Friday, October 28, 2016

Grand Circle Trailfest

It finally arrived!!! My big, "treat-yo-self" race of the year - The Grand Circle Trailfest!

To quickly sum up what this epic event is - the Grand Circle Trailfest is a 3 day trail festival consisting of a 13 mile trail race near Bryce Canyon National Park, a 12 mile trail race near Zion National Park, and a 19 mile trail race near Grand Canyon National Park. We camped in Kanab, Utah each night, which sits smack dab in the middle of the three parks in southwest Utah.

Ever since moving to the Western Slope I've wanted to go check out several of these National Parks, but just never gotten around to it (you know how life is!). I'm less than a 6 hour drive from some of the BEST National Parks in the country and yet I still hadn't made it to southwest Utah and Northern Arizona yet... so this was the PERFECT opportunity! 

I headed out late Wednesday afternoon and made pretty good timing, getting into Kanab, in just about 5 1/2 hours - pretty good even with my three stops (once for a scenic viewpoint and restroom break, once for dinner, and once for gas). I was happy to see the race organizers were still there for check-in despite arriving about an hour after check-in was over, so I was able to get my bib for the next morning and ask about logistics, before getting organized in my tent (supplied by and set-up already by the race staff) and heading to bed.

Each morning they would have a continental style breakfast before we had to make the hour+ drive to each day's race. You could either take the race shuttle to and from each course, or you could drive yourself, thus making it easier to go check out more of the area post-race. Knowing me and how much I would want to see in a short amount of time, I opted for the second option of driving myself. This worked out well on most accounts and I feel like I did a pretty good job seeing as much as I could at each National Park given the short time constraints I had.


So Day 1, we headed north from Kanab on the same road I had come in on the night before. It was about 60 miles along this road before turning east for a few miles and parking at the Bryce Canyon Pines Resort. Once we were parked, we still had to wait for a shuttle to take us from the parking to the start. Given that this was the first day of the inaugural event, I wasn't too surprised that the shuttles were pretty late and we ended up starting about an hour behind schedule.

Because of the late shuttles, the race ended up having an "open starting line", which basically meant that since it was a "chip timed" event, you could just start whenever you wanted (once you made it to the start, that is). I chose to basically start right when I got there. The race quickly went from a dirt road to single track - and I think the "open starting line" was actually a good thing in that it definitely broke up the masses before getting to the single track. There were about 400 people participating in the trail festival consisting of all types of abilities from speed demon to walkers, so even with the open starting line, I still had to pass quite a few people - but I also got passed a lot as well.

The first few miles were rolling through a wooded area until we finally hit a gorgeous viewpoint of "hoodoos" ("spire shaped rock formations" - what Bryce Canyon is famous for). We then got to run in and out of the various hoodoos for several miles which was awesome. It was rolling hills, but mostly downhill until we reached the aid station at Mile 8.

The aid station was great - I grabbed a 1/4 of a PB&J and quickly headed out. We had a short section along a paved bike path and then it was back to trail with some serious uphill... lots of steep switchbacks until finally making it to the top of a section which would have more views of the hoodoos. We had a couple more rounds of this (up/down/up/down) through the hoodoos until our final descent to the finish line. I finished The Day 1, Bryce Canyon 13 Mile Race in 3:10:06 - my slowest pace for the three days - but I wasn't here to win races, I was here to enjoy the scenery, so all was good in my book (this also turned out to be the hardest course of the three, in my opinion)!

After the race I grabbed my finisher's award and food box (they had a food box after each race with miscellaneous snacks such as granola bars, not my favorite thing to get after a race but it was okay I guess!), and then quickly got on a shuttle to head back to my car and then over to check out Bryce Canyon National Park.

The race was located about 10-15 minutes or so from Bryce Canyon National Park (National Parks have so many regulations, you typically cannot hold a race "in" the park, so each day's races were just outside of the parks), so I was able to make it over to the park fairly quickly after I had finished the race.

