Thursday, August 6, 2020

Bridal Veil 30K (Race Recap)

Telluride, CO
Saturday, August 1
Weather - Perfect mountain weather

Every race I had on schedule for the year (which thankfully, wasn't many to begin with) had been cancelled. I had not run a race since the 100K I ran in January in Texas. When our friend shared a small trail race that was happening in Telluride, we jumped at the chance for a long weekend in the mountains. Initially, while the race director was finalizing permits, we were simply put on a wait list and not charged for the race. About 3 weeks prior to the race we were sent emails asking to confirm/pay. Woo hoo, a real live in person race!!

Race Day

I had my alarm set for 4:10 am for our 6:08 start. It was not a surprise when I woke up at 4:00 before my alarm went off, after tossing and turning for most of the night. I figured that a little more than an hour was enough time for me, Ben and Ariel to eat breakfast, get dressed and gather our stuff. Heather's house was only a 15 minute drive to the gondola where the start line was.

One of my biggest sources of anxiety on race day is running late and not having enough time to do all my morning rituals. With all the new COVID-19 requirements, we were not allowed to arrive more than 10 minutes before our start time. Our start times were in waves of no more than 8 people, starting 2 minutes apart. Ugh!

Needless to say, we were parked MAYBE 15 minutes before we were supposed to start. I desperately needed to use the bathroom, but the ones onsite were not open and there was no port-o-potty. We also still had to pick up our bibs and sign waivers. I saw Laurie & Ross and briefly said hi, but unlike every other race I've ever done, there was literally NO time for pre-race chatting. I barely had enough time to pin my bib on my skirt and take a selfie with Laurie before we were heading out.
I had remembered to get the gps going on my watch but neglected to load the route in when I hit start. Immediately I was a bit panicky as everyone but Ben in our wave was running the 10 miler, which was a completely different course. With the low number of participants, I was SUPER worried about not knowing where I was going. The first volunteer I saw that was telling us where to go assured me the course was marked and off we went. After less than a half mile I saw a bathroom that appeared to be opened, so I stopped and used that - yay for running water!

Once I came out, I couldn't figure out where to go. I saw Ben and he was wandering around with his phone out with another gal. He called Heather and let her know that we were lost in the campground and couldn't figure out where to go. Thankfully, we saw a few others that started later than us and appeared to know where they were going. (We later found out that due to last minute permit changes they were not permitted to flag anything in town. Frustrating, as we ended up wasting time and doing close to a half mile extra trying to figure out what we were doing).
The lower two miles in town were on a very nice groomed path (once we actually found it). There was not a ton of gain, but oh boy did I know that was coming. The course came to the base of the switchbacks heading up to Bridal Veil, which is where Heather was volunteering. I briefly chatted with her and let her know about the problems we had in town, then began to tackle the climbing.
The road up was dirt and kinda rocky, which reminded me of 4th of July road or the road to the Grays and Torreys trail head. It was not that steep and I was actually able to pull off a little running in this section. It was, however, not very interesting, and the time that we started was apparently prime time for the jeeps to start their drive up Black Bear Pass. Thankfully it did not get nearly as dusty as Rubicon in Tahoe, although I certainly had flashbacks and a small amount of PTSD.

Finally, I get to the top of the falls where the house is - and the small aid station. There was a decent selection of pre-packaged snacks, so I had my water bottles filled and grabbed a small KIND bar, package of pretzels and gummy bears and headed out. 

It's mildly disconcerting when you know you are dead last in a race and also WAY out of your element. I have said it many times that I really struggle with big/steep climbs, and my weaknesses are only enhanced when we get really high up in elevation. 

Turning the corner behind Bridal Veil was when the truly amazing famous Telluride mountain views started. I knew I was "wasting" time taking pictures and I didn't even care. There were more wildflowers than I've ever seen, and everything was just so picturesque. Not to mention the grade was very steep and I was struggling anyway.

Marmots are so adorable!!!!

I thought I saw some people in front of me and for a while I was really excited that I might actually catch up to someone else in the race. Sadly, they turned out to just be random hikers. Le sigh. I trudged along, wondering how on earth I was going to be able to cover nearly 6,000' of climbing in such a short distance (because remember, the first two miles of the course were nearly flat). I came across another group of hikers near some small alpine lakes. By this point, I'm only about 8 miles in and I'm dying. I swear I had been working on my climbing this summer, yet it felt like I was barely moving going up the mountain.
Wow was it pretty up here!

