Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Two Race Reports in One


This photo is from the UROC, which I didn't finish. I took this shot on what I believe in the 10 Mile Range. Breckenridge is to the left and Copper Mountain is on the opposite side of the ridge. The trail I'm heading toward is vaguely visible in the center region of the photo.
So this is a somewhat contradictory post. To begin with, a quick recap of the Silver Rush 50 run way back in July:

Silver Rush 50 (aka, Day 2 of the Silver King)
I started the run discouraged from having lost around 15 minutes during the bike the previous day because of mechanical issues, i.e., flat tires. However, I was confident with my fitness and was looking forward to spending another day in the mountains. (I always look forward to time in the mountains.) I ran comfortably the first 7 or 8 miles uphill to the turn around ahead of Printer Boy. Definitely an improvement on 2012 where I walked quite a bit of this section. After the climb, there's a nice descent where I can jog 7:00/mile pace and put time into a lot of my competitors. (Or, as is more often the case, regain some of the time I lost on the climb.)

Unlike 2012, where I felt horrible 15 miles in, this time I felt fine. Okay, maybe not fine, but not majorly fatigued. I jogged and walked the climb to the aid station just before Ball Mountain and from there cruised uneventfully to the turn-around point.

After the turn-around there's a long climb back to the the pass near Ball Mountain. I was struggling a bit here, but ended up being inspired to run more than I would have because I briefly chatted with Daniel Harper. It turns out he was the guy that stopped to give me a tube while I was stranded during the bike. Not not only is Daniel an extremely nice guy, he is also super tough. He ran every step of the climb, and I couldn't hang with him.

After Daniel took off in front of me, I plodded along slowly saving some energy for the last climb and the long descent to the finish. After passing through Printer Boy, there's one long climb to 12,000 feet that's wicked because it comes 35 miles into the race, but the reward is a gradual descent to the finish. As I approached the top of the climb, the weather took a turn for the worse. Rain fell and the wind picked up. Wearing just a t-shirt and shorts, I started to get really cold. With my hands behind my back for wind protection and my torso titled forward to reduce my frontal area, I hiked up the climb.

I reached the top freezing and spent. I really should have taken a rain jacket at Printer Boy, I scolded myself. But just as I was starting to think about the less than ideal conditions, I looked around. The scenery was stunning. Mts. Sherman, Sheridan, and Dyer were nearly encircling me. I realized I was taking on a challenge and the most difficult part was behind me. My thoughts changed. How privileged am I to spend a day running around the mountains, just for play? My situation suddenly felt surreal, and I laughed to myself about the absurdity of the challenge, my surrounding environment, and the weather. This moment -- testing one's self, embracing unexpected travails --  is exactly why I like endurance racing.

With a new found positive perspective, I raced downhill. Eventually I caught Daniel. I figured there was enough downhill remaining to pull ahead, and perhaps still win the Silver King. Yet Daniel pressed on. As the course flattened in the last few miles, he regained ground. He'd pass me on a small uphill, I'd pass back on the downhill, and so on. Eventually, his persistence was too much for me. I lost sight of Daniel, and he went on to win the Silver King by 5 minutes from second place, Max Fulton, and 7 minutes from me back in third place.

Once again, I struggled the last few miles and was not able to break 8 hours. Oh well. Still a great day.


Vail in late September

ULTRA RACE OF CHAMPIONS (aka, UROC. aka, The Most Self-Congratulatory Race Name Ever)
After enjoying the Silver Rush, I was really looking forward to UROC, a 62 mile run from Breck to Frisco to Copper Mt. to Minturn to Vail. This area is one of my favorite places, and I was feeling fit. After the Silver Rush I dropped my bike mileage a bit and ran uphill as much as possible (though it turns out, not enough). I was running strong during speed workouts and was feeling better than every on 2-3 hour runs in the foot hills.

The race started with a quick climb of up to the tree line directly up the slopes at Breck. Like most everyone else, I hiked most of the climb. After 45 minutes of hiking, the route descended back to Peak Trail, and then over to Frisco. I loved this part of the race. Jogging through the golden forest was easy, and I was surrounded by Aspens turning from green to gold and orange, and at times a burning red.

Frisco embraced the race by shutting down a portion of Main St for the runners. Just after leaving town the route veered onto a trail. I jogged up through the woods, beginning with more Aspen groves, but eventually reaching Pine. As I climbed the temperature dropped, the steepening route forced me to hike, and the ground slowly became more and more snow covered.


The trail continued to get steeper and steeper, until I came across the view below. Finally, the summit is in sight!


I hiked through the snow, choosing my step carefully due to a narrow, snow covered path and a precipitous drop. I reach the top of the pass only to realize the climbing continued. After a lengthy walk traverse of a steep, snow covered mountain side, I encountered yet more climbing:


If you look closely at the photo above, you'll see a competitor about two thirds of the way to the right of the photo. He or she looks like a tiny dark spot, but that's where I headed next. I continued my hike -- god, it must have been an hour and a half without running at this point -- and enjoyed the view. Eventually, I reached the top of the ridge, from where I took the photo starting off this post. The trail along the ridge top offered unobstructed, 360 degree views of some of Colorado's most famous skiing. I'll definitely have to make my way back, hopefully next time on a mountain bike.

After a half mile along the ridge, the trail headed down to Copper. I dropped elevation quickly and made good progress on the descent. I entered the south side of Copper hungry and excited to see Stacey, change some clothes, and get re-fueled. But where was the aid station? It should be right here, I thought. Instead, the course headed up the slopes a bit. For the next 45 minutes, I cursed in my head. WHERE IS THE AID STATION? I NEED FOOD! I NEED WATER! Most importantly: I NEED TO STOP MOVING FOR JUST A MOMENT!

45 minutes passed running up then down, turning left then right, zig zagging all about the mountain while I just wanted a direct path to the aid station. At long last, I arrived at the Copper aid station. During small talk with Stacey, she made some off hand remark about how much distance was left in the race. Up to this point I had my Garmin set to show only heart rate. I didn't want to know my progress. My best estimate was that I'd covered 40 miles. I could do another 22, no problem. I re-fueled, thanked Stacey (at least I hope I did! If not: Thanks, Stacey!), and took off directly uphill.

The uphill, while so steep and slippery with mud that I could barely walk it, wasn't too long. At the top, we turned and headed back down to the Vail Pass bike path. I couldn't help myself any longer, and I looked at my watch: a bit over 6 hours had passed, and I was not yet at 30 miles! Uh oh. At this pace I'd be out here for no less than 13 hours, but more likely 14-15 hours as my paced slowed.

And with that realization, I decided to quit. I wasn't strong enough to run much of the uphills any longer. Even the flat sections would soon be hiked. I did not prepare for the challenges of the race, which I underestimated. I loved the first half, but I didn't see the point in walking another 32 miles. I was would not be racing, I'd be surviving. Moreover, I realized I don't want to do any running race over 7-8 hours. No Leadman for me. My first DNF, and I'm fine with that.


  1. Hey dude... gnarly races! Nice work at Silver Rush (improvement from the year prior?), and Kudos for even attempting a 100K - at that elevation in those conditions no less.

    1. Thanks, Ryan. I was about an hour faster on the run at the Silver Rush this year.

      I'm hoping to have an opportunity to do a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim (but not back) run in the spring. Looking to keep my running well below the 6 hour range.