I knew I couldn't do much exploring on foot, given the fact that I was racing 12+ miles each day, but I still did my best to see as much as I could within each park. For my time at Bryce I ended up driving the entire road through the park, stopping at all of the overlooks and visitor's center before making my way back to camp. Bryce Canyon was pretty incredible, the amount of hoodoos was just AMAZING. My pictures do not do it justice!

Once I got back to camp, I took a quick shower, got dinner (provided by the Trailfest - we had the option of pizza or tacos) and then set up my sleeping bag and blanket to watch the "Trails in Motion" Film Festival that was lined up as the entertainment for the evening. I was pretty excited to get to see some trail running films on this trip, as they never make it to Grand Junction, since we're such a small community!

Our "tent city"


The good thing about having such a busy first day was that I slept great the second night (as opposed to my horrible first nights sleep)! I woke up at 5am again on Friday and kept with my same routine - breakfast at 5:30 and hit the road just before 6:00am. I was thankful I left at the perfect time and ended up following several other race participants to the starting line - which meant I didn't have to pay too close of attention to the directions. My only complaint was the HORRIBLE dirt road we had to take...I was afraid for my Subaru Impreza's life after bottoming out several times... Nevertheless I finally made it to the starting line!

For the race near Zion, we got to park right at the start which meant no waiting on the shuttle! This meant I started right on time and headed out to complete Day 2's race! This race was the furthest distance from it's corresponding National Park, held on the other side of Hurricane Valley on Gooseberry Mesa. In my opinion it was the least similar to being in the park out of the three races...but the views were nevertheless stunning!

Waiting for the start!
The course quickly moved to singletrack which meant lots of congestion (especially since most everyone started at the same time today), but I didn't mind taking it easy once again and continuing to make lots of photo stops along the course! I ended up chatting quite a bit with a guy named Greg from North Carolina and he was nice enough to get a picture of me as well:

The half-way point of the course was at this amazing overlook where the Mesa came to a point and you had views on 3 sides. Lots of people were having a blast taking cool photos - that was one thing I loved about this whole event - almost everyone was just about enjoying the views and the experience and no so much about "time". It was pretty great!

My favorite picture from the course!

We continued to run along the edge of the mesa a bit before finally heading back inland. I ended up catching back up to Greg and we chatted a lot which helped the time go by. A large majority of this race was run a top slickrock, which I'm not a huge fan of, so I was happy to this was the shortest race of the three, at 12 miles - which I finished in 2:44:58.

So much slickrock!

After this race, I once again got ready to head out pretty quickly so I could go check out the day's corresponding National Park. As I briefly mentioned above, this race was the furthest away and I had about a 45 minutes drive to Springdale, Utah - which was the closest entrance to Zion National Park. Thankfully when I was chatting with Greg earlier that day he warned me all about the Zion crowds and how they offered shuttles, so I opted to not even drive into the park at all, and instead take a shuttle from the town of Springdale into the Park. This worked out well, even though I would later have to drive through the park anyways to get back to Kanab (I didn't know this at the time, but I had done a bit of a loop driving, and the closest way back to Kanab was actually to drive thru the park).

The Springdale city bus dropped us off at the entrance to Zion - where they had a "walk-in entrance". I had my National Park pass, so I quickly walked in, briefly stopped at the visitor's center, and then hopped on a park shuttle to go check out the park. I ended up getting off at most of the various stops along the route - first at The Court of the Patriarch's for some pictures, then at the Zion Lodge, where I stopped for awhile and ate lunch, sitting on the grass and enjoying the views (it was seriously the most beautiful day out too!).

Court of the Patriarch's
My lunch spot! Pretty gorgeous!

After lunch I stopped off at a few other stops and did a very short hike up to the Weeping Rock. I really enjoyed my time riding through the park (the shuttles were also nice because for the first time this trip I got a break from driving!), but I definitely left feeling like this was a park much better discovered on foot! There were several hikes I wanted to do - The Narrows, and Angels Landing or Observation Point - but with a 19 mile race the next day, I knew it would be better saved for next time!

