05/12/12 --- Quad Rock 50 Race Report
Bitter - sweet .... The taste in mouth after this one.
Sitting here a few days after the race --- still sore and limping around the house... I cant help but feel frustrated and overall disappointed in my race performance, especially given how well my training was and how I felt leading up to race day. Sure, I am glad that I crossed the line, but I under-performed.
I chose to run the Quad Rock 50 mainly because I am familiar with the course, as I train on it year round, on a weekly basis, and so the thought of running on an unfamiliar course and getting lost along the way, would never be an issue for me in this race. And also I didnt want to travel across the country only to drop out --- waste of time and money. Local, a challenging course and race directors who know how to put on an Ultra running event --- all helped in my decision to register.
Anywho -- here it goes...
Overall finish time - 10 hours 24 minutes
25 mile split (halfway) - 4 hours 11 minutes
Total Vertical - 11,500 ft
Overall place - 33rd
Had a great spaghetti dinner with some friends the evening prior to race morning. Phil and Kris klotzbach along with Steve and his family. Phil and Kris were also running the 50 mile run in the morning. For the 3 of us this was our first 50 mile mountain trail race. I did, however, DNF'd a few years ago during my first official attempt at a 50 mile at the Bear Chase. I suppose running the first 25 miles in 3:22 (3rd place at the time if I remember correctly) on about 6 weeks of Ultra training probably wasnt the best decision I have ever made, however I wanted to give it a try anyway. After that DNF I swore that I would never DNF again, unless injured --- I would rather crawl hands and knees across the finish line then, well.... quit.
kris and Phil let me crash at their place the night before the race, as it was closer to the start, and with a 5am start time every minute that early in the morning counts. Lights off at 9 pm -- and before I knew it was 3am and my alarm was buzzing. Up and dressed and out the door by 3:45am.
Temps were in lower 30's and of course it was dark. The ground was soggy due to the rain we received the night before.
We got to the starting trailhead at just after 4am -- checked in, got my bib, used the porto potty -- and sat in the backseat of our warm heated car making last minute decisions on what to wear, carry...etc during the race.
After figuring out all the small last minute stuff, I made my way to the starting line -- along with some 200+ runners, some running the 25 miler and others the full 50.
Nick Clark, co-race director and one of the top US ultra runners himself, had some last minute announcements with 90 seconds to go. It was at this point -- standing in the dark, cold and misty morning, that it hit me... I will be running longer today than I have EVER run in my entire life --- in one shot, running far beyond what I ever done....EVER! This reality sunk in -- and before I knew it I heard the 10 second countdown ....and then we were all off running!
Soldier Canyon (Start) to Arthurs Aid Station --- (miles 0 - 2.2) --- vertical gain (268) - vertical descent (115)
Split Time - NA -- I forgot to check. But estimate it was between 18-19 minutes
The siren went off and pretty quickly a couple of hundred runners, all with headlamps on, took off into the dark abyss. Myself with a 5oz gel filled flask in my left hand and my trusty 20oz water bottle in my right hand. The first couple of miles on the smooth rolling valley trails felt good...somewhat surreal actually. A few sharp turns I looked back to see a line of a few hundred headlamps about half mile or so long bouncing up and down in the darkness -- very cool. I forgot to get my split at the this first aid station, as I was focused on not tripping on anything on the trail while running in the dark. I was going to use my headlamp, but decided last minute to leave it back at the car. I figured I could use the other runners headlamps around me as guidance as we made our way through the easy up and down rollers along the valley trail. Within the first two miles there was a lead pack of about 10-15 runners --- some running the 25 and some running the 50 -- with a short lead on everyone else.
Arthurs Aid Station to Towers Aid Station --- (miles 2.2 - 7.2) --- vertical gain (1824) - vertical descent (480)
Split Time - 48:15
Within these next miles the lead pack of about 10 or so runners had about a minute or two lead on the second pack of about another 10 runners...with about 5-6 stragglers right behind them --- as we made our turn onto Sawmill, and our first climb of the day. I was comfortable, for the moment running just back of these runners, as we made our way up Sawmill.
At the intersection of Valley Trail and Sawmill, Steve was there cheering me on and eventually ran with Phil and Kris for a little bit when they made there way up Sawmill.
