Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pikes Peak Double 2013


Saturday started a little bit off even before the race.  I got there around 6:10 and had a much harder time finding parking than in previous years.  It wasn’t a real problem, just messed up my rhythm.

The temperature was pretty mild right before the start, so I was able to check all my stuff in the summit bag and still feel comfortable waiting around the last 10 minutes.  The forecast was for a sizzling 85 degree high in Manitou and upper 40’s on the Peak.  That wouldn’t present too much of a problem for the Ascent, as you’re climbing away from the heat, but cooler temps and cloud cover would have been nice.

One of my favorite parts of the Pikes Peak races is listening to America the Beautiful as you’re staring up at first rays of sunshine hitting the finish line, 8,000’ above.  It’s definitely a unique experience.

I tried to place myself in a reasonable spot, not too close, yet not too far from the front.  Unfortunately on the Pikes Peak races, more than on any others, people either have no clue how to pace early on, or they just don’t give a damn about the other runners.  Right from the gun some people were barely moving while others were trying to zip by all around.  I know this sounds arrogant, but it was pretty clear that most of these runners should not have been sprinting at this stage.  There’s nothing more distracting and annoying than running along someone who’s gasping for air, 1 mile in and 300’ up in a race with 12 more miles and 7,500’ more feet of climbing.  Seriously, what are these people thinking?

Pace per mile is meaningless for this race, so I take my Garmin off of auto lap, and manually click the check points based on Matt’scalculated pace chart, which I had clipped to my shorts.  Unfortunately, I managed to hit the Stop button instead of the Lap button at Ruxton.  I lost about 5 minutes on my watch by the time I noticed, which wasn’t a big deal, but just another little thing to throw me off.

I’ve always had to walk with the pack up parts of the W’s, but this year seemed so much worse.  I don’t know if I was further back, or if people just went out faster than in previous years.  Additionally, there were a handful of runners that were just plain jerks.  Like the drivers that make stupid moves to get around you when you’re stuck in a long line of traffic and everyone is going at the same pace anyway, they insisted on repeatedly elbowing their way in front of people.  I honestly felt like pushing a few of these guys (yes, they were all guys) right off the steep edge of the trail.  It was hard to keep my cool, even though I had no doubt I would pass them permanently soon enough.  I had thoughts of waiting for them at the top – “hey dumbass, you were in such a big hurry earlier, what took you so long?”

I tried to be pretty respectful as I passed, when an opportunity arose.  After the W’s, we spread out a bit more, but it wasn’t until close to No Name Creek that things cleared up enough to run my race, at my own pace.  Before that, I had to shuffle behind others, than make quick sprints around when I could – not an ideal start, and based on the split timing at No Name, it’s clear I was even further behind in the pack than I would normally like.

At least after the W’s, no one passed me, all the way to the top.  I picked runners off one by one, especially on the runnable sections.  I even managed to pass Dave, a runner I know from Lakewood, before the 7.5 sign, much earlier than in previous years.  I was hitting all the splits from the top of the W’s through Barr Camp at 5 minutes behind.  A-Frame was 7 minutes back, and then the time just kept piling on.  Even with the time I’ve spent on Mt. Bierstadt and Guanella Pass, I was feeling the altitude above tree line and got pretty light headed at times.

I pushed really hard on the top section and probably had a top 30 time from the A-frame up, but it wasn’t enough.  I stopped looking at my watch after the 1 to go sign.  The 3:00 goal was long gone, but I still thought I could at least beat last year’s time.  Just in case, I didn’t want to depress myself with reality.  I kept passing people, even two guys in the last 100 feet because I was pushing so hard, but when I looked up, the clock read 3:12:06.  Two minutes slower than last year, 12 minutes slower than my goal.  I was pretty bummed.  I hung out at the top for a while before finally boarding the van and then the bus back to Manitou.

I’m still disappointed with the time, but somehow, I managed to place 10 spots higher up than last year (from 83rd to 73rd (out of 1,641)) – bit of a consolation.

