Race Report: Quad Rock 50 Miler (6/14/15)

Spoiler alert:  I should actually name this post “Race Report: Quad Rock 25 Miler.”

Although the day didn’t go as planned, I had a blast at this race.  It was challenging, and stupidly hot (hence the 25 instead of 50), but the course was beautiful, and it was well-organized, well-supported, and well-marked.  No complaints here.  Well, actually just one, but we’ll get to that later – nothing horrible.

Molly and I arrived at Lory State Park very, very early on race day.  We stayed at a friend’s house in Fort Collins the night before to make the morning trek to the race less unpleasant, and we completely overestimated how long it would take to get to the start from there.  Whoops.

We sat in the dark at the ranger station for a few minutes, waiting for it to open so we could get a parking permit, when someone from the car behind us said they thought we could get them at check in, so we decided to drive into the park to the start and find out.  We figured we could always walk back and get a permit if we needed to.  Turned out we were fine.

Since we were so stupidly early, things weren’t quite set up yet, so we didn’t really know where to park or what to do.  But that got sorted out within a few minutes.  We hung out with a couple other runners in the dark, hovering around the check in table while the RD and volunteers set up.  Check in was quick – race packet, bib, safety pins, race shirt, and… toothbrushes and toothpaste?  That was random.  After check in, it was back to the car to nap for a bit before heading to the start.

IMG_3399At dawn, we headed down the dirt road to the start area, where people were milling around, chatting, lubing up, drinking coffee, and playing the game I like to call “ride the port-a-potty line.”  We wandered our way to the back of the crowd to find a spot for the start.  Promptly at 6:30am, the RD got on the microphone and said a few words, and then we were off.

We headed down the main park road for two miles, until we got to the first trailhead.  I was stressing about the cutoffs (my one complaint about this race – the cutoffs are very, very fast).  I had made my peace with the fact that I likely wouldn’t make them and would have to stop early at some point, but I was still trying hard to bust ass and see how long I could hold on.

At this point in the day, I was actually feeling really good.  I passed a ton of people on the first bit of trail, and settled into a nice rhythm.  I even had a sub-10 mile!  On a trail!  For now, Molly was behind me by about 1/4 mile, but I knew she would catch me early on the first big climb, so I wasn’t worried.  I also knew that all these people I was passing… yeah, I would be seeing them again soon too.  As of now, I am NOT a good climber.  I have a lot of work to do in that area.

Quad-Rock-50-Profile_revAfter about a mile on the trail, we started the first big climb of the day.  There are three big climbs in one 25 mile loop, and for the 50 miler, we would do the loop twice – once in each direction.  So there would be six big climbs today.  For now, I was trying to haul ass.  I knew that would change quickly, so I was trying to bank some time for later.

I hauled my way up the Towers climb as quickly as I could.  Molly caught me early and informed me that she had tripped and wiped out in the very beginning – which became important later in the day.  We ran together until the little downhill in the middle of the climb , when I pulled ahead (downhill is my jam).  As we neared the end of the climb, she caught me again, and I told her to go on ahead.  It was stressing me out and making me frustrated that I was killing myself to keep up with her longer legs.  I just wanted to be in my own head for now.  So Molly wandered ahead and I continued to plod along, hoping the Towers aid station wasn’t far.

I arrived at Towers in time for the fantastic volunteers to fill my water, and catch Molly and her new friend, Tony, for the descent to the Horsetooth aid station.  This was a nice little trail down the valley, with some rolling hills along the way.  I was able to keep up the whole way to Horsetooth, which was nice.  It would have been wonderful to stop and enjoy the views – it was a beautiful trail – but there was no time to linger.  As Tony kept telling us all day… “no lingering!”  I loved that guy and hated him at the same time.

We cruised into Horsetooth and I dumped my long sleeve in my drop bag.  Then it was time to scope out the amazing food spread they had laid out.  I was super excited to see that they had peanut butter and nutella, so I grabbed a couple cookies and one of those, and headed back out for climb #2 – back up to Towers.

Molly, Tony, and I stuck together for about half of this climb.  Somewhere in the middle, we spread out a bit, with Molly in front, and Tony and I leapfrogging back and forth.  By now, it was getting really hot, my right arch was constantly aching, and my left hip flexor was very angry with me.  I wasn’t a pretty sight.

