Monday, November 24, 2014

Big Cedar Endurance Run 100 Miler (Race Recap)

Dallas, TX
Friday, November 21
Ultra Marathon #12
Weather - HUMID and overcast during the day. Slightly windy.

I have enjoyed the races I run put on by Libby Jones and the Active Joe. When she announced she was putting on her first trail race, including a 100 miler, I figured I would give Big Cedar a chance. Libby assigns bib numbers in the order of registration, so I waited for my lucky number 44, to come up and signed up (back in August). 

Thursday

I got a heck of a deal on airfare ($144 RT), and flew in early Thursday morning to Love Field. Pretty thankful for the early arrival as my phone was having a hard time navigating me through the Dallas freeway system (trying to avoid the tollway). I got a bit lost, but still arrived around 2:00 pm at the host hotel in Duncanville. I unpacked and got my drop bag ready before heading to packet pick up at 3 pm. We got a ton of swag (coffee mug, towel, SWEET jacket, shirt and hat). 


I hadn't read close enough to realize the trail briefing wasn't until 5:30. I went back to the hotel to relax and get all my gear ready.


I went BACK for the trail briefing, and started to get mildly terrified. I still had not seen any of the course, but just from driving around I could tell that it was going to be much hillier than I anticipated. After the briefing I went to the grocery store to pick up some beer, then got dinner at the Mexican restaurant by the hotel. Food was good, service wasn't especially. Lights out early, and surprisingly, I slept.

Friday

The race didn't start until 9:00, but I didn't want to feel rushed, so I got up around 6:40 to shower and get my gear ready before heading out. I stopped to get a donut on the way to the start. It wasn't raining yet, but it was FOGGY.

Arrived with about an hour until the start, which gave me time to get all my crap ready and chat with Lesley.

So foggy there is no sky...
Pictures with Lesley are fun because I look like a midget
Spirits were high and I was getting a good vibe with the group of runners I would be spending the next billion miles with. There was a secondary trail briefing and we were again reminded that it WAS going to rain and that it WAS going to be slippery once it did. The question was, when was it going to rain, and HOW HARD?

Started at 9 am on the dot, gathered near the Powerline station and moved quickly onto the trail (a mountain bike trail maintained by the Dallas Off-Road Bike Association). It was immediately congested right from the beginning, which was fine by me. I started almost in the very back, I think there were maybe a half dozen people behind me.


Within about 10 minutes, I could tell something was wrong. The ball of my right foot hurt, like it was bruised, and my calves and quads were abnormally tight and "clenched" for as slow as I was moving. I figured I needed to take it pretty easy as I started, and kept my plan to walk most of the uphills in hopes of making up the time of flats and downhills.

Spoiler: NONE of that worked out.

I was initially pretty anxious about how confusing the course looked on the course maps, but Libby and her crew had marked it incredibly well. There were never times that I was wondering where I should be going.


The trail was gorgeous, especially since Texas is still experiencing fall colors. I took a lot of pictures in the first miles.

There were a lot more uphills and climbs than I was expecting
In order to make the cutoff of (I think 32 hours), I needed to maintain a 19:20 overall pace. I never had a single split under 14 minutes, which is super crazy slow, even for ME. The course was more than just "rolling" - it was either UP or DOWN, with VERY little areas that were "flat." I tried to run those, but with my legs already being tired and cramped, I wasn't able to run very fast, and the "flats" never lasted that long anyway. It was SO humid out, I finished my entire handheld before even getting to the first aid station, Copperhead, 5.3 miles in. I was in and out, just grabbing Nuun and a pickle. I was already concerned about pace.





