
Another issue would be when to fit the race on the Rocky Mountain 100 mile calendar. It seems like June is the best candidate because Hardrock dominates July and Leadville clearly rules out August. Anything earlier than the first couple weeks of June would risk not having the snow completely melted out, but I would hesitate to try and draw people away from the Western States 100.
So, who knows? Despite all of the logistics, this concept will likely not leave my brain any time soon…