My alarm went off at 3AM on Saturday morning. Time to get up, go meet a few equally crazy friends in town to head out to the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50K race in Golden Gate Canyon State Park near Golden, CO.
In a nutshell, the course was absolutely ridiculously fun and gorgeous with lots and lots of squiggles. I never had any idea where the heck I was!
There were lots of rocks and super technical sections through out and 7,600 ft of vertical gain over the 50K! That’s INSANE (not quite as insane as Speed Goat 50K will be next month with over 11,000′ of up but still very significant)!
To put it into perspective, the HURL Elkhorn 50K I ran last summer was brutal but “only” had about 7,000′ of climbing. The Bear Mountain 50M (yes, miles, not kilometers) is the toughest ultra I’ve run yet and has just over 7,000′ of gain. So, in any case, I had no idea what to expect coming into this race. I haven’t been training “formally” for this and it’s just the first in a line up of races I’ve got coming up this summer. As I stood at the start I wondered what the day would hold for me… my goal was simple: to have fun. I love 50Ks. This would be my 10th race of this distance and I was just looking forward to discovering the new Rocky Mountain setting and experiencing an ultra at altitude (7500-9500 ft above sea level).
We hit a single track trail right off the bat which meant that it was pretty crowded for the first 5 miles. Just a few minutes into the race I noticed a familiar person pass me. It was ultra super star, Krissy Moehl:
I found myself passing the men in front of me one by one with her, not because I was trying to stay with her (because I have no business running with someone of her caliber!) but because I felt comfortable at this pace. As the miles wore on and I found myself still running right on Krissy’s heels, I gave myself routine reality-checks. The last thing I wanted to do was blow my race just because I got caught up in the adrenaline of running with one of the most talented female ultra runners in the world!
[Photo by Eric Lee]
The wide open descent into aid station #1:
[Photo by Reese Ruland]
The next section of the course, between AS1 and AS2, was beautiful:
The rugged Coyote/Black Bear section of the trail between AS2 and AS3 reminded me a lot of my “home” trails in Harriman State Park in New York. I felt pretty comfortable here and speed hiked swiftly over the obstacles up the ridge:
Coming into AS2 a volunteer told me I was the 6th female. The 7th was right behind me. She blew past the aid station while I stopped to refill my water bottle, down a few ounces of Mountain Dew (gross, I know, but it’s amazing when you’re running!), and stuff a banana down my face. It wasn’t long before I spotted her ahead of me on the technical climb up the ridge.
I caught up to her soon enough and passed her on the next downhill. Yes, you read that right: I passed her on the downhill. That NEVER happens! I’m a terrible downhiller. I can pretty much guarantee that anyone I pass on the ups will over take me on the downs. But today I was rocking the descents and I LOVED it!
The views from this ridge section where beyond gorgeous! There was no telling that a few hours from now the sky would be dark, thunder would be rolling and the rain would could crashing down (thankfully I was done by the time the sky opened up)!
Shortly after AS3 we hit a sunny (HOT) open aspen grove section. It was beautiful but draining. Of the whole course, this was my “lowest” point. It was probably the least low I’ve experienced in an ultra so I was pretty pleased. It was over soon and by mile 18, I was back into a happy groove.
Somewhere in this next section I had the brilliant idea of taking a video of myself. I found a section of trail to film where I was pretty sure I wouldn’t face plant in the process. I’ve never taken a video on my camera nor in a race, so please forgive the ridiculousness of it but welcome to a little “live” insight into my world at hour 4:16 of my race:
I caught up with a friend, Mike, shortly after AS4 and ran with him for a few minutes until we began the ridiculous climb up Windy Peak:
[Photo by Reese Ruland]
[Photo by Reese Ruland]
On the way up towards Windy Peak (somewhere around mile 25ish) I caught sight of the next woman ahead/above of me (in light blue the photo below). I had been wondering for HOURS where the heck she was and if I would ever be able to catch her. I couldn’t have seen her at a better moment: I sighted my target, took a quick photo to cement the goal, and then put my head down and inched closer and closer with every step. When I was on her heels we exchanged words of encouragement, she stepped aside graciously, I thanked her and flew by as fast as I could fly.
It was “game on” for me from this point through the finish so I didn’t take any more pictures. The climb up to Windy Peak was nasty: steep, crowded, rocky, narrow and relentless. This part of the 50K not only was an out-and-back which meant that faster runners where flying down the rocks as I ran up them, but it also overlapped with the 12M race. What could have turned into an irritating bottleneck actually turned into a mini-cheering section with runners coming down encouraging those of us heading up, etc. I saw Helen Cospolich (The North Face sponsored runner) looking determined and serious on the descent. I figured I must still have a loooong way to go to the top of the climb. Several minutes later I saw Krissy running down. Yep, the top must still be ages away. But then I didn’t see any other 50K women runners coming down and all of the sudden I heard to volunteers at the top… before I knew it one of the volunteers was marking my bib and sending me on my way back down. Could it actually be that there were no other women between Krissy and me?! Could it be that I was actually not that far behind her?!
[Photo of the volunteer tarp at the top of Windy Peak by Eric Lee]
The final few miles are a bit of blurr. I pushed hard. I absolutely did not want anyone to overtake me here in this final stretch, not after how hard I had pounded up that damn Windy Peak! Even though I was out of water, I blew past the final aid station. No time to stop, no time to refuel. I would be able to stop and refuel to my heart’s content in just 3 miles.
I don’t own a GPS watch. I run the “old school” way with just a regular watch, taking my splits at every aid station, trusting that the mileage marked at that aid station is correct and assuming that the course is a true 50K (even though we all know that this is hardly ever the case). So, here’s a quick summary of my race in rough numbers:
|AS |||MILE |||ELAPSED TIME |||MILES BETWEEN AS |||TIME BETWEEN AS |||MIN/MILE PACE|
*I forgot to take my split when I left Aid Station #5 so 1hr29min (12:00 min/mile pace) is a continuous time from when I left Aid Station #4 through the finish
|MY FINISH STATS|
|Official finishing time
Here are the top women results amongst which I am so humbled to stand:
To Krissy: I know you weren’t out there in “race” mode and I know that I would have had no chance in hell of being anywhere near your footsteps if you had been… but I’m thankful to have been able to run with you for a solid portion of the course and thank you for giving me confidence and making me feel stronger than I think I am. Good luck at WS100!
To the amazing ladies who finished right behind me: Thanks for giving me something to run towards for the bulk of the race and then something to run from in the final few exhausted miles. You set an impressive pace for me and fueled that inner competitive spirit that sometimes I forget that I have.
To Kerrie, who won by a landslide: You are incredible! I’m excited to see what you can do at the Mt Evans Ascent, Speed Goat 50K and Run Rabbit Run 50M this summer. See you there!
Thanks to Reese for cheering us on at mile 5 and 23. Congrats Mike, Danielle and Kelly on your first 50K! And congrats to Gavin who smashed it out there finishing in an insanely respectable top 10 and sub 5:30. It is a scientific fact that men with beards run fast:
[Photo by Reese Ruland]
And, as always, a heartfelt thank you goes out to the race director for putting on an awesome race and to the volunteers for giving up their Saturday (and Friday night) to make it all happen for us sweaty runners.
[Check out Eric Lee‘s website for some awesome photos of the race]