I took the shuttle back to my car, and then drove back to Kanab in time to see the second half of a concert by The National Parks (a pretty appropriate band name for this event!). About a month before the event I had read about this band playing so I looked them up on Spotify and actually really like their music - so I was glad to make it back in time to see most of it! After the concert, I took a shower (the water was warm today!), then grabbed dinner and got ready for the second night events - The Trail Running Film Festival, which was once again, awesome!


The race on Day 3 was actually the longest of them all - at 19 miles (although my watch came in much closer to 18). Because of the longer distance, the plan was to have it start an hour earlier. The worst part about this was getting up at 4am today - doing my same routine, but this time hitting the road at about 5. Today's race was also the furthest away, at about 1 hour, 45 minutes.

This was also another race where we had to park and then take a shuttle to the start, so we once again started a bit late and they had an "open starting line" (the late start was because they used the same shuttles that were bringing runners from Kanab to the start, and then they came and got us, once those runners were dropped off). It wasn't too bad though and I ended up starting a little after 8am.

This course started out running among trees for a few miles before finally coming to our first section along the rim where we got our first views of the Grand Canyon! This was my first time to the Grand Canyon since I was a kid, so it was pretty magnificent! I wanted to just hang out at the overlooks, but unfortunately, the trail headed back inland several times in between views. I ended up chatting with a lady from the Midwest for several miles (there were A LOT of people who flew in for this event!) before we made it to the aid station at Mile 9. I quickly grabbed a PB&J (this has kind of become my go-to snack in trail races lately!) and headed out. I was really trying to run as much of this course as I could so that I could spend more time enjoying the view points and, eventually, get over to the National Park!

At the first overlook!

After coming to a really good view of the Canyon at about Mile 13 someone on the course (volunteer or random person, not really sure) told me this would be my last view point for 4 miles! That meant 4 miles of trees... (don't get me wrong, I like trees...but I can see trees anywhere...I wanted to see The Grand Canyon!). This was my motivation to try and keep a decent pace in these later miles - which I mostly managed to do with the exception of one giant hill! Finally I was in the downhill stretch to the finish! I ran as much as I could, waving "hi" to Greg who was stopped for photos. I enjoyed one more overlook for a brief second and then headed up our final hill and finished in 4:07:24 - my fastest "per mile" pace out of the three races!

The finish line of our last race!

I quickly got in line for the shuttle and we headed back to our cars. I then drove into Grand Canyon National Park (we were on the North Rim side) and stopped at the visitor's center and lodge for some lunch and to scope out where to go!

I decided to drive out to Cape Royal - which was 23 miles from the Visitor's Center - but along a narrow and windy road, so it took awhile, but as they said they would be, the views were totally worth it. It was gorgeous! My only complaint was that the sun was so bright, I wasn't able to really capture it with my photos. It was incredible though - I made sure to just enjoy time there without my camera in front of my face for a bit. I ended up staying out at the Cape Royal area (which has several different spots you could view the Canyon from) for at least an hour, if not longer.

On my drive back, I stopped at Point Imperial - which is the highest point along the North Rim at 8,803'. As I was heading back, I made a last minute decision to head back to the visitor's center and hike Bright Angel Point Trail - a short 1/2 mile walk from the Visitor's Center / Lodge area. I almost didn't go because it was already getting late and I had close to a 2 hour drive back to camp still...but I am SO thankful I went. I ended up catching the sunset along the canyon, and IT. WAS. AMAZING. Seriously - I thought the Grand Canyon was incredible during the day... it was about 1000 times better during the sunset. It turned a gorgeous shade of purple and the sky was yellow - I cannot even describe it. I tried to take photo's, but of course, I forgot my tripod (every time lately!). I ended up just watching the sunset over the canyon for close to an hour probably. It was totally worth it. It is views like these that leave me wondering HOW people do not believe there is a Creator!?! 

My pictures DO NOT do it justice!

This is way over saturated, but I was just trying to show how amazing it was!