As Saturday wore on and I busied myself with eating, hydrating, and household chores, I gradually refocused my attention away from the mediocre Ascent and onto the next day’s Marathon.  I decided that despite my better judgment, I would push hard from the start to be in a better spot for the W’s and see if I could maintain it going up.  The last two years, I’ve been 10 minutes slower on the Marathon ascent, but who knows – maybe I can pull a rabbit out the hat tomorrow.


Sunday morning started better than the previous day.  I got a good parking space and had plenty of time to mill about the start line.  I was even able to pose for a picture with Arlene Piper – the first female EVER to complete a marathon – the 1959 Pikes Peak Marathon.

I placed myself closer to the front than for the Ascent and once the gun went off, I pushed harder than I have on any of the previous PikesPeak races.  It worked!  I didn’t feel too bad by the time we hit the base of the W’s and unlike the previous day, I was able to run with everyone around me at an appropriate pace, with minimal walking.  This kept me going at a good pace all the way, but made it much harder to pass people as they were closer to my own abilities.  Despite the tougher competition, I managed to keep passing runners all the way up.

I brought 5 gels and a bunch of S-caps and did a great job of fueling and hydrating all along.  I augmented the gels with M&M’s, Jelly Belly’s, and craisins at the aid stations.  Using the larger (20 oz) bottle this year also paid off, as I didn’t have to fill it as often.  I really forced myself to drink as I knew the return would be oppressively hot and I didn’t want a stupid mistake like dehydration to ruin the day.

I really pushed hard above A-frame and ran even more than the previous day.  Fortunately, I was also feeling better, with no real altitude symptoms other than shortness of breath.  I passed more people above tree line but as I got closer to the top another runner was slowly gaining on me.  I think he provided some extra motivation because I was going to do anything to not let him pass me.  It worked.  He got to within less than a minute, but never overtook me.

The turn-a-round was great!  I looked up, and unlike the previous day, I was pleasantly surprised to see the clock at 3:07:08.  A full 5 minutes faster than Saturday’s Ascent and a PR by 3 minutes.  On both of the past doubles, I was 10 minutes slower the second day.  Being faster this time gave me a great lift and I was certain I would be able to break the 5 hour mark.

Shortly after I turned around, I was passed by a guy who looked like he was sprinting for the finish.  I don’t like being passed, but there was no way I was going to even stay close to this guy so I pulled over and watched him fly by.

The top half of the descent is by far my favorite part of this race - legs and lungs feel a great sense of relief; you’re finally running again instead of power hiking; all the uphill runners cheer you on as you pass; and you get to bound over the rocks like a mountain goat.  Every single runner yielded and encouraged me along.  I was having a blast!

Now if ever there was a race tailor made for a face plant, the PPM descent would be it – lots of rocks, loose gravel, tired legs, altitude, oncoming traffic, etc.  This being my 3rd descent, I have somehow managed not to hit the dirt a single time, though I’ve certainly taken my share of hits on other races.  Maybe it’s because I’m so incredibly conscious of the danger.  Quite honestly, leading up to the race, I can’t even imagine how I’m going to be able to run back down.  I keep having visions of doing a face plant on a big boulder.

While the first half of the descent is my favorite, the second half is just plain work and perseverance.  By the time you get back to Barr Camp, the scenery is gone, there are no more cheering runners, the temperature rises, and all that boulder bounding has taken a serious toll on the legs.  I kept checking my time as I passed the mile markers – 8, 7, 6, etc.  It was going to be much closer than I was hoping for.  I would have to average 8 minute miles, and that’s exactly what I was doing.  I could make up an extra minute or so once I hit the pavement, but that wasn’t much of a safety cushion.  I just couldn’t push much harder without the fear of blowing up.  You would think that 13 miles with almost 8,000’ of loss would be pretty fast, but as hard as I was pushing, it took 1:49:26 for the descent.  That’s more than 8 minutes/mile – a pretty pedestrian pace on most courses.

