The Breck Crest Marathon was my 8th race of the year in as many months. I’d never been to the Breckenridge area before but always looked longingly at the Ten Mile Range as we’d drive by on I-70 on route to Leadville or Aspen. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kerrie mentioned this race to me and a few days before the race I finally signed myself up. The race seemed to be a low key event and the loop up from town to the ridge and back down looked irresistible.
At 4:45am, Kerrie, Mike and I met up and hit the road for the 7:30am start. Just as I was picking up my race number I looked over and noticed a strong set of legs standing next to me… it was Stevie Kremer! A local Coloradan who’s been living in Italy recently, Stevie is probably the top female mountain runner in the world at the moment! Fresh off of winning the Pikes Peak Marathon two weeks ago, she’s back in the States and already dominating our local trail racing scene. A few minutes later, Dakota Jones, another local elite mountain runner showed up. So much for this being a quiet low-key race!!!
As I lined up at the start and wished Kerrie and Mike luck, I hadn’t quite taken any time to focus my own race. There was prize money for the top 3 spots and with both Stevie and Kerrie on the line I knew that the best I could aim for would be 3rd place.
Before I knew it, we were off running down the streets of Breckenridge heading West towards the mountains. As soon as we hit the trail my stomach started sloshing around like a pale full of water. Glug, glug, glug! I felt about 30 pounds heavier and was working way too hard to maintain such an unimpressive pace. I felt like I was in someone else’s body… someone who’d never run a mile in her life! Two women in the half-marathon race zipped past me. They looked like road runners who could easily school me on flat pavement but who shouldn’t be able to pass me so easily on an uphill trail! Then a woman in the marathon blew by. I knew Stevie and Kerrie were ahead, so if I couldn’t hold on to this 3rd woman then I could forget about any aspirations to make the podium. She disappeared up the hill in a flash. I waddled along, feeling pretty awful for the first hour.
By the time we hit the steep single track trail above treeline I finally started to find my legs. In the distance ahead of me I could see Kerrie’s light blue outfit and the 3rd place woman about half way between us. I started to pass the men ahead of me one-by-one and caught back up to the half-marathon women who’d passed me a few miles back. This gave me some strength and I began to feel more like myself. I looked around at the mountains around me and smiled. No matter how I’m feeling or how competitive I’m running, to get to be right here, right now, surrounded by these beautiful ridges and peaks is what it’s all about.
Meanwhile, far ahead of me, Mike Oliva works hard to stay with Stevie up the climb:
And Kerrie looks super strong as she nears the top of the first climb onto the ridge:
Hey those are my feet! And these are our beautiful Rocky Mountains!!
The next 7 miles were an absolute delight. I settled into a comfortable groove, kept my eyes off the trail and looked around. And I started day dreaming… about how incredible this summer has been and how special these mountains make me feel. And in those moments I switched from competitive to pleasure-cruise mode. Every race this summer has been a 100% effort and focus. My brain craved some peace and quiet. So I savored the course without distraction or obsessions.
At around mile 16, all of the sudden I heard a flutter of footsteps charging down the hill behind me and a flash of pink. What that the same pink that had passed me early on in the first climb or was this a new pink shirt?! I didn’t even have time to figure it out before she was gone!
Miles later, after a long, beautiful descent through the damp woods, we popped back into Breckenridge and just had a couple of miles to go to the finish. As we ran through the streets I saw that pink shirt again a few blocks in front of me. While I was gradually gaining on her, I didn’t attempt to chase her down. Had the course been a mile longer I think that I could have caught her without much effort. I finished in 5th about 43 seconds behind her.
Now, I’ll admit that there is this teeny tiny part of me that looks at my finish time and the finish time of the women ahead of me and knows that I could have placed 3rd. There’s a bit of an “I wish I had gone for it” ringing inside of me but, overall, I’m satisfied with my run. I accept that my brain was just a bit fried from all of the races this summer and I accept that sometimes it’s nice to chill out a bit. So I’m happy. And I’m already looking forward to breaking 4 hours next year ;-)
Here’s the women’s podium with Stevie at the top after running a course record shattering time of 3:35 and Kerrie’s 2nd place (3:52) was also faster than last year’s winning time (and 12 minutes faster than her 2nd place finish last year!)!
And in the men’s field, of course, Dakota Jones won with Marshall Thomson in a close 2nd (Marshall won the men’s race at the Aspen-Snowmass Power of Four 50K).
A huge congrats to my Rocky Mountain Runner teammates and friends, Kerrie and Mike, who are the heart and soul of the sport (and phenomenal runners too!)