Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Crested Butte 55K {Race Recap}

I'm going to go slightly out of order on blog posts so I can recap this past weekends Crested Butte 55K while it's still fresh in my mind. For starters, IT. WAS. AMAZING. Seriously, I LOVED this race. Beautiful and challenging with several miles spent meandering through gorgeous aspen trees that were just starting to change for fall... it was heavenly. As I mentioned to a few people out on trail, I could literally just hang out in a grove of aspen trees for hours on end without a worry in the world...but alas, I was in the middle of a race and had to keep moving - nevertheless, as previously stated, it was amazing.

But I am getting ahead of myself... I got into Crested Butte on Friday afternoon around 3:00 and met up with my mom and sister who were spending the weekend with me. We got a fairly good deal on a hotel and I was surprised to find out it was actually located right at the start of the race, which couldn't have been more perfect. No driving required on race morning is always a bonus! After we checked in, I picked up my packet (which consisted of a great shirt and AWESOME hat by Boco Gear), we had an early dinner, hit the hot tub, and then headed to bed early.

Race shirt and awesome trucker hat by BOCO gear.

The race started at 7:00am on Saturday, and since my hotel was right there, I didn't have to wake up until 6:00am. I don't know when the last time I only woke up an hour before a race was...another bonus. My body didn't even know what to do sleeping in that late before a race, so I was actually up by about 5:45 without an alarm. I quickly got ready, made some coffee to go with my bagel and headed down to the lobby. I headed outside around 6:30, dropped off my drop bag, and then headed back into the hotel to wait inside with several other runners until we all ventured into the cold air around 6:45.

Right at 7:00 we were off! The race started out with a quick downhill before a steep uphill which really helped thin the pack a little before we got onto a short section of singletrack, then a quick section of road, and finally lots of singletrack through some gorgeous trees. The sun had just come up making for some great lighting and I wasted no time before getting my phone out to start snapping pictures! The first 4 miles were rolling in and out of trees before a really nice 1/2 mile or so of downhill that took us down to a dirt road. During this section, I chatted off and on with John - another Grand Junction runner who had made it out to the race!

At the start with fellow Grand Junction runner John!

Mt. Crested Butte in the early section of the course.

Race Picture - taken right before the first aid station.

We then ran the dirt road for about a mile downhill to the next section of trail. This made for a fast mile before some uphill again until arriving at the first aid station at Mile 7. I had a piece of banana, some potato chips and grabbed a package of peanut m&m's to go as I quickly headed out again for a mile of exposed trail before getting into an AMAZING section of aspen trees. When I signed up for this race I figured it would still be too early to get much fall foilage, but I was definitely mistaken. Sure there was definitely still a lot of green out...but then there were amazing sections like this:

Seriously... heavenly.

The rolling exposed section right after the first aid station.

I probably wasted a good couple of minutes taking way too many pictures of the aspens before we passed into more of a "woodsy" area with pine trees as well as some seriously steep downhill sections. Now, give me gradual downhill all day, but steep stuff has always been a little bit of a challenge for me - I tend to psych myself out a little, afraid I'm going to fall... so I never end up making up as much time as I want on these sections. Nevertheless, I made it though, thankful we weren't going back up that section later on.

As we finally made our way out of the woods, we had our first water crossing of the day (of 4 total). I stopped for a quick picture before making my way across the stream. Shortly after the water, we passed by several cows before getting on a road that connected to some really awesome singletrack that ran along a ridge line a hundred feet above a stream. This section connected to the Teocalli Aid Station - #2 of the day at mile 13.5

Water Crossing #1

The drop off right off of the trail.

I had some soda and chips at this aid station and filled up my hydration pack before heading out again. This next section was a loop that consisted of the biggest climb of the course, and it would be almost 12 miles before we made it back to this full aid station (there was a water only aid station about 5 miles out). I headed out onto a short dirt road section which had our second water crossing of the day before some uphill. Along this uphill stretch, I caught up with Ryan - a guy I had been running back and forth with all day and we spent the next 5 miles or so running together before hitting the big climb of the day. It was nice having someone to chat with and make the miles go by for a bit!