Mercifully, clouds moved in during the bottom part of the descent and I even heard some thunder, though I never got to feel any refreshing moisture.  I managed to pass 5 runners on the way down and was feeling pretty good about not being passed since right after the top.  Unfortunately, just after coming out onto the pavement by the Cog, female no. 5 went flying by.  I tried to keep up, but was just too fatigued.  She beat me by 25 seconds, and I didn’t care.  The cheering crowds were awesome along the last ½ mile of the course and I crossed the line in 4:56:34.  I broke my 5 hour goal!

After milling about the finish line, getting my shirt and rehydrating, I slowly made my way back towards Memorial Hall, ready for some food.  On the way, I saw the massage tables set up in front of the library and treated myself to an awesome 30 minutes of pain and pleasure.  Once I finally made it into Memorial Hall, I glanced at the printed results and got a most pleasant shock – in addition to the great 36th place finish (out of 707), they had me listed for a 1st place age group award!  As it turned out, I was actually 8th out of 103 in my age group, but the 7 in front of me got top 10 overall, or top 5 masters, so I rose to the top of the age group awards – sweet.

After eating and more hydrating, I realized it would be another 1 ½ hours till the awards ceremony, so I went home, showered, changed, and hydrated some more before coming back.  Even though it ate up a good part of the afternoon, I’m glad I came back, not only to get my plaque, but to celebrate all of the incredible running achievements of the day.  The winner was from Japan, and I sat next to a gal from New Zealand, who was the 10th overall female.

The improved ascent time from the Marathon also nudged me up in the Triple Crown of Running series – 5th place in the Masters division!

An awesome day, following a somewhat disappointing day made for a great weekend.  I probably won’t be doing either the Ascent or Marathon for quite a while, but I feel like I can now walk away from the Peak with my head held high.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mount Werner Classic 50K - 2013

What an awesome day on the trails at the Mount Werner Classic!

I couldn't have written a better script.  73 runners toed the line and I placed myself about a third of the way down the field.  Everyone must have been in a pretty big hurry, because within half a mile, I was probably more than 50 runners back from the front.  Not feeling overly energetic, I stuck to my pre-race plan and took it slow and easy on the 3,500' ascent up Mount Werner.

I must have been doing a good job of hydrating, because I had to make 3 pit stops before the top.  I also hit the gels and S-caps earlier than usual as part of my never-ending experimentation.  With two bottles, I was able to skip the first aid station, only 2.2 miles up.  After that, the trail was a bit more rolling than I had anticipated, which was a good break from the climb.  The ascent was a combination of gravel roads and trails which mostly wound their way across the ski slopes.  The terrain wasn’t very exciting, but the wildflowers and views to the valley below were.  At the “top”, and the third aid station, we turned off onto some sweet single track.  I was hoping to make up some more time in this section, but it wasn’t quite as flat and fast as the profile looked.  I guess everyone else was feeling it too, cause I was able to open it up a bit and by the time I hit the turn-a-round at the half way point, I was around 20th.

I drank a giant cup of Coke, grabbed a Honey Stinger waffle, and a couple of slices of turkey, which a dog greedily eyed until they were gone.  I next dug into the waffle, on which I almost choked and ended up coughing violently for over a mile.  Then I cranked it up a little more, despite the increasing heat, and counted down from 20 with every runner I passed.  I had just caught up with the Cassandra Scallon, the no. 1 female, at the top of Mount Werner, and without being at all cocky, I figured I would soon pass her, as I'm a pretty decent downhiller.  Boy was I wrong!  This gal was cooking.  I nearly redlined multiple times over the next 5 miles just to keep her in my sights and we didn’t come up on any additional runners.  Eventually, she toed a rock, didn't fall, but it threw her off enough that she gave up the insane pace and pulled off to the side to let me by.