Not sure where to go? Don't cross the spray painted log!
The second aid station, Truth Corner, kinda sneaked up on me. For some reason, I was expecting the two longest stretches (5.3 miles and 7.1 miles) to be back to back. It was a nice surprise to see it as I had emptied my bottle again. Grabbed Nuun and a PB&J and headed back out. I spent a lot of time on this bigger loop running with a retired man from Pennsylvania. He was pretty good at motivating me to run even though I just didn't feel like I had it in me.


cactus!!
O.M.G. This was taking FOREVER. The course was definitely more challenging than I had expected. There were SO many bridges. (Something like 87 over the whole course?) This long stretch was TOUGH to Twilight aid station was rough for me. It seemed like we weren't making any progress. We thought we were coming up on the aid station (turns out it was Powerline, and it was NOT the aid station we were going to), and it was another few minutes before we got there. Filled my bottle and headed out, truly surprised at how slow we were moving. Eventually got to Powerline where I used the bathroom and picked up my vest, I was drinking way too much to continue with just a handheld. We then did the "best" part of the course, the Ranger loop in reverse. I remember thinking, this part isn't too bad. Aid station were close, hit 2 more in the 6ish miles to finish my first "big loop" - which took me an HOUR longer than I expected/hoped, at just under 7 hours.

Uh.

Well, this was not going as planned. I was hungry, I was tired. I was going way slower than I should be. The humidity was draining me. I was trying to the the math in my head, but I was getting slower and slower. I was now logging closer to 17 minute miles and not banking any time. I was struggling running even the flats. I was hurting. My body felt like I had already run well over 50 miles, and I had barely done half that. I was getting discouraged.




I managed to catch back up to Randy (the retired Pennsylvanian) at Copperhead, and we stuck together until we got to Truth Corner. He was friendly and chatty and tried to keep my spirits high. I was able to get to the aid station without needing my headlamp, although it was already dark (about 5:40 pm). They had grilled cheese sandwiches, which rejuvenated me (for a minute). I managed to stick with Randy for only about an hour after the aid station, and that is pretty much when I hit rock bottom. I was only at about mile 35, and I was already done. Both physically and mentally. I kept trying to tell myself that if I could just keep moving that I would make the cutoffs and I could probably get it done. Problem was, that even though I was moving, I wasn't moving fast enough. My trashed legs were no longer even posting pitiful 17 minute miles, they were already over 20 minutes. And I knew that there was no way I was going to be speeding up.

I texted L that I was going to be dropping but that I hoped to get 50 miles in. It was starting to mist and the bridges and downhills were already getting terrifying. By the time I got to Twilight (HOURS) after leaving the last aid station, I knew that I would not be getting 50 miles either. At some point, it just doesn't make sense to keep moving. I actually sat down at Twilight (something I absolutely NEVER do during ultras). I almost quit right there but decided stopping was ok, but that I at least needed to get back to Powerline.

I took this picture on my last climb up:


The last few miles were terrible. I was stumbling, having a hard time seeing and getting overall squirrely (which should NOT happen this early on). I was glad I had already made the decision to stop.


I pulled the plug at 44.5 miles. Getting to 50 miles would have put me at something crazy like 16+ hours, or more than FOUR HOURS slower than the slowest 50 I have ever run. It was a GOOD and SMART decision to stop.

I headed over to Lesley, and told her I was quitting. She briefly tried to talk me into continuing, and I explained to her that it just didn't make sense and that I could not maintain or OBTAIN the pace I needed to make the cutoffs. She said she didn't want to take my chip and I said "you're NOT taking it, I'm giving it to you." She gave me a hug and that was it. 100 attempt number three was a bust. Many, MANY hours and miles earlier than I thought. I went to my car to drop off my bag and get my sweatshirt and it started POURING. It was lightning and dumping insane amounts of rain. I was even MORE happy with my decision to stop.

I waited out the weather for about a half hour and then headed back to the aid station to chat and eat some ramen. Around 1 am, Libby had to call the 50 mile race. Conditions were terrible on the trail and she thought it would be very dangerous for someone who hadn't run the course to start in the middle of the night.

At that point I decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest. My roommate was supposed to be running the 50 mile and she hadn't yet responded to my text about the race being cancelled. When I finally got there at 2:25 am, she was just getting up.

We ended up staying up talking and drinking until almost 4 am.