The climb up Sawmill felt really good...not much different than what my training had felt like, smooth and strong. I passed about 4 runners on the climb up Sawmill and on Stout. Myself and 3 other runners hit Towers at the same time and made our way up this beast of a hill. As we turned onto Towers I passed by the runners around me and kept the pace easy and felt strong the whole way up Towers, running mostly by myself all the way up Towers except the last few hundred yards when another runner engaged a few shorts words with me. His name as I recall was Pat (the overall 4th place finisher). As we made our way up Towers we ran through several patches of fog. As I made my way up the final steep climb before turning onto Spring Creek, I caught a glimpse of 2 more runners approaching the summit of Towers / Spring Creek intersection just ahead. It was also at this point that I had a visual on some of the lead runners hauling tail down Spring Creek, just down the hill and to my left. Up to this point so far I felt great. Just another day out on the trail.
Towers Aid Station to Horsetooth Trailhead --- (miles 7.2 - 10.4) --- vertical gain (296) - vertical descent (1436)
Split Time - 28:43
Approaching the Towers Aid station with a half filled water bottle and gel flask, I ran straight through without stopping and quickly dropped down onto Spring Creek trail for the 3.2 mile descent down to the Horsetooth trailhead. It was on this descent that something felt...off. Smooth sailing until this point, but within a few minutes on this quick downhill section of the course I started to have both nausea and intestinal issues. As I meandered my way down the trail with two runners right on my heels, I had to make a decision. I had no idea why I was feeling nauseous but I assumed both issues were somehow related. So soon after I made my way onto to falls trail, right after the little bridge crossing, I hopped off the trail and found a port-o-bush...also known as dropping trou :-)
The two runners ran on by as one of them gestured that I was heading off course -- I quickly gestured back that my intent was not to go off course but to .... relieve my situation.
After that short stop I continued on my way. I caught back up to the two runners as I made my way into the Horsetooth trail head. As I made my way into the aid station I noticed that the runner I met on the way up Towers (Pat) was just making his way out of the aid station. Low on water, I quickly refilled up and was off and running again within 30 seconds.
Horsetooth Trailhead to Towers Aid Station --- (miles 10.4 - 14.2) --- vertical gain (1641) - vertical descent (484)
Split Time - 44:29
On the first half mile climb after the aid station I caught up to and passed 2 other runners. nausea gone -- stomach feeling fine...I was in my comfort zone. Except for one little thing, that eventually became my demise. My left hip flexor started to become annoyingly tight and irritating. Nothing that was really hampering my stride, or overall effort -- but the race was still in the early stages. As I continued up the 1,600 ft vertical climb back up to the Towers Aid station I was able to maintain my position up until the Westridge / Towers intersection, where a runner passed me about a hundred yards or so before the aid station. Still feeling good, except for the random tightness in my hip flexor muscle. I filled up my gel flask and water bottle at the aid station and prepared myself for the quick descent down Mill Creek.
Towers Aid Station to Arthurs Aid Station --- (miles 14.2 - 17.6) --- vertical gain (323) - vertical descent (1644)
Split Time - 29:48
Split time includes stopping for a few minutes to try and stretch out my hip, and soon afterwards I made my way down the steep and fun Mill Creek trail (one of my favorite trails in the park to run on). I ran the entire way down having pretty good spring in my step and was able to negate split second decisions throughout the technical stuff without much hesitation --- as if I were going for a training run. Even though I was feeling pretty solid, my left hip flexor wasnt feeling any better as I continued on. Ran down Mill Creek with a runner on my heels giving chase most of the way but I didnt catch anyone or have anyone pass me.
Arthurs Aid Station to Soldier Canyon --- (miles 17.6 - 25.0) --- vertical gain (1444) - vertical descent (1617)
Split Time - 1:21
As I made my way out of the mountain side and into the valley trail approaching Arthurs Aid station I decided to fill both my water bottle and my gel flask. As this next section of the course is the longest without aid. I dont know exactly where it began, but at some point as I made my way up the 1,400+ climb up Arthurs Rock trail, my right hip flexor was now just as tight and frustratingly knotted up as my left one. As I made my way up the summit of Arthurs Rock trail, I ran the whole way without seeing another runner. I do remember thinking that I was getting tired of the what seemed to be never ending back and forth switchbacks up to the Howard trail turnoff. I knew something wasnt right when I made my way onto the smooth rolling Howard trail traverse which leads into the steep descent of Timber Trail, when I can remember wanting to open it up and stride out these rollers when running this relatively flat section (with some downhills) actually took effort to maintain my current pace. With both my hip flexors still feeling tight, it was at this point in the race where it actually started to slow me down --- eventually to an embarrassingly painful shuffle / power hike most of the second half of the race.-- ugh!