With my mind on the finish and my legs trying to keep up with Cassandra, I skipped the last two aid stations.  I had plenty of fluids, though both bottles were a bit warm for my taste, and I even managed to squeeze a gel down the gullet.  Based on my splits, I didn’t think I had any chance to make my 5:30 goal, but when I ran through the last aid station with 2.2 miles to go, I realized I might have an outside chance.  At this point, I really hit the gas and threw down 6:45 and 6:15 miles, passed no. 10 with ½ mile to go and crossed the line in 5:28, still feeling good!  9th overall and 2nd in the masters division (old farts - over 40).  Maybe I should just stick to 50K's.  But then again, it was those last three 50 milers that made this seem so short and easy.

The post run food was awesome.  That's a picture of the incredible desert platters.  I stayed around long enough to regain my appetite so that I could enjoy quite a few of them (the picture was taken before I dug in!).

Another great thing about this race is that they check every runner in at each aid station so you get time splits all along.  I liked seeing how I was placing throughout the race from the first aid station to the finish; 41, 36, 27, 19 (turn-a-round), 12, 11, 10, 9 (finish).

Garmin Connect

Grand Mesa Ultra - 2013

What an adventure! Grand Mesa Ultra (my 3rd 50 miler in the past 4 weeks).

Projected time – 9:00
Actual time – 9:40

The whole family went to Grand Mesa (the largest flat topped mountain in the world) and we camped out at Cobbett Lake.

We got there right around 5:00 on Friday and I was able to check in with a few minutes to spare before the pre-race meeting. Weather report – 2 inches of snow the week before, highs in the low 70’s and 60% chance of rain in the afternoon for race day. Wildlife report – over the past few days, 2 black bears and a mountain lion, in addition to the typical herds of cattle. They raffled off a few bottles of wine and bags of coffee. The whole feel was that of a small, cozy, local race, though it was very well managed. There were 31 registered for the 50, and less than 100 total for all 3 distances.

The girls were elated when the talking was over and the dinner began - pasta salad, corn on the cob, very good cookies (of which I had about a dozen (carbo-loading)), and lemonade to wash it down with. After dinner, we made the short drive down to our campsite. I set up the tent while Brenda and the girls went exploring. When I was done, Amy took me out for a walk so Brenda and Kirstyn could prep for my pre-birthday festivities. When we got back, the tent was decorated with store-bought and home-made banners and in the middle was a loaf of pumpkin bread, with a candle. It was awesome!

The forecast called for lows around 50 and it felt pretty chilly. I had to get up 3 times due to my great job of pre-hydrating. Brenda kept piling layers on top of her, and right before I got up, Kirstyn came over and snuggled in with Brenda to warm up.

I woke up before the alarm went off. Getting ready in a tent, trying not to wake the family was a little different. I did all right, except I was a bit lite with the runners lube in some of the private areas (I paid for that mistake after the race). Given all their support and sacrifices, I didn’t want to wake them up at 4:00 AM to drive me, so I walked the 1.25 miles to the start. The moon was out and there was no traffic on the road other than a dozen or so cars that were also headed to the race.

Having a single port-a-potty at the start of a race would normally be a huge problem, but due to the small number of runners, I didn’t even have to wait, and the line never got more than three people. I was going to start out with a long sleeve jersey and gloves, but despite shivering in the tent ½ an hour earlier, at the last minute I decided to ditch them. That turned out to be a good decision as I would have been overheating pretty quickly.

The gun went off, and we started under the stars at 5:00 AM. Within a mile, we had spread out somewhat and I was running with about a half dozen others when we missed a turn. We only went down the wrong trail a couple of hundred yards, ducking under a fallen tree and stopping at another trail intersection before we realized our mistake. We quickly turned around and headed back up the trail but unfortunately, the young gal in front of me forgot to duck when going back under the fallen tree. Whack! Her head hit the tree, her knee popped backwards, her ankle rolled under her, and she was sprawled out on the ground. One guy volunteered to run back to the parking lot we just ran through to get help. I volunteered to stay with the gal and the others continued on with their race.