Saturday

We were woken up by housekeeping around 10 am. After getting dressed we went back over to the race to see how the 50K runners were handling the course and to pick up my drop bag. It was a MESS out there - this was after walking about 3 feet to Truth Corner to get my stuff:


We stuck around long enough to get some food and then went back to the hotel. Kerri needed to drive back to Austin and I needed to... START DAY ONE OF NO RUNNING FOR A LONG TIME. Over the course of the afternoon/evening I ate an entire pizza and watching hours of tv. Flew back very VERY early Sunday morning.

Thoughts:
  • I am not a quitter. I do no like saying that I quit this race. But I did. The course was harder than I thought it was going to be. My body was too tired to be challenged.
  • DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS COURSE. This wasn't a mountain race or anything, but don't be fooled into thinking it is "flat" just because it is in Texas. It certainly wasn't!
  • I am SO happy that I quit before the rain and mud. I would likely have injured myself and I would have been moving way too slow for any of it to make sense or be worthwhile.
  • The course was VERY well marked. I am THAT person that can get lost doing anything. No confusion, well marked. At night, with the wind, some of the flags were a bit hard to see. My only suggestion for next time would be ground flags instead of ones in the trees. There was reflective tape on all markings, which helped.
  • I stuck around the start/finish for a long time, and while people were disappointed in DNFing, in general, people were pleased with the race and pleased with their decision to stop. Many had fallen on the course before the rain even started, so it's a HUGE success to me that I didn't fall at all the whole day (although came very close numerous times).
  • The aid stations were fantastic. I'm a huge fan of Nuun, so I was really happy that it was the electrolyte drink on the course. There were probably 4-6 volunteers at each aid station and they were happy to fill bottles, get food ready, and answer whatever questions we might have had. They were fantastic.
  • I fueled well. I drank enough, took enough salt and electrolytes and ate plenty.
  • There were no gels on the course (which Libby announced prior to the race), so it was not a surprise, just something to know if you were to run this. There was candy, chips, pretzels, pickles, cookies, jerky (YUM!) and PB&J. Not a super wide variety of food, but enough to get the job done.
  • The swag was amazing. Sad I won't wear the jacket and that I didn't get my first buckle. Oh wells.
  • Would I run this again? Probably, if I was closer. I won't travel for this one again (knowing that the 100 is out of reach, and probably the 50M too). 
  • I will say that if I didn't know this was an inaugural race, I wouldn't have known it from the organization. Libby is one hell of a race director, and anything that was within her control was taken care of. She is amazing!
I may add to this if I can think of anything else.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Week in Review (November 11 - November 17)

Tuesday - Suffered through 3.5 very slow and awful miles during lunch. I went to the gym after work to see if it was any better. NOPE. SURE WASN'T. Did the stretching video I like to see if that would make me feel any better or loosen up anything.
Wednesday - So the Polar Vortex brought a crapton of cold weather, snow and ice. The snow, thankfully, didn't really stick too much for it to be a blizzard or anything though. My morning commute that already seems to take forever at 45 minutes took me more than double that. I honestly could have run there faster (on a good day). My firm does not allow for "snow time," so I had to use PTO to make up for how late I was and had to skip trying a run during lunch.


My evening commute wasn't much better, about 80 minutes. I barely made it to BodyPump, but thankfully L had set my my bar for me.
Thursday - Tried a run during lunch. Super slow, still hard. Not actually painful, just... BAD. Made it about 2.5 miles before I called it quits. Another attempt at a run at the gym after work. A tad faster and less awful than any run I've had on the treadmill in weeks, but I stopped after just over a mile when it started to feel NOT GREAT.
Friday - A IS NINE YEARS OLD!!!!
I made this collage of random moments over the last nine years
I left work early so I could pick her up from school. We went to a movie ("The Book of Life") and then had pizza Friday and chocolate cake. Stayed up late watching Muppets Most Wanted.



