"Long distance runner, what you holdin' out for?
Caught in slow motion in a dash for the door.
The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor
You gave all you had. why you wanna give more?
The more that you give, the more it will take
To the thin line beyond which you really can't fake."
- Fire on the Mountain by the Grateful Dead
It was past 4:00 O'clock on a Friday afternoon, and we were running late. I was glad that I'd packed my running gear on Thursday evening. At least I knew that all of the essential items for Saturday morning were already packed and ready to go. I pulled into the garage, and quickly threw a few post race clothes in the suitcase, along with my swimsuit. Within minutes, we were headed west towards the setting sun and Buena Vista, Colorado, the site of the 2013 Collegiate Peaks Trail Run. A little after 6:00 p.m. Melisa and I rolled into Salida where we met the rest of the family at Currents, our favorite restaurant in town. My mouth watered as I perused the selection of beers posted on the wall above the kitchen, but I resisted the urge to sample any. Tomorrow night, I told myself. I went for the traditional "carbo-loading" dinner . . . well, sort of. An Elk Sausage Orichiette Pasta fit the bill nicely, and I also managed to sneak a few french fries off of my daughter's plate as well. After dinner, I left Melisa and the girls with Papa Alan and Mama Joyce, and stopped by Walmart on the way out of town for some last minute provisions including Bagels, Bananas, etc. Walking through the store seemed to take forever, and I could feel the previous week of work starting to catch up with me. I finally made it through the check out and managed to get up to the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort by about 9:15 p.m. Unlike our last visit there, we stayed in the lodge this time which had much nicer accommodations, and was somewhat closer to the hot springs. I managed to get into bed a little before 10:00 p.m. and so I was able to get about six and a half hours of sleep.
I slept pretty well considering the day ahead and at 4:30 a.m. I awoke just a few minutes before the alarm was set to go off. I decided to get up and start getting ready as I wanted to be at the start of the race by about 5:45 in order to get my race materials. It took me a little longer than usual to get ready in the morning, but in the end it worked out fine and I arrived at the race starting line a little after 5:30. This gave me plenty of time to get my transition gear ready and to take one last look at my race plan. The CPTR has two loops, and 50 mile runners are able to make a stop at their vehicles between loops to change gear, refuel, etc. I set up the back of my car to have a change of shirt, socks, as well as some food and drink ready to go. I also had a rain jacket set out just in case the weather turned out worse. Although there was a little rain at the end of the race, it really wasn't a factor during the day. In fact, the weather was just about perfect on Saturday.
|Extra clothes, food, and anything else I could think of!|
The Race, First Loop:
The start of the race is just outside of the Buena Vista Community Center which meant that there was a warm, comfortable place to sit while waiting for the start. This was good considering that the temperature outside was probably in the mid-thirties when the gun went off. Runners were able to stay inside until about 10 minutes before the race start which was great. Once we were shepherded outside, I made my way to the very back of the pack and with hardly a warning we were off. It was a beautiful morning as the sun began to rise. All of the runners were in good spirits and given our location in the back of the pack, no one around was taking themselves too seriously just yet. We settled in at a steady pace and snaked our way north along a paved county road. After the first three miles, we turned off of the pavement and began to climb up into the hills that would be our route for the next several hours. At this point, I still felt really good, although I must have misjudged the location of the first aid station. When I arrived, I was worried for a moment because I thought it was right after the first three miles. However, it had taken me over an hour to get there. I did a quick recalculation and figured that we had actually run closer to 5 miles and change. Still pretty slow, but a much better distance given the amount of time that had already passed. I took a few extra minutes at this aid station to take off my jacket, hat and gloves, and switch to my visor. As best I could, I stuffed these items into the back of my hydrapak, and kept moving. Just prior to leaving the aid station, I heard someone say it was another 5-6 miles to aid station #2 so I settled in for the next bit. Running from aid station to aid station is a great way to break the course into manageable chunks. It continued to be a beautiful morning, but after another 30 minutes of running, I began to feel a little fatigued. At this point, the course shifted to more climbing, and I realized that we were on the first of the two "big" climbs for the clockwise route. I started to add more walking on the steeper parts of the course, and paused at one point to enjoy a "honey stinger" waffle that I'd placed in my pack. This helped to boost my energy and a few minutes before 9:00, I climbed the final portion of the first climb to the aid station at mile 11.7. The next stop was only about 4 miles ahead, and thankfully, it was mostly downhill. I felt really strong at this point, and I was able to run the majority of the distance between these two points. I went rather quickly through the aid station at 14.6 and got ready for the next big climb up to 9400 feet, and the 17.9 mile mark of the course.
