Now in its third year, the Cheyenne Mountain 50K promises both a challenge and plenty of good times. Saturday’s race was my third Cheyenne Mountain 50K and I have every intention of making this an annual event. I finished twelfth overall with a time of five hours and ten minutes—7 spots and 20 minutes off last year’s result (but 15 minutes better than my 2011 result). When I crossed the finish line, I had run 83 miles in the past seven days, despite a low-grade, annoying stomach ailment all week. Clearly I didn’t really taper for this race and so I was pleased overall with the result.
Held on the south side of Cheyenne Mountain State Park in
Colorado Springs, the race involves two laps on something of a 15.5-mile figure-eight course consisting of a few respectable but certainly not steep, scary climbs.
The entire course is under 7,000 feet, making it quite tame as far as
elevation. In my opinion, the southern-most loop of the figure-eight is the
more difficult of the two.
Heading into the race, my fueling strategy consisted
basically of water and Honey Stinger gels. I’d used Honey Stinger gels on a few
runs in which I tried to go as long as possible without calories, and going
into the race they seemed to do a decent job. I also thought the honey in these
gels would help keep my stomach happy. Again, I’d battled stomach problems for
the better part of the week—a bug I likely caught from my son.
Sure enough, only a few miles into the race my gut started
hurting. I wore a waist pack and it put a lot of uncomfortable pressure on my
gut. The problem only worsened, leading to not only stomach pains but also
nausea. I continued to fuel on Honey Stingers and water and took a few Fig
Newtons at various points in the race, all the way staying calm and just trying
to execute. I ran the hills but my climbing legs clearly weren’t at their best.
I came through the halfway point in 2:17—two minutes off last year’s time. For the
first 20 miles I ran in the top 10, almost every step with the eventual women’s
winner and course record setter, Amanda Ewing, but I felt my energy waning and
my stomach getting unhappier with every step.
At about mile 22, with the temperature in the low 70s and
the sun out in full force, I ran out of gas and started walking. Amanda passed
me and I didn’t see her for the rest of the race. At the time, I couldn’t
figure out why I’d run out of energy since I’d been fueling on Honey Stinger
gels. But then it hit me that I’d bonked, and I also figured my stomach ailment
had taken a toll, as well. At the 24.5-mile aid station, having death-marched
the last few miles and been passed by a few runners, I took a Hammer gel and
some water, and then continued on my way—still reduced to hiking. To say I hit
a low spot, both physically and mentally, would be an understatement. I’d never
hit a low like this in a 50K.
But then, around mile 26, I started to feel some energy come
back and began running again. My legs seemed to come alive after basically
shutting down on me. Was it the Hammer gel? After mile 26, I could run the
flats and downs, albeit not as fast as I wanted, and jogged/hiked the ups. I
still wasn’t in super shape, but I was far more functional than before. In
times like these, you have to take baby steps. After four really rough miles, it
was heartening running down the trail and knowing that, with each step, the
finish neared. I took another Hammer gel at the mile-28.5 aid station, nearly
gagging in the process, and mostly ran into the finish, save a few hikes on the
About 100 meters from the finish, I got chased down by
another runner. Without even thinking, I hit the gas and we both blew into the
finish line, crossing literally at the same time. It was truly a photo finish.
On chip time I beat him by one second! I have good closing speed but his
closing speed was a bit better, and so it took everything I had to try to hold
him off. My hat’s off to him for a really badass chase-down.
Unfortunately, that sprint finish pretty much finished me
off. As soon as I crossed it was like someone turned out the lights. Everything
went black and I immediately sat down on a rock—a crumpled mass—with my head
between my knees. The entire experience is foggy. All I remember is Scott W.
standing over me asking if I was okay. At that moment, I felt hideous. After
downing a few cups of water, I hobbled to my car and began the long drive home,
nearly throwing up at a 7-Eleven a few miles up the highway. Clearly my blood
sugar had plummeted. A few Coca-Colas and a Gatorade on the drive home made a
big difference, but it was rough trip, to say the least.
This was a good training run and it was great to see friends, such as Scott W., AJ, JT, Andy, Shad and others. I only wish I could have stuck around longer and enjoyed the post-race festivities and chicanery but Anne was on call at work, and so I had to get back to Parker ASAP for emergency kid duty.
As far as what's next, I’m not that sore, which
surprises me a bit. On Sunday morning I got in a little over 9 miles with our dog
and I could have run much farther. So it appears I got through Cheyenne, though
a tough race for me, without much lasting soreness or damage—a good thing as I
continue to ramp up for the Leadville 100. My next race, as of now, is the Leadville Trail Marathon in late June. Between now and then I have lots of trail running and climbing to do.
Congrats to all finishers!