She didn’t appear to have a concussion and after a few minutes, I helped her up. Despite wincing in pain, she was able to hobble on up to the main trail with my assistance. Once we got there, she was limping reasonable well and insisted I could leave her, so I did, figuring I had gained some good karma by helping. By that time, I was DFL (Dead F’n Last). I slowly wove my way through much of the pack as the sun made its way up over the horizon. Ultra runners, even more so than other runners, are a collegial, gracious bunch. This morning was the first time I had ever run into an ultra jerk. Most runners stepped out of the way and allowed me to pass when they noticed me catch up. With a few, I very politely asked them if I could get by when it was convenient. This one guy, with a wide brimmed hat, responded by pointing down at the tall grass and rocks alongside the narrow trail and grumpily stating “go whenever you want”. I hopped off the trail, around him, and back on, thinking “wow, what an ass”.

We climbed up to the Crag Crest, an incredible (and narrow) volcanic rock ridge that we ran along for a number of miles. Most of the ridge was just“visually” narrow, but there were a few sections where a fall off the trail would have meant a long, vertical fall, to the valley below. The views were spectacular. The Columbine and other wildflowers were amazing. I didn’t care much about the time I had lost earlier and was just enjoying the moment. Between the darkness, the climb, and the rocky trail along the top, this section turned out to be much slower than I had anticipated. Sometimes the topo profile can be very deceiving.

Surprisingly, I made it back to the start/finish only 17 minutes behind my goal time. That gave me a bit of a boost, so I downed a can of Coke and headed on out.

The next 3.5 miles were more difficult than I had anticipated. The course followed a snowmobile trail, which is smooth and gently rolling when there’s 5’ of snow on it. Today, the rocky terrain was covered with tall grasses and shrubbery, yet I kept having to take my eyes off the ground to see where the next marker was. Despite all of this, I made up 5 minutes by the time I got to the Mesa Top aid station, which I would have missed altogether if there wasn’t a teenager standing out there, pointing me in the right direction.

Once out of Mesa Top, I got onto an actual trail. It was awesome. Smooth, soft dirt under the feet, meandering through pine forest and out through giant fields of magnificent wildflowers. If that wasn’t enough, the trail eventually made its way over to the Mesa edge. Wow! It looked like I was on the edge of the earth. This section took about 1:30, and for all but the last 15 minutes, I was absolutely alone. I kept waiting to run upon a bear or moose and was coming up with colorful stories I could recount, assuming I survived the encounter.

I made it through the Flowing Park aid station after guzzling down a can of Coke, filling the bottles, and taking two cookies for the road. This was an even longer section of solitude through more incredible fields, aspens, and Mesa edge views. The Flowing Park loop was awesome, except that the pink ribbon course markers were gone for about 8 miles and the limited aid station was WAY further out than the course write-up had noted. I knew I was on the right trail for most of the way, but after a while, I started to have some doubts, especially as my bottles were running low. Luckily there were 3 mountain bikers out there, rolling along at a slow enough pace that I was able to catch up to them. This is where that good karma I had banked in the morning came in handy. They filled up one of my bottles with water, gave me a gel, and pointed me in the right direction at a trail intersection that would have taken me some time to figure out due to the lack of course markings.

After paring ways at the trail junction, I soon caught up to another runner. I started out with “how’d you like the lack of course markings” question, but unfortunately, the only word the guy could utter was “France”. Apparently, he didn’t speak a single word of English.

Pretty soon, we came across the limited aid station that I was expecting miles back. The two gals apologized but they were limited to where they had trees to shade their horses, as everything was packed in. I filled the bottles, and quickly moved on as I was feeling much better now that I knew where I was. I passed a couple of more runners before getting back to the Flowing Park aid station. As there were still runners heading into the loop, I stopped a few times to warn them to fill up on fluids and expect a lack of course markings.

