Airplanes typically maintain cabin pressure at an equivalent altitude of 6,900 feet, by pumping pressurized air into the aircraft. This is to avoid hypoxia, altitude sickness, decompression sickness and barotrauma. The starting line to the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run hovers at about 8000 feet – and routes runners upward from there. Actually there was a small dip the first half mile down to the river crossing, the rest seemed forever uphill with over 3000 feet of elevation gain.
I met Rob in Buena Vista Friday evening. We listened to some of the pre-race prep at the information session at 7pm, then we went to eat some pizza at the Eddyline Pub. The place has pretty good food. Pizza was outstanding. Our waitress Sara sat with Rob for a picture. This was walking distance from the Community Center where the race will start and where we heard the pre-race information session. We stealth camped within walking distance yet again. There were a few RVs and other runners camping in their cars. We chose to setup our tents. Being so close to the race start would be convenient considering the gun fires at 6:30am.
We woke at 4:30 and I discovered what gear I forgot at home. First was my coffee cup. It fell out of my camping bucket after my Moab trip and ended up in a kitchen cabinet – where it still sits. I used an empty Gatorade bottle for my coffee. Worked out ok. As we were gearing up, I learned that I also forgot my gators. I figured they probably weren’t critical and turns out they weren’t. Would have been nice though. It’s difficult determining what to wear that early in the morning when it’s still cold out but I planned to wear the long-sleeved tech t-shirt I got with my race packet. I added my short-sleeve tech t-shirt I got from the Moab race as a bottom layer to cut the wind. I was able to take off the bottom shirt later as I warmed up.
My big decision was on shoes. I seriously wanted to wear my new Merrell’s but my recent foot injury precluded that option. I needed some cushion. I went with my road training shoes over my trail shoes. I had the impression these trails wouldn’t be too technical and my road shoes are softer. I’m pretty lucky to be able to run at all. I had to take off two days from running after straining my foot. Then I ran 3 miles Tuesday followed by 7 miles Wednesday wherein my foot hurt too much again to run Thursday or Friday. I drove out here on faith that I’d be able to put some pressure on my foot.
My new Camelbak running vest helped keep me warm as we queued up for the run. There could not have been much more than 300 runners. These ultras are smaller affairs. Everything’s different about an ultra. The runner’s all look amazing. I love to see a crowd like this of such fit people. The age skew is definitely older. And I would guess over half were women. Mostly really pretty women. I call this an ultra because while some of us are running 25 miles, others are running 50 today.
I’m blogging this before I receive pictures which is too bad because this is one of the most scenic courses I’ve ever run. I wish I would have carried my iPhone to take my own shots. Bad call leaving that behind. But at least I didn’t lose it like I did my car key. I stored my key in the vest pocket and it dropped out on the trail. Thankfully a runner picked it up from the trail and turned it into lost and found.
The trail and course were incredible. We launched from the community center on a little bit of road but hit the trail quickly. A funnel squeezed the line of runners after a half mile as we crossed the river but generally there was ample room to pass – even on the single track although there were lots of jeep trails. The ground was rarely rocky and oftentimes sandy. It was soft from rain earlier in the week. The first half of the course provided the most awesome views of the Collegiate Peaks – simply spectacular. Quite a few runners would stop to snap pictures. The second half of the course wound through canyons on sandy river beds snaking through rocky walls on both sides. The course was very well marked and easy to follow.
Many runners were willing to chat, especially after the line thinned out half way into the course. An ultra has a different feel to it. The participants enjoy what they’re doing. It’s not a workout to them. As hard as running 25 can be, these runners are in their essence and enjoying every minute of it. I don’t know the science behind it, but women do very well at ultra distances. And I think of the younger runners at this event, most were girls.
My biggest pain in this race was from my shorts chaffing my legs. There wasn’t any vaseline at the aid stations so I had to tough it out. Otherwise the aid stations were perfectly positioned about every four miles and offered good food and drink. My legs were completely spent by 18 miles and it reminded me of the IPR where the last 7 miles were downhill. Thankfully the down slope was rarely steep, unlike Telluride. I was surprised I did some downhill walking but my legs were that exhausted. I even walked a bit of the final mile. If you look at the garmin results I linked above, you can figure I was mostly walking anywhere the mile split is over 15 minutes. My time was 5:33 (a 13 minute per mile pace) which is what I expected to run and I’m pretty happy with it. With two big climbs, this course isn’t easy, but it’s possibly one of the most beautiful in Colorado. As bonus, BV has some good eateries. From the town to the runners and race direction, this event is an outstanding experience. Highly recommended.