After a year of traveling and just a couple of months of settling into life in Colorado, the Golden Gate Dirty 30 was my first race of 2012. I absolutely loved the course: dreamy single track sections through blooming aspen groves, breathtaking views of the snow peaked Rocky Mountains, rocky ridges that reminded me of East Coast trails, and a brutal 8000′ of climbing (which is about twice as much as your average 50K trail race).
With another year and lots of miles under my legs, I was really excited to race the Dirty 30 again this year. Last year, I had missed making the “360 club” by 8 minutes so this year my baseline goal was to break 6 hours. My real goal was to break 5:45. This would be Ryan’s first time racing the Dirty 30, he set himself a goal of finishing in under 5 hours.
The race started off at a brisk pace. There was a bonus prize for the first open & masters male and female to get to the first aid station (mile 5) but I knew better than to give that any thought. I set off right behind Kerrie for the first mile but by the time I hit the first aid station I was in 7th place. My friend Alberto zipped by me effortlessly and when Lassen caught up to me I could hardly hold a conversation with him. I was breathing way too heavily, my eyes were watering from the cold, I felt like my uphill legs had stayed in bed and the sloshing noise that I initially thought to be my water bottle was actually my stomach. However, when I looked at my watch I saw that 5 miles in I was already 5 minutes faster than my time last year. So maybe I wasn’t moving quite as poorly as I felt? It was time to shut off my mind and let my legs do the driving. I trusted that I’d find my climbing legs & happy mental place soon enough…
…and I sure did. I knocked another 7 minutes off my split to the next aid station (mile 12) which meant that I was already running 1 min/mile faster than last year. By the time I caught up with Lassen on the ridge climb I felt like a brand new woman. My breathing was under control, I wasn’t cold anymore, my legs were cooperating, my stomach settled (thanks to a quick pit stop), and my mind was in a happy place. It was time to rock’n’roll!
Similarly to Quad Rock race, I didn’t fill up my handheld water bottle at the start of the race. Everyone always advises to drink early and often in these long distances, but I know myself – I would inevitably just carry around an unnecessarily heavy bottle for the first 10 mile. So I only filled it up half way (about 10 oz). My eyes were set on the mile 17 aid station where, at about 3 hours in, I planned to refuel. However, when I got to the trail junction where the aid station was set up last year a race volunteer called out that the aid station was optional and about 200 yards further down the trail to the right, whereas the course continued directly to the left. In a split second I made a super risky decision to skip the aid station. I probably had about 2 sips of water left in my bottle. Would that be enough to get me through the next 7 miles to aid station #4? No time to second guess myself now!
Lassen, Alberto and I ran together up the next big climb and by the top I had caught up to Helen Cospolich who very graciously let me pass. Thankfully all of this distracted me from the fact that I was desperate for a drink. As I came into aid station #4 my friend Becca, who was volunteering, ran out towards me, grabbed my bottle and refilled it while I shoved a banana, an orange slice, a piece of watermelon and 2 cups of disgustingly delicious Mountain Dew in my mouth all at the same time. I was properly pigging out but made it in-and-out of the aid station in no time at all which is all that really matters – polite dining etiquette does not a race win ;-)
Cassie was up the trail a little ways cheering and gave me a little boost of energy over the next few miles up Windy Peak. Alberto, Lassen and I continued pushing each other up this grueling 1200′ climb. We started overlapping with the 12 mile racers and I tried to gain extra strength from every one of them that I passed. Soon enough Nick Pedatella came running down and told me that the lead women weren’t too far ahead of me. Really?! I looked up and saw my teammate Laura charging down the trail followed immediately by Kerrie and Anita Ortiz. 3 minutes later I was at the summit turn-around point. Lassen hollered something about “BEER!” and stormed down Windy Peak. I tried to keep up but he slipped out of sight. By the time I hit the final aid station I was out of water again but couldn’t justify slowing down to refill for a final measly 2.5 miles. So I put my head down and summoned every ounce of strength and speed I had left to make it to the finish. Alberto was hot on my heels and together we grunted out loud and slammed the final 3 nasty climbs to the finish.
I know I lost a few minutes on the lead pack of women on this final stretch but I gave it all that I had and still knocked 6-7 minutes off my time on this section from last year. I crossed the finish line in 5:38:17, in 4th place again but 30 minutes faster than last year and definitely fast enough to get my very own dorky “360 club” hat!
The top 3 women had a helluva race finishing within 1 minute of each other and newbie, Laura, won her first ultra! It was a great day for the Boulder Track Club women as we snagged 4 of the top 6 spots!
Ryan’s race, like mine, was off to a rough start but he also found his stride about 10 miles in and ran a phenomenally fast race (check out his splits). He finished in 4:50:11 (5th place) which would would have earned him a spot on the podium last year and was only 3 minutes off the course record.
Congrats to all the runners out there and thank you to all of the volunteers. It was a great course, a great day and a great community!