One of the most challenging aspects of the long run while training for an ultra is lining up crew support every weekend. A whole day on a precious weekend is a lot to ask of friends and family members and sometimes it just doesn't come together. However the race draws ever closer and it just isn't feasible to take a weekend off of training just because crew can't be organized.
For these times it may be necessary to find a location where you can get the trail, the distance and the elevation without outside support. Colorado Springs runners know all about a place like this, but this trail is also convenient for Denver runners as well. The Barr Trail on Pikes Peak is just such a place. 28 miles of rugged trail with an elevation gain of over 7,000 feet.
On the out and back trail, the Barr Camp at about the halfway point and the Summit House at the turnaround provide runners with all the support needed for a long run. The Barr Camp has fresh water that you can pump into your empty water bottles and snacks to purchase if you need them. Bring some powdered ERG and mix it up to make sure that you have enough energy and electrolytes to reach the summit. The Summit House has fresh water for your water bottles and a restaurant for a rest from the rugged climb and a hot meal for the long run back down the mountain.
If the run back down is too much, catch a ride on the Cog Railway for an enjoyable and scenic trip back down to Manitou Springs. You might want to plan this in advance and purchase a ticket at the station before beginning the trek to the top.
The trail from tree line to the summit may be too snow packed to run until close to July but enough trail is clear to get started with your training in early summer. This will give you time to strengthen those legs for the full run later in the summer. Before the snow melts off the high trail, the A-Frame at 10.5 miles up the trail serves as a good turnaround point.
To get to the trailhead, take Highway 24 west from I-25. Highway 24 is also the Cimarron Exit. Exit 24 and drive south into Old Manitou Springs. There is parking at the trailhead just up from the train station, but get there early as this lot fills up quickly on weekends. Otherwise park anywhere you can find a legal spot and walk to the trailhead.
Plan to be completely back down from the mountain by 2:00 p.m. Weather from snow to rain and dangerous lightning on the peak in the afternoon is a virtual certainty. You can expect to experience the heat of summer at the base of the mountain and winter at the top, so pack clothing for all weather conditions.