Saturday, May 17, 2014

First two races in Colorado

Salida's Run Through Time Marathon and Quad Rock 50 miler. These two races have been referred to as part of the "tour of Colorado." Though this is a very unofficial title, and everyone seems to have a different idea of which races are exactly on this tour, everyone can agree that these two are beautiful courses and fantastically organized events.

Salida took place back in March and has a fairly straight forward course. You go up until almost the halfway point, and then you run down until the finish line, with the exception of one smallish climb in the second half. Throughout the race, there's about 4,750 ft of gain, and equal loss. This makes for a great early season kick off race, which brought out some big names. This being my first race in Colorado, I was somewhat starstruck when I saw people milling about the starting line whose names I'd only read about on
Nick Clark, Joe Grant, Jason Koop, Josh Arthur and Timmy Parr; runners that I'd read interviews with and seen in the top ten for international races. Truly strong and admirable runners were just hanging out and getting ready for a nice day in the mountains. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little intimidated by the talent at the starting line.

Of course, the make-shift starting line of a chalk line sprinkled across the gravel road made this race feel a little more low-key. The race director said "go" and we all went on down the road at a very manageable pace. Once we started up the climb, we spread out and Nick Clark and Josh Arthur separated from almost everyone almost immediately. I settled into a manageable pace for the climb wanting only to get the halfway point with enough left in the legs to burn it up until the finish line.

Once we got to the long jeep road that would steadily climb to the halfway, the pack that I was with spread out a bit. Soon before the turn around, I saw Nick Clark and Josh Arthur running toward me coming down the road, followed by Timmy Parr, Jason Koop, Ryan Burch, and several others I didn't recognize. I arrived at the turn around in 11th place, felt good, so I started rolling. I caught a couple people and passed them, until I came up on Ryan Burch. We ran together until the last mile. I thought I could see the finish line with about a quarter mile to go once we crossed the train tracks. I ran as hard as I could, not expecting to have to cross the bridge, then go under it. As soon as we started the little paved section under the bridge, Ryan took off and I didn't even know what hit me. He put 10 seconds on me in about the last .15 or .2 miles. It was humbling for sure, but more impressive than anything. 

I crossed that finish line in 7th in 3:21:58.

QUAD ROCK 50 was an absolutely beautiful course. 25 miles in one loop, and then you retrace your steps. Three big climbs and three big descents each loop makes for 11,000 ft of gain and an equal amount of loss in 50 miles. 

I stayed with my friend Ryan the night before and since he had picked up my race packet along with 3 others, we went to what seemed like the Colorado Springs house. There I met Tom, Jeff and Carson, all of them from the Springs. After hanging for a bit and sharing in a pre-race brew, I hit the hay in preparation for the 3:45 am alarm.  

Lining up on that starting line was a little bit more hectic. The bathroom line was a little longer than I think anyone expected, and while I won't bore anyone with the details I ended up standing on the line with about 30 seconds to spare. Thankfully, Nick Clark, the race director, postponed the start time about 5 minutes to accommodate the people still in the bathroom line. At any rate, this race seemed to be just as competitive as Salida, though, with the 25 mile turnaround being the start/finish area, the allure of being finished would probably lend itself to more DNFs if someone wasn't feeling like tackling the second 5,500 ft and 25 miles.   

Nick counted down the starting time and we all started off down the only flat 2 miles of the course all day. Without knowing for sure who was in the 25 mile race and who was in the 50, I was impressed with the number of people who set a brisk pace right from the start. I settled in to my own race, which was largely uneventful until about mile 13 when I was distracted by the views, totally spaced, and missed a really well marked turn. I'd be surprised if I added more than a half mile since I didn't go too far before realizing I wasn't really on a trail anymore. Unfortunately, two other guys were following me, and they missed the turn too. I don't think we lost too much time, but we did lose a couple of positions. It was still early enough that I didn't get too frustrated over it, but I did have to consciously not speed up to try and make up time.   

I caught up to a group that included Tom and we ran together in a pack of four or five until about mile 23, just a bit before the turn around. I arrived at the turn around in 10th or 11th with Jason Koop and we ran together until about mile 34, gaining a position or two when I decided to try and catch the next guy ahead of us. 

My legs felt fine, muscle-wise, but they started to spasm on the climb up to the Towers Road aid station at mile 35.7. From there to the finish line, it seemed to be all about managing the spasms and figuring out what to do nutritionally to fix it. I'd never had that problem before, but they seemed to stop seizing conveniently 3 miles before the end. Coming around the last corner, I saw Ryan, Tom, and Jeff, (who decided that 25 miles was enough that day) along with Andy, from the Wednesday night group. Seeing them was a welcomed sight. Though, the finish line was a little more appreciated. I crossed in 8:33:24, in 5th place.