Fred Hauptmann of Joseph turned 56 the day before his latest race. He also gave up smoking about a year and a half ago, and only started running in 2000. So you'd expect maybe a 10K fun run out of him?
Try a full length marathon. Oh, and not a nice flat boring one. Hauptmann likes a bit more out of his races. That's why he entered the Pikes Peak Marathon this year. Yes, that Pikes Peak. The 14,110-foot monster people race nitro-fuelled, hemi-powered, mist-cooled hill-climbers up. Of course, the racers don't use vehicles. Just leg-power.
They don't use the road, either.
They go straight up the mountain by goat-path, gaining 7,815 feet in altitude over the 13-mile route. (The last three or four miles is the roughest, Hauptmann said. "It's like going straight up the face of Joseph on switchbacks.") Then they turn around and run back down.
A little more impressive than a fun run, eh?
Hauptmann ran the Pikes Peak Ascent race last year, as organizers require the uphill-only half-marathon, or having finished a 35-mile-plus ultimate marathon, before a runner can attempt the entire Pikes Peak course. This was Hauptmann's first year to run the whole shebang, and he finished 14th out of 51 in his age bracket, and 260th out of over 600 entrants who finished in the men's event. The field was 800 at the start, so there was some serious attrition. Pikes Peak is unusually hard on runners, with oxygen-deprived, groggy competitors commonly taking serious falls, especially during the descent of the peak.
"There's a lot of teeth knocked out," Hauptmann said. "And scrapes. One fellow was missing about half his nose this year and was looking at reconstructive surgery ... a lot of the finishers are bloody."
Hauptmann made the ascent in 4:25:05, then reversed course and descended in 2:18:59 to finish in 6:44:04. If that seems like a fast descent, it was. Hauptmann trains near Joseph, on the Matterhorn and Mount Joseph, and concentrates on descent as much as ascent.
"That's where I really make up time," confides Hauptmann. "A lot of runners don't train for descent - they just worry about going uphill."
While many runners suffer severely from oxygen starvation at the top, Hauptmann said he didn't feel too bad. His training from 6,000 to almost 10,000 feet in the Wallowas does give him an edge over flatlanders, who find it hard to complete the Pikes Peak course. Many, even most, of the runners at the marathon train at altitude.
Hauptmann, who became interested in extreme running through conversations with Dean Metcalf of Joseph, a Tae-kwon-do master and ultimate marathon runner, doesn't look like a distance runner. He looks like a good greco-roman wrestler; tough, compact and muscular. Still, the challenge of endurance racing really appeals to him, he said. He began by training with Metcalf, who was preparing for 35-mile ultra marathons at altitude in the Wallowas, and stumbled across the Pikes Peak event on the internet. Hauptmann thought it sounded interesting, and the rest is history.
Next year will be the 50th running of the Pikes Peak Marathon. Is Hauptmann considering another go?
"Actually, I kind of had my sights set on a race in Grand Junction, Colorado next year. It's 150 miles over a four-day period. It's all through the desert ... extreme temperature running. The altitude varies between six- and 10-thousand (feet)."
And, of course, it's all uphill.