The festival was over on Sunday morning, so I packed up my camp and headed out of town. I had really wanted to go back to Zion National Park and try to squeeze in a hike...but that was in the opposite direction of home and I had already ran 44 miles in 3 days and had at least a 6 hour drive back. So I decided instead to drive the "scenic route" home - which was about an hour longer, but went through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and my fourth National Park of the weekend - Capital Reef. I also stopped off in Grand Staircase for a quick run to Calf Creek Falls - a really cool trail I had heard about in the past, but hadn't been able to check out yet.

Calf Creek Falls

So final thoughts...

I loved this event! I am so glad I decided to go despite it costing a lot more than I typically spend on races and not having anyone to go with. Of course it left me with about a million things I still want to check out in each of the parks, but, it was the perfect "teaser" into the area. I definitely plan to go back someday and I now have much more of an understanding into where things are and how things work (especially Zion with the shuttles!). I have already added several trails to my "bucket list" (hello, Rim 2 Rim and The Narrows).

The races were very well organized and even though they weren't "in" the Park, I like that it gave some variety - a lot of these trails I would never know to go to if it weren't for this race! My favorite race of the three was the race at Bryce Canyon - it was just so cool running through the hoodoos and I enjoyed the terrain a lot. It was probably the most difficult of the three as well, in terms of elevation gain, but I didn't mind it too much.

Vacation Races and Ultra Adventures did an excellent job putting on this event. As I mentioned before it was very well organized and well put on. The fact that it included camping made it much more affordable and having tents already set up was just an added bonus (especially since I got in late!). Breakfast and dinner along with the film festivals and concert was also awesome (they also had yoga and some speakers in the afternoons, but I was too busy exploring the parks, so I missed these). I couldn't have asked for better weather - it was 40's at night and 70's during the day - just about perfect! The only major negative was that there really was too much to do and not enough time!

If I have to be somewhat nit picky - the showers weren't the greatest (cold the first day and just in general, not clean at all...but there were hundreds of people using them, so it's kind of to be expected), there were lines for the bathrooms, and I would've enjoyed better post-race food...but all things considered these are very minor complaints.

As far as pricing goes, I'd say I'm neutral on this front. In my opinion, it was a bit expensive, however given all that you get, I do think it is worth it. Will I be able to swing it every, but on occasion, yes. Not only does it include three days of racing, it also includes breakfast and dinner each night, two film festivals, a concert, and four nights of camping (with a tent included). So when you add all that up, it's very reasonable.

And of course, seeing all of these places for the first time is pretty priceless if you ask me!

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Bear Chase 100K

Right after my DNF at Lean Horse, I toyed around with the idea of doing some sort of "come-back race". I went back-and-forth on whether I should do one. Signing up for races last minute is always pretty expensive, plus the fact that I'd been training all summer, I was exhausted. Not to mention that thought, "what if I failed at my come-back race?!" This was especially prevalent since one of the ones I was considering was The Bear Chase 100K, which has a pretty tight time limit (for us back-of-the-packers anyways). So, that was it. I was settled on not doing one.

Until last Wednesday, anyways.

Someone in a local trail running Facebook page announced that they had an entry into the The Bear Chase that they were looking to transfer since they were injured and couldn't do it. Hmmm I thought... maybe this is a sign that I should do it after all? After messaging back and forth and her giving me a pretty good deal on the race entry, I was set. I WOULD be doing a come-back race after all!

I was, of course, still VERY worried about the time cut-offs. I ran The Bear Chase two years ago as my first 50 miler, and it took me 12 hours and 31 minutes. To be allowed to continue in the 100K, I had to get to the 50 mile point in under 11 hours and 30 minutes. Yeah...quite a bit of a difference! Granted, I did know that I had A LOT more experience under my belt this time around. Also, the weather was supposed to be a fair amount cooler than two years ago (and heat is always a major slow down for me). The other good news was that this race would still give me an official 50 mile finish if I didn't make the 100K cutoff. So I figured, I might as well give it a shot. This would force me to push myself to run it a little faster than normal. Best case scenario I would make the 11 1/2 hour cut-off, continue on and finish the 100K (and have an awesome come-back race). Worst case scenario, I'd have another 50 mile finish - and maybe even a PR of some sort, even if I couldn't make the 11 1/2 hours. So...I was set!