Water crossing #2 of the day!

Water crossing #3 - actually consisted of walking through water for 1/4 mile.

Around Mile 19, the major climbing began that would take us to the high point of the course around 11,300'. This climb was by-far the hardest part of the race for me. I don't usually mind climbing that much, but this one really took it out of me. I quickly lost Ryan who was speedy. Finally after what felt like an eternity, I made it to the top! I was still pretty exhausted from the climbing and so I was walking a bit even though most of the uphill was over. Along this stretch another lady passed by me and said, "don't worry, you'll get a second wind". I sure hoped so! I continued on, pretty slow and feeling a little worried that I was only 21 miles into the course and not feeling that great...

Looking up at Teocalli Mountain - we would go up the side of this peak.

Just up ahead though I came across a pretty sweet overlook! I stopped for awhile and took some time to just enjoy the view and take a few pictures. This short rest break must have been what I needed because as soon as I hopped back on the trail, the downhill began and sure enough that second wind she mentioned arrived! We had about four miles of downhill to make it back to the Teocalli Aid Station and I ran almost all of it. There was another great overlook about half-way down and two runners caught up with me as I stopped to take in the view. They were from Colorado Springs and I ended up running the remaining couple of miles down to the aid station with them. It was the perfect motivation to keep me moving nice and quickly!

At the awesome overlook that gave me my second wind!

Once the downhill section started, it was through these beautiful trees!

Another overlook on the way down.

More trees :)

At Mile 25 I made it back into the Teocali Aid Station. I fueled up with coke, potatoes and chips, and topped off my hydration pack with tailwind and headed out. John had caught up with me at the aid station as well so we chatted for a minute before he took off pretty quickly. The two Colorado Springs runners, along with one of their friends caught up again and I let them pass, but followed along closely using them as motivation to keep up. They were super nice and great company along the next three miles we had to the last aid station.

The last water crossing.

At mile 28, I rolled into the final aid station just shortly behind the Colorado Springs runners, where we enjoyed some nice soda soup (they were out of cups)! I also had some watermelon and then made my way quickly out of the aid station and out for the final 7 miles of the course, which retraced the first 7 miles from earlier that morning. There was a super fun mile of downhill before a mile of gradual uphill along dirt road before getting onto single track again.

Drinking soda out of bowls with Co Springs runner Tim!

The dirt road with gradual uphill.

I'm not sure what got into me, as I usually struggle to stay motivated to run a lot in the final miles, but I had a lot more energy than I often do and was able to run a lot of those final 7 miles - which was AWESOME! There were still some decent uphill sections over these final miles, but I did my best to keep moving as quickly as possible while still just really enjoying the beauty of the course.

Seriously... SO pretty!

I ended up running back and forth with a younger girl for the last couple miles - she would walk and I would pass her, but then she would start running and pass me. We finally hit a short section of road which meant we were almost there. I did my best to catch back up with the girl and was ALMOST there on a downhill stretch until the final turn of the course that was uphill, where she picked up pace and I wouldn't quite muster it (if only it had been downhill!), but nevertheless, I finished still running and feeling pretty good in a time of 9 hours, 1 minute and 20 seconds.

I had told my mom and sister that I expected it to take me "around" 9 hours...so not a bad estimate (estimating the time you will finish an ultra is not very often accurate AT ALL, let alone within a minute!). This was a fairly difficult course, so I was pretty darn proud of myself for this time and the fact that I was able to run a lot of the later miles in. When I crossed the finish line, I also saw John who had finished about 10 minutes ahead and Ryan who had finished just one minute ahead. I talked with them a bit before getting some amazing soup (they had chicken noodle and tortilla soup at the finish line - a cold front had started rolling in during the last mile of the race and so the tortilla soup tasted so good!).

Thanks to my mom and sister for coming out this weekend!

