Monday, April 29, 2013

Cheyenne Mountain 50K Race Report

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 ups.

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!

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  1. Good seeing you out there on Saturday though we didn't get to chat. Personally the more I think about it the more I believe this is just not a course to be underestimated. It may be 50K and not 50M but it definitely can put you against the ropes if not down on the canvas outright. Awesome early season tune-up and test I think. Hope you do the Leadville Marathon, see you then!

  2. Hey Wyatt, great race! I think one of the major factors Saturday (for everybody) was the temps. I mean think about it, how often have you been able to run in 70 degree temps this winter? All of your training has been in 30 to 40 degree temps (generally). Then all of a sudden it's 55 degrees at the start and climbing and topping out around low to mid 70's on an exposed course.
    Way to battle through it though. There was a lot of carnage out there.