Saturday - A had a field trip with the Girl Scouts and L and I ran the Pumpkin Pie 5K and 10K. A's request every year for her birthday dinner is Country Buffet. Even though I wasn't starving, I gutted out a pretty decent buffet sampling.
Sunday - We all went to breakfast at IHOP for yet another "A's choice" for her birthday weekend. I had some fantastic pumpkin cheesecake pancakes. We then risked a trip to the mall (right when it opened). I finally picked up snow boots (the sidewalks and roads are NOT maintained to the level they were at my old building) and scored a kids' pair for only $54! It pays to have tiny feet. The afternoon was a blur. A's birthday party at Skate City started at 4:00, so I took H and A at 3:45 to set up.





Two hours of roller skating, cake and presents, and then dinner with the family. It was apparently too much for A, she was in bed just after 8:30. I then realized that... the Big One is coming up this weekend! I spent the next three hours drinking beer, writing a packing list, packing gear, and connecting with a potential pacer.


Monday - Didn't even want to attempt a run during lunch so I did the butt and thigh video. Figured it would be a bad idea to do any leg work later in the week so it was good to get it out of the way. Was going to attempt an easy run after work. Not easy. Stopped after just over a mile. Womp.

Weekly Miles Run - 19.04 miles
Minutes of Cross Training - 0
Minutes of Strength/Stretching - 103 minutes

Weekly Gain - I am not surprised, but I don't want to talk about it.
  • It wasn't REALLY a lost weekend, but the scale disagrees!
This was just what I sampled at the buffet. Weight gain = Surprise
Everything Else
  • I created a new album on Facebook. I am going to take and post one random picture of my cat every day. Because, that's all I have. This one is cute, but taken before the "365 Days of Batman Sour"
  • Job hunting and resume updating has commenced. Lots of things happening at work that I don't agree with but don't want to get too into detail about. No longer just looking for a dream job, just something that doesn't make me feel nauseous.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pumpkin Pie 5K and 10K (Race Recaps)

Saturday, November 15
Denver, CO
Weather - COLD. SNOWY. WINDY.


The Pumpkin Pie is one of the larger late fall / early winter events in Denver. As you know, I really don't LIKE short distances, so I hardly ever do them. Somehow, I got confused by the lure of a "double" (running both a 5K and a 10K with just 90 minutes between start times), pumpkin pie and a cute long sleeve tech shirt.

It has been COLD in Denver for the last week. We had record breaking LOW temperatures last week (seriously, I think one day the low was -14). Because of the snow and low temperatures, the city has been under a layer of ice on the roads and sidewalks. Imagine my joy at seeing MORE snow and low temperatures in the forecast for Saturday.

The race started at City Center Park, near the Denver Zoo. The 5K started at 9:00 am, so we dropped off the kids at my parents at 7:15 to allow time for parking and picking up our stuff.

We lucked out and got a spot pretty close to the start (less than a 10 minute walk). Immediately after stepping out of the car we were hit with gusts of freezing wind. The walk just to get TO packet pick up was like a skating rink. IT WAS SO COLD.

Used the bathroom and then picked up our bibs (one bib for each distance) and shirts, and headed back to the car. Why are we doing this?? It is SO COLD. The car said it was 18 degrees, however, this is what the weather app said:


Feels. Like. 1. ONE DEGREE. We decided that we were going to allow only 20 minutes from the time we left the car to use the bathroom and line up. We did NOT want to be outside any longer than possible. The lines at the port-o-potties were short, and we lined up a few minutes before the start. I was really surprised at the number of people that had braved the elements for a dumb 5K.

The race started right on time. I was sort nearish the front, trying to eyeball who was going to be running and who was going to be walking. Even though they clarified to NOT BE IN THE FRONT unless you were "in it to win it" - there were groups of people walking together. Front and center.

There was a lot of bobbing and weaving in the first mile, which was fine, because it was the SLIPPERIEST EVER EVER EVER.

Even though I was taking it super slow and easy, my calves seized up (which I was pretty much expecting) in the first mile, and I had to take a few walk breaks before the aid station (at roughly the halfway point).