By the time I reached the top of the second climb, and the Towers aid station, my race math was solid – there was no way I was making cutoffs today.  I had to maintain a 16:21/mile for the first 25 miles, and by the second time through Towers (about 15 miles), I was averaging around 16:45/mi, and certainly not getting any faster.  All I wanted to do at Towers was sit down and call it a day.  It was blazingly hot – the air temperature was mid-80s, but here in Colorado, it always feels 10-15 degrees warmer in the sun – and there was very little shade on this course.

I forced myself through Towers and didn’t give myself any time to even think about stopping to sit down.  A volunteer refilled my water as I came in, I grabbed a couple pretzels, and I was on my way.  No time to think.

The downhill out of Towers was more rolling than I expected, so I couldn’t go as fast as I had been hoping.  Tony and I continued to leapfrog, and I did the same with another girl – Kim.  Kim and I started chatting as we ran along, and it turned out we live quite literally across the street from each other.  Small world!  We made mental notes to get each other’s contact info after the race so we could run together sometime.

Eventually, the trail opened up into the valley, and we could see the Arthur’s aid station ahead.  Kim and I arrived at the aid station to Molly looking very unhappy.  Turns out that trip and fall she had taken first thing in the morning had tweaked her back, which was now a complete mess.  She couldn’t run anymore, and was just going to walk it in to the 25 mile finish.  I knew there was no way I was making cutoffs, so this was perfectly fine with me.

As we were leaving the aid station for our third, and now final climb of the day, the 50 mile leader came through going the other way.  Absolutely unbelievable – he had done 33 miles in the time it took us to do 17.  Granted, we’re slow, but we were in awe.  That guy was flying.

Molly and I slowly made our way up the third climb.  At this point, we were a strange mixture of grumpy, exhausted, overheated, sore, relieved and at peace with the fact that we were done at 25 miles, and partially run drunk.  We cheered on those who were running the 50 and coming back the other way on lap #2, and chatted with a few girls we kept leapfrogging with along the way.

Somewhere around the top of the climb, Molly was really fighting the pain.  That girl is the toughest person I know (and now she’s finally writing about her story!), so to say that she was digging deep is really saying something.  I decided it would be a good time for some entertaining/inspiring theme music, so I turned on my little speaker, and put on “Always look on the bright side of life” (from Spamalot) as we slowly trotted our way down off the final summit.  Everyone we passed got a good laugh out of that one.  It seemed appropriate given the day we were having.

As we continued down the final descent, a few more 50 milers came back the other way, but there weren’t too many of them.  And a lot of them looked pretty rough.  Even the leaders.  Weirdly enough, that made us feel a bit better about getting our asses handed to us by this course.

IMG_3401Finally, the trail opened up and we could see the plains, valley, and finish line in the distance.  We knew we didn’t have far to go, and the trail was runnable, so we did our best for a final push to the end.

As we were running along, all of a sudden I heard Molly trip behind me, and the sound of her flying off the trail into the scrub.  I hadn’t seen any of this, and my first thought before turning around was “oh shit.  I hope she didn’t land on a cactus!”  Fortunately, when I turned around, I saw Molly laying in the scrub on the side of the trail, NOT on a cactus.  She didn’t look happy though.  Her back was in a lot of pain, and her back and leg muscles were just done for the day.  She had nothing left for stability.

After picking herself up, and a quick blood check, we were on our way again.

We wound our way down off the hillside, and could see the road and the finish growing closer and closer.  100 yards from the end of the trail, from behind me I heard Molly bite it again, and I turned to find her laying on the side of the trail, blood streaming from her knee, and looking VERY pissed off.  After making sure she wasn’t broken, I forced her to stand up, and laugh it off.  I knew if I let her sit there and stew about it, she was just going to get mad.  I believe her exact words when she fell were “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!”  She was SO over this day.

With some run drunk giggles, we ran out onto the road, and into the finish area.  In our happiness to be done, and not doing another 25 miles, we both sprinted for the finish line, trying to beat each other – because we’re morons like that.

We crossed the finish line (you have you actually run through it if you are doing the 50), and immediately turned to the volunteers and told them we were done.  They grabbed the tags from our bibs, and gave us our 25 mile finisher pint glasses, and pointed us in the direction of the food.

We hung around at the finish area for a bit – eating, and getting massages (the woman who worked on both of us was WONDERFUL), and watching the last 25 mile finishers come in.  Not too long after we finished, the leader of the 50 also finished.  He must have had a pretty amazing day out there.  I can not imagine running that course so quickly.  That was impressive.  Before leaving, we asked the finish line volunteers how many 50 milers had dropped to the 25 – turned out over half the field had dropped, which made us feel MUCH better about our decision!

