Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Steamboat 50 (Part 2 - Outbound)

What went before...

The race director marshaled the field out the door around 6.  I wasn't sure what time precisely, but we all clotted together in the start/finish chute and waited for word to get under weigh.  It was chilly at the start and I was wearing the exact kit I went with for Imogene.  Loose fitting wind breaker I've had for an eon, buff, CU Visor, light weight gloves, Boulder Marathon long sleeve tech shirt, shorts, Ijinji (celery color) socks, and Cascadias.  This very quickly turned out to be way too much clothing, but I appreciated it initially.

We didn't have to wait long until we were released and quickly everyone was off and running.  Even me.  I realized my folly fairly quickly and settled into a solid power hike.  This is my first 50 and none of my goals required my "running" this opening stretch.  I expect I wouldn't finish last in an uphill time trial which ended at the Mount Werner Aid station, but with the better part of 44 more miles to go after that first climb I was happy just to let more ambitious bunnies bound away.

After a mile or so, I was very close to dead last.  Looking back down the hill I could only see 6-10 headlamps behind me.  While somewhat disconcerting, I figured that was really not tragic, as the energy I was saving here would probably pay dividends once the opening climb was over.  This is also probably a good place to note that I was wearing my HRM and had decided that an appropriate max HR for this climb would be 170 (my average for Imogene), I didn't set the alarm, but I checked regularly and I never did exceed that target.  Throughout the first part of the race I used my HRM to keep my effort in check:  whenever my HR climbed into the 160's I dialed back the effort a bit.

As the climb progressed, my conservative approach paid off and I started reeling folks ahead of me back in, all the while staying within an assumed safe effort.  We hit the top of the climb and the first aid station and the local radio was blasting Barry White:  Can't get enough of your love or You sexy thang or something like that.  Up next though, Born to Run by The Boss.  That got a laugh.  My split up to this point was 1 hour 44 minutes.

I grabbed a bit of banana, some Succeed, and ventured out onto the running portion of the course.  Almost immediately upon leaving the Mount Werner Aid station we were onto some sweet sweet singletrack.  Briefly I was alone, but soon I came upon a group who were ticking over a pace I could dig.  There was banter.  We discussed the beetle kill, forest fires.  Where everyone was from...  Spirits were high and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

The train stuck together until the Long Lake Aid station where I met my first drop bag and ditched all of my excess clothing.  Jacket, gloves, buff, keys and phone all went into my bag.  I grabbed a couple of gels and Clif Bloks.  I topped up the Succeed in one water bottle and water in the other and headed out again.

The singletrack continued.  I was alone again.  The entire group I had been running with took less time to get through Long Lake than me, but that was fine.  Running alone in woods and open fields like the ones that feature RRR isn't exactly a difficult chore.

Eventually though I came upon another group of about 10 probably a quarter mile ahead of me.  It took a bit, but I ended up catching up, working my way through and eventually out the front of the group.  I think it was during this pass where I acquired my day's nemesis.  Charles Danforth has a website with many detailed trip reports.  I referenced it several times prior to running the Pawnee/Buchannan loop earlier this summer.  I also was planning on running the Four Passes Loop in Aspen with my cousin and Charles's site came in handy again because he had backpacked it before.  I bailed on Four Passes because of weather, but it's still out there...

Charles and I would go back and fourth the remainder of the day.  We would run together for a while, he'd pull ahead and I'd pull him back.  It was great having somebody to chat with of about the same ability.

Aid station #3 came and went without much fanfare.  Looking at my data on the day, I probably ran this third section too hard.  Perhaps the excitement of catching and passing a group got the best of me, but I was having fun, so...

Charles and I ran to aid station number 4 together the entire time.  Around mile 20, Goeff Roes passed us going the other direction very quickly followed by about 4 other runners who I wasn't familiar with.  They were all 9-10 miles ahead of us at about 4 hours into the race.

Aid number 4 was the only one with easy access for crew and family.  Charles had the latter.  I envy him that, as my wife and son have been in Bolivia for more than 2 months.  This time through though I was fascinated enough by the people willing to quaff the Dales, Gubna and other frothy beverages being offered by the aid station volunteers, that I didn't really do any reflection of my own.

At this aid, I had another bag full of gels at this aid station as well as a clean short sleeve tech shirt which I gratefully changed into.  I perused the offerings other than beer under the aid tent and headed out to the turn around at the Rabbit Ears themselves.

This final section of the outbound portion of the race was "run" on a jeep road which started out gradually enough, but eventually became a real grunt.  It's like the race organizers wanted to remind the racers that this was an ultramarathon and that they damn well better be sure that they really want to be doing this.  After 18 or so miles or so of fairly steady running, they put a seemingly near vertical incline for everyone to savor.

During the gradual section, I saw Jim and Brooks on their return.  They were about 5 miles ahead.  Jim looked really quite strong and Brooks really quite determined.  Charles dropped me on the climb up to the Ears, but not by too much and I wanted to mess around a bit when I got up to the top anyway.

The Rabbit Ears are remnants of volcanism that occurred somewhere in the latter third of the last 65 million years.  The landform itself was really pretty cool and its volcanic matrix contained large blocks of the country rock it intruded.  Anyway, I climbed up to it so that I could get a good look.  Shot some video and declared the landform Miocene in provenance, climbed back down to where the volunteers were checking runners off as they made it to the turnaround and headed back the way I came rather full of confidence that I could finish the race.

I made it to the turn in 5 hours and 48 minutes, 12 hours wasn't remotely out of the question, but that waits until tomorrow...

Thanks for reading,


  1. You are killing me! Geological exploration in the middle of the race? Geek!

  2. I like the suspense! I'm not even going to read the results page on how you came in because I want to hear the rest of the story first.

  3. Aaron, thanks for reading.

    Let's just say this, a dude who's stopping along the way looking at "Miocene Volcanics" is not going too hard...

    Maybe next time I'll "give it a go" but as this was my first ultra, I was trying to smell the roses along the way.

    Re: your race. Bummer on the hip, I've had issues in that area myself. I've used a foam roller and run I short in VFF, though initially that was b/c Plantar Fasciitis. The VFF transfer a lot of the running load into the ankle, nice for the hip/knee (and PF!) bad for the ankle. I switch back and forth...

  4. Read the ending...that's a great finish for just smelling the roses! I had a similar experience in my first at the dirty thirty. Just took it easy and enjoyed myself, and ended up better than I thought I would anyway.

    Thanks for the tips. I actually run exclusively barefoot or in five fingers and have for the last year, except when I'm on really rocky trails...then I run in inov-8's. Five fingers and barefoot running changed everything for me, as prior to that I couldn't run 3 miles without major IT band swelling locking up my knee. And I love foam rollers, I'd probably be dead in the water without that too.

  5. I'm going to try to complete the transition to barefoot/vff this winter. It's been a slow process for me - over a year. I don't want to injure myself in the transition and my first few runs in them resulted in comical trips up and down the stairs. So I've probably been a bit hyper cautious about limiting the distance I run minimal...


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