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Bower Media Adventures Pikes Peak – with Charlene Bower
I’ve been asked a lot what my favorite event has been: That is a hard question to answer for sure! There are so many, and they are all so different. So I will talk about a few of them from time to time.
I have to admit, the event that takes the cake for being different and exciting was Pikes Peak. I have only had the opportunity to go there once, in 2011. It was the last year that there was dirt on the mountain. Originally Pikes Peak was an all dirt road and over the course of years had been paved a little bit at a time. After the 2011 race it was to be completely paved. It was the perfect time to make the trip.
In addition to that element, JT Taylor had rustled up a group of Ultra4 drivers to run the hill with him. Dave Cole, Sam Berri, Kevin Yoder, Roger Lovell and Brad Lovell. Need I say more, just a trip with these guys was quite the experience!
Just to set the stage. Pikes Peak is a weeklong event, starting with 3 Practice Sections. Each of the practice sessions had specific groups of drivers starting at 5:30am and ending at 9:30am. There are 3 days of Practice, Saturday is a day off, and then Sunday is Race Day.
During Practice, the Bottom Section is timed and recorded. Your best time out of the bottom section is your
Qualifying Time. The Starting Order for Race Day is Slowest to Fastest, with the Fastest Qualifier having the opportunity to go whenever he wants. By the end of the Lower Section Practice, you know your starting order for the Race. Make sense?
So, here’s my story… MORE DETAIL, PHOTO ALBUMS & VIDEOS ON BOWERMEDIA.COM
Monday our group compiled and on Tuesday it was off to tech and the rookie meeting. Tech was organized and official, but not as “big” as I thought it might be. The teams came and went as quickly as the officials were satisfied and the stickers were stuck. I remember the Rookie Meeting being very interesting. What stuck with me the most was when the Race Director said, “The Mountain has a spirit of its own. Respect it.” I did and I still do today!
Wednesday was my first day on the Mountain. We were lucky enough to have our group start practice in the upper Section. The altitude is no joke. When we stepped out of the truck at 12,900ft at 4:15am it was cold and dark. And I mean cold. I started to do a little dance to warm up, JT looked at me like I was crazy…then he got to laugh at me as I went “WHOOO” as I felt the altitude hit and got dizzy. It didn’t take much walking to know that there wasn’t going to be any running for sure! Seeing past trees wasn’t an issue, there weren’t any. The treeline ends at 12,000ft. After practice we went all the way to the top at 14,110ft to be a tourist for a minute!
Then, on Thursday, we were on the lower section, which included the dirt section, to get some rock throwing action. With not getting through to the right people at the right time, that plan got adjusted to me hiking up the mountain. Don’t worry, I didn’t really hike, it was more like…. Walk. Hear Car Coming. Stop. Take Pictures. Walk. Hear Car Coming. Stop. Take Pictures. It was really quite do-able. Some people hike the whole thing, but not me! That’s never going to happen! I got some good pictures from different spots with the Peak in the background. I also realized that I wanted to be in the dirt on race day…I mean that is why we were there…it was the last year of the dirt!
Friday was the last day of getting up at 3:30 am for practice and then Friday night was Fan Fest in Downtown Colorado Springs. There were over 30,000 people estimated in attendance. The crowds were packed around all the vehicles, it was a blast watching the guys give the kids autographs and being able to check out all the vehicles.
Saturday was an “Off Day” on the schedule. Seriously, I wondered why in the beginning, but the lack of sleep and elevation change all week really adds up. 2:15 am wake ups; 3am leave times; 5am driver meetings; 5:30 on course. We definitely needed to sleep in! After sleeping in, it was time to put the final touches on the cars, load up, and head to the mountain…to Camp! The night before the race is the one night of the year that they allow camping on the mountain. Couldn’t pass that up!
Pikes Peak throws a lot of variables at the cars between the altitude gain, the tight turns and the asphalt and dirt combination. In 2011 when we were there, the asphalt reached temperatures of 110 in places, while the dirt soaked it right up.
Part of the challenge of Pikes Peak from a spectator’s perspective is you can only be in one place. You may be able to move a turn or two, but not much further. With that being said, the Pikes Peak commentary is broadcast over a AM station so no matter what rock you were sitting on, you could hear exactly what was happening. It reminded me of what it must have been like when there were only radios… As drivers went past us, we all turned our eyes to the radio for the rest of his run up the mountain.
I have been lucky enough to go back to Pikes Peak on one other occasion with a group of Dirt Riot racers. It was fun going to the top to experience the altitude again! If you ever have a chance to go to Pikes Peak, do it! If you ever have a chance to be part of the race week – definitely do it! It’s something that needs to be on your bucket list. For more information on the event you can go to PPIHC.com or search Pikes Peak on our Bower Media website to see all our videos from the week.