|Course Map: Start and Finish at aid station 6|
|Elevation profile for CPTR|
|Please sir, can I have some more?|
In my race plan, I said that miles 25-32 were the key to successfully completing the race, and this proved to be true. I made my back through the parking lot, across the bridge, and then up through the most technical part of the course to a service road. Through the first mile of rocks, it was almost all walking. Finally, when I reached the service road, I was able to get into a rhythm of five minutes running to one minute walking. I did this through the next several minutes and reached the midway aid station still with about 35 minutes to spare. I continued along this way for another mile or two, and then the climbing began. On the return route, the first uphill takes you from the lowest point of the course to the highest (look at the elevation map from right to left). I found myself walking a lot (which I knew would happen), and every time it seemed like I'd made it to the top, it turned out to be a false summit, and another steep grade awaited. For the next hour, I only saw one other "runner," an older gentleman who said a few words of encouragement as he went speed-walking past me. Within 15 minutes, he was a small dot up above me in the distance. I moved on and after what seemed like forever, I finally crested a small hill, and saw the aid station at 32 miles, just a hundred yards ahead. It had taken me just over 2 hours to cover the seven miles back up to the top of the course.
Perhaps the highlight of the day were the ham tortilla wraps sitting in a bowl at this aid station. It sounds silly, but the sight of them was wonderful, and I quickly ate two of those suckers, along with a small cup of sprite which also tasted delicious. Although I didn't want to sit down, I had to for a moment to empty the small rocks out of my shoes. Once that was accomplished, I went back to the table for seconds. Another ham wrap, a chocolate cookie, and a little bit of water and I was set to go. The food was very rejuvenating and I must say that I felt a certain sadness leaving that aid station behind, but I was now only about 20 minutes under the cut-off. That left me just over an hour to make it down to the next aid station.
Somewhere around 33 miles, I settled into a rhythm, and had some of the strongest running of the day. In fact, the final 18 miles were probably the best I felt during the whole experience. I still walked most of the big hills, but I was at least able to jog some of the smaller, less steep hills, and I kept a pretty good pace all the way down. Listening to music was also quite helpful. At mile 35, I switched to my reggae playlist, and that did the trick. I cruised to the next aid station in under 50 minutes which gave me nearly two hours to make it to the final aid station at 45 miles.
At this point, the skies started to cloud up and the wind started to blow a bit. I really didn't mind however, and I decided not to bother stopping to put on a long sleeve shirt. I was running almost entirely by myself at this time, occasionally passing a runner or two, and so I just ran along, listening to music, and enjoying the experience. Being far enough ahead of the cut-off times, I knew by this point that I would finish (barring some injury or mishap), so I didn't really have to worry about that anymore. That allowed me to relax a bit more. At 4:25 in the afternoon, I reached the last aid station along the course. I had run a good bit of this part back in March, so I was more familiar with the territory ahead in the next 5 miles. The first two miles consisted of a combination of hilly and sandy terrain. I estimated that it would take me at least 40 minutes to run and walk that section. Once I made it down to the main road, it would just be a matter of working my way back to the community center downtown. The rain started a little bit at this point, but it still didn't really bother me. Coming up the last steep hill on the trail section, I looked to my right and happened to see the skeletal remains of some animal (probably a deer) lying next to the trail. This struck me as funny for some reason, probably because it was the last thing you'd want to see 47 miles into a race. I chuckled to myself glad that it wasn't me as I stepped out onto the fire road and started down towards Buena Vista.
|These views make this race one of the most scenic that I've done (photo from my March visit).|
A few hundred yards before the finish line, my daughter Maya was waiting along with my in-laws. They were in full paparazzi mode taking pictures and recording the moment. Maya ran alongside me for a few yards before I rounded the last turn. Just across the parking lot, I saw the finish line. Melisa and Lily were there and they began to cheer as I approached. I motioned to Lily and she came up beside me. We held hands for the final 15 yards as I crossed the finish line. 50 miles: done!
|The last few steps of a very long journey (with Lilybug).|
Back in December when I set out to do this race, I really didn't have much of an idea of what I was getting into. I thought about it briefly, signed up, and despite a mid-training injury, managed to get it done. I met both of my goals for this race including finishing, and, believe it or not, having fun. Okay, it wasn't all fun, but I did have a good time during much of the race. When all was said and done, I did the race in approximately 11 hours and 15 minutes (official results haven't posted as of this writing). My first lap took almost exactly five hours, and my second closer to six. I don't know that I will ever attempt something like this again, although I've learned that one should never say never. Thanks for reading!
|Sitting down and taking off my shoes . . . just seconds away!|