Monday, July 29, 2013

Grand Mesa 60k (Race Recap)

Saturday, July 27
Cedaredge, CO
Weather - PERFECT

After my runner's high with Bighorn going so wonderfully, I was on the hunt for another ultra. Preferably, one that was on a weekend while A was still with her dad. I found the Grand Mesa Ultramarathon and after some internal debate, decided that 50 miles was probably crazy but that I could likely gut out a 60k. Ironically, while at run club one night, it turns out that I actually knew someone that was going to be running (the 100 mile!) and some of my other friends there were going to be heading out and helping crew. They also invited me to stay with them at a house they rented. And thus, my weekend was planned.



I decided not to bother setting an alarm. They only thing I had to do was to drive to Grand Mesa (as best I could tell, about a 4.5 hour drive) in order to attend the pre-race meeting and pick up my stuff. I ended up rolling out of bed around 8:00. I had packed the night before and after double checking my gear, I headed out at 9 to do last minute errands. That ended up taking AN HOUR. I finally got on the highway at 10:15 and started the drive. Other than hitting some traffic near Idaho Springs, the drive was uneventful. Rachel (the girl running the 100) had emailed me some great directions of how to get there. Without them, I surely would have gotten lost.

I had to pull over on my drive in for a picture
I was trying to read the directions to the house Rachel had rented when I realized I was being tailgated. Turns out it was Rachel, so she cut around me to lead me to the house - making life much simpler. It as a NICE house:

View from the top deck
View from the yard
Me, Heather and Rachel

I had arrived around 3:30, so by the time we got everything in the house and unpacked (they brought enough food to feed about 30 people), we had to head right over to the pre-race meeting. Rachel knew pretty much everyone there. She crewed last year and had been out just about every weekend training different sections of the course. Phil, the race director, gave a so-so description of the course and what to look for. The longer he talked, the more I was concerned that I was going to get lost on the course..

They had a "pasta" dinner - which was really pasta SALAD. They did have corn, rolls and the most delicious cookies ever. I think I had close to a half dozen of them.

Pretty sure Rachel could have stayed there all night socializing, but around 6:30 we finally headed back to the house, taking this picture along the way:

Top: Kate, Heather, Me Ground: Dan and Rachel
We spent most of  our time at the picnic table by the creek that ran behind the house drinking beer. So relaxing!! Heather ended up making some real pasta and shortly after dinner #2 I decided to get all my stuff ready for morning. I tried to head to bed around 9:30 but I had some trouble shutting my brain off. Tossed and turned most of the night.


Got up around 3:30. Rachel had made this delicious breakfast concoction of eggs, spinach, onions, mushrooms and I *think* hashbrowns. I heated some of it up and had a cup of black coffee. Double checked the gear I was taking with me in the morning. Checked that my headlamp batteries were working and had a mild panic attach when I couldn't find my sunglasses. THANKFULLY they were in my backpack and I had looked before leaving.

We headed out the door about 4:20 for the drive up to the start. I think we underestimated the amount of time it would take in the dark. We had to drive a lot slower because there were BILLIONS of deer out. Seriously, in the 15 mile drive, we probably had to slow down 3-4 different spots because deer were in the road. By the time we parked, it was 4:50. With the race starting at 5:00. What. Luckily it was a small event so nothing too chaotic. We headed over to the lodge where we took a quick pre-race picture and I used the bathroom.

Me, Dan, Heather, Rachel
Walking over to the start (in a rush - for REAL, we did not allow a lot of time) and my headlamp will NOT TURN ON. Thankfully, I have batteries in my pack although I'm fumbling around and can't figure out how to open the case for the batteries. Turns out Dan is a hero and was able to do it for me, finishing right as the gun went off (about 2 minutes late). It's then that I realize I have not located signal on my damn watch and it took 6-7 minutes to catch up.

To me, the course wasn't marked well, especially for being in the dark, but thankfully I was behind a bunch of people that seemed to know where they were going. I ended up in a pack of 6-8 runners for the first 3-4 miles. I will say "runners" loosely since we pretty much walked 90% of the time we were in the dark. Once it started to get light, I started taking a lot of pictures:

Sun coming up!
Base of Crag's Crest
The climb up Crag's Crest was not that bad. As best as I know (there really is not much information on this course) is that we were at around 9,000-10,000 feet, but I'm not entirely sure what the climb actually was. The altitude did not get to me and although I wasn't really running I did not struggle going up.

And the views from the climb were AMAZING.

I spent a few miles with two 50 milers (Dave and Lisa) and talking about different races really made the time fly by. Also, finally, I was able to get some pictures during a race as a result!

