Sunday, May 8, 2011

Greenland Trail 50K (Race Recap)

Part 2
Larkspur, CO
Saturday, May 7
Ultra Marathon #1
Weather - Sunny, Slight Wind, HOT (low 50s at start, upper 70s by the end)


I'm not even sure what possessed me to sign up for the Greenland Trail 50K. Other than someone "challenging" me to run an ultra, and the fact that their website claimed the race is "beginner friendly." More on that later.

Alarm goes off at 5:14. Other than having to use the bathroom in the middle of the night (from all that water and beer), I slept great. Got dressed quickly, then headed upstairs for my breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter. I drank part of a lemon mint water before preparing my water with Nuun (tried a new flavor of Lemon Lime. Tasty.)


Since there is no physical address for the race start, we couldn't figure out exactly how long it was going to take to get there. Before 6 on a Saturday morning we weren't expecting there to be much traffic and estimated it would take about an hour. Quick stop at McD's for a cup of coffee, then off we were, leaving the area just before 6:00 am. I decided to tape my foot in the car. Look... you can see the barren highway and downtown Denver skyline:


Had the rest of my breakfast around 6:30. Yep, a soda and a Luna bar. Breakfast of champions, I'm sure.


Packet pickup started at 6:30 am, and and we got there around 6:50. We also wanted to arrive early to get as close a parking space to the start/finish area as possible. Quick stop at the port-o-potty and then walk to get our packet (just across the parking lot). Have about an hour to kill, so of course, time to check the weather. (It felt warmer than this).


Estimated temperature increase of 20 degrees by the time we hoped to be done.


We finished prepping our stuff in the car, then decided to use the bathroom again, then I had L take my picture at the entrance to the open space:


Close up of the sign
Official starting area
Weird building where we got our packets

Awesome Razzy Roo headband!
View of Pikes Peak from the car
By now it's only about 30 minutes to the start. It's getting so close. I can't believe it is already here. It seemed so far away, but now... 7:40 we decide ONE more stop to use the bathroom. There is only ONE port-o-potty on the course, so better safe than sorry. It took forever to get through the line. We literally finished, walked over to the starting area, took this picture...

Me and L
And then off we went. I don't know WHAT I was expecting the course to be like. I don't even really know what I expected anything about this to be like. But I do know, the actual experience was totally different. Right off the bat I was struggling.  Remember the goals I had set? Those went out the window when "Colorado Runner" posted last years winning times. 3:52 for men and 4:28 for women. Wow. That's not a very fast finisher. So, the new "A" goal was going to be 6 hours. That's a LONG time to be out on a course.

I've never really run trails. It's tough. The first mile of the course we would only run once, the other three loops would be entirely in the open space. The picture below is what we got the first mile or so. The tire tracks were "soft" sand and the center part was "harder" since we haven't had any rain, but the terrain was pretty rough. I was really concerned about either stepping in a snake hole or just twisting my ankle on loose gravel. And notice... NO SHADE. We encounter ALL sun the entire course.

Pikes Peak in the distance
By the time I'm done with the first mile I'm already starting to stress out. How can I be SO tired SO early in the race? I started out slow, but it doesn't seem to be making any difference. My legs are tired, my lungs are tired. I take my first walk break after the first two miles. We only overheard the phrase "rolling hills" when we were in line for the bathroom the last time. Not that I thought it was going to be flat... I just assumed "beginner friendly" meant the course would be easy-ish. Not. I get passed by the first 25K racer about 3 miles in. They started 15 minutes after we did.

More pictures from along the course:




Blazing. Hot. Sun.

The first aid station is about 3.5 miles into the course. Of course since we are running in an open space, you can see about a mile before you actually get there. Which sucks. Arrive at the aid station and take a cup of Gatorade and a cup of water. Fill the water bottle in my fuel belt. Walk while I finish my drink, then I see the next section of course. Great. It looks like the hairpin turns we had to run up for Warrior Dash up the side of Copper Mountain last summer. People are already walking. 

Best picture of me on the course (photographers were only out the first two loops). This is taken right after the first downhill section, so I've probably only run 5.5 or 6 miles. Maybe that is why I am still with other people and why I'm not really grimacing yet. My hands look weird though. To quote Tony Horton, "I have funny hands."


