Quad Rock. This race is great for so many reasons. First and foremost, Race Director, Nick Clark put on a fantastic show and organized a competitive, beautiful and super fun trail race with live music, local brews and a rockin’ BBQ grill to boot! It was clear that this was a trail race created by trail runners for trail runners – everything hit the spot.
We aspire to not only offer a first class trail racing experience on a challenging, scenic, and impeccably marked course, but also a top-notch post-race experience that will leave your bellies full, your feet tapping and your mouths yapping.(http://gnarrunners.com/quad-rock-50/)
Secondly, with a grueling 5,500′ of climbing in one 25 mile loop, this is one helluva tough course!
Big ups, Big downs. Three of them. After last month’s official race training run I knew that this was my kind of course and kinda couldn’t wait for race day. Thanks to a little encouragement by Ryan and Grady on our drive up to Fort Collins (at the unreasonable hour of 3 in the morning) I was fairly confident I could beat last year’s winning time of 4:44 and decided that my “A” goal was to hit (maybe even break) 4:00 hours. I think if my uphill legs had been there for me I could have made that happen. But I said I’d be happy with anything sub 4:30 and super stoked to podium (maybe even win it?), so a 4:20:54 finish felt pretty darn good, and a 1st place finish (and 15th overall) was pretty much as awesome as it gets!
The best part of a 25 mile race is that it’s half of 50 ;-) Which means it’s a sprint! There’s no time for a cautious start and there’s no place for a comfort zone. If I wanted to hit my goals I needed to commit from the very beginning and push it right from the very first step.
With both 50 milers and 25 milers starting together it’s hard to know who’s your competition and it’s also easy to get sucked into the wrong kind of pace. I harnessed my inner-Ryan, lined up at the front and took off with the lead pack at a reckless pace.
That lasted for all of 10 seconds but I’m sure I was still clocking a sub 7 min/mile pace thanks to the chill in the air, a bit of adrenaline and my newly adopted Ryan-esque disposition. I stuck with Mike O and Kerrie for the first two miles. I would have liked to have stuck with them the whole way ’round but just didn’t have the uphill spice to keep pace with those two 50 milers. Yes, they were running twice the distance as I was and all I could do was dream of holding on to them. That’s how strong they are. Especially, Kerrie. She’s the strongest runner I’ve ever met.
Here come the eventual 25M male winner (Dane Mitchell) and 50M male winner (Josh Arthur) into the Horsetooth Aid Station at mile 10.6:
And Mike O and Kerrie looking good:
This first 10-11 mile section flew by so before I knew it I spotted Ryan in the distance with his camera ready. Here I come enjoying the little section of gentle trail that leads to the aid station:
With such an early start time (5:30am) and since I “only” had to run 25 miles, I started off with an empty handheld bottle. I knew I wouldn’t drink anything in the first ten miles anyways so why carry the weight. Nick Clark filled up my bottle at Horsetooth AS, told me I was the lead female 25 miler as I downed a shot of EFS gel and a swig of Coke and took off to conquer the 2nd big monster climb of the day. I had run this section before so I knew what I was in for. The next aid station (Tower Road AS) was at the top of the hill 3.8 miles away but my eyes were set on the next one 3.5 miles further. I had an intermediate goal to hit the Arthur’s TH Aid Station (mile 18) in less than 3 hours. I had 1:15 to make it.
As I started up the open gravel road Ryan yelled at me that the next 25 mile woman was 2 minutes behind me. Even though my uphill stride wasn’t as powerful as it usually is (thanks to the lingering cough and congestion both of us had been battling this past week… hence why Ryan didn’t race) I knew it was decent enough to hold my ground. I could see a guy in a green tshirt up ahead of me so focused on reeling him in and then the next one and the next one.
Mike O and Kerrie coming into Arthur’s TH Aid Station (mile 18). Still looking strong:
3:02 by my watch. A few minutes off my goal pace but still okay. Thankfully, the energy I lacked on the ups, I had on the downs. For the first time ever, I think I may have not only run the downhills better than the ups but I actually enjoyed them more too! A pleasant yet confusing surprise!
Quickly shoving a few orange slices down my face at the aid station in a very ladylike way ;-)
Back into the trails and onto the final climb of the day. Kea would have made a great pacer except for the fact that she takes after the Europeans and likes to cut switchbacks and there were definitely a lot of switchback on this final section.
Mike & Kerrie coming through the half-way turnaround.
Technically, Kerrie was the first woman through 25 miles. And she still had 25 more miles to go. So she’s the real winner here even though she still had to run another 5 hours and 20 minutes to get there (and this was two weeks after she won the ultra-grueling Zane Grey 50M in Arizona!).
I was happy to cross paths with them briefly as they retraced their steps in reverse heading back up the hill that I was cruising down with the finish line in sight. Time to wrap this thing up!
Kea dog chasing me down at the finish (and nearly tripping me in the process)!
A Norwegian MOEN bell – coolest award ever!
I grabbed a quick bit to eat and we headed back to Arthur’s TH Aid Station (mile 33) to cheer on the 50 milers, many of whom were starting to look a bit rough. Thankfully, Mike and Kerrie, were still looking consistent and solid.
The final 17 miles for these guys were hard. Dark clouds rolled in 3 times and even dumped pea-sized hail on them. And then the sun came back out and cooked them. The climbs seemed to get longer, steeper and tougher. Lots of runners crumbled, some badly. But Kerrie held her unrivaled lead and finished in a course record breaking 9:23!
And Mike finished his 3rd 50 miler in a month in an admirable 9:50!
Congrats to everyone who pushed themselves on the trails here at Quad Rock, over in Wisconsin at Ice Age 50 (woohooo Cassie for KILLING it and SMASHING the 15 year old course record) and across the pond at Transvulcania (where local Boulder superstars Sage Canaday and Cameron Clayton took 3rd and 7th in arguably the most competitive international race of the year).