Early season ski tour with Andy & Jessica near Independence Pass. Cross training, 5/24/14.
Race: a competition or rivalry progressing towards a goal (Merriam Webster)
Relaxing the night before the Dirty Thirty. Photo by Ryan Smith.
Every person has there own intentions and goals when they sign up for an organized race and toe the start line. Some are out there to compete against their fellow runners, some to challenge themselves for a PR, others simply to finish and then a subset of all of the above who simply want to get out and enjoy the trails and the outdoors. My goal at the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k (5/31/14) falls into the latter, to enjoy the trails with my fellow runners, log some good hard miles, but mainly to come out feeling strong in the end. With Hardrock looming just 5 weeks away, the Dirty Thirty would be a ‘training’ run for me, meaning a tune up and a test of my fitness, but not a race in the strictest sense of the word.
The weekend started out with a little acclimatization at 9200ft, where nearly twenty Rocky Mountain Runners and friends gathered for a pre-race night of camping, eating and relaxation. With the civil start time of 7am, I didn’t feel very rushed in the AM, always a bonus. As we all eased our way toward the start line I found my way right into the middle of the pack with the intention of going out at a fairly mellow pace and keeping it that way. Off we went, many people running hard, but I was in no rush. My goal was to treat this as a mini Hardrock; power hike all the uphills and only run the terrain I was hoping to run during Hardrock (<2% uphill grade).
Running through the aspens on the Dirty Thirty course.
Don’t get me wrong, hiking doesn’t mean I’m going slow, I’ve developed a mean power hike over the years and can average 3-4mph, so was keeping pace with most people as we climbed around the backside of Windy peak. As soon as the grade turned downward off I went, cruising down into Aid 1/4, passing people as I went. I continued this power hike up/ run down pattern which surprisingly found me steadily moving up in the field as every mile passed along. While others slowed and fatigued I kept steady, it’s always a good to feel strong and to pass people, I find it mentally uplifting. At several points I even forgot I was running as the trail meanders alongside creeks and through aspen groves with expansive views of the snow capped mountains in the background.
14ers Evans/Bierdstadt and Grays/Torreys as seen from the Dirty Thirty course.
As the day and the miles wore on the heat started to kick up a notch and I had to be much more conscious of staying hydrated and energized with a Vfuel every 30min. I even took several opportunities to dunk my head in the little streams, oh did that ever feel good. As we climbed back toward Aid 1/4 and the heat started to wear on me, so I slowed the pace a bit, “this is not a race, take care of yourself first”. I hit the final big climb of the day, Windy Peak, with decent strength in my legs and cold creek water dripping down my back.
Finishing strong after a tough 32mile run. Photo by Ryan Smith.
As we climbed up this final steep and sunny slope I came across one of my fellow RMR buddies, Jason Antin, and we chatted as we powered our way to the summit. It was nice to have someone to talk with for more than a brief moment, since I’d been passing people all day I hadn’t shared a pace with anyone for quite some time. From the summit we high-tailed it back down the steep rocky slope toward the finish, thunderclouds booming overhead and cooling us with a very light drizzle. We cruised up the final little climb and very soon found ourselves on the dirt road staring straight into the finish chute. I crossed the line in 6:36, 40min slower than my previous time of 5:57 many years ago, but I’d stuck to my goal of a strong and steady race and felt great about how I’d paced it. Jason was the only person all day who passed me and finished ahead of me, so that meant I’d done something right, slow and steady. It was a beautiful day, on a beautiful course, with so many great friends from the Colorado ultra community and specifically the Rocky Mountain Runners. Congrats to all those who ran and finished, and a special thanks to RD Megan Finnesy for putting on such an awesome race, it’s a relentless but beautiful course.
A short jaunt up Bear Peak the day after the race brought my one week training total to 83mi/25000ft vert, a solid Hardrock training week, setting me up for the ridiculousness to come. With two more big Hardrock training weeks ahead I’ve still got some work to do before its taper time, but am feeling very good about where my fitness sits at this moment. Special thanks to Vfuel endurance for fueling me through another bonk free day and Hind clothing for outfitting me for all my adventures. Run fast, run healthy, but mostly run happy.