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

  • 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).


  1. Your shirts - OMG, hilarious. Sounds like the race might have read your last review and at least made a couple of improvements!

  2. dude. don’t know how you do it. no way i could’ve done a half marathon following the marathon. love the medal and shirt and always love your pictures- course looks pretty. congrats!

  3. Love the shirt and medal for this one!

  4. I was one of the no-shows. I'm helping my boyfriend restore is 1930s Craftsman house and he SWORE we would be done by mid-October (we started in April), so I signed up. SADLY we are not done and since the weather was over 50 degrees - we were caulking and painting. If it had been lower than 45 degrees I would have been able to run it. :( thanks for the low-down...hopefully I can run it next year and not throw my $ away...


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