Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cheyenne Mountain 50K: 5th Overall, 4:50

After struggling a bit since we moved to Colorado in April of 2010, yesterday's Cheyenne Mountain 50K in Colorado Springs was probably my best race in two years. Going through the mid-way point I was running fourth and feeling strong. Unfortunately, a wicked side stitch with about four miles to go slowed me down and I dropped to fifth, but I regrouped for a strong finish. Fifth overall with a 4:50--my 12th "career" top-5 finish for all distances (5K up to 100+ miles). That's 35 minutes faster than last year's time, so obviously I saw major improvement. My marathon split was 3:58--not bad for a course with 5,100 feet of climbing.

I'm the third one through on the video above--the one in the red. The guys in front of me are Ryan Burch and Jason Koop, who went on to finish 1st and 2nd, respectively.
First and foremost, the weather was great for ultrarunning! It was in the mid-30s and sunny when we arrived at the start at about 7:15, and remained sunny through the early afternoon. By the time I finished, the temperature had risen to the low 50s and it was slightly gusty but not bad. All in all, no complaints--Mother Nature gave us a great day for running! Fortunately, I dressed perfectly, too. I wore calf and arm sleeves, as well as my new Salomon compression shorts (with three pockets), my Hammer Nutrition tech tee along with a compression tank top underneath, a hat and some thin gloves. I wore my Salomon Crossmax trail shoes. I also had on a waist pack with an empty bottle, just in case (more on that below).

The course is on single- and double-track trail and runs along the side of Cheyenne Mountain, which is where NORAD is located. It's a figure-8 course that you complete twice. The "lower loop" of the figure-8 is a bit harder, as it entails more challenging climbs. There are some decently technical sections, but the course is pretty much runnable 100% of the way. All of the 5,100 feet of climbing you encounter is between 6,000-6,900 feet--very manageable compared to, say, Leadville. There's a lot of up and down, which I'm used to, but the climbs are still much longer than what you'd encounter back East. There are no super steep climbs. I'd rate the course as "challenging" but not "hard."
A few observations from yesterday:

1) My downhill technical running has improved dramatically but I still have a ways to go. I'm more comfortable running hard down long, rocky descents--maybe a product of experience but also of confidence. Unless you've run long, rocky descents, you couldn't imagine how hard it is. In my case, it's taken almost two years to turn the corner with downhill running. The descents we have out here in the Mountain West require tremendous skill.
The Start. Photo by Brandon Fuller.

Going up the road with Ryan Burch and Jason Koop in front of me. Photo by Brandon Fuller.

What the hell was I thinking trying to run with Burch and Koop? Photo by Brandon Fuller.
2) At no point yesterday did my quads hurt or weaken. On my weekly tempo runs I'm making a point to hammer it on the downs. I guess it's paying off because my quads were strong yesterday.

Gulping some water, Coke or Heed at the aid station capably captained by Brandon Fuller. Photo by Brandon Fuller.

At that same aid station with Brandon in the background. Photo by Epic Adventures.
3) I ran the overwhelming majority of the uphills yesterday, only hiking a few little areas here and there on the second "south loop." I think the miles I've logged this spring on the trails and interval training have combined to improve my turnover, making me more efficient and capable on the ups (and downs). If you want to get better as an ultrarunner and aren't doing weekly intervals, you're missing out on a key component of training.

Approaching an aid station. I'm pretty sure this was about mile 16. Photo by Brandon Fuller.
4) I went out too fast (what's new?)! For the first couple of miles I was up there with Ryan Burch and Jason Koop--both beasts who finished one and two, respectively (each under the previous course record of 4:09, Ryan in 3:57 and Jason in 3:59)--and had no business with them. I need to go out more conservatively. My first-half split was 2:15 and my second half split was 2:35. I would have liked to see a 10-minute variation at the most.

My fueling plan was simple: A Hammer Gel and 2-3 Hammer Endurolytes every hour. The gels gave me energy and the Endurolytes helped keep my muscles working well. At the aid stations, I drank Hammer Heed (they mixed it perfectly), along with water and Coke. I had two PB&J quarters and a half of a muffin. I carried an empty bottle that I occasionally had the aid station volunteers fill a quarter-full so that I could get my Hammer Gels in my system faster.

At the finish with Anne and Noah. I was glad they could be there! Photo by Jason Romero.
The best part of the race was crossing the finish line with Noah! About 100 feet in front of the finish I grabbed his hand and we ran across the line together while Anne cheered. It was a special moment and I look forward to many more like it.

This was a good race for me and I'm satisfied with the result. But there's more work to do, more miles to log, more mountain trails to hit, and more intervals to runs--before the big race in August.

Next stop might be the Colfax Marathon on May 20. If I do Colfax, my goal will be sub-3 hours. I'm going to give myself a few days before making a decision.


  1. Awesome race! It sounds like your new plans for training are paying off! Congrats.

  2. Fantastic, glad to hear it Wyatt. You must be psyched.

    I had PB&J on my run today too! -- little did I know it was a secret of successful ultra running. I just have the tastes of a 5-year old.

  3. Awesome race Wyatt!! Keep it comin' :)