Small pond around 9 miles in, two guys in lawn chairs cheering us on. Virtually the only "crowd support" other than the 2 aid stations. Another big uphill. Some sorta flat ground finally. Take another GU at mile 10. Then we hit the fork in the road and head back toward the first aid station. I take a small handful of M&Ms and a pretzel, and at just over 2 hours in (close to 11 miles run), I realize I'm starting to get a sunburn already. Luckily one of the volunteers had some sunscreen, so I reapplied. Nothing to wash my hands off with, so unfortunately my hands were all greasy. But, I'd rather be greasy than burned.

Off I go. Ridiculous uphill hairpin turns. I swear I see L walking, but she looks to be about a half mile ahead, and walking with someone else, not sure if it is her or not. Decide I will try to catch up. I jog what I can up the hills, and then right before the much anticipated downhill, I have to stop and take off one of my shoes. I have a ton of gravel in it, and it is started to hurt the bottom of my foot. I run the flat/downhill section and "L" (if it IS her) is also running and I don't seem to be catching her. At the fork in the road, head to the aid station, almost half done! Then I see L walking toward me. She tells me her knee hurts really bad and she plans on walking the rest. Uh oh. I jog to the aid station, get more sunscreen (I had forgotten to reapply on my neck), take my M&Ms and drinks, then jog to try and catch up with L.

By the time I catch up to her, we have about 15.5 miles done, and are about 3 hours in. I am on track to hitting my 6 hour goal. I take off my headphones, start chatting with L. She is hurting. She can't run. I don't know what to do. We've always run at our own pace, done our own thing. Out of the 35+ races we have done together, we have never run together. Ever. I decide to walk with her a bit to get a better feel for how she is doing. This is one of the flat sections of the course (after that little pond) - finally some cloud cover (although it doesn't last).


I stay with her, slow jog here and there for about 1.5 miles. Then I make sure she is going to be ok, and tell her I am going to go on ahead without her. I feel bad about leaving her, but this is my race too and she says she will be ok and I believe her. Right before the aid station, I talk quickly with the girl L had been walking with earlier. She had run the 8 mile distance last year. 6 1/2 months pregnant. And her husband came in 4th last year in the 50K. Madness.

I decide to stop and use the bathroom at the first aid station. Someone is in there for a REALLY long time. I got time I guess. Seriously about 5 minutes later, I get to use the bathroom, and by the time I get out and get my salt tablets and M&Ms and drinks, refill my bottle, L has just arrived. I'm confident she will finish and probably not too far behind me, so off I go toward the ridiculous hairpin turn section.

I start chatting with a lady who is about my age and also doing her first 50K. She swears she read the course was "fairly flat." We have some fun conversation about how mislead we were into this race. We walk up the hills and jog the flats and downhills. I don't normally talk to people when I run, but everyone is really friendly. Nice change of pace since I've already been out there FOREVER. We stick together until the 2nd aid station. I'm refueling and swear I see L coming. Already. Pink shirt that I was talking to said she would see me at the end and headed off, I decide to wait for L.

L is struggling, but at this point, my time goals are pretty much already out the window from the amount of walking I had already done in the third loop. I figured I should just stick with her until the end. I tried to think of how I would feel, and it seemed the right think to do. By the last loop, of course all the shorter distance racers were done, and we were toward the back of the pack. It was hot, windy, and the course was pretty lonely and deserted. So we walked most of the hills, and jogged slowly down the downhills. I loved these signs:


So happy to be at the first aid station for the last time. We are about at the marathon distance, about 5:14 in, which isn't even really that bad. Of course the last 5 or so miles were going to be our slowest. We pretty much walk the entire next mile or so. At this point, every other person we see is walking. I sit on a bench to dump the gravel out of my shoes again. Tracking our progress, it seems we can finish under 7 hours. Quite a different goal from what we had initially hoped.