The race consists of 5 x 12.5 mile loops (so, the 50 miler was 4 loops) with a total elevation gain of 4250 feet. For Colorado trail running, it's a fairly "easy" course - however it's still mostly singletrack with rocky sections and some nice hills thrown in, along with 3 water crossings per lap (that's 15 total for the 100K!). I knew I was capable of making the time cut-offs if I had a good day. But that's the thing with Ultra's, you just never know what the day is going to bring... Nevertheless, I was hoping for the best!

LAP 1 - 2:24:16
Splits: 11:31, 11:11, 12:42, 11:02, 12:39, 11:25, 11:59, 11:30, 10:44, 11:14, 11:34, 10:45

The race started promptly at 6:30am, right as the sun was rising. Since I knew I was going to be close to the time cut-offs, I didn't want to go out too conservative. Now, don't get me wrong - I didn't go all out. But I didn't hold back as much as I normally would in an ultra. I ran at a comfortable, sustainable pace. Running all flats and downhills and power hiking the uphills. I was a little confused when we reached the Mt. Carbon climb only 2 miles in - since when I ran it a few years ago, it was closer to Mile 5. They must have moved the starting line, and since it was dark I hadn't really noticed!

Heading up Mt. Carbon for the first time!
Looking back from the base of Mt. Carbon
After the climb up Mt. Carbon, it was downhill until the water crossings. It was still early and I knew these would be COLD, but thankfully they weren't too bad. I ran through them and finally got to the first Aid Station, right around 4 1/2 miles. I grabbed a banana and topped off my handheld water bottle and headed out to the next section, which was always my least favorite part. It's about 3 miles of singletrack paralleling a highway, and it's completely exposed (no trees). Since this was the first lap though it wasn't bad at all and I quickly made it to the second aid station. I grabbed another banana, added tailwind to my handheld and headed out again. The second largest climb is right after this aid station and I was happy to be done with it and headed downhill to the last aid station - which was were the starting line was when I ran this 2 years ago. This new shift wasn't bad physically, but mentally it was a little tough. My mind wanted this to be the end of the first lap, but I still had 3 more miles to go! At least it was pretty since it was all through the tree's! I finally made it through and finished Lap 1 in 2:24:16 - about 10 minutes faster than I did Lap 1 in 2014.

LAP 2 - 2:33:46
Splits: 13:28, 11:33, 13:15, 10:37, 12:10, 13:51, 11:39, 12:47, 11:34, 11:15, 12:24, 12:08, 11:59

As I came into the starting/finishing area, I saw a few Skirt Sports Ambassadors who were doing the 50K. I quickly said hello to them, grabbed my hydration vest (that my dad had to drop off because I'm, dumb and forgot it - so, thank you!!), dropped off the handheld, and continued on. I knew one of my biggest challenges would be making sure I didn't waste too much time at aid stations - especially since I would end up going through 18 aid stations and I knew the time spent there would really add up!

Lap 2 was pretty similar to Lap 1 - I knew I was still on fresh legs and wanted to continue to take advantage of that, so I ran a majority of this lap as well, excluding the climbs. I did start adding in PB&J's into my fueling which seemed to work pretty well for me. Along this lap, I passed my friend Joni who was doing the 50K and would also be doing the Half Marathon the next day! Then as I was nearing the end of my second lap, I got passed by the winners of the 50K who were coming in (so I was at Mile 24 1/2, and they were at 31 - AND they started 1/2 hour after me). It's always neat to see the speedy folks come by! Some people are super human! :)

Coming in right before the finish of Lap 2.

LAP 3 - 3:01:43
Splits: 15:42, 11:54, 15:06, 13:24, 16:02, 14:32, 15:14, 15:55, 12:49, 15:35, 14:00, 13:11

I was pretty happy I managed the first two laps in about 5 hours. This gave me a little bit of a cushion for the remaining laps - but I also knew from experience that Mile 30 is where my body really starts to feel tired. So I still needed to push myself a lot on this next one. I had a pacer lined up for Lap 4 - so I took solace in the fact that I just had ONE more lap by myself and then I would have someone else to run and talk with!

