Saturday, May 1, 2010

Collegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Report

Collegiate Peaks Trail Run

The weather over Colorado has been pretty ugly for the last few days, but it cleared up and was absolutely perfect for this morning’s 20th running of the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run in Buena Vista. The race started at the Buena Vista Community Center, promptly at 6:30 a.m. and the skies were clear, the air cold and the wind that had been plaguing the area the night before was gone. I had a motel room at the Topaz Lodge, just a little ways from the start and I ran to the race start to warm up. Christian had rolled down with me the night before and was going to meet me at the finish with the dogs . I got to the start, took a couple pictures and heard somebody yell, “Go!” and we were off.

About 300 people (purely an estimate) started the race which consisted of 25 mile and 50 mile racers, all starting together, the 50 milers repeating the course in the counter-clockwise direction. (I was there for the easy day, only 25.) The early morning was cold in the high mountain town sitting at 8000’ but the sky was clear and everyone knew the sun would be making it‘s appearance soon enough. We started on a dirt road and funneled onto a single track trail before hitting the road for a couple miles. By the time we turned off onto the next dirt road, we were pretty well strung out and it was easy to find a comfortable pace and room to run.

The early part of the race was awesome. Cold air but the body was warm. I wore a light jacket and a pair of wicking shirts, one long sleeve one short, and shorts, gloves and a beanie for the first six or seven miles. When it got warmer, I stowed my jacket but put my gloves and beanie back on a couple times. The scenery was beautiful and the course not technical and easy to run on lots of rolling hills. I bypassed the first aid station because I was well supplied and kept running. I checked my watch afterward and saw I was already too far (:17) behind the pace to finish under 4 hours. (Something told me I was going to be happy just finishing.) I decided to just run my own race and ran the next leg fairly hard. At first, I was worried about fading at the end but then I just accepted the fact that it was going to happen because I just didn’t have the legs I was going to need in the 3 to 4 hour portion of the race. So, I put my head down and just had fun with it.

The race course continued to provide vista after vista of the gorgeous Collegiate Peaks (Mt. Harvard and Mt. Princeton, both 14,000’ peaks) and I ran with my camera to capture a few of the scenes. I did walk/hike a couple of the steepest hills but less than a few hundred yards for the entire race and feel like I can claim “running” the entire 25 miles. I do have the soreness to prove it. I passed every aid station except the last, #5 at 21.8 miles to refill my water bottle and grab a handful of potato chips and M&Ms.

The notable climbs came between miles 7 and 10 (800’) and miles 14 and 18 (1000’), but both climbs were on dirt roads with only a couple steep sections. Very runnable. The down hills were long and fun and mostly on wide enough trail that you could get some really good speed going, if you were so inclined. That is, until later in the race, after 20 miles, when they hurt as much as the up hills.

As I knew would happen, I started to fade in the last 7 miles . I was trained well through the half-marathon distance but a few more miles after that my legs started getting harder and harder to lift. I could see how the better trained athletes were pulling away from me in the later miles and they looked STRONG. But that’s why I was here, to build my endurance so I can eventually run like some of these amazing athletes. I saw some very impressive running today. Particularly from the lead runners in the 50 mile race. They looked so fresh as they passed me going the other way. I was really inspired by how much these runners had obviously prepared for their long day.

The most technical part of the course was some single track at the end, which wound about with many curves and switchbacks, and lots of roots and rocks to watch for. As I descended the trail and finally heard the river below, I knew I was in the last mile. The trail parallels the river and I started, thankfully, looking for the bridge which I had to cross before running about 300 more yards to the finish. I could hear Christian yelling my name from across the river and I perked up and was able to pass one more runner before I got to the bridge. Turned on the jets to finish strong at the end and crossed the finish line at 4 hours and 21 minutes. A super solid effort I am proud of and a really fun race course. Definitely a full-on mountain race, from the weather to the thin air and hills. I didn’t attend any of the post-race festivities but there were events and a good crowd of people had attended the race.

I can’t imagine running the 50 today. I was relieved to finish the 25 and was calling the 50-milers “crazy” the same way people call me crazy for wanting to run them! I’m such a hypocrite. The weather was getting a little colder and windier as I was finishing and I wouldn’t have wanted to be out on that course for another 5+ hours if it got much colder. Today, I opted for sanity. J

Anyway, big Up to the Buena Vista Optimist Club for putting on a great race. Creeps and I had a cool time visiting BV and the dogs loved the parks. I had a great time. Even the drive there and back was beautiful. I wouldn’t be surprised if I go back there next year and do the 25 miler again. I really liked that distance. You can run some fast down hills but you have to save something for later in the race, too. I’d like to arrive there in better condition, too, and get that sub-4 hour time I think I’m capable of getting.

I have the usual post race soreness from glutes to the Achilles’ but feel like I will be ready to run again in a day or two. This will be an easy week but I’ll be back to double digit mile runs by next weekend. Hopefully, by the following weekend, the trails will be thawed out enough in the high country to do a long run of 20-25 miles on one of the trails around here. Otherwise, I think I’ll be going down to the Front Range and run trails around Boulder.

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