After food and drink, we slowly hobbled our way back to the car, and made our way home.  It was a long and challenging day, but overall, a great race.  I’m not thrilled with my performance, but I really liked the event, and would love to do it again next year.  Redemption race, 2016?

Final time: 7:43:22

Read the official Gnar Runners race recap here.

Race Report: Dirty 30 50k (5/30/15)

This past Saturday was the Dirty 30 50k in Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  It was my first time running this race, and I absolutely loved it.  It was completely brutal, but overall, a wonderful race, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.


Totally justified carb loading… right?

Friday evening, I packed up all my gear, dropped the dogs off for the night, and headed down to Molly’s house since it’s way closer to Golden than I am.  We spent the evening “carb loading” (total excuse to eat pizza and candy), coloring, and playing with an adorable boxer puppy.

It was off to bed early, and 3:30am arrived before I knew it.  We ate our quick breakfasts, got dressed and bodyglided, and met Molly’s super sweet friend Lynn for the drive to the start.  (Also, I never mentioned it before, but check out how amazingly badass and inspirational Molly is here, and page 32-34 hereUsername: usatriathlon  Password: usatmag)

It was still cold and dark when we pulled into the Red Barn parking lot at 4:45 am, so we hung out in the car for a little while until it was time to head to the start line for the 6:00 am early start.  (The regular start time is 7:00 am, but this year they implemented an early wave for us slower runners so that we could actually enjoy the finish line, which I loved.)

Left - Me, Molly, and Lynn before the start Right - Pre-race pep talk with the awesome RD

Left – Me, Molly, and Lynn before the start
Right – Pre-race pep talk with the awesome RD

There were perhaps two or three dozen of us starting with the early wave, and after the race director went through the obligatory sponsors list and a few race rules/tips, we were off!

IMG_2852It was a chilly morning, but we knew we were in for a beautiful, sunny, and warm day – thank goodness.  Most of us started with a few extra layers on, but they were quickly stripped off as we made our way up the first few miles of trail.  The sun was beaming, and the views were spectacular.  Only a mile or so in, and I was already loving this course.

River crossing - meBeing the slow trail runners that we are, many people were taking off into the distance at this point, but we are always conservative in the beginning, so we don’t crash and burn later.  Instead of stressing about not going fast enough, Molly and I were chatting away, peeling off layers, taking pictures, and enjoying the gorgeous morning.  It was also at this point that we struck up a conversation with the girl running along with us – Laura.  Turns out, Laura has the same outlook on her running, and she fell perfectly into our group for the rest of the day.

The first several miles were fairly uneventful.  We wound our way up a creek bed and onto a hillside – all the while chatting and getting to know one another.  There was no shortage of mud, and with a shin-deep river crossing, no chance of keeping our feet dry.  They don’t call it the Dirty 30 for nothing!

5 mi aid - all three of us 2IMG_2861Eventually, after 4 miles of climbing, I cruised down the 1 mile long downhill into the first aid station.  Our mini-goal had been to make it to this aid station before the fast 7am start people passed us – we were successful.  I pulled into the aid station and was greeted by several guys in hula skirts, and my friend Terry, who was volunteering.  We stocked up on food and drink, and were on our way.

Heading out of the aid station, it was time to start the never-ending onslaught of climbing.  This was to be the rest of our day.  Fortunately, things started out fairly simple and runnable, but the majority of the course was highly technical and challenging.  They had some great signs though!

Sometime around 7:45 am, the fast pack caught up with us.  As we slowly made our way up yet another uphill, we enjoyed watching them blow past us.  We were impressed with how friendly these incredible front of the pack athletes were, as they were constantly telling us “great job!” as they flew by.  We kept asking them to save us finish line beer.  Most of them laughed and said they couldn’t make any promises.  So our consolation was checking out their amazing legs as they ran past. (Spoiler:  They saved us beer. ❤ )

IMG_2866Most of our morning consisted of power hiking up the uphills, slowly running the flats, and bombing down the downhills.  We had yet to reach the really technical part of the course, which starts just after the second aid station at mile 12.something.  Somewhere around mile 10, we were bombing down a nice long downhill, when Molly took a spectacular fall and tore up her leg and hip.  Laura and I didn’t actually witness the wipeout, but we were there for the aftermath.  It was ugly.  We figured she was a lock for the $100 “bloodiest runner” competition (yes, this is a real thing they have at this race).

