Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Ashley Brasovan is a professional runner for HOKA ONE ONE and a coach for Chaski, specializing in transitioning from track and road to mountain and trail.
The Pikes Peak Marathon is a trail race in Colorado that ascends to 14,115' in the first half while descending in the latter half of the race. Always up for a challenge, elite coach Ashley Brasovan raced Pikes Peak this weekend and finished with an impressive 2nd place!
In this interview we dove into racing in a global pandemic, the unique challenges of running a marathon up and down a mountain, and Ashley's future running plans.
First, tell us about Pikes -- what attracted you to this race and was it your first time?
Pikes Peak is such an iconic race and I feel like it's almost mandatory when you live in Colorado to run it at least once. I remember visiting Colorado when I was younger and driving up Pikes Peak with my family. Last year I ran the Ascent and was actually signed up for that this year. Unfortunately the Ascent was cancled back in May so I decided maybe this was the year to take a stab at the marathon.
A lot of people are probably curious about the logistics of traveling and racing during a pandemic. Can you tell us what it was like and what was different from a "normal" race?
The Pikes Peak crew did a great job with all of the logistics this year. Since I live in Colorado I didn't have to fly or travel very far which made that part easy. The race required temperature checks and a health screening during packet pick up. Masks are mandated throughout Colorado so that was also a requirement for everywhere in the City outside of Barr trail (including the first mile of the race on the road if you came within 6ft of another runner). For the race start, we went off every 10-15seconds in waves of 6-10 people. Honestly, this race spreads out so fast - I ran the entire 13 miles downhill completely alone. The only other possible precaution that I could think of would be to actually administer COVID tests to runners prior to racing. Otherwise, this felt safer than being in a grocery store.
Pikes is a very specific kind of race: a huge climb and then huge descent. Did you feel more confident about the up vs. down portion? Did you do anything in training to specifically prepare for each of these parts?
Honestly, I would say my uphill and downhill capabilities are pretty equal at the moment. I did a lot of training and camping above 10,000' the last few months on more technical trail. I would say the biggest part of training is to get a couple of good long runs at or above 12,000' to prepare you for the altitude. Otherwise, it's a moderately technical race that you can prep for by running on pretty much any trail in Colorado.
You ran the Olympic Marathon Trials earlier this year. While Pikes is also technically a marathon, it's obviously very different. Was your overall mileage higher or lower for the Trials vs. Pikes?
My mileage was about 10 mpw higher for Pikes Peak but with a lot more time spent on my feet. I was running probably 1000' of vert a week training for the Trials and upped that to between 5000-10000' per week training for Pikes which obviously takes quite a bit more time.
How did the race itself play out? It looks like you finished ~10' behind first, and about 4' in front of 3rd. Were you isolated the entire race or was there any passing/gamesmanship?
I wasn't really close to any females for most of the race. Since it's an out and back, you can gauge where you're at once you hit the turnaround point at the top. Ali and Brittany crushed the uphill and were probably 5-10min in front of me at that point. I thought I would be a solid third if nothing crazy happened on the downhill. I ended up passing Ali with about 3 miles to go and she didn't respond so I was pleasantly happy/surprised with 2nd!
Do any particular moments stick out as high points and low points during the race? It's such a fun and challenging race that just finishing that is an accomplishment in itself. It was super hot (prob 80-90 degrees) and smokey the last 6-7 miles so I was literally just trying to not get heat exhaustion the last hour of the race. You've had success across distances and terrain from 5km to 50km, flat and mountains. Where do you find the most joy training and racing? And what do you think we'll see you focusing on in the future? I have been through so much in my running career that I really just want to continue having fun and taking on challenges and adventures across all distances. I have a full time job so this is like a second career for me that is more of a stress outlet from the rest of my life. I can't say I'll stick with any one distance or surface so you'll probably see me doing a 10k to a road marathon to a 100 miler (eventually)! Lastly, what'd you do after the race to celebrate? Do you have any other races/FKTs planned for now? I went out to a Brewery in Manitou Springs with my boyfriend and some other friends. I have a few potential races and FKTs that I am thinking about. My coach and I really want to see how recovery goes from Pikes Peak (since the race is a bit unforgiving) and then will probably plan out the rest of the year over the next few weeks! #ashleybrasovan