Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Black Canyon Ascent 2016

Saturday marked my 4th year in a row of running the Black Canyon Ascent. It's one of the few races I have ran every year since I started running. I like it because no matter how fast or slow I am, it is a HARD race. The whole race is uphill, gaining nearly 2000 feet, and you have to work hard the entire time! So naturally, finishing always makes me feel like a bad a$$!

Every year I say I'm going to train specifically for this race, and of course I barely manage to get anything in. This year I essentially got NO hill specific training in. So I knew it wasn't going to be a "PR" year for me. My only real goal was not to get my slowest ever time. My times leading up this were: 1:09:27 (2013), 1:12:52 (2014), 1:03:05 (2015). I'm still not entirely sure HOW in the world I ran a 1:03 last year - it was probably because I was in marathon training mode and doing a lot of speedwork at the time, and it was cool out (VERY helpful, as most years it is HOT) - but it still seems unfathomable to me after running it again this year in 1:09:30 (I actually had no idea I was that close to my 2013 time). It's just HARD to run uphill for that long. Nevertheless, it's good to know I have the ability to run this fast - one of these years I REALLY want to try and actually train so I could maybe have a chance at winning my age group. I've come in 2nd twice now, but they don't give awards out deeper than 1st place. Since I have a medal for the other two Black Canyon series races, I want one for the Ascent SO bad (although in all honesty, I need to do it before I hit 30 - the competition gets much more fierce as the age groups increase!).

Anyways, I drove up to Montrose the morning of the race. It was a beautiful morning out and I enjoyed listening to Nicole DeBoom's podcast where she interviewed Gunhild Swanson - the oldest female finisher of the Western States 100. It left me feeling really pumped up and excited for this race (and my ultra marathons I have coming up in a few months!!). I arrived at the start around 6:45 am, got my packet and then sat in my car for awhile (it was VERY windy and chilly when I first got there).

Beautiful sunrise on the way there!
After waiting around for awhile and chatting, I decided to do a mile or so warm-up (which was VERY necessary after going to my first BodyPump in over a year 2 days before - my legs were SO sore) before it was time to start. That left me feeling a little better and ready to get going! The gun went off and I just settled into a maintainable pace. Slow and steady is how I like to go about this race. I ended up running Mile 1 in 11:17.

At about the 1.3 mile mark it flattens out slightly for 1/2 mile, so I always look forward to this so I can pick it up a little. However, it was already getting very hot out so I slowed a bit to grab some water from the aid station and I finished Mile 2 in 10:59.

Not my best race picture, but ohwell!
Miles 3-5 are the WORST. It's a constant uphill with no breaks. I always try to just tell myself to only think about one mile at a time and it somewhat helps me get through it. Hitting mile 3 means I'm halfway done (12:01). Then I look forward to the last Aid Station at Mile 4 (12:07). Mile 5 is the absolute worst - it's the steepest and you're exhausted by the time you get to it, so as usual it was my slowest this year (12:51) - although I also slowed to get some gatorade and pour water on the back of my neck because it was HOT.

Finally it's time for the last mile - my favorite mile of the race. In addition to MORE uphill, there are thankfully a few small downhill sections as well, so I always try to pick up the pace and make this my fastest mile. Today was no different - I ran into the National Park boundary, made the turn towards the campground and amphitheater (where the finish line is) before sprinting it in to finish my last mile in 10:06 with an overall time of 1:09:30. Not my fastest, but not my slowest, so I was content!

Race: Black Canyon Ascent
Location: Montrose, Colorado
Distance: 6 Miles
Date: May 14, 2016
Bib Number:
Weather: 60's and sunny (this felt so HOT running uphill and the sun beating down on me - oof)
Time: 1:09:30
Average Pace: 11:32
Starting Elevation: 6600'
Ending Elevation: 8414'
Overall Rank: 39 of 94
Gender Rank: Unknown
Division Rank (F20-29): 2 of 6
Garmin Splits: 11:17, 10:59, 12:01, 12:07, 12:51, 10:06

All finished!
We had a nice showing from the Runners Roost Race Team! Kim (second from left) set a new women's course record!!!

With my friends Randee and Rochelle!

Since I hadn't been to the Black Canyon since last year, I wanted to enjoy a little more of it (because you've really got to go further into the park for the best views), so I decided to check out some of the trails surrounding the visitors center and get some more miles in the for the day. I ended up running Oak Flat Loop Trail (note, this was not very flat), Rim Rock Trail and Uplands Trail. They're all fairly short, but in total I got about 4 more miles in, and these incredible views:

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