I was up and out the door the next morning at 4 AM. Driving up to Golden again to meet up with a few locals to carpool to the race start I stopped at a 711 to pick up some coffee. In a daze I arrived at our meeting point and had my breakfast of coffee, a protein bar, and a banana. I called Sheila who flew down from Jackson, Wyoming. She also was meeting the van that was to drive us to Golden Gate Canyon State park. Sheila arrived and we talked until the rest of the group arrived. The race site provides a forum for runners to find a ride because of limited parking at the park. Dale, Joe, Keith, and Jenny from the Denver area arrived and we piled into Dale's van for the ride up into the mountains. Dale did a great job in organizing this carpool and kept us all informed the last two weeks before the race. It is always nice to meet new trail runners from different parts of the country and at these events it seems that is always the case.
It was cool at race start making it difficult for me to decide what to wear. I decided on a long sleeve tech shirt under a short sleeved one and my bicycle riding gloves. My plan was to carry two water bottles but because of the cool weather I decided to take my hydration pack just in case I needed to shed a layer, I'd be able to pack it.
We were off shortly after 6 AM on a slight incline. Although I had studied the race course description on the website, it had been a week earlier. Not thinking too much of it I was just going to take it as it comes. I don't like studying the course description or elevation graph too much but I knew I was in for a challenge. That it was! And a beautiful one too.
My camera was easily accessible in the front pockets of my pack but that was the only good thing about it. I never was a fan of wearing a pack on my back and half way through the race it began to bother me. I resorted to the Chris R. method of carrying a hydration pack. On one shoulder.
Early in the run we crossed a stream several times. At some crossings there were rocks to run across at others a small wooden bridge and some on a log no more than about 10 inches wide. The first long climb begins at about mile 2.5 and ends 5 miles and almost 2000 feet later. Half way up this climb is when I started to feel the effects of the altitude. Pausing to take deep breaths, I powered up and was pleased that my legs were not rebelling. Couldn't help but think about the hill repeats at the Powerline trail, the Crossing and the hill workouts at Freidrich park. As I told Dale on the drive up, our hills are short compared to these mountains but we've become quite creative in our hill workouts and repeats. On a flat section I met Jeremy from Highlands Ranch, Co. We ran together a bit and exchanged stories. I told how I think the heat and humidity in San Antonio maybe helps prepare us somewhat for altitude running. He said he wasn't a fan a running in the heat. I assured him we aren't either but we have to deal with it. At about mile 12 a course marshall directing us to the aid station was playing some music that must have been from Tom B's playlist. Gangsta' Rap!
Out of the aid station and we're climbing again. At this point I hang on to the pace of a woman ahead of me. We talk a bit but I didn't get her name. she starts to fade and I keep on trucking up the mountain. The next aid station had watermelon! I didn't want to leave this place but I had to. Another lady that I had been leap frogging with offered to take my picture. "I see you've been taking pictures. Want me to take one of you?" she asked.
I found her!
After a short descent we climb again! This time the climb is a 1.5 mile 1100 foot rocky trek up windy peak. Four times I had to stop and catch my breath. At one point it felt as though my heart would pop out of my chest. This is when I leaned on a tree and tried to breath in expanding my stomach and exhaling as long as I could. Finally at the top and I was glad I wore a long sleeve shirt and gloves. It was cool. I took in the view and headed down the mountain. The trail was littered with loose rocks and exposed roots making it difficult to go fast. A few times I almost fell. Although there was a $100.00 prize for the bloodiest runner at the finish, I did not want those hundred bucks. At the bottom of the mountain a race marshall directs us to the finish 2 miles ahead and over two small bumps. Joe passes me here and says "It's getting warm."
It's was just right where I come from.
Officially crossing the finish line at 7:55:08 I beat my goal by 5 minutes. I hung out with Dale and Jenny at the finish, eating and drinking, while waiting for Sheila and Keith to come in.
It was a great time at a Great race with awesome volunteers at the aid stations and I made new friends! Also I got an Ultimate direction waist pack because my bib number ended with the number 2!