By now even the downhills are a struggle. My legs are getting tired, and it's painful to "brake" so that I don't slip and fall on the gravel. It's hot. I'm tired.  We both just want to be done. And then, all of a sudden, we are at 30 miles. What??! We are actually going to finish??? I almost can't even believe it. We weren't supposed to stop at the last aid station since it was only a quarter mile from the finish, but I was SO tired that I grab a cup of Gatorade anyway. We "run" as fast as we can, and for the first time ever, we cross the line together. What a great feeling :) I especially enjoyed the announcer commenting on our matching outfits! Got our medal. A very hard-earned medal.

There was actually still some food at the finish line, so I grabbed a Snickerdoodle cookie, grabbed more water, then took this quick picture of the finish line (yep, this really was ALL there was) and then we headed to the car.


Just like that. It's all over. All the worry, all the stress, all the unknowns. It's done. I'm an ultra marathoner. And proud of it.

Elevation Profile of the Course, check out the altitude I was up against!
Official Gun Time - 6:47:42
Official Chip Time - 6:47:21
Official Pace - 13:08
Overall Place - 129/154 (I beat L by one second apparently)
Gender Place - 42/56
Division Place - 23/27
Garmin Time - 6:47:19
Garmin Pace - 13:14
Garmin Distance - 30.78 miles
Mile 1 - 11:00
Mile 2 - 10:58
Mile 3 - 11:49
Mile 4 - 12:00
Mile 5 - 12:35
Mile 6 - 10:18
Mile 7 - 10:04** Fastest Mile
Mile 8 - 10:56
Mile 9 - 11:40
Mile 10 - 11:39
Mile 11 - 13:33
Mile 12 - 13:19
Mile 13 - 11:40
Mile 14 - 10:13
Mile 15 - 10:54
Mile 16 - 14:43
Mile 17 - 17:06
Mile 18 - 13:21
Mile 19 - 17:00
Mile 20 - 13:55
Mile 21 - 12:13
Mile 22 - 12:27
Mile 23 - 15:27
Mile 24 - 15:54
Mile 25 - 15:42
Mile 26 - 15:26
Mile 27 - 19:42**By far slowest mile
Mile 28 - 14:57
Mile 29 - 13:39
Mile 30 - 13:32
Mile 30.78 - 12:05

My race shirt and medal
Take off my socks the second I get to the car. Look how dirty my feet and socks are! You can only imagine what the rest of me was like...

My awesome KT Tape stayed intact!
We stopped and grabbed a burger and fries and the BEST tasting diet coke ever on the drive home.

14 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the 50K! You did a great job...hopefully the sunscreen kept you protected, out in the sun like that would be rough!

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  2. i can't believe no shade!!! thats awesome you stuck with L- what a great feeling to finish together!

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  3. That sounded brutal. Seeing miles ahead with no trees? You should have received cash at the finish. Great job! And great pics.

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  4. Congratulations to you and L! Nice work to both of you for sticking it out!

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  5. Oh, wow! I'm in awe! No shade, heat and running a 50K! Rock. Star. Plus, you're the best sis out there for sticking with L. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. ;)

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  6. Awesome Job! And great recap. And very cool to finish with L like that, CONGRATS to both of you.

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  7. Congrats on your 50k! Loved all the photos. I can't imagine running on trail like those. I'd need to be in the woods with all the trees! And boy, you sure could have used a creek crossing to cool down. ;-)

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  8. Congratulations! That sounded TOUGH...

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  9. Wow! Way to go. Your pictures remind me of the movie "Holes".

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  10. Wow! 50K. That's awesome!

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  11. UNBELIEVABLE! A trail at high altitude and +30 miles! WOW! WHAT A HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT Becka!!

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  12. Huge congrats to you and L!!! WOw! And you looked great doing it!

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  13. Wow! What a roller coaster of an event. Certainly NOT flat at all. I'm exhausted just reading about this. Congratulations! You gals are seriously tough chicas!!

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  14. Congrats and thanks for running our race! I would love to know what we can do to make it better.

    As far as fairly easy goes, this 50K is the easiest in the state of Colorado, and the hills are nothing compared to the likes of the others. Also, the trail is actually very smooth when with no roots or any other technical terrain to speak of.

    Again, thanks for running and let us know what we need to do to make it even better!

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