At the beginning of the lap, I got lapped by Grand Junction runner, Giff, who went on to win the 50 miler in under 7 hours (averaging a little over an 8 minute pace for 50 MILES - amazing). Most of the rest of this lap is a blur, but I know I just continued on, running as much as I could and stopping at aid stations for snacks (more PB&J's, potato chips, and oranges at one aid station were really good!). I knew I was slowing, but I was happy to still be running a majority of this lap!

At the top of Mt. Carbon. You can see the Denver skyline off in the distance!

LAP 4 - 3:17:13
Splits: 16:21, 14:02, 14:18, 15:26, 16:52, 16:47, 14:41, 16:47, 13:15, 16:15, 14:13, 14:30, 14:34

As I came in from Lap 3, I had a nice cheering squad - my pacer, Kari, was there along with Jayme - a friend and fellow Skirt Sports Ambassador who was volunteering, and my mom was there too (a nice surprise!). It was about 2:30pm at this point. This meant I had 3 1/2 hours to complete Lap 4 - which gave me a little bit of a cushion (I was predicting I would only have 3 hours per lap). Plus, I now had a pacer!

I grabbed my second watch and some food, and we headed out. From the get-go we were constantly talking, which always really helps the time go by faster! This was actually my first time ever meeting Kari, but she was awesome! We talked about everything from races to our pets, to Skirt Sports (of course, since we're both ambassadors!).

Kari and I right before starting my 4th Lap!

When we were about 1/2 way through this lap is when I could really feel myself getting to that "I'm ready to be done," exhausted feeling. Running was getting harder and harder, especially on the flat sections. And the downhills, while I was still able to run them at a good pace, my body was hurting. Nevertheless, I kept at it! We got to the last aid station just before 5pm. This meant I had one hour to go 3 miles. I could do this!!! I could make the 50 miles / 11:30 cutoff after all! I told Kari my goal was do these 3 miles in 45 minutes and we got pretty close to that time frame, coming in from my 4th lap, with 50 miles under my belt in 11 hours, 16 minutes and 53 seconds! A 50 mile PR by OVER an hour!

Documenting my 50 Mile PR!

LAP 5 - 3:16:16
Splits: 18:00, 12:12, 16:02, 13:13, 18:40, 16:40, 14:16, 16:22, 14:23, 14:56, 16:24, 14:52

At this point, I was THRILLED I had managed to come in under the time cutoff. The days leading up to the race, and even during the race, I knew I could do it. But I also knew it was going to be seriously hard. So I wasn't letting myself think about it too much - I wanted to be mentally prepared to not make it... I knew that things were going to need to go really well for me and I was going to have to push myself immensely to make this time cutoff. So the fact that I DID do it, just left me so happy and on a serious high that carried me through my last lap! I thanked Kari, grabbed some more PB&J and Coke, said Hi to Jayme and my mom (and thanks so much to Jayme for getting some pictures for me!), and then left for my LAST lap!

Kari was only able to stay for one lap (she was recovering for a Half Ironman she had just done!) and I had been torn on which one to have her help with, but overall I'm really glad I picked Lap 4. The second-to-last lap is always harder mentally than the last lap. Even though I was now alone, going on 50+ miles, and it was going to get dark soon, the fact that I KNEW I was on my last lap, made it a lot easier. Plus, with how happy I was that I made the cut-off, I headed out on this lap running almost all of it until reaching the Mt. Carbon climb. I power-hiked up that thing like a boss, and then ran the fun downhill section to the water crossings. My goal had been to get the water crossings done before dark, which I managed to do! I snapped a picture of them (since I hadn't gotten one yet), and headed to the first aid station for the last time!

Water crossings!
Documenting the water crossing! 
I chatted with the aid station volunteers very briefly (who made sure I had a headlamp - which, I did, plus an extra because I'm paranoid!) and then headed into the sunset through the section I don't like. It was during a long, flat stretch that I realized I could power walk at the same, or possibly even a little faster pace than I could run at this point in time - and it hurt a lot less. So I settled into a mix of that and running before finally seeing the second-to-last aid station! Roost Teammate Rebecca and her daughter were volunteering at this one, so I chatted with them for a minute and drank some coke, before heading off again. I had one last major hill and then it would mostly be flat or down until the finish!

