Leading up to race day I have been eyeing this race for a couple of years now but there are so many great races in Colorado in May that it kept getting put on the back burner. It didnât help that I was a little intimidated by the 12 hour time limit which seems kind of stingy for a mountain ultra (14hrs seems to be the standard). Anyways early this year I put collegiate peaks down and my goal race of the spring. I hired a coach in January http://www.aishinteractions.com/coaching.html and trained harder than ever.
First Loop 25mi - 4:13 (10:08 pace) So the layout of this course is a huge 25 mile loop, first lap clockwise second lap running back the way we came counter clockwise. The nice part about this is that you get to use your car as super aid station with your own food and gear. Like most ultras this was a bit of a low key event, standing at the starting line we hear a muffled 3, 2, 1 then nothing. The runners were looking around at each other "does that mean go?" 10 seconds later there was a huge bang from a cannon or shotgun. I my heart went from a calm 80bpm to about 200 which caused everyone to rocket off like starting line like it was an 800 meter sprint. Actually we didn't slow down all that much in the first 3 miles which were on the roads heading out of town. I ran with my friend Meaghan and easily clicked off sub 9 minute pace. It wasn't until we started climbing that we got separated and I wanted to wait for her but at the same time I needed to run my own race. One thing I did not count on was how much sand was on this course and in some places your feet really sunk into the sand. I am not going to go into here it but lately life has been rough on me and was nearly boiling over. I release that frustration and anger out on those hills.
I had studied the course well and in my mind I separated the course into 4 big climbs (1 and 3 were really tough while 2 and 4 werenât as bad). I flew up the first climb while running on pure emotion. The second climb was not so smooth. I knew it was about 3 miles to the top but the sand was even deeper and the sun had come out and warmed us up a little (I would say about 60F). I really struggled on this climb but at the same time still pushing a pretty good 12 minute pace. Then the realization started to set in "you idiot, we are running 50 today not a marathon". I really felt like I blew up and went out way too fast I was upset at myself for not staying calm and letting my emotion run away and probably wreak my race. The last 6-7 miles of this loop were all downhill and I couldn't contain myself, again I was flying and averaged low 9's this entire downhill section (mile 20 was 8:20!). I was flying past people most of which were all running the 25 mile race and happy to almost be finished. In my head a mental storm was brewing I could finish with the 25 milers in a pretty decent time or turn around and surly blow up around mile 30 or 40 walking the rest of the way in or worse. My mind was winning this battle and I had convinced myself that I would pull out of the race at 25 miles.
Gut Check Time Somehow around mile 25 I convinced myself that regardless of what happened I need to run that 50. It was either going to be an epic PR or an epic disaster. Stopping at my car was mentally so so hard I wanted to hop in a take a nap. I drank my coffee that I brought for this moment. I restocked my pockets with gels and SCaps and grabbed a bagel for lunch. Leaving the turnaround I looked at my watch and saw that I was at 4:13 for 25 miles, about 6 weeks earlier I ran a trail marathon with similar elevation gain in 4:46.
Toughest Climb of the Day 7mi - 1:28 (12:04 pace) Heading back up the trails I knew that ahead of me was going to be the hardest part of the race. Miles 25-32 were all uphill with about 1,500' of climbing. It didn't disappoint and it felt like the temps climbed too along this section. My only lifesaver was seeing all the runners coming down including my friends finishing up the 25 mile race. It gave me a nice jolt of motivation for the climb ahead. Before long I was running alone and around mile 30 I pass a guy puking on the side of the trail. I checked on him and he seemed fine but would probably be slowing down a lot over the end of the race. I didn't know it at the time but this would be the last runner I saw in the race the next 20 were in solitude (except aid station volunteers). Nearing the 32 mile aid station the clouds started rolling in and I actually got rained on a little. It was very welcomed as I was starting to feel overheated. My fear of failing was gone, my mind had pull a 180 and was shapely focused on the task.
One last big climb 8mi - 1:34 (11:47 pace) Coming out of the last aid station I was only thinking about the next section which was 4 miles down and then 4 miles up to the 40 mile aid station. I noticed that unlike any ultra I ran before today at 30 miles I could still run downhill at a decent pace. Back though the sand pit although this time sand wasn't so bad because of the downhill assistance. I cruised though it without stopping once on the downhill. Heading up now for the final climb and I ran into the first real problem which usually happens much earlier than mile 36 but not today. Nearing the top of this climb my quads started giving out. It felt like I was at the gym pushing them to their max and then I would walk and recover a bit and then run them nearly up until failure. I didn't like this feeling because it felt like on any one of those cycles I could have gone over the edge and not been able to recover. I made it up to the aid station at mile 40 but that climb had done a number on my quads. The weather was still cooling off and again I got sprinkled on for a nice cool down. Everything was going my way.