Lisa at the peak of Crag's Crest
The views on the way down were just as beautiful:

Part of the descent led us through some really pretty woods with a super runnable trail:

The wildflowers were sooooo pretty!

We headed into the first aid station. The loop we had just run was 12.5 miles and had taken me just over 3 hours. I guess not too bad considering all the walking in the dark, pictures, etc. First thing I did was use the bathroom and then I grabbed a couple of cookies and a gel and then walked out. Lisa and Dave had said the were going to be right behind me, but they never caught back up. The next section was supposed to be 3.5 miles until the next aid station. Immediately, I realized we were no longer on the "paved trail" so to speak. For this next section I said "What the fuck is even happening" about a billion times. Some of it was obvious trail, some of it not. Some sections there were multiple areas where the trail COULD be. At this section I was completely alone - no one visible in front of me or behind. Even though it was fairly flat, there was not a lot of running because the course markers were so far away that I was literally playing a scavenger hunt game looking for where I was supposed to go next. But, it was really pretty so I can't really complain:

At the next aid station I grabbed another cookie, sprayed on some bug spray, re-applied sunscreen and then headed out. I ended up running with a 100 mile runner, Darla, all the way until I would turn around about 8 miles later.

Having someone to chat with really made this section go by pretty fast. The trail on this section were super pretty with wildflowers or in more shaded and wooded areas. I stopped at one point to do this:

Yes, I brought a battery charger for my watch
I know, I know. It's ridiculous. It's also ridiculous that the battery life of my watch is only about 5 hours. The last 1.5 or so miles before I would turn around was on an ATV trail (also the road to drive down to Flowing Point) and my fastest mile of the day.
View from Flowing Point
I saw Dan and Heather at the aid station, where I refueled with yet another cookie and even more Mountain Dew. I parted ways with Darla and headed back on my own for the remaining 1/3 of the race.

I made only one wrong turn on the way back, and thankfully I realized it before I had gone too far out of my way. Ironically, I ran into another runner that claimed he had been wandering around lost down on another trail section for two hours. I mean, the course wasn't marked GREAT, but if I went for longer than a few minutes without seeing a marker I was concerned... He passed me on the trail and promptly fell. I asked him if he was ok and he ignored me and kept running. I saw him later at the finish and he had cut up his face pretty bad.

I took more pictures on the way back since I was by myself:

I was beginning to wonder if I was EVER going to make it back to the last aid section. It felt like I had been out there forever. I finally got there and had a turkey wrap and NO cookie (but only because they didn't have any, womp). I headed out the same time as another runner. According to his bib, he was a 50 miler, but at some point it appears he dropped to the 60k because he shows up there in results. I remembered that once I got out of the weird unmarked open field area that the last mile or so should have been downhill. AND IT WAS. Another guy from our run group was randomly vacationing at the mesa with his family and I saw him at the corner where I would run the short road section to the finish:

I was really happy to be feeling good when I ran this in and was pleased to be collected a unique ceramic medal at the finish. They didn't advertise any awards so this was a pleasant surprise:


I was even MORE pleased that I met my random goal of 10 hours. I knew ZERO about this course going into it and had never run this distance, so I guess it went as well as I could have hoped.

My Garmin stats seem to be way off, I did have trouble getting satellite in the beginning and in some of the more wooded areas I lost satellite quite a bit as well.

Bib #116
Official Time - 9:58
Garmin Time - 9:54:56
Garmin Distance - 34.09 miles - lost satellite a TON
Miles 1-5 (22:03, 18:57, 18:55, 15:44, 17:10)
Miles 6-10 (21:24, 22:07, 16:25, 13:00, 14:58)
Miles 11-15 (14:10, 21:47, 18:56, 19:24, 18:29)
Miles 16-20 (14:38, 17:33, 15:49, 17:07, 16:41)
Miles 21-25 (15:45, 11:57, 22:42, 16:31, 16:52)
Miles 26-30 (19:49, 15:39, 17:22, 16:41, 16:21)
Miles 31-34 (18:56, 18:09, 17:36, 14:12, 10:05) Yes, for me that is a fast finish!!

It looks like there were 24 runners registered for this distance, with two runners dropping from the 50 mile. 4 did not start and 1 DNF. Out of all the finishers, I was faster than 4 runners and I finished within 10 minutes of 3 others. So for ME, this was a super strong finish. I am pleased.

After the race, I was graced with the generosity of some other runners that gave me beer! I knew a girl at the finish (an employee at the running store that hosts run club). I spent about 20 minutes using the wifi at the lodge before I started the drive up to Flowing Point to try to meet up with Dan and Heather before they left to start their crewing duties. The drive was only about 8 miles, but most of it was on that ATV road. I had to go slow and it took FOREVER. They had apparently left already and I was starving, so I drove until I found food. A random steakhouse in the middle of nowhere and I had a delicious burger.