With about a mile and a half to go before the halfway turnaround point (mile 25), the lead runner -- Ryan Burch, was making his way back up Timber trail. Soon after that, a few of the runners that I was running with earlier in the race, came flying by. This was pretty solid internal crush, as I felt like up to this point I was actually running pretty well...only to realize that the runners I was running with for the first couple of hours opened up at least a 2 mile lead on me by the halfway point.
As I rolled into the Soldier Canyon trailhead, the 25 mile turnaround point, I met up with Andrea and Elli --- happily cheering me along. I stopped for a moment while a volunteer filled up my bottle with water and Nick filled up my gel flask with 5oz of electrolyte goodness. I gave Andrea and Elli a hug and kiss and that gave me a long overdue smile in the moment. I soon turned around and proceeded to make my way back up Timber trail for my second lap.
Soldier Canyon to Arthurs Aid Station --- (miles 25.0 - 32.4) --- vertical gain (1717) - vertical descent (1444)
Split Time - 1:48
This is where things really started to go south for me. About a mile into the climb back up Timber, I tripped on a rock and came crashing down on my left wrist and my right hand, while scratching my left shin on a rock. I wasnt concerned at all with the fall (except that my GU chomps were in the netting of my hand held bottle which came crashing down into a mud pit as I fell -- which means, dirt covered snacks the rest of the way up). What concerned me the most was the fact that I fell going UP. A little toe clip on a rock sent me down. Which translated to me that my legs were more fatigued and hurting than I thought. Generally, a little stub of a toe, especially going uphill, might cause me to trip but never to fall.
A few minutes after I fell and composed myself, I realized that my shoe was untied. Now up until this point the weather had been cool, foggy and misty in parts -- perfect weather actually. But it wasnt until I tried to tie my shoe that I realized just how cool it was. It took me 3 attempts to tie my shoe, as my hands were frozen and all dexterity in my finger tips were gone.
This short chain of events changed my outlook on the rest of the race. No longer was I trying to run an 8:30 or faster. I now thought, maybe I can shoot for 9 hours.--- wishful thinking.
The run back up and down to Arthurs Rock Aid station was brutal. My quads and hip flexors were now knots and forced me to power hike / awkwardly shuffle up AND down the remaining climbs and descents the rest of the race. A slow, painful and pathetic aid to aid split time.
Arthurs Aid Station to Towers Aid Station --- (miles 32.4 - 35.8) --- vertical gain (1644) - vertical descent (323)
Split Time - 59:47
Shuffling into the Arthurs Rock aid station, after a painful descent down the Arthurs Rock trail. I stopped for a full 5 minutes to try and stretch out my legs in hopes to salvage anything left for the remaining miles ahead. Just before I left, the first female runner came into the aid station. From here on out -- I downed a few S-caps at every aid station until the finish. After downing some coke and some PP&J wrapped in a flour tortilla, I was ......slowly, on my way again -- climbing ever so slowly back up to the Towers Aid station. Left the aid station right at the 6 hour mark. From this point on I must have power hiked about 70% the rest of the way. Ugh!
I knew that once I got back up to Towers, the run on Westridge and back down to the main trail head would be familiar training territory --- AKA, a mental boost.
After a grueling and ridiculously slow 1 hour climb back up Mill Creek I arrived at the Towers Aid station.
Towers Aid Station to Horsetooth Trailhead --- (miles 35.8 - 39.6) --- vertical gain (484) - vertical descent (1641)
Split Time - 55:40
It was at this point in the race that I decided to scratch all attempts at a particular overall finish time. Standing there at the Towers Aid station -- quads quivering, I had about 14 more miles to go.