I took only one picture because I was for real concerned that my fingers were going to freeze right off:

It's hard to tell that it is currently snowing and that the wind is blowing at like 20 mph
After the aid station I felt better and picked up the pace a bit. I came very close to falling many times, but managed to stay upright through the chute.

Official Time - 33:45 (wow, I've gotten so slow!)
Official Pace - 10:52
Overall Place - 617/2241 (seriously, over 2000 people showed up for this!)
Gender Place - 332/1568
Division Place - 39/203
Garmin Time - 33:45
Garmin Pace - 10:43
Mile 1 - 10:48
Mile 2 - 11:27
Mile 3 - 10:10
Mile 3.15 - 9:06

L was waiting for me, we grabbed free slice of pie number one and headed back to the car.


By the time we got back to the car it was 9:40-9:45? We had only 45 minutes until the start of the 10K. Remind me again, why were we doing this??? We cranked up the heat and I decided to eat my piece of pie in lieu of trying to choke down a gel before round 2. The pie was DELICIOUS.

This time, we figured that there would be fewer people doing the 10K and that we would only allow 15 minutes for walking, bathroom and lining up. We actually had to wait a bit longer to use the bathroom and I felt MUCH colder this time around. I was shaking so bad I seriously considered skipping it and sitting in the car.

The 10K also started right on time, at 10:30. We started closer to the front and I don't think I had nearly as many issues with the walkers and groups of people. However, my calf cramping started even EARLIER and was much more intense. I was walking by 6-7 minutes in. I allowed myself a much longer walk break than I usually would take but it seemed to help as my only other stops during the race were at the two water stops.

There were a few sections of the course where the ice seemed to be melting and others where it was so icy I was pretty much skating. As I came through on my first loop the winner was finishing. So, there was that.

I had warmed up substantially and I was no longer concerned about losing a toe to frostbite. I was using hand warmers, so my hands were fine the entire time. It was just as windy, if not windier, than the earlier race. Still incredibly cold and still icy. My second loop was much "faster" and I was feeling pretty good about my finish.

Official Time - 1:06:44
Official Pace - 10:45
Overall Place - 622/1073
Gender Place - 389/741
Division Place - 69/127
Garmin Time - 1:06:44
Garmin Pace - 10:36
Mile 1 - 11:35
Mile 2 - 11:10
Mile 3 - 10:24
Mile 4 - 10:31
Mile 5 - 10:20
Mile 6 - 10:01
Mile 6.29 - 9:23

The only goals for this race were to finish and to not fall and injure myself. Success.


Thoughts:

  • Very well organized. Although, there really HAS to be a better system where you don't have to use two different bibs. 
  • The race shirt is really cute (I know, I should have a picture of it, but I don't).
  • Love the medal - the medal was the same for the 5K and the 10K, so we actually got two of them.
  • Only one water/Gatorade station - which was fine in this type of weather. Plenty of volunteers, although by the second loop of the 10K, they didn't have any cups filled and I had to wait a few seconds, which was  no big deal.
  • The course is pretty flat. I have run it before, but this time we ran it counterclockwise, which I had not run before. The course was also VERY slick. It was really hard to tell where to step so it wasn't was slick, so I honestly spent most of the race looking at my feet.
  • The pumpkin pie was delicious. It was perfectly fine for fueling.
  • Would I run this again? Maybe. It was not very expensive, not even for the "upgrade" package for the long sleeve tech tee versus the standard cotton tee (which was actually pretty cute). Running the double was affordable, it was only $10 more to do both instead of just doing one. 
  • PS - you KNOW it was cold if L was actually wearing all the clothes. Normally she makes fun of me for being delicate and fragile.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Week in Review (November 4 - November 10)

Tuesday - Did this day even happen? Dailymile says I didn't do anything. It was the first day back from New York, so I'm guessing I went to bed early. (Well, earlier, since I'm almost always in bed by 9:30).
Wednesday - Tried to run during lunch - first run since NYC. It was horrible and stopped after a mile. Went to BodyPump at night.
Thursday - Again, tried to run during lunch. Again, barely made it a mile before I stopped. So... there's that. Tried another run at night, didn't even make it three miles.
Friday - Got up early and did an upper body video. PIZZA!!
Saturday - L and I ran the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Trail half marathon. Weather was awesome, maybe even a little warm.