Post-race beers!
While the meal was delicious, I had a creepy guy that literally stared at me the entire time I was there. He actually followed me out to my car. Never said a word and didn't follow me on the road. Kinda scary!!
Bottle art outside the steakhouse
I headed back to the house. I was tired, it was getting dark and it was starting to rain. I watched a bit of tv with Dan's dad and had another beer before I called it a night. Around 8:30. Longest day ever.


I awoke to the sounds of talking around 4:30 in the morning. I knew that couldn't be good. Dan and Heather had been planning on camping at Flowing Point and Rachel had estimated her finishing time to be around 30 hours. 4:30 am was under 24. Rachel had dropped about halfway due to torrential ran, GI issues and freezing cold. A section of 5.5 miles had taken her 7 HOURS to complete, causing her to miss the cutoff. Looking at the results, there were only three people that finished the 100, including the first woman in the 4 years the event has been put on!

I had been planning on leaving early (not too early because I didn't want to drive in the dark with all the deer) so I stayed up to listen to Rachel's race. About 6 I finally decided to hit the road. IT WAS STILL RAINING. It poured most of my drive home.

My Mini Cooper set a new personal best this weekend for most miles driven on a tank of gas:

I probably could have gone at least another 25 miles but thought even for ME it would be dumb to try driving in the mountains. I arrived in metro Denver at 11:00, just in time for A TO ARRIVE FROM THE AIRPORT WITH MY DAD. Perfect end to a great weekend.

  • This was The Best. The weather cooperated for me all day, it was never super hot out. Even though the course was not marked all that well I only missed one turn and it wasn't a big deal because I corrected it right away.
  • The mountains are the prettiest. Everything was really green and the wildflowers were beautiful. My pictures really do not do them justice.
  • Trail running is my favorite. I'm so glad I signed up for this race!!
  • I did not use my iPod at ALL. Longest run yet without one! Honestly, I can't even remember the last time I used it...
  • Two days later and I am STILL not sore. What is THAT?
  • Mizuno Cabrakans are still the greatest. An awesome trail shoe!
  • I mentioned to the RD at the end about how poorly the mesa section was, he claimed that every year they are improving and it will be even better next year. I can't imagine ribbon is that expensive where they can't just put out double the markers?
  • I'm glad I didn't run anything at night. Very small race and really out in the open, I bet I would have been panicky.
  • Rachel actually SAW A BEAR on the course. On one hand I am jealous, on the other hand, I might have freaked out.
  • The volunteers were mostly friendly but at times not super willing to help.
  • NOT a great selection of food at the aid stations. I was not very hungry during this race (only had 3 gels, 4 cookies, a 1/2 a turkey wrap and about 6 bites of watermelon ALL DAY). If you run this and are picky about food - bring your own. This was the least/poorest selection I've ever seen on at an ultra distance. Also, no sunscreen at aid stations and only one had bug spray.
  • There was NO food at the finish area other than what had been at the aid stations. BUMMER. Last thing I want when I get done running is a cut up banana that has been out all day. Thankfully, there were a lot of people hanging out that had thought to bring beer. That saved me!!
  • Rachel is already talking about getting revenge on the course. I think I just may go back and run again. Who knows, maybe I'll run the 50 miler next time?


  1. That picture of the pretty woods with a super runnable trail does not even seem real. It's so pretty!! And the flowers!! I LOVE FLOWERS.

    I'm so happy you had a great time!

  2. It was nice to meet you this weekend and I'm glad you had a great race! I kind of want to run it next year, but definitely only the 60K, as pacing Rachel through the night left me a little freaked out about night mountain running :)!

    1. See you there next year?? Agree, that crewing bit didn't sound fun... I would have freaked out too!!

  3. I see KT tape! Since I have developed IT band syndrome I can't run without it! What are you using yours for???

  4. Those pictures are gorgeous! Congrats on a great race :)

  5. This is hands down my favorite post you've done on a race recap! Awesome!

  6. I love this! I want/need to do more trail runs like this. This is much more appealing than the red rocks of Moab. How do you find all these great places to run?

  7. Gorgeous pictures! I love the house you guys stayed in.

  8. that looks GORGEOUS!! and like such a fun weekend. and i like the medal :)

  9. Thanks for the race report Rebecca. Great pictures. It was fun running the first section with you last Saturday. Lisa and I did finish the 50 mile race about 7 hours after you finished the 60k. You were too speedy after the first aid station to catch. I loved the race and hope to get back there some day for another go at it.


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