Monday, October 13, 2014

Xterra Trail Marathon (Race Recap)

Colorado Springs, CO
Sunday, October 12
Marathon #26
Weather - Perfect at the start. FREEZING, windy and rainy at the finish

Always making good choices, I added the Xterra Trail Marathon at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs as my last "long run" before the NYC marathon.

We mapped directions to the start and it showed it would take about an hour and 40 minutes to get there. The race didn't start until 8:00, so my dad came over at 5:30 (thanks Dad!) so that we didn't have to wake up the kids to take them over.

There was no traffic and we got to the start area without any problems just after 7:00. It was chilly and I was glad that I had chosen to wear arm sleeves and a tee instead of my usual tank. There was next to no information on the website, but I imagined that a trail race was going to take substantially longer to run than a road race, and with a sketchy forecast, I tried to plan appropriately.

We were able to walk right up to get our bibs. The race is a 2 course loop and I asked if I could decide at the halfway point if I wanted to drop or not. The volunteer stated I had to decide at pick up, so I stuck with my original distance and hoped the weather would hold out.

At the start line

The race actually started a little before 8, and I was one of the last people to cross the start. I knew nothing about the trail itself or the terrain, and I don't enjoy jumping off the trail to let people pass. Due to the large number of people on a fairly narrow trail, there was some bottle-necking in the beginning, which was fine by me. I need to start out slow anyway.

The beautiful blue skies were already starting to disappear with cloud cover. I took all my pictures on the first loop. I only vaguely remember glancing at the elevation profile and thought I remembered there was a decent climb in the first two miles. The trail changed from non-technical and a bit wider to a steeper and more of a single track.

Right off the bat it seemed that the mile markers were off from my watch. When I passed the mile 1 marker, my watch already said 1.16 miles. Not knowing the trail and worrying about the impending bad weather made for a stressful first loop.

The first aid station was about 2 miles up, water only. Then the climb started, with the reward being an aid station at the top of the hill. We then headed onto a loop (about 3 miles), where I finally passed a handful of people. I was able to run most of this section as it wasn't all uphill.

We looped back around to the aid station, down the hill (where I was REALLY able to run), and then veered off to the left for the second half of the first loop.

Even though I ran the course twice, I am already having a hard time remembering what it was LIKE. I recall another fairly runnable section for a mile or so, before we headed up into a fairly rocky and muddy section. This was made more difficult my a HUGE number of pine needles that made for slick conditions. There was an aid station nestled in the woods, but there were a ton of people crowded around the table, complaining that there were no food options, so I kept going without stopping.

My stomach had been feeling off all morning, and I was hoping to be able to make it back to the start to use the bathroom, but about 11 miles in (according to the watch), I had to crouch behind a rock. I felt better immediately and about 10 minutes later arrived at the aid station (which seemed to be FOREVER since the last one). The volunteer said we were at mile 11 (while my watch said 11.8??) There was a weird out and back section, and then back onto the regular trail. Got back to the base of the hill about 3 hours in and saw L. It was cold, but the wind hadn't really picked up yet and it wasn't raining yet. I told L I hoped to see her again in 3 hours.

Interestingly, I was at 13 miles back at the start, so all the markers were just off, and it made me feel better that I wouldn't be running a really long course. The second loop honestly wasn't that bad, although there were very long sections where I saw no one. I was clearly not having as hard a time as some of the other marathoners, as I passed quite a few people on the second loop (according to final results, I'm guessing I passed all but one runner on that second loop, and I passed him at the last aid station of the first loop).

Trail selfie before the weather hit!
The goal was to just keep moving so that I didn't get caught in horrible weather out in the middle of nowhere. I really cruised down the hill around before the turn to the second half of the course. AND THAT is when the wind really picked up. Seriously out of the blue, the wind started to gust and the temperatures dropped probably 15 degrees. The wind was so strong it was almost blowing my hat off. GREAT. JUST WHAT I WANT TO BE RUNNING IN. I was 5 hours in and hoping that I would be done in the next hour or so. I was definitely getting tired and every hill felt overwhelming.

The aid station in the woods was deserted, so I skipped it again. Somewhere after that aid station, with somewhere between 3.5 and 4 miles to finish is when the rain started. Luckily, it never actually dumped rain, but the drizzle just added to the chill and I put my gloves back on. I was really cautious on the back part of the course with all the rocks and pine needles and mud as I didn't want to slip and injure myself.

Risked pulling out my phone to show the sheet of rain heading towards me
I was SO happy to be at the last aid station! I knew I only had a little over a mile to go, so I really pushed it so I could just get out of the cold. I get back to the bottom and the volunteer tells me to turn right over the bridge and I have just a mile loop to do until I am done.