Downhill to the finish 10.1mi - 1:45 (10:28 pace) Before the race my friend said to me many times "the last 10 miles are downhill" which I knew was partially true but really it was rolling hills with more down than up. Heading downhill out of the mile 40 aid station my quads hurt a lot and I promised them that I would only run downhill and flats from here on. This turned out to be pretty long sections of continuous running. Again I was impressed with my downhill running ability this late into the race even knocking out a few sub 10's for miles 41 and 42 (thanks coach). On the other had my climbing muscles were toast but I still would walk/run up any really big hills. My secret goal that I didn't tell anyone was that I wanted a sub 10:00 today (a new PR). Actually the only time I looked at my overall time once before 8:00 which was at the turnaround. I was surprised to see that I was going to easily run under 9:30. Looking at my watch I saw that at 47 miles I was at about 8:30 so even the distance was a perfect 50 a sub 9:00 was out of the question. But it didn't matter a low 9 would be awesome and I starting imaging my finishing time 9:12, 9:10, 9:0? so took off down the road, The closer I got to town the faster I ran like a horse that could smell the barn. Mile 48 - 10:07, mile 49 - 9:35, mile 50 - 8:57 and then kicking in the last 0.1 at 7:25 pace.
Thoughts about the Race Without a doubt this was the best race of my adult life. The course suited me well and everything came together perfectly on the day it needed to. This ended up being about a 1hr personal best at 50 miles. Adding to all that I don't feel that beat up 3 days later while writing this report. My muscles are sore but my feet, ankles and knees are great. I didn't have any chafing problems and I didn't even get a single blister. But this success race has also cast a shadow over my future running plans. While my body feels fine that race was very taxing on my mind. I was hoping that by running this race it would put me one step closer to running a 100. But I feel like it took me in the other direction, I can't and won't entertain the thought of running that far that hard right now and running farther I can't even comprehend.
Post-race fail Lesson learned: After the race you got to keep on that salt intake or you will cramp just bad as if you are running. I ate and walked around right after the race but then sat down in the grass. An hour later I could stand up and my calf's were locking violently every 10 minutes or so. Worst of all I couldn't get up to go get more food or water. I eventually got up with the help of a race volunteer and then hobbled to my car were I was too afraid to drive home. I started eating and drinking and walking around some more. It took 30 minutes to get off my calf sleeves and change my socks another 10 minutes to put some pants on over my shorts. I probably spent a good 2 hours walking around eating and drinking before I felt like the cramping was over. I jumped in the car to drive home only to find that I had just killed the battery. Dome light and radio had been on that whole time.
Gear (let's just say that my friends give me a lot of crap for not looking like an ultra-runner) Shoes - I got my first pair of trail shoes in this March which caused a foot injury so went back to my good old road shoes for training and this race. Adidas Sequence Boost. Hydration - I love racing with a handheld hydration but not the kind you by at a running store. The problem with a backpack and those fancy handhelds is you can't easily see how much you are drinking. I go with a 20oz Gatorade bottle. Also I can toss it in the trash and be hands free, that's versatility. Shorts - I hate running shorts, too short and to light. I need heavier material so I can actually carry stuff in my pockets. Soccer shorts are where it's at, not too long and I can still carry my phone and keys in one pocket and food in the other pocket.
Nutrition (When I wasn't running I was eating and drinking) SCaps (sodium) - 1 per hour, I took about 12 in a zip lock bag in my pocket and add a few more at the turnaround. The extras are if it starts getting hot or I am having muscle cramps then I can take 1 every 30 minutes. Also I needed extra because the bag was in my pocket with other stuff and some break. Gels - 4, I started off with 2 in my pocket and then took 2 more back out on the second loop. I always ate them coming into an aid station so I could toss the trash. Liquids - I started the race with 20oz of Gatorade and I had a new 20oz bottle waiting at halfway turnaround. Also at the halfway I drank a good deal of black coffee that I had set up in my car. Coming into an aid station I would finish off any let over and then have them fill it full. Beyond 30 miles I was also drinking coke while they filled by bottle.
Food - I ate at every aid station regardless if I was hungry. I can remember eating bananas, cookies, chips, pretzels and red vines. Every time I took more food then I could eat at that moment and finished it before the next aid station (I never stay longer than it takes for them to fill up my bottle). Any big hill it was like "let's see what's I have to eat". At the half way I grabbed a bagel out of my car that took me about 5 miles to finish off.
This is a real collegiate peak Mt. Princeton at 14,196'. We didn't run up any of the collegiate peaks, I guess the name is referring to the view. This was the only picture I took at about mile 18 just before all that downhill.
My friend Meaghan took one of me at near mile 50. Only a few miles ago I was up above those mountains behind me this picture.