The aid station had ice! I got a cup full and proceeded to down a full can of Coke in addition to a club soda. Boy did that feel good after the long stretch in the hot sun. I felt great as I headed out and was told I was in 5th or 6th place. However, the sun and miles at 10,000’+ had taken their toll and I slowed down considerably before reaching the last aid station at Mesa Top. I did a good bit of walking on even the most minor inclines. I was pretty worn by the time I stumbled into the last aid station. I was enjoying some very refreshing club soda on ice when the volunteers informed me that I was actually in 3rd place! What a great surprise. But the elation I felt quickly melted away as I looked back and saw number 4 come out of the woods and towards the aid station. I quickly downed the rest of the drink, poured the remaining ice down the front of my shorts and shot out of there like a bat out of hell (assuming a bat out of hell stumbles along at a wimpy 4 mph).

Over those last 3.5 miles, the adrenaline rush kept me going, as I picked my way through grass, rocks and shrubs, constantly looking up for the next marker, and occasionally looking back over my shoulder, certain that I would be overtaken at any moment.

Number 4 never caught up. After what seemed like an eternity, I came upon the finish line and best of all, Brenda and the girls were a hundred feet ahead of the line, so I got to cross with both girls running alongside of me. 3rdplace on my birthday! It doesn’t get much better than that. My first ever podium finish. I felt a little cheated in that they didn’t have an actual podium for me to stand on, but then again, after 50 miles, it would have had to have been an ADA accessible podium for me to get up.

The Grand Mesa Ultra is by far the most spectacular race course I’ve run yet. I would definitely do it again, especially as a last hard training race, 3 weeks before Leadville. Having done the course once (I hope they don’t change it next year) would really help. It’s quite different than the Silver Rush, where there were 20 times more finishers and I was never alone for more than a few minutes. Normally, I wouldn’t like that much solitude, but the course was so beautiful and downright interesting that it was worth it.

Garmin Connect (partial course)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Silver Rush 2013

This was somewhat of a last minute decision this year.  I had already signed up for the North Fork 50 miler 2 weeks before this, and 2 weeks after, I was registered for the Gran Mesa Ultra 50 miler.  Three 50 milers, each two weeks apart was going to be a stretch for my running abilities.  Additionally, it was going to be a stretch for the family.  So much of the summer was already revolving around my races.

As luck would have it, my wife got offered a house just a few miles outside of Leadville.  I noted that this was a good “free” weekend for us to get a way and casually mentioned that I could slip off for “a few hours” to do a little race.  Then everything fell into place.  The mom of one of Brenda’s previous students was apparently also doing the race, so her and her husband could just share the house with us.  Then, a couple of Brenda’s former student’s decided that they and their mom would come stay with us also and they would do a triathlon and decathlon that day.  It worked out perfectly.  We wound up with 12 people in this house, two running the Silver Rush, and three doing the triathlon/decathlon, and Brenda and the girls would have lots of company so I didn’t feel like I was deserting them.

Susan was going to run the Silver Rush, her first 50 miler, because she was turning 50 and she had not pre-conceived goals, other than to finish.  I was coming back after having had an awesome race as part of the Silver King double, the previous year.  Though I was doing much more running this year and had a bit more ultra experience under my belt, I was very skeptical as to whether I could do any better.

The start was absolutely beautiful!  The national anthem was sung as gorgeous clouds over the collegiate peaks to the west were illuminated by the rising sun.  Wait a second!  Clouds? At sunrise? In Colorado?  Though beautiful, that was not a good sign.  The forecast called for 60% chance of thunderstorms that afternoon.  The hourly forecast (if it held true) should allow me to get back over the high, exposed passes in time.

Susan’s husband, Steve, was extremely helpful driving and taking our extra stuff before the start.  Knowing the course definitely helps.  I started out at a nice moderate pace.  I overheard a gal talking near me, saying that she had finished in 8:55 the previous year.  “Hey, wait.  Don’t I know you?”  Turns out it was Katarin, whom I had run with for the last 13 miles last year and just edged her out at the end.  This year, we wound up running almost the whole race together until the last 7 miles.  Every time I would pass her, she would catch me while I was guzzling down a can of Coke at an aid station.