Why on earth do I have a mile loop to go????? Isn't this supposed to be 13.1 loop TIMES TWO???? Another volunteer says, well it's only about .7 more.


Now I am just ANNOYED. I was not having a spectacular race to begin with, it is cold, it is UNBELIEVABLY windy, it is drizzling, and now, for NO REASON, we have to run another loop? I ended up walking about half of it because I was so agitated.

I headed into the finish, NOTHING was left except for the timing mats and L. I grabbed my medal, said, "LET'S GET OUT OF HERE" and went directly to the car.

Official Time - 6:13:24
Overall Place - 29/41
Gender Place - 5/7
Division Place - 2/3
Garmin Time - 6:13:26
Garmin Distance - 26.67
Miles 1-5 - 12:57, 14:17, 16:37, 15:29, 12:15
Miles 6-10 - 12:12, 11:52, 11:10, 15:31, 15:51
Miles 11-15 - 17:22, 13:18, 13:12, 13:44, 14:41
Miles 16-20 - 17:02, 16:38, 12:13, 11:54, 11:54
Miles 21-26.67 - 12:02, 15:22, 15:19, 16:53, 12:17, 12:27, 13:23

  • I am SO irritated with this stupid random extra loop at the end of this course. There is NO mention of it anywhere. It is NOT on the weird topographical course map. IT MAKES NO SENSE THE MARATHON WOULD HAVE TO RUN EXTRA, BUT NOT THE HALF MARATHON. DUMB DUMB DUMB.
  • I brought my own gels, and good thing because there was not anything on the course. One aid station may have had bananas, but there were no gels or food.
  • There was also no sports drink or electrolytes on the course. Also glad I had my Nuun.
  • Very friendly volunteers, and so thankful that they braved the elements to be out there. It was NOT a great day for it.
  • The course was very well marked, although L told me that some people got lost and ran LOTS of extra miles. Don't see how.
  • Unisex shirt that is HUGE that I will never wear. I already gave it away so no picture.
  • Unexpected medal as there was no advertisement that we would be getting one.
  • L got second in her age group and got a separate medal. I also got second in my age group and no special medal. Guess that was just for the half?
  • Maybe my experience would have been better if I would have just stuck with the half. I just get SO AGGRAVATED when a crap is taken down before everyone is finished. One third of the marathon runners were slower than me, and yet it was all gone before I got there.
  • Only two port-o-potties at the start, so lines were pretty long. There were about 200 runners between the half and the full, and there was also a 5K that started 10 minutes after us.
I really hate writing that a race wasn't good, but... this one FOR ME was just NOT. I mean, there is nothing a race director can do to control the weather. I understand that. But I think the weird course should have been clarified. I think that if you advertise an aid station will have Gatorade and GU, then it should have that. And I also think that a finish line should remain up for as long as the course is open.... With that said. Beautiful course, and if you know what you are in for, maybe it would be fine.


  1. Duuuuuuuuuuude, thank you for posting this! My nephew lives in Colorado Springs, and I've been wanting to line up a HM with a trip out there to visit him. I actually had this one flagged as a possibility for next year! Now... not so much!

  2. Nice pictures and glad you found the strength to persevere. I hate it when races, especially marathons, skimp on the essentials. Not having some sort of electrolyte on the course is just not good, especially for longer races.

    Some courses are purposefully marked long: here is the reason why. I am told that some courses add "extra" distance in case their course is called into question (particularly for world records and such). I would check the race director's website, if it is certified than you can pretty much be assured you ran a verified course (it should have a certificate number as well). If it wasn't, then you are at the mercy of the race director as far as its accuracy. Also a Garmin can be notoriously inaccurate on trail runs due to switchbacks and blockage from trees.

    Either way, I am really impressed that you are able to knock out these long races week after week. Looking forward to reading your next race recap.

  3. That last little loop would have drove me a little batty too, especially since there was NO mention of it anywhere. Great job toughing out a rough sounding trail marathon!

  4. I ran this on Sunday also. I completely agree with your comments about the race. Not sure where the money for the registration fee went, but it sure as hell wasn't towards putting together a quality marathon...I should have known better, Xterra does a 24k in April at the same place which was equally crappy. Nice course and volunteers, but overall Xterra sucks.

  5. I hate when trail races don't have a lot of food at the aid stations....everyone knows trail races are supposed to have AWESOME food - I mean that's practically why I trail race (not really, but it's a nice benefit).

    And yeah that's totally lame that they tore the finish line down before so many people were done! Not cool!


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