Overall, I was pleased with my result, though I would have liked to finish sub-5 hours as I usually always do in trail 50Ks. If I'd tapered and approached this event as a race and finished 15th, I'd have been not so happy. Honestly, the story of this race, besides the fact that the course was harder than I anticipated (10,000 feet of total elevation change--more on that below), was the incredible surge of strength and energy I experienced at mile 29. I ran hard the last 3 miles (again, the race was actually 32 miles), passing two runners and hammering it into the finish at sub-7:00 pace with a ton left in the tank and my confidence sky high. When you're training for a 100-mile mountain race like I am, feeling a major surge like I did and finishing a 32-mile race with a lot left in the tank are very good indicators.
The race started promptly at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and traversed the trails at the base of and part way up Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. You do two 25K loops, with the 25K runners starting a half-hour later. The race actually takes place in Cheyenne Mountain State Park with brand-new facilities and tons of parking at the start/finish. Interestingly, Cheyenne Mountain is where the super-secret NORAD is located. According to the organizers, the 50K race has about 5,000 feet of climb and 5,000 feet of descent, totaling about 10,000 feet of elevation change. There were few flat sections; for most of race you're climbing and descending dirt trails with a fair amount of rock in some areas. The entire course is between 6,000-7,000 feet of elevation--very manageable. From start to finish, this was great practice and an awesome opportunity to get my trail legs back after road running for much of the winter.
Among the things I liked about this race:
- Excellent location. Cheyenne Mountain and really everything about the land in Colorado Springs is beautiful.
- Tons of nearby parking.
- Nice facilities at the start/finish.
- Excellent organization, well-stocked aid stations (though I'd have liked to see some soup since it was cold out), and friendly, helpful volunteers. For a race in its first year, the organization was superb.
- Overall a well-marked course though one turn wasn't marked at all. Someone placed a stick there to help guide runners.
- Awesome finish-like food catered by Carrabba's Italian Grill. When you've just run 32 miles and cross the finish line with immediate access to grilled chicken, pasta, bread sticks and salad, that's a good thing! A generous lunch really aided in my recovery (more on that below).
- Race registration was on Active.com. Why not support the ultrarunning community by having registration on ultrasignup.com?
- I'm not a fan of Hammer Heed, but you have to go with what your sponsors provide, right? I survived most of the day on Coke and water and a few cups of Heed.
- I'm not crazy about the tee-shirts, which are mostly polyester but have a cotton look and feel. If you know me, you know that I wear my race tee-shirts all the time. I'd have liked to see a technical-fabric tee-shirt. This is a very minor gripe.
When I crossed the Cheyenne Mountain 50K finish line, I'd run 101.5 miles in 7 days--from Sunday, 4/17 to Saturday, 4/23 (the calendar week). The mileage for my training week (Monday, 4/18-Sunday, 4/24) was actually 90.64 miles. I did hill repeats on Tuesday, a tempo run on Thursday and, of course, the 32-mile race on Saturday. On Sunday, I ran an easy 10.1 miles and felt fantastic--fresh and strong.
- Total miles for the week: 90.64
- Total runs: 10
- Total time running: 13 hours, 5 minutes
- Yoga and core strengthening
The goal for this week is to recover from a big, challenging training week, getting in about 60-70 miles. Ryan Hall, who finished 4th overall and as the top American at the 2011 Boston Marathon, recently said a secret to training is to let the training come to you, not allow yourself to become a slave to arbitrary distance or time goals. That's what I'm trying to do--run on feel, listen to my body, but also push myself on the days and weeks I'm capable of breaking down new barriers.
When I felt so good on Sunday, it occurred to me that maybe I'd done some things right with my post-race recovery, which consisted of:
- Generous lunch of chicken and pasta right after finishing
- Full serving of Hammer Recoverite within 30 minutes of finishing
- Compression socks for the next 36 hours, which aided in promoting circulation in my feet and calves. I'm a big believer in compression socks.
With Cheyenne now behind me, my sights are set on the Jemez 50-Mile (or 50K) on 5/21. Between now and then, I'll be spending as much time as possible on the trails and also doing hill repeats. Places I'd like to go for training include Sanitas in Boulder; Green Mountain, Bear Park and/or South Boulder Peak in Boulder; and Deer Creek Canyon. Gotta get in some good vertical. I don't want Jemez to sidetrack my Leadville 100 training or prevent a strong Leadville Marathon on 7/2, so I'm going to make a decision as to whether to drop down to 50K as the race gets closer. We'll see where my legs are by then.
It occurs to me that the level of athlete here in Colorado is phenomenal. I'm sure this is due to the facts that a) we live at elevation, which creates certain advantages, and b) Colorado, with its natural splendor, is a magnet for national- and world-class athletes and outdoor lovers. It's no surprise that many of the top ultrarunners have chosen to live in Colorado. I recently read that, when young children are born at altitude or move to a place like Colorado at an early age, their lungs actually grow larger than compared to the average person. Many Coloradans, I read, are more "barrel-chested" than non-Coloradans. For adults moving to altitude, the lungs do not grow; it's really a matter of the blood adjusting among many other significant changes. I can tell you that my legs are undergoing a dramatic change with these long climbs and bomber drops we have here in Colorado. The fact of the matter is that no hill I've ever run out East could even begin to compare in difficulty to, say, a bee-line up one of our mountains here. Unless you're superhuman, the adjustment of moving to Colorado takes time and patience and can often be humbling.
With that said, the Colorado altitude and these mountains have been a huge adjustment for me. Back East, just about every ultra I entered I finished top 5, even if I hadn't tapered (look at my results for 2008 and 2009 and you'll see what I'm talking about). Here in Colorado, not only do you have supremely talented runners and athletes on the course, but also extremely difficult terrain and elevation. Don't get me wrong; there are great athletes back East, but here in Colorado there's a huge concentration of impressive talent. If you're a runner who's moved to Colorado, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Here in Colorado, it's going to take some time for me to fully adjust. I'm running just as hard as ever before, but clearly my results have dipped. I just hope by the time I do adjust I'm still young enough to do some things!
Challenge Yourself. Go Long. Push Your Limits. Discover Your Inner Champion.