Go out too hard, fall down, give up, stop caring, keep running. This was my Dirty30 experience.
[here I will forgo the “getting very little sleep before the race and getting up at 3:15AM to drive an hour” pre-race bit]
Going into the race I had some very wrong assumptions, the largest of which was that Victor B was not super, super fast. Oh, well, mind games for the win, he went out super quick with Nicola G and Tim K. ‘Nice little RMR pack of 4 going into the first section ascending next to Deer Creek. I pushed it a bit too hard here trying to preserve this grouping, based on the “I’m as fit as Victor” theory, which has since been disproved.
My other bad assumption was that I was recovered from Bolder Boulder and that the relatively stressful week following hadn’t hurt me too much. Nope! My legs were pretty leaden from the get-go, not happy with climbing or with pounding the downhill. I kept hoping that this would sort itself out, but for the most part I ran tired through the whole race.
After losing touch with the RMR trio, there were a few other runners challenging/passing on the uphill leading over the ridge to the first aid station. I let them pass, but caught many on the downhill as I worked [too] hard to get to see the RMR-manned station #1&4 (at miles 5&25)! Good to hear Alberto’s cheers, much appreciated! For some reason beyond me, my tired legs made my brain think that cola would taste good at this point. It did not, but it also didn’t react poorly either.
The path to aid station 2 (at mile 12) seemed to take quite a bit longer than I would have expected. I must have looked a mess coming in, because I got the standard couple of questions from the paramedics: “how are things” and “do you need us to do anything?” I declined support (while trying to process these questions, were they just bored?) and charged out of aid #2. I felt pretty good, and was happy to yell at a runner ahead of me to help him avoid getting lost. Good group of runners with me at this point, mostly climbing & some scrabbly/rocky bits. Still tired, but hanging in there and gritting my teeth for another ⅔ of the race.
About 2 miles outside of Aid #3, I tripped and went down pretty hard. Helpful runners around me asked if I was okay: no blood = keep running. I seem to be able to focus on the near-ground only when I’m tired, if I try to move my gaze ahead bad things happen on trails, especially with cheering spectators or other day-[literal]-trippers. My knees at this point are not happy with downhill.
Aid station 3 was great: they filled up my Camelback with Tailwind electrolyte and water mix, I ate a Nutterbutter, but I could NOT push myself at all on the climb toward the ridge. Many encouraging RMR runners passed me at this point, leaving or coming into the station, but I was a zombie for miles 17-19. I wasn’t sure I would finish the race, and didn’t think that <6 hours was going to happen. I gave up a bit on “racing” and just power hiked.
Strange and good things happened at this point. I found myself in a situation where I didn’t care so much to race, but running still felt good if kept to a reasonable pace. So I just started running on the nice flatter sections coming out of mile 19.5. Felt good, but very lonely, and I was worried for a while that I was on the wrong trail/ran a section out of order. I think all the fast people had left me while I power hiked, and all the slower people were a ways behind me (I’m good at the flat stuff, not always so much on steep/technical). So I just kept running. I think chugging quite a bit of the water and electrolyte at aid #3 really was having an effect. Good miles 20-25, but with the only issue being another focus-related yard sale that scuffed up my right hand.
Hurray for Alberto and aid station 4 RMR gang! They quickly filled up (really full) my Camelback with the same dilute electrolyte solution. I checked my rapidly dying watch, and saw I had about 1.5hrs to finish to get the 360 Club (<6 hrs) hat. Alberto wisely cautioned me not to count on it too soon, comments which kept me inspired to run every easily run-able part of the climb up Windy Peak. My left calf was cramping and spasming on-and-off, which was a bit worrisome but not unexpected after so many up-and-down miles. Near the top, whom do I spy but RMR’s Guy and Yves charging up the hill behind me! Great finish, guys, kept me working for it, too.
Windy peak and “down.” Guy takes off like a careening boulder, and I try to follow. I think we dropped Yves a bit here with some knee pain holding him back. Quickly shouting hello’s and encouragement to Silke and other runners who were still on the ascent. My knees are screaming bloody murder, but in trying to catch Guy I pass three or four 50K runners and get pumped to try to finish strong.
Ouch, that last climb, though. I caught Guy shortly after aid station 5 (‘both questioning his need to stop), and he dragged me along for about another half mile. Going up the climb, my left groin definitely shut down any hopes of catching Guy. Sharp pain, but I think mostly just severe cramping and not any lasting damage. My balance/control muscles kinda suck – something to work on!
Final ridge, and no spectators have a watch on their wrists! ‘Damn cell phones. Anyway, finally get one kind lady to tell me I am at 5:44 (12:44pm) into the race, and I know I only have a mile left. Sub-6 here I come!! WOOOOO!! THIS IS HAPPENING! /massivegoodfeelings
Coming into the finish, I was surprised by a surge from a 50k runner behind me. Depending on the mat that counts as the finish, I responded with my Zak Speed(TM) and managed to hold him off. At the end of a 50km race! I’ll call it a draw, after all the other sections which hurt more than turning on the heat at the very end. [Looking this up afterward, it seems that he did beat me by chip time! Good run, Jed!]
Wow. My wife Anne was right there to congratulate me, and to help me collect my race record and 360 Club hat. RMR guys all there, sitting on the ground and nonchalantly chatting about their incredible performances.
Overall finish = 34th overall, 33rd for men and 12th in my age group (M20-29). Have to stop here and give major kudos to RMR’s Kerrie Bruxvoort for crushing it in first place in the women’s race, faster than me by about 4 minutes, and in good company with Silke and Malory also on the podium!! My own result was “not too bad” for a first trail 50K, especially after PR’ing on Bolder Boulder 5 days prior. All credit is due to the crazy, wonderful friends I’ve made through weekly Flatirons Running Company events and from Rocky Mountain Runners weekly shenanigans. Though I’ve always loved hiking and running trails (and XC in school), to get better at racing trails requires those around you to provide challenge, share their coffee with you, and to help keep things fun even when it hurts.
Festivities after the race were top notch – good food, good expo/vendors I actually enjoyed talking with, good music. The whole day was perfect weather, which was amazing given Colorado’s wet weather this spring. I won another nice running hat in the raffle (woot!), and got to cheer on the race prize-winners, and savor my first 50km trail race. I will be terribly sore tonight, and tomorrow, and for a while, but maybe with careful running I’ll avoid any lasting injuries. Viva Dirty 30!