Like the trooper that she is, Molly wiped herself up with a baby wipe, and we continued on our way.  The course got technical just after the mile 12.something aid station, and we began the climb up to mile 14.  This climb included some scrambling, and lots of swearing.  NOW we were getting into the interesting stuff!

IMG_2874Most of the rest of the midday consisted of technical, neverending climbs – the worst being from mile 17 to 20 – and then technical, often unrunnable descents.  Needless to say, it was slow going.  But despite all the swearing and grunting, we were still having fun.  Just after the awesome pool party course marshal at mile 19, on a long three mile slog of an uphill, me, Molly, and Laura got split up.  Laura was in a dark place, and slowed down (but she powered through and still finished like a champ), and Molly’s super long legs and zen-like second wind carried her away ahead of me.  So from 19 to 25, I was on my own.  Initially, I had thought I would just catch Molly on the downhill once I reached the summit at mile 20, but when that didn’t happen, I started to get worried that she had taken a wrong turn and gotten lost.  So I began pushing just a bit harder than I should have to hopefully catch her and stop worrying.  I asked everyone I saw if they had seen her ahead of me, and no one had, so with every passing mile, my worry grew.

Just as I was coming up on the mile 25 aid station, I saw Molly’s orange tank top flitting along the trail in front of me, and I was so relieved.  Now that I knew she wasn’t lost or dead, the realization of how much energy I had burned trying to catch up to/find her set in.  I slowly wandered into the aid station at mile 25, and told her I had burned every match I had trying to catch her and was now completely out of gas.  The last few miles were going to be ugly.

IMG_2875We stocked up on food and drink at the aid station, and made our way down the trail to begin the long and arduous climb up to the summit of Windy Peak.  This was, without a doubt, the worst part of the whole day.

The climb up Windy Peak is long (mile 26 to 28), steep, and technical.  At this point (and all day really), everyone’s watches were saying completely different mileage, and none of them matched with the course markings, so we never had any idea how close, or far, we were from the summit.  For the last 0.7 miles of the climb, people were coming back down ahead of us, and we kept asking them if we were getting close – that was a huge mistake.  Every response was totally different, and ultimately, totally wrong.  We (namely me) took several sit breaks in the dirt on the side of the trail, and much swearing was happening as a pain release along the way.

Finally – FINALLY – the people coming in the opposite direction told us what we were hoping to hear:  “It’s right there!  Just around that curve!”  Originally, Molly and I had planned to take a picture at the summit, but once we reached the bib markers, all we wanted to do was continue on back down and get the last couple miles over with.

Heading back down Windy Peak was slow – partially because the trail was so technical, partially because our feet were so tender, and partially because we were so tired.  We walked a lot of the way to the mile 29 aid station, where we promptly sat in the grass and drank some coke, while talking to the super nice volunteer about Molly’s injury.  He also agreed that she had the $100 sealed up.

Once we left that aid station we knew we only had one more small(ish) climb, and then it was downhill to the finish.  Thinking ahead to the climb was making me so angry that poor Molly kept trying to talk to me and all she could get out of me in response was several short “yup”s and “uh huh”s.  I tried to warn her it was just the climb, and that I would be better once it was over.

Fortunately, this one wasn’t nearly as bad as all the others, but what a mindfuck!  When we finally reached the top, I gave all the course marshal guys hugs, and we hung a left and headed into the home stretch.

IMG_2877After running along the top of a slightly rolling ridge for about a half mile, we had nothing but one mile of downhill to get us to the finish.  My feet were tender, and I was exhausted, but now I was smiling.  Molly and I cruised down that last mile with big smiles on our faces.  For most of the last mile, we could hear the finish line taunting us in the distance.  As we got closer, the horns got louder, and our legs got faster.  We made a steep descent down the side of the ridge and popped out onto the dirt road with the finish line just 100 yards ahead of us.  Finally!


We cruised into the finish with smiles on our faces, and covered in dirt and sweat.  It was a great day.

Total time:  So long I don’t think I should write it down… 10:27:59.  Yikes.

My thoughts on the race:  I LOVED this race!  The course is brutal, but it’s also gorgeous, and super well marked.  The RD is wonderfully organized and that is reflected in the race.  It’s a quality event, with great support, and wonderful volunteers.  As a slower runner, I also very much appreciated the early start wave (new this year), and really hope they keep that in the future.  My only (only!) complaint was that by the time we finished, they had already done the bloodiest runner award (we missed it by about five minutes), so Molly didn’t get her $100 that she totally would have had locked up.  Slow runners fall too!

Overall, it’s an excellent race, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Maybe a little faster next time…?