After a short 1-2 minute stop at the aid station I continued on my way. Running...or shall I say, shuffling on Westridge trail was slow going. From Westridge all the way back up to the top of Towers again I would see only 1 more runner. Going down the Rock Trail was painful on my quads. With every step I winced in pain. At this point, any uphill climb that was longer than 10 feet -- I was power hiking up. The good ol' Euro, hands on knees uphill grunt. Another pathetic slow split --- especially since it was down hill most of the way. From here on out, as frustrated as I was -- I had to constantly remind myself why I do this. To strip away all the goals and plans I had for the race and to get down to the nitty gritty.
And the simple fact is I love to run ....and I am blessed that I am able to do so. And the simple fact that I was out running, doing something that I am so passionate about -- despite the pain I was feeling in my legs -- made it that much more pleasurable.
Horsetooth Trailhead to Towers Aid Station --- (miles 39.6 - 42.8) --- vertical gain (1436) - vertical descent (296)
Split Time - 55:48
The final climb of the day was up the Spring Creek trail. A combination of a slow shuffle on the smooth rollers and hands on knees power hiking all the rest. For comparison, my downhill split from Towers to Horsetooth trail head was almost identical to my UPHILL split from Horsetooth to Towers aid station. My quads had nothing to give on the downs. and my knotted hip flexors could barely give my feet any lift on the ups. The same rolling hills that I fly over during my training runs, had left me barely able to move in a forward motion -- unbelievable. Inch by painful inch --- I shuffled forward.
I was not looking forward to the downhill Towers descent that was up ahead.
Towers Aid Station to Arthurs Aid Station --- (miles 42.8 - 47.8) --- vertical gain (480) - vertical descent (1824)
Split Time - 1:06
There isnt too much for me to say about the rest of the race. It was slow and painful. I walked...yes walked, DOWN Towers most of the way, wincing with every step. I let out a few frustrated and painful yells --- just blowing off some steam, about half of the way down.
Just before the Stout turn off, the 2nd place female ran on by.
The hike down Sawmill took forever and the smooth - semi flat valley trails couldnt get here quick enough.
Once off the mountain I knew I only had an easy few more miles to go before the finish. I shuffled as much as I could, and even on these relatively flat "climbs" I was forced to hike up --- ugh.
Arrived at the Arthurs aid station and could see the finish -- 2.2 miles away!
Hardest -- most painful -- slowest 2.2 miles.
Arthurs Aid Station to Soldier Canyon (finish) --- (miles 47.8 - 50.0) --- vertical gain (115) - vertical descent (268)
Split Time - 27:11
With all time goals out the window as of several hours ago, I was now looking to just cross the finish line -- running, jogging, shuffling, hobbling, walking --- in whatever way I could manage.
Final 2.2 miles took just over 27 minutes. Ouch!
Crossed the line -- was handed a nice coffee mug and chatted with Nick for a few minutes, before heading to the car to sit down and change into some warm clothes.
Overall Mens - Top 5 results:
1 - Ryan Burch - 7:40 (Insane time for this course -- impressive!)
2 - Jim Rebenack - 7:46
3 - Jason Koop - 7:53
4 - Patrick Stewart - 7:57
5 - David Riddle - 8:02
Wow -- what a day!
My 3 good things and 3 bad things on the day:
- I earned a new level of respect for all levels of Ultra runners and the sport in general.
- Looking back, running for 10+ hours -- gives me a new perspective on all future races, both short or long distance.
- I forced myself not to DNF about 20 times along the way -- digging down deeper than I ever had to before, and glad that I crossed the line and finished -- character building for sure!
Bad Things :
- Quads and hip flexors slowed me down to a pathetic crawl the last several hours of the race.
- Ran about 2 hours slower than my goal time.
- Overall disappointed in my performance after my training had been going so well leading up to the race. (makes me question whether or not I got a 100 miler in me after all)
--- Now time to spend a few weeks reflecting and recovering... and eventually moving on to other races planned for the summer months ahead.
I should add :
The course was well marked, volunteers were helpful and encouraging, and all the aid stations were stocked exactly as described on the website!
Thanks to Nick and Pete, volunteers and everything behind the scenes that took place to get this inaugural 25 and 50 mile race up and going! Awesome job!
A solid showing by all the Fort Collins and Northern Colorado trail runners!
I would definitely -- 2 thumbs up -- recommend this trail race for anyone looking for a solid run with a good amount of vertical.