I feel like something else must have happened that day. But what...
Sunday - I whipped out the crock pot for the first time since the spring. Nothing super exciting, just chicken, hatch green chili salsa and onion. It was tasty. We took to the kids swimming at the rec center. I enjoyed sitting outside in a lawn chair for probably the last time of the season - polar vortex headed our way!


Butt/Thigh video after dinner. I had forgotten how much I like this one!
Monday - Tried to run at lunch. Horrid. Awful. Not good. Stopped at a mile. Again. After work I went to a meet and greet with Lisa. Beer and dessert.

Weekly Miles Run - 19.17
Minutes of Cross Training - None
Minutes of Strength/Stretching - 113 (way up from previous weeks)

Loss since last weigh in - 2.2 pounds (118.6)

  • Well, after not logging for a few weeks I started doing it again. Not really to "limit" - but just as a reminder that I cannot, in fact, eat all the things and not gain weight. I kinda hate tracking.
  • Some indulgences this week, donuts and pizza, but nothing super out of control. Unsure how much gain I had after NY as I skipped the weekly weigh in for my sanity.
Everything Else 

So really, the only run that wasn't the Worst Ever was the trail race. Every other run since New York has felt hard. I've felt sore. I didn't run much the week leading up to NYC and I feel like that race was a catastrophy. My next 100 (attempt) is next weekend and I am NOT going into it with any confidence. I finally have a forecast to look at (60% chance of rain). The trail is substantially more technical than I thought. My pacer had to back out. I have ZERO confidence with how tired, achy and overall Blah/Sore I have been feeling.

So. There's that.

Nothing else.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Backcountry Wilderness Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Saturday, November 8
Highlands Ranch, CO
Half Marathon #119
Colorado Half #55
Weather - Sunny and warm


Sometimes I get confused. When L suggested we run the Backcountry Wilderness half marathon, I clearly had forgotten how much I did NOT enjoy running it in 2012. Somehow, it seemed like a good idea at the time to run one last trail race before the Big One two weeks later.

The race started at 9 am. With a drive of about 45 minutes, we didn't have to drop off the kids at my parents' house until 7:15. Of course, I realized about halfway there that I didn't have my purse on me so we had to go back home so I could grab that anyway. Luckily, we live about 5 minutes away so it wasn't a big deal.

When we ran last time, we parked at the rec center. This time, however, we were not permitted to park there because there was another event happening. We had to use street parking. With the race selling out with 800 runners, you can imagine that finding parking wasn't the easiest. Luckily, we had gotten there with about an hour to spare so we weren't that far away.

Headed to the start area to pick up our packet, where we also noted that there were only 6 port-o-potties. For 800 runners, plus volunteers and vendors. Only took a few minutes to get our stuff and headed back to the car to wait until it was time to use the bathrooms before starting.

Gender Specific long sleeve tech tee - love the elk
We risked heading to the rec center to use indoor bathrooms and barely had time to get to the start before the race began. Due to the high number of participants and the fairly narrow trails, they were doing a staggered wave start. L had started in the second wave and I started in the third (optimistically hoping for a sub 12 minute mile pace).


The first mile of the course was as I remembered, on sidewalk and running along the street to get to the trail section. I had to start walking less than a mile in due to severe calf cramping. I spent a lot of time walking in the first few miles. Even though I had run the race before, I really couldn't remember what the course was like.

Just entering the trail system, just over a mile in

Miles 2 to about 7 were flatter and on wider trails, with no substantial climbs, although I still hiked up most of the hills. My calves had loosened up, I just felt like my legs were fatigued.

