Monday, March 17, 2014

High Line Canal Fat Ass

Saturday, March 15

I have run one Fat Ass "race" in the past, the Southside, back in 2012 when I was training for my first 100. I had a great time that day, and it was a nice change for a long run to not be on the treadmill.

I found the registration for this race on Ultra Sign up when I was registering for Bear Chase. At the time, I still planned on running in Moab, so I planned for it to be a mid-length run (around 15-20 miles), just to get some time on my feet. Other than a couple half marathons, I have not run longer than 13.1 since the double marathons of New Years.


A few weeks ago, I had to cancel my plans for Moab. The race is substantially more expensive this year, and my travel buddy bailed on  me. No way I could/would want to cover all the travel expenses on my own, PLUS, half the fun of the 24 hour race is spending time with my friend during the night sections.

But, I decided... I have barely been outside this winter, the forecast looks ok, maybe I will go ahead and run it anyway.

As the date approaches, information starts trickling in on the course, times, etc. TURNS OUT, the start time is 5:00. In the morning. Oh, and it is a point to point. Um. The organizer says "You should be able to get a ride back to your car." SHOULD?

I talked to my dad, and after some discussion, he said he would be willing to pick me up when I was done running and drive me back to my car. Did I mention I had offered to be a carpool vehicle and that I would be driving out of my way to meet people at 4:10 am (30 minutes from my house)? Oh. Yeah. That.

Oh, and did I mention that when I agreed to be a carpool vehicle, the organizer says, "all the 50k runners can meet up." But after looking at he map, the 50k meet up location was actually at mile 36... So. A maybe 15-20 mile training run for a race I was no longer doing became 36 miles. (or so).

3:11 a.m. Alarm goes off. I had NOT slept well. I estimate I got 2 hours of restless sleep. Grab coffee and my pack and head out the door right on schedule at 3:40 am.

I arrive at the church meeting point at 4:07. Turns out there were additional carpool vehicles I didn't know about and I was able to get a ride to the start with someone driving a van. This meant I would not have to find a ride back, and also, that I was committing to the full 36 miles.

We had been given a set of instructions where we could find the roving aid station, locations where there were places to buy food (gas stations), and the two "tricky" parts of the course.

Just after 5:00, and we were off. It had been 50 degrees when I left my house, but it was 20 degrees cooler in Waterton Canyon. I made the risky decision to just wear an INB tech tee and my INB ambassador windbreaker. I had brought throw away gloves with some hand warmers, but no hat or ear warmers. It was a tad chilly, but I figured I would warm up after I started running.

It was DARK. I was surprised that a handful of people weren't even using headlamps. Um, we are in the middle of NOWHERE and it is DARK and it is HOURS before the sun will be up. I was not running with music, hoping that I would end up pacing with someone roughly my pace.

The High Line Canal is a fairly wide trail (packed dirt) that runs about 70 miles in south Denver. I had run a small section of this trail last summer with Hope, and remembered it being beautiful and very runnable.

Due to all the snow we have had, the trail was hardened from all the horses/people so it was very rutted. I was very glad to have my headlamp as it was not as smooth going as I remembered. About 3 miles in and I had to stop on the side of the road to pee. It was going to be a long day. My hands were very chilled and I was having trouble opening the valve on my pack.

The miles in the dark were a bit lonely, I ended up not latching on to anyone and I was trying to avoid twisting my ankle. The first tricky section is a detour, and I was glad I had a few people that I could barely seen in front of me, as I might have made a wrong turn. There were a few miles that we had to run on the shoulder of a semi-busy highway, although traffic was very light at dawn on Saturday morning. Around mile 10 I got back on to the trail. I finally decided to pop in some music since I was clearly in this alone.

One of my favorite pictures EVER
Once the sun came up, I was hoping it would warm up a bit. The forecast for the day was overcast with wind, with snow/rain starting early afternoon. My "A" goal was to get the 36 miles covered BEFORE the moisture hit, hopefully to be done in 7.5ish hours.

There are a LOT of trail systems in Denver, and most of them are pretty well marked. However, I came to an intersection where the trail seemed to go in various different directions. I had thought that almost the whole section was supposed to be unpaved, but didn't think too much of it when I came across a fairly long section that was paved. I began to worry when I got to a major street crossing and the only signage was for the C470 bike path. Feeling it was better to be safe than sorry, I texted my dad (an avid cyclist) to ask if the bike path and the High Line Canal were the same. He says, "no."

Shit. I made a wrong turn, but at this point, I'm all turned around and have no idea where to go. I have the freeway on one side of me, a bike path, and this all intersects with another major road, and I don't know where to go... Luckily my dad was able to get me back on track. After standing around for 6-7 minutes and going over 1.5 miles total out of my way... so my "36ish" miles were going to be more like 37.5. GREAT.