Sunset on my final lap!
At the top of the last hill, I passed the only other runner I had seen since I started this lap. I said hi to him and continued on - with a little bit of nice downhill running, and then back to power walking on the flats. I walked straight through the final aid station, thanking the volunteers, but not taking anything as I was just ready to be done! I kept at my power walk/jog thing for my last 3 miles and finally finished my first 100K in 14 hours, 33 minutes and 7 seconds! And, to top it all off, I finished second place female - which meant I got some pretty sweet awards as well!

All my awards and bling!
Race: The Bear Chase Trail Races
Location: Lakewood, Colorado (at Bear Creek Regional Park)
Distance: 100K (62.5 Miles)
Bib Number: 460
Date: 09/24/2016
Weather: Started at around 50 degrees, got up into the low 70's. Mostly overcast, although there were a few stretches of sunshine. Also some wind in the afternoon.
Gun Time: 14:33:15
Chip Time: 14:33:07
Overall Place: 13 of  15 (20 Starters)
Gender Place: 2 of 2 (3 starters)
Division Place (F20-29): 1 of 1 (2 starters)
Fuel: Tailwind (diluted), Clif Shot Blocks, PB&J, Banana's, Potato Chips, Oranges, Coke

Check out that buckle!
So... overall, I loved this race! I had a GREAT day. The weather was mostly great (a little hot at times and a little windy - but nothing too bad) and my fueling went well. In all honesty though, during the race, I actually felt like I wasn't eating enough because I was scared to over eat after Lean Horse - but it all seemed to work out well and I felt good through the maybe this was the perfect amount after all! I was also able to keep my mental game in tact and was in a good mood basically for the entire race. I had one moment during Lap 4 where I got a little nervous I was getting too tired and wasn't going to be able to make it - but somehow pushed through that. I had fun during this race. I finished this race feeling really proud of myself - for not just assuming I couldn't make the time cutoff, but actually working towards it and proving I could. I'm really glad to be ending my ultra season on this note!

  • Awesome SWAG. I got a finisher's medal AND a buckle (the buckle is for 100K finishers only), which was AWESOME!
  • For finishing 2nd female I also got a really cool trophy thing, pint glass with $50 Runner's Roost Gift Certificate, and a box of EFS Endurance Fuel.
  • Really well put on, organized race. The course was marked really well, and they even put out glow sticks for our last lap despite there only being a few of us left on the course after dark. I thought that was really cool and respectful of us back-of-the-packers still out there.
  • Great aid stations with AWESOME volunteers who were super helpful.
  • A nice course - I know not everyone likes looped courses, but I think this is a great one. 12.5 mile laps mean that it doesn't feel too boring, since you go 2-3 hours between seeing the same thing again. It also had a nice variety of terrain (hills, flats, gradual and some steeper ups and downs, along with water crossings, some singletrack and some wider sections). Also, the nice thing about looped courses is that you don't need a crew since you can just have an organized drop bag ready.

There's honestly not too much I didn't like about this course, but if I had to be extra picky:
  • I don't love the section of this course that parallels the road. It kind of takes away from the "trail" experience.
  • The time cutoff for the 100K is very strict and makes us back-of-the-packers feel kind of excluded (and extra slow). That being said, all of the other distances have VERY generous time cut-offs, and I did learn that the stricter 100K cutoff is because the park requires everyone to be out of the park by 10:00pm.   
A little inspiration from Leadville 100 founder Ken Chlouber.

And so to end this post...a repeat from what I already posted on social media...but seriously, DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF. I really came so close to not doing this race because I didn't think I was fast enough to make the time cutoffs. You can do SO much more than you think you can. 4 years ago I ran my first EVER 5K after always saying "I wasn't a runner." And now I've ran 100K. And someday I will run 100 Miles!

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...