Friday, May 31, 2013

Sage Burner 25K

Last Monday I competed in my first 25K and my first trail run!

I say competed, but my main goal was simply to finish. Normally I would've liked to have had a little more time to prepare for something of this length and difficulty, but it was kind of a last minute decision. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm contemplating my sanity...that is contemplating doing the Imogene Pass Run on September 7th. What does that have to do with Mondays race you may ask? Well, I wanted to get more of a feel for trail running, running at higher elevations, and running for longer distances, so I signed up for the Sage Burner semi-last minute (I believe it was about 2 week out). 

Now as a few runners from the area have told me, the Sage Burner is really nothing like Imogene Pass Run (IPR). This being the fact that Sage Burner is up, down, up down, etc., whereas the IPR is a constant uphill for the first 10 miles followed by constant downhill for the last 7 miles. However, despite their differences, I still think it was really beneficial to me, and I'm very glad I did it! For starters, it helped to see, in-person that trail running is really more about "power-hiking" the steep uphill sections and running the flats and downhills. Other trail runners had told me this, but it helped to be in the race setting and actually see it happening! I also enjoyed how the miles seemed to go by more quickly. I think it was the change of elevation and scenery. It's a lot different than just staring at the same road for miles on end. I was truly enjoying the whole experience! Last, this run truly tested my endurance level! I had ran up to 15 miles prior to this race, but only on a road. 15 road-ran miles takes me about 2 1/2 hours. This run (which is 25K, or 15.5 miles - although my garmin measured it at over 16 miles) took me 3 1/2 hours. That's a lot of time to be constantly moving. I know I've hiked for longer than that, but that usually involved breaks and lots of snacks. Now don't get me wrong, this course had aid stations with food, but when the clock is ticking I don't want to stop and rest. I'll get into a bit more detail later, but I just wanted to make the point that trail running is definitely more about endurance, and this race was a great way to get a little taste of that!

So, without further ado, below are my stats and an account of the race:

Distance: 25K/15.5 Miles (my Garmin clocked it at 16.8 miles, and another runner I know clocked it at 6.4 - so who knows - it was long though! Also, my avg. pace, elevation and split times are all based off of my Garmin)
Time: 3:27:53
Average Pace: 12:21 minutes/mile
Elevation Gain: 2,087 feet
Elevation Loss: 2,103 feet
Overall Rank: 62 out of 77
Gender Rank: 26 out of 35
Age Division Rank (Females 21-30): 6 out of 6 (not going to lie, I was a little bummed about being last!)
Bib Number: 63
Splits: 15:37, 12:53, 12:34, 13:17, 11:30, 9:24, 10:32, 12:11, 10:48, 12:36, 10:57, 13:53, 13:05, 11:42, 14:29, 13:30 (+8:57 for the last .8 miles)

The steepest hill was definitely the first, and as you can probably see from my split times, I walked most of it. It felt funny to walk at the very beginning of the race, but most everyone else was and it was still congested at that point anyways. I did jog a bit right when the gun went off, and then a few more times when it flattened out a little. After that first tough one, the course became more "rolling", as in small uphill sections followed by small downhill sections. Miles two and three passed by pretty quickly. Around mile three I was starting to get pretty hot in my jacket (it was approx. 35 degrees at the start), so I kept hoping for an aid station so I could drop it (they offered to bring clothing back to the start - so nice - a lot of races don't do that). The aid station finally came around mile 4, which was also about the time that the race really leveled out. Miles 5 and 6 were amazing! I felt like I could've ran forever. They were almost all just slightly downhill. Mile 6 gave me my one and only sub-10 minute mile for the course which was awesome! This was actually the point where I literally couldn't believe I was already 6 miles in! I felt awesome, I felt like I could run forever.

Well that feeling was fairly short lived, although it did last mostly through mile 7. There was an aid station shortly after mile 7 where I enjoyed some chocolate (yum! and no problems with it- I'll have to remember this for training runs, who needs expensive not-so-tasty gels, when you can just bring some peanut M&M's along with you!) and water and then went on my way. Unfortunately mile 7 marked the  the last of the gently sloping, constant downhill for the race.

Starting at mile 8, it was back to lots of uphill with a bit of downhill sections. Surprisingly I ended up passing quite a few people over the next few miles which was nice. Overall I was feeling pretty good at this point considering. The final aid station came at around mile 11, which was perfect because I had just eaten a terrible flavor of Clif Shot Block (black cherry - not buying that one again). I had some more chocolate and was on my way again. However, this last aid station kind of marked my energy threshold. The last 4-5 miles were TOUGH! I'm surprised my mileage times weren't slower. There was a lot of uphill and a lot of walking on my part. I was definitely getting burned out. But, I knew I had to finish one way or another, so I kept going despite my slowness!

Probably about 1 mile, maybe a little more, from the finish line we reached the top of a ridge line which was really neat! It overlooked Gunnison and was really pretty. The best part about it, was knowing that we didn't have too much uphill left! After this it was mostly all downhill to the end. There were a few really steep sections, which were good for me to "face my fears" so to speak. For some reason I always tend to get a little freaked out at going downhill on steep trails, especially if they have loose rock. But I did it! Finally, 16 or so miles later, I crossed the finish line! It felt good to not only set a new distance record, but to know I had set it doing a whole different kind of running! 

Map of the course - it's kind of crazy to compare the route to the size of Gunnison!
Elevation Profile
Pretty views at the start of the race (looking away from the course).
The first hill!
We had beautiful weather!
Views looking over the ridge line towards the end.
The trail! This end part was tough because I kept seeing people ahead and thinking I could catch up - but because of all the switchbacks, they were a lot farther ahead that me.
Trail along the ridge line.
Action shot.
My dog was waiting for me at the finish line!
Family Photo!
The results weren't posted online until the next day, and as I briefly mentioned above, I was a little disappointed when I found out how close to last I was. I guess I've been blessed to almost always be in the top half of races, so this was just a slight blow to my ego. However, I know trail running really is a whole different animal from road running and it'll take some adjusting! The fact that I had fun and pushed myself to new limits is what matters most!

Now, about Imogene Pass Run...registration is tomorrow, so you'll have to wait and see what I decide to do (because I still can't decide myself, gulp!).

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