Race: Crested Butte 55K
Date: September 9, 2017
Distance: 35.25 miles
Weather: 40's at the start, highs in the high 60's.
Elevation Gain: 7000 feet
Elevation Low/High: 8903' / 11,269'
Bib Number: 2408
Official Time: 9:01:20
Overall Place: 46 of 92
Gender Place: 20 of 46
Division Place (F20-29): 6 of 11
Fuel: tailwind, 1 clif bar, 2 packages of shot blocks, half of a banana, 4 mini snickers bars, 2 mini packages of peanut m&m's, potato chips, 1 small potato, watermelon, coke, electrolyte tablets
Splits: 12:55, 11:59, 14:42, 16:22, 13:28, 10:21, 14:50, 14:15, 12:39, 16:55, 15:41, 14:50, 13:39, 14:51, 16:03, 15:16, 14:43, 15:20, 22:13, 24:39, 21:03, 13:35, 14:52, 14:19, 15:38, 17:55, 16:49, 17:16, 10:37, 11:35, 19:58, 16:12, 13:08, 17:23, 11:37

Course Map

Elevation Profile through Mile 32 (of 35 - my watch died)

After the race we walked back to the hotel, I quickly showered, and then we went into town for a delicious Mexican dinner complete with margaritas of course! The next morning we walked around town and had lunch before heading home. Overall a great weekend - early fall in the mountains is just wonderful!

The town of Crested Butte

So...final thoughts on this race:

As I mentioned several times now probably, I loved this race. Seriously, the course was SO beautiful - there was a fair amount of dirt road running (it wasn't all single track), but I don't mind that at all - it helps me make up some time too since it's slightly easier to run. It had a great variety of running through magical aspen trees, pine trees, open/exposed areas, and some great overlooks with stunning views. Crested Butte is such a cute town and fairly remote, and I just loved running here. We did have some bikers on a few sections of the course, but not too many and they were mostly courteous to us runners. The trail was challenging with some big climbs, but also some nice descents too.

As far as race logistics go - everything was great. Packet pick-up was pretty quick and the race swag was great. Pre-race was so low-key that I didn't have to get up too early which was nice. The course was marked exceptionally well. I was never alone for that long, but had I been, there were plenty of course markings and a lot of the "feel-good" flagging which I really like. The only thing that was slightly confusing was that they made a change on race day and sent us the opposite direction on the Teocalli Mountain Loop - according to the race map and elevation profile that I had briefly studied prior to the race, we were supposed to do this loop counter-clockwise and hit the high point at Mile 18. However, the ended up switching it (which apparently had to do with the Mountain bikers - so we were going the same direction as them), and we instead went clockwise, meaning we didn't hit the high point of the course until Mile 21. It didn't matter except that mentally I was thrown off a little with having to go an extra couple of miles before a nice long downhill.

Aid stations were great as well, except for two things: 1. they had Peanut Butter and Honey instead of Peanut Butter and Jelly...which is just different, and since I've never done PB&H in a race I didn't want to try it that day...and 2. they didn't have a way to bring back drop bags until after the 105K runners passed through the aid stations - which meant I had to go back at 10:30 at night to pick up my drop bag. Had I known this, I probably wouldn't have done a drop bag, since I barely ever end up using them anyways. Overall though, everything was really well organized and put together, and the volunteers were wonderful! This was my first race by Mad Moose Events and I definitely know it will not be my last - they did a phenomenal job putting on this race, especially for an inaugural year! I am not exaggerating when I say that this was definitely one of my favorite ultras I've done to date!

The medal is actually a belt buckle!

On Sunday I ended up driving home via Kebler Pass - home of one of the largest Aspen tree groves in the United States (I should have driven this way there too but google maps told me it was over 30 minutes longer - it was actually slightly shorter - and significantly prettier!). There was barely any change in the trees along the route yet, but it was beautiful nonetheless:


  1. Kate! It was great running with you for a stretch. We were all impressed with your push to the finish. You really took off after the last aid station. Congrats and great write-up!
    -Carrie (one of the Colo Spgs runners)

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I kept expecting you guys to catch me - wasn't sure where that extra energy came from! Congrats on your first Ultra finish!!! You rocked it.


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