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.
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 here. Username: 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.)
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!
It 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.
Being 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!
Eventually, 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. ❤ )
Most 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!
Most 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.
We 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.
After 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…?