At one point, I saw a guy behind me that looked like he was just out for a leisurely stroll. I stopped on a climb to take a picture and catch my breath and he asked me how I was doing, I told him I was definitely tired and asked if he was just out here for fun. That's how I found out I was being followed by the course sweeper. Yikes, I haven't had that happen in a LONG time.
He was very nice and said if I wanted to chat that was fine, or if I wanted to be left alone he would hang back. I've actually missed chatting with random strangers during a race, so even though I felt junky and I was embarrassed at how slow I was moving, we talked and that really helped to pass the time. (Turns out the sweeper is basically an elite runner than WON Ouray 100 the year Ben ran).

We finally crested the top of the saddle and he pointed out the next aid station. Holy shit it was all the way across the valley. That meant that we had to go all the way to the bottom. AND THEN BACK UP AGAIN. Ohmygod.

Luckily, even though I had been questioning my life choices and knocking on death's door for the better part of 3 hours, the mostly gradual descent down was quite lovely and I was able to jog down a bulk of it. This is the section where the wildflowers REALLY popped. Even though I was with the sweeper, I still took a few pictures.

Can you see the switchbacks? That's what I had to climb up next...

We parted ways at the junction to Wasatch trail, as he was headed back into town and someone else would be sweeping the next section I had to do. Garrett, the sweeper, had told me that I had already done the steepest climb. So wtf when he got just out of eyesight and I saw the next section I would be climbing. I was nearly ready to cry when I saw how steep it was, and that I still was expecting to do nearly 2000' of climbing. I felt like I was pretty far behind on calories at this point. I'm usually really good about eating when on course, but this one was different because I was constantly trying to catch my breath, and with poles it's tricky eating. I did stop briefly to dump some dirt out of my shoe and made sure to eat a few gummies and pretzels when I could.

This climb was grueling, make no mistake. Once I got through the lower section, it really did seem to get a bit better. I did start to see a few more hikers in this section, although they were of course all coming down while I was trying to not die going up.

FINALLY, I could see the top of the gondola on Gold Hill, which is where I knew the aid station would be. I got to the top and saw a few guys with a small table. I apologized for having them wait so long for me to get there. Two kids headed down to sweep the course, the volunteer filled my bottle and then I broke down my poles and put them in my back. I knew at this point that all my climbing was done and I was really looking forward to getting down as quick as possible. 
The run down was STEEP, as it was going down the See Forever and Telluride ski trails. I saw Ross when I was maybe a mile or two down right as it had started raining, and he was pulling out his rain gear. I asked how he was doing and he said "I'm going to finish!" and I kept on, telling him I would see him at the finish line.
My legs actually felt really good, and even though it was steep and pounding downhill, I was doing pretty well, outside the fact that I had a crippling cramp on my right side. This unfortunately continued the entire descent, so I kept having to stop and walk briefly. As the town got closer, I knew I was almost done, and thankfully quicker than what I had estimated my finish time would be.

I saw Pika, Ben and Ariel at the finish line and I was SO happy to be done.

Heather and Josh were hanging out a table next to the finish line, and I was eager to join them for a beer. I should have been hungry, but after over 6 hours of being out there, I actually wasn't. 

Official Time - 6:35:42
Garmin Time - 6:35:50
Garmin Pace - 20:11 (woof)
Elevation Gain - 5,656'
Max Elevation - 13,001'
Mile 1 - 15:19 (not bad with a bathroom break and getting lost)
Mile 2 - 14:36
Mile 3 - 16:05
Mile 4 - 2003
Mile 5 - 19:30
Mile 6 - 21:55
Mile 7 - 28:32
Mile 8 - 28:28
Mile 9 - 26:30
Mile 10 - 29:13
Mile 11 - 17:45
Mile 12 - 19:10
Mile 13 - 32:05
Mile 14 - 32:17
Mile 15 - 22:23
Mile 16 - 11:50
Mile 17 - 11:13
Mile 18 - 10:54
Mile 19 - 11:05
Mile 19.62 - 11:11
  • This race was cheap!! Only $75 for the 30K. I believe the 10 miler (which is what Ariel ran), was maybe only $60?
  • Shirt is ok, I should have gotten a smaller size, but usually women's shirts are way too fitted. Got a cheap medal, but since it is the only medal I've earned since November 2019, I am fine with that.
  • Aid station food was fine, I don't expect much at this type of distance anyway. There were only two of them, so if you run, be sure you have enough to support yourself for about 10 miles of high elevation/climbing. (For me, I'm pretty sure that was 4ish hours?)
  • Course markings on the mountain/trail sections was actually FANTASTIC. I was definitely nervous when the sections in town weren't marked, but once we actually were out there everything was good.
  • I didn't love the chaos of how the start was coordinated, but if that's what it takes for an event to happen, I'm all for it.
  • Chip timing, plus the racejoy app for tracking during the race was a nice touch. 
  • I likely wouldn't run this again, simply because it's soooo far away (over 6 hours from our house), but I would definitely recommend if you want to run a challenging and beautiful course!!

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