This is the second time I have run this race…third time I have run at Colorado Bend, yet I still managed to forget just how technical and rocky this course is, and I also managed to forget that it has quite a bit of elevation gain. This year’s race had even more elevation gain due to a portion of the course being changed.
I went into the race undertrained, yet feeling confident. I have now been trail running for over a year, and I felt stronger despite having trained less than last year. I still felt confident I could beat my time from last year, especially considering I took a couple falls along the course. Many of my training runs this summer have had a sub 12 minute mile, even my longer runs were good compared to last year, but I also wasn’t running as far. The furthest I had run prior to the race was 16 miles, and that was during Hell’s Hills a few months ago.
The 30K race started at 7:15 pm, which gave me about 1.5 hours of running in the daylight. I made it about 7 miles into the course before the lights went out and the headlamp came on. But, the first 3 miles to the first aid station were a little fast for me (yet slower than last years race). I ran with Ben Morgan and kept up with him until about .5 miles to the first aid station.
There was a lot of elevation gain to the first aid station, and it was pretty warm, and most of my training runs weren’t in the late evening when the sun was the hottest. After reaching the first aid station I decided to fill my hydration bladder with Scratch to help ensure I was getting enough electrolytes and sugar. I also took a few salt caps and at a bit of food on my way out. I didn’t spend much time walking before I was back to a run.
In the previous year I alternated a run/walk for most of the race. This year I decided to be a little conservative with my speed but to always run except when I hit the aid stations or ate food. This proved to be very effective because I never felt tired, famished or winded after the sun went down. It was definitely cooler during the night, which made for an easier run.
After the second aid station I decided to take the next section a little bit easier since I knew there was a long uphill section immediately after. The previous year I ran most of this hill, but I again decided to be a bit more conservative and ended up walking at least half the hill while eating, consuming more water and taking more salt tabs. My goal was to conserve some energy so I could run faster on the upcoming flats (which were a lot shorter this year due to the course change).
What I didn’t know was just how big the upcoming hill was to the last aid station. I overheard another runner saying she heard there was a big hill coming up to the aid station. Undeterred I plugged along until I got to the hill. I ran up a good portion of the hill before deciding to slow down a bit due to cramping. I also thought it would be good to conserve some energy so I could run the last downhill section fast.
But as I continued trekking up the hill it just never stopped, so I began incorporating a bit of running in, then I would hear a car drive by through the woods, or hear people talking, so thinking I was close to the next aid station I would walk again. I felt like the hill was never going to end. It was the highest and fastest elevation gain the entire course.
After a quick refill of my hand held water bottle I was off again, running down hill to the finish. My pace was much slower than I was hoping for, the terrain was very technical and difficult to run at night. It was making me really miss the long flat finish of the race from the year before.
Another unfortunate aspect of the last stretch of trail was my headlamp was starting to get extremely dim, which was really annoying because I thought it had a full charge and should have definitely lasted 3 hours with no problems. So I stopped to get my spare batteries from my hydration pack, then realized it was going to be next to impossible to change the batteries in the dark without it taking forever, so I decided to plug on with the dim light, but held it in my hand to better light the path.
The light continued to dim, so I stopped again and brought out the batteries from my pocket. I began to attempt to change them, but was super frustrated and just wanted to finish with a good time, so I threw them back in my pocket and turned on the LED flashlight app on my iPhone. I ran the remaining 1.5 miles while holding my iPhone in my hand. I just kept praying I wouldn’t trip and have the phone go flying out of my hand.
After a frustrating 2.5 miles I finally emerged on the main trail, which was flat to the finish line. I picked up my pace and began a nice run to the finish line, only to be hit with extremely painful cramps about 100 yards from the finishing mat. I was determined to keep running, but the pain stopped me in my tracks, so I began to walk, but with about 50 yards to go I decided I couldn’t let myself walk across that line, so I broke back into a run and crossed the line… painful cramps and all.
I finished with a time of 4:38, a far cry from my 3:45-4 hour goal. Last years finish time was 4:25, but considering I was undertrained and the course was harder this year I will take that finishing time. I was also a bit happier with the time when I saw my goal time of 4 hours would have had me finishing 25th. I also finished higher in the pack percentage-wise this year.
Overall I had a great race. I felt like I had more in me after crossing the line, as opposed to last year, I felt like I had nothing left in the tank. I seriously think I could have handled the 60k this year, all be it a much slower second loop. I am looking forward to a couple of other upcoming races. One is the Dare to Ascent Trail Marathon, and the other is Wild Hare 50k. I’m most excited about getting another Ultra under my belt.