Can you see the storm clouds rolling in??
Somewhere around that point is when I lost my groove. It was windy, overcast and chilly. I still had not seen any of the roving aid, although I was slow to begin with, and my detour only added time so I can't say I was surprised.

My right ankle was a bit achy, I couldn't tell if it was just from the distance, or if I had slightly twisted it when I was running in the dark.

Honestly, I don't remember much about the run. I took a lot of walk breaks, I took pictures, I was texting a lot with L and Heather. Somewhere around 5 hours in, I finally saw aid! There was a box of goodies on a picnic table by the rec center and I grabbed a handful of cookies. Saved my life!!

I was regretting that I had decided to run so far. I was cold, tired, and not having the best time. At some point, I lost one of my gloves, and that was really not much fun either.

I don't know what's happening here. This was a good 15 feet up in the tree
Thanks to a timer app I downloaded I got a full body selfie!
I certainly didn't make my time "goal" - but lets be real. This was NOT a race, this was NOT timed, and I paid NOTHING for it.

I was never so happy when I saw the mile 35 marker and shortly after, the turn for the parking lot where my car was.

Miles 1- 10 (11:14, 11:14, 11:27, 13:04, 11:43, 12:24, 15:22, 12:41, 11:30, 11:35)
Miles 11-20 (11:21, 12:19, 11:23, 12:51, 13:01, 11:40, 12:03, 17:05, 16:18, 12:15)
Miles 21-30 (11:46, 13:07, 12:42, 13:59, 13:31, 13:09, 15:40, 13:14, 13:43, 15:16)
Miles 31-37.6 (14:09, 13:59, 14:08, 14:04, 13:56, 13:06, 13:03, 13:00)
Average Pace - 13:00

  • I am really glad that I brought all my own stuff, as I never saw the roving aid at any of the promised locations. I know for sure there were at least 2 people behind me that I passed AFTER my detour. I think about 30 of us started the run, but it looks like the roving aid was catering to the faster runners. Which is fine, but just be aware that you should always carry enough of your own water/fuel JUST IN CASE. I had filled my pack almost completely full (70 oz) and still had about 15 oz left when I stopped. This might not have worked out so well if the day would have been warmer and/or sunnier. I had brought more gels than I even needed, I think I took 7 total. Other than the handful of cookies, I only grabbed a fun size package of M&M's from the one aid box on the course. 
  • Related - I'm glad I didn't end up needing a ride back to the start for my car, because again, I didn't see anyone affiliated with the run and I had no cell phone numbers as contacts for the man running the aid station or the man who organized the run. Again, it is always MY responsibility to make sure I know what I'm doing (thankfully, I had my dad to fall back on to re-route me when I made a wrong turn). And also, I'm glad I got a ride to the start because I would have had to wait on my dad to get my car. No bueno.
  • Other than the lost glove and cold ears in the dark hours, my outfit worked out perfectly. I have not run in the windbreaker before, but with 20-30 gusts and temps in the low 30s, the jacket paired with only a tech tee was perfect. I was never cold, and the zippered pockets were perfect for holding my trash. If only I had put my gloves in my pockets while I was eating, I might not have lost a glove :(
  • I probably was not in shape to be running this type of distance, but I got it done. Pretty proud of myself for sticking this out, definitely my training run ever. My maybe 15-20 miles became a 50k that was actually 36 miles, but after a detour, I really ran a 60k. 
  • I got what I paid for. I could have done this with no support, but I wouldn't have. I would have liked to have met up with someone else and run at least some miles with someone else, but it didn't work out that way. The man who has organized all the metro area Fat Ass runs is starting a new running series - going head to head with Leadville. If you would like to read more about the series and possibly donate to the cause, the link is here.


  1. The weather was chilly on Saturday (I did 10 miles in Broomfield) - way to stick to this despite the wind!

    Sad to hear you won't be at 24 Hours of Moab!

  2. Great job with all those miles and not very much aid! Great pictures!

  3. You amaze me! That picture (your favorite) is absolutely gorgeous.

  4. You did great. Glad everything worked out for you on this run/race. Sounds like your planning for the worse, hoping for the best got you through it.

  5. Yeah... the crummy thing about Fat Asses for some folks, is that it is as we advertise, "No Fee, No Aid, No Shirts, No Wimps."

    I'm glad you came out and joined us. Sorry about your troubles. The roving Aid Station (Robbie Pike) was catering to the middle of the pack for the 21 runners that started. He was unable to provide aid to the 10 Front Runners.. 10 Bailed behind you.. and the rest of us were mid packers. Also.. our second aid volunteer for the day bailed. After all... they are volunteers.. and is why I put out info about the various gas stations.

    The first year I ran the Canal.. I was the only runner who ran past the half way point. Last year.. I was the only that finished. I was amazed that we had as many as we did this year.

    Anyway.. Thanks for coming out and sticking to your distance goal for the day. Sorry about the let-downs.



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