Monday, July 14, 2014

Race Report - Chase the Moon Ultra Trail Relay

aka - begging my coach "I won the entry and want to do it.  I'll just do the first 10 mile loop before the sun goes down.  I'll be careful, promise!"

aaka - I am damn lucky I didn't really hurt myself.  Dumb idea so close to IMBoulder.

aaaka - sooo beautiful and fun.  I wanna do it again!

So, some backstory....  I randomly go to Thurs night run club at my local running store.  This particular Thursday (1.5 weeks ago), they were doing a Hoka demo and there was some promo about this overnight trail race.  Will had been talking about buying some Hokas so I made him go to the run so he could try them out for free.  Long story short, Will ended up winning a raffle for a free entry to the Chase the Moon 12 hour overnight ultra trail relay.  We knew it was an expensive race ($345) so we (me and my friend Ryan) made him accept it and we signed up for the 5 person relay.  I somehow managed to assemble a team in a day through my triathlon club (we're all crazy).  And after a quick conversation with my coach (I was also supposed to race Boulder Peak that weekend) I was good to go.  The deal was that I'd run the first 10 mile loop (mostly before it got dark) then go home and sleep in my own bed.  Kinda sucky for my teammates but also kinda awesome for me.

The Premise:
Do as many 10 mile loops as you can.  The race went from 7 PM to 7 AM - yes, overnight.  The race was in the Highlands Ranch Backcountry, which is a suburb (with a huge amount of open space) south of Denver.

This one was a bit weird, with the 7 PM start.  I had NO IDEA what/when to eat for lunch/dinner since I'd be running 10 miles that night.  I probably under-ate but eh.  I got there around 6 PM and set my tent up as Team Altitude Multisport HQ in the field right next to the start line.

3/5ths of our team.  Note the dark skies - it DUMPED right before the race.
We immediately sensed a much different vibe to this pre-race scene.  No nerves, no egos, no checking people out.  Just people hanging out getting ready to run.  Very different from triathlon.  You could also sense an undercurrent of quiet, un-assuming crazy.  Ultra runners are a very special kind of crazy.  They make triathletes look sane.

race start
10.3 miles, ~770 ft climbing
notes from teammate Jeff, who lived a mile away:
The first .5 mile is the hardest uphill towards Highlands Point
The Metro trail is down and up – watch your feet
The next section Rocky Gulch has its name for a reason.  Relatively flat on top of the point but watch the loose rocks.
The final climb to Highlands Point is a steep short run, then the EastWest Trail is fast.  No speed bumps on the path.
After looping back (after station) to go down Buck Snort, Buck Snort is a steep downhill and rocky.
The right on Longhorn Ledge is a sharp turn and the track along the top is fast and relatively clear.  There are speed bumps.  When you start downhill, there are some s curves to be aware of.
A sharp left on Brandon Cutoff is next and then more downhill.  I twisted my knee once trying to take the turn to fast…
A gentle merge onto Tenderfoot is more down and up with speed bumps to the outlaw station.
Outlaw trail is more of the same, many S curves, gentle up and downs.
At the gate, the turn to the right takes you up the east west trail all the way back to the school.  More speed bumps.

This was my first true trail race.  I did a trail 12k but it was more on dirt roads where you had room.  This race was mostly on single track.  So that meant if you needed to walk, you were walking in the grass/trees/bushes/rocks.  And that made passing people a bit tricky too.

The first 3/4 mile was a pretty steady uphill.  I turned my garmin HR alarm off and just really enjoyed running up the hill.  The cool thing about ultra runners is that this was their first loop of many, so no one was really out running aggressively.  People were pretty chill.  I really enjoyed being in a pack on the singletrack and just letting the people ahead of me pull me up the hill with them.

Once you got up the front side of the hill, we had rollers and then were at the top of the hill for a nice little plateau.  Nothing was too steep or too long.  Just very enjoyable.
still in the pack running up the hill!
We got to the top, hit an aid station, turned around and started running on the west/south side of the hill.  The view was SPECTACULAR.  I really wish I had my phone on me.  The sky was cloudy from the earlier rain but the sun was peaking through, setting, and reflecting off of Chatfield Reservoir with the mountains in the distance, all misty blue.  It was stunning.  I had really had to focus on keeping my footing and not looking around too much.  The footing was really tricky - lots of rocks and roots.

some people brought their phones...

yet another "Colorado is just so ugly" photos
Then the run became super fun.  Not only was it BEAUTIFUL, but the terrain was really fun.  Lots of rollers, lots of hairpin turns, nothing too steep or too hard.  Just super fun.  And a net downhill.
still working on my jumps...
So. much. fun.  I actually want to go back here and do some regular runs.  I did do some walking over here, mainly because my HR was blowing up (>170).  Considering I'm still in IM training mode, I tried to keep my HR more around 160-165.

Then around ~mile 8 (in single track with deep scrub oak brush) I heard some voices behind me and figured they needed to pass me.  I pulled off to the side of the trail to let them pass.  Saw one guy.  Cool.  Oh, there's a 2nd guy.  Ok.  I went to step out to run again and there was a 3rd guy passing me.  No words were uttered by ANY of these guys the entire time.  The 3rd guy caught me off guard and distracted me to the point where I didn't look at my footing as I started running and I went down.  I remember going down hands first, somersaulting, and popping up with a scraped knee and a whole bunch of cursing.  THEN the guys asked if I was ok.  I'm pretty sure I growled some impolite things back at them.  The really sucky thing was that the adrenaline hit my lungs and they immediately seized up. Where was my inhaler?  In my truck.  2 MILES AWAY.  Crapola.

I did a quick inventory of myself.  Lots of dirt.  Knee was now bleeding.  But things felt ok.  I ended up run/walking the rest of the 2 miles back, doing as best I could with dysfunctional lungs.  Apparently I'm a bleeder because I had streaks nearly to my ankle - and spatter!
my friend captioned this "Trail meets trail"
somersault evidence 
I had a goal of coming in around 1:45, which was probably on the aggressive/unrealistic side.  but with the fall, I came in around 2:01 (chip time, which included saying hi to a friend at an aid station for a minute and the fall).

I had a really great time.  I didn't really like falling, but I did secretly enjoy being properly initiated into trail running with a bloody knee.
getting cleaned up
Although, it was pretty lame that I was the first runner who was bleeding (out of the entire race) AND I was the only member of my team who bled, even though everyone else ran in the dark (and one person had a dead headlamp and had to run by moonlight).

Our team did 6 loops, so 60 miles.  Everyone got one loop in and we had an overachiever who did 2 loops. The winning relay did 9 loops for ~93 miles.  In the dark.  That's bananas.
this tiny little scratch sure bled a lot...
I'm damn lucky I didn't hurt myself worse.  I woke up the next morning not sore and had no issues running another 5+ miles.  I guess having to run 2 miles after falling to the finish was a good thing - it didn't let things stiffen up.

I am banned from all dirt surfaces until Aug 4th though.  Coaches orders.

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