Around mile 2-3
Maybe around mile 4
After the second aid station around mile 7.5 we moved onto the single track. (No pictures of this section. Most of this was pretty crowded and substantially more technical/muddy). This section of trails I remembered very clearly from Chase the Moon. I was moving really well down the trail, although in the shaded areas it was pretty muddy and slick. I got trapped behind a conga line of runners that I stuck with for about a mile and a half. For a minute, it seemed like they were going too slow, but it probably helped to level out  my pace so I didn't tire out.

The sun was getting higher in the sky and it was getting WARM out. There was a decent uphill again to the last aid station at mile 11 and then it was all downhill from there for the last 2 miles. Well, until the ridiculous tenth of a mile hill to the finish (which, at least I remembered).

Grabbed my medal and some water, then hit up the free beer from Grist Brewing Company.


About 13 minutes than the last time I ran, and I felt substantially better (albeit, slower), than last week at NYC. Of course, I wanted to run "faster" and feel "better" - but considering the last few weeks have felt rough and I've felt tired, this was a good effort.

Bib  #747
Official Time - 2:38:50
Official Pace - 12:07
Overall Place - 563/699 (101 no-shows?)
Gender Place - 267
Division Place - 104
Garmin Time - 2:38:53
Mile 1 - 12:21
Mile 2 - 12:44
Mile 3 - 11:44
Mile 4 - 14:27
Mile 5 - 12:51
Mile 6 - 12:21
Mile 7 - 11:08
Mile 8 - 11:11
Mile 9 - 11:11
Mile 10 - 15:15
Mile 11 - 12:51
Mile 12 - 10:28
Mile 13 - 10:08
Mile 13.1 - 13:45

Burger Kitty and Thunder Cat got lots of compliments

Thoughts:
  • Don't be fooled, this is a fairly challenging course. The first half is not at all technical, but it can be a bit technical after you move onto the single track. There are a lot of tree roots and rocks, and this year we had the added bonus of super sticky gloopy mud. It was a lot of fun!
  • I think there is about 90 feet of gain per mile. And you can definitely feel it!
  • Carry your own fluids. There are only three aid stations (about mile 4, 7.5 and 11). They did have Clif gels at all the aid stations - which was nice. There was also Gatorade and water. Lots of volunteers.
  • The course is very well  marked. Last time I ran this race, we were in the very back with no one in front of us (that I remember). This time, I was never even close to being alone, but feel that I could have navigated the course just fine.
  • It seemed like the wave start worked out pretty nicely and that most people started in an appropriate group. Except me maybe, I probably should have started in the last wave (12+ minute per mile). Most people were very courteous about moving to the side as much as possible in the early miles. I did notice, however, that many people seem to not know what "on your left means" and there were a few near collisions when I was cruising down the single track.
  • With the nice weather, there were actually some spectators at the accessible points of the course, which was unexpected and nice.
  • Due to the exceptionally nice weather and clear skies, we had amazing views of the bluffs, the city and the mountains. Really, it was gorgeous.
  • The shirt is really nice - I will probably wear it again.
  • I also really like the medal! Two years ago, we got a dog tag, but this medal was way better.
  • Last time we ran I was too cold (????) for the free beer. This time, we stuck around so I could have one. Man, I love my post-race beers!
  • Price tag is very competitive - only $65 about 6 weeks before the event. Weather in November can be questionable and the race did sell out for 2014, so keep an eye out on registration numbers.
  • A handful of complaints - 1). Not enough bathrooms. Only 6 port-o-potties is not enough for that many people. 2). The packet pick-up is a bit disorganized... there were supposedly 4 lines for pick up, but only two tubs of bibs so really there were only 2 lines? Also, the wave start was a nice idea, and they gave you a sticker to put on your bib to show which wave you were in. Only... they put the sticker on the back? How does that make sense? Other than that, it was actually a pretty decent event, I had a much better time this year. 
  • I would recommend this race and would probably run it again. (I'm shocked to actually say this).