There were quite a number of other runners that I knew or that recognized me.  Mitch Dulleck, a fellow Colfax ambassador was going for his first 50 miller, but apparently didn’t finish.  Parks Williams, from Colorado Springs, came in first in his age group, 70+!!  It took me well into my second year of racing to be able to beat this guy and he’s in his 70’s!  It was great seeing familiar faces and chatting with various runners along the course.  Ultra runners are the nicest, most welcoming athletes you will ever encounter.

On the slight downhill out of Printer Boy, I was so engrossed in talking with a fellow runner that I managed to trip.  I took a pretty nice roll, but didn’t complete it, ending up flat on my back.  I jumped back up and continued talking with barely a pause, but I ended up with some minor scrapes on my knee, elbow, and back.

I was feeling pretty good and stayed pretty much on or close to schedule most of the way.  Going over the last high pass before dropping down into the Stumptown aid/turn-a-round, there were the most incredible fields of Columbine I have ever seen.  Thousands of flowers carpeted the mountainside.  I wish I had a camera and the time to really appreciate them.

The drop down to Stumptown seems to take forever.  It’s not completely downhill, and it winds around so much.  Every time you think your close, you turn away and wind your way back around.  This is where I had my best aid station experience ever.  All race volunteers are awesome for just being out there, but the folks at Leadville really have their act together.  As I pulled into the station, a teenager was standing there holding my drop bag.  I munched on a wrap and guzzled a Coke while he pulled everything out that I requested – S-Caps, gels, etc.  He filled my bottles and even sprayed me down with sunscreen while I kept on eating and drinking.  Personal concierge service!  Who would have thought?

I headed out of Stumptown only a few minutes behind schedule, up the hill, and into the heat of a summer sun in Colorado.  I was able to enjoy the Columbine fields more on the way up as I was going much slower.  At the top, it was clear that I would make it safely over the high passes without getting struck by lightning, but the view of the stormy clouds on the surrounding mountains was awesome and scary.  I felt bad for the slower runners who might get hit with some pretty rough weather.

Coming down off of the high passes, I took a scary misstep, stumbling for about 15 feet with my face uncomfortably close to the trail.  Luckily, I managed to move my feet fast enough to keep from eating dirt, but that definitely woke me up!  I was getting a bit tired and slowing on the uphill after the Printer Boy aid station.  I got a brief relief from the heat when a storm cell moved through.  The hail and rain felt so good on my skin.  I kept on going, reveling in the coolness as other runners stopped to don rain jackets.

The last 10 miles is almost all downhill.  I was feeling better and passed a number of runners.  Unfortunately, by this time, my Garmin died and I was estimating mileage by my other watch and memory of the terrain.  I figured I had 2 miles to go and it was going to be tough as the course was gently rolling at this point and the long miles and hot sun had taken their toll.  My 8:30 goal was gone, but I was sure I could at least beat last year’s time.  That was until I ran into a guy walking his dog.  He informed me that I actually had 3 ¼ miles to go.  Hearing that extra mile and a quarter just crushed me.  It was a combination of slow running, jogging and some walking, from here on out.  I managed to pass two more runners, which gave me a brief lift, but not enough.  I crossed the line in 8:57, 2 minutes slower than the previous year when I had done the bike race too.  That was a bit deflating, but under 9 hours for this race is still a pretty good time.

The best part was that my wife, girls, and a few of our friends were at the finish line.  I was actually able to run across the finish with the girls!  That was great.

I wound up sticking around the finish because I wanted to be there for our friend Susan.  After frying in the hot sun in nothing but my running shorts, the clouds finally moved in.  By the time Susan crossed the line, I was wearing a fleece top and shivering uncontrollably under an umbrella.  The finish area had turned into a swamp from the heavy, steady rain.  Susan ran the last few miles through the rain.  Unlike the typical Colorado thunderstorms, that evening, it poured for 4 hours straight!  I can’t imagine what some of those late finishers had to endure.  I also realized what a gamble I had been taking running so light (hand held bottles, no shirt or jacket), and how fortunate I was.  The brief hail and rain I got was pleasant and refreshing.  The 4 hours of steady downpour would have resulted in my hypothermic body laying by the side of the trail.

Garmin Connect (partial)