The Spring Desert Ultra 50 mile in Fruita, CO this weekend was a truly great experience. From perfect weather on one of my favorite courses, to good times with good people, SDU 2011 ranks up there pretty high. Tim Parr and I made the 2.5 hour drive down late Friday afternoon and rolled right to race registration to pick up our race numbers. It was great to be in this part of Colorado again with the colored rock and inspiring landscape. That Friday evening, the temperature was a warm 65 degrees and the sky had a slight haze to it. Perfect. We headed to our hotel room at the Balanced Rock Motel which we were sharing with fellow runner and friend Adam St Pierre. The Balanced Rock Motel is clean, comfortable, and cheap and served as a perfect staging ground for three guys running a race the next day. We heated up our pre-made dinner and had a small feast as we set out our clothing and water bottles for the next day.
|Beautiful views of the surrounding area from course! Stunning again.
We all awoke around 4:40am on race day, ate a small breakfast, put on some sunscreen, and drove out to the race start area which was abuzz with about 200 runners combined for the 50 mile and 25 mile events. At the gun, Parr and several others who were in the 25 mile event took the pace out fast as there was a $100 cash premium on the line at the 1.5 mile mark. I settled into a good pace and was surprised at how good I was feeling. (I did not have a great week leading up to this race). Throughout the first 4 or 5 miles I was in approximately 15th place overall and in the lead for the 50 mile. The legs felt loose with a ‘higher-than-currently-normal’ range of motion. On the flip-side, during these first few miles, my breathing felt shallow and the lungs were burning a little. I knew not to worry and was positive this feeling would fade about 45 minutes in. Sure enough, the breathing leveled out and around mile 6 things began to fall into a consistent and positive-feeling rhythm. At this point I was running with a small pack of ’25 mile’ guys, including Crested Butte’s Ben Dunn. These guys were running a solid pace and I was excited to have a group to run with. Ben kept up some good encouragement and a little friendly chatter as we rolled along on one of the best courses in Colorado. As a small group, we even reeled in a few other 25 mile runners who had started out too fast. At the mile 19 aid station, the climb up Mack Ridge began. I felt exceptionally good on this climb and gave chase to a couple more 25 mile guys. Ben and I essentially ran the descent back down to the start/finish aid-station together, where he finished in 6th place with a solid time of 3:32, and I began my 2nd lap at approximately the same time. I knew this might be a bit of a fast pace, but was confident that my body would hold up and be able to run a solid second half of the race.
|Love that Single Track. This course is phenomenal.
As I began the second (and final) lap (opposite direction), I had a chance to see who was close to me in the 50. I knew Corey Hanson was in the 50 and noted that he was running strong and looking smooth less than 5 minutes behind. Anita Ortiz was also a threat, less than 8 minutes back. I entered my favorite part of this race, the technical climb back to the top of Mack Ridge where I made a concerted effort to run hard, but within myself. This part of the course is great too as you get to see all the other competitors in both events. Many cheers were thrown my way and I am greatly appreciative of the support! I knew Parr had won the 25-mile event, and I was determined to make it two victories on the day for Gunnison, CO runners.
I rolled along and through the same section (miles 33-37) that was the beginning of the end for me in the 2010 edition of this race. I knew Corey was close, but with my stomach and legs still intact, I ‘squeezed-the-trigger’ just a little bit more to try and open up a gap. Through the next two aid-stations, I made sure to stay well-hydrated as I continued my consumption of First Endurance EFS drink mix and EFS Liquid Shot. These products are in addition to the two Vespa packets I used for this event. Once again, combining these products with a little bit of PB&J and Coke made for a near perfect fueling strategy.
After the mile 40 aid station, I knew I had at least a 10-minute lead. With this knowledge, I kept the pace as solid as I could, cognizant of the fact that there was quite a bit more technical (slow) terrain to go and anything could happen as the temperatures heated up. Just a few minutes out of the final aid station at mile 44, I began to fade ‘ever-so-slightly’. I kept plugging up the technical trail and noticed for the first time all day that I was sweating quite a bit. Once this started, I knew I had been lagging in my salt intake, so I popped a couple more Salt Stick pills as I tried to fend off any cramping or stomach issues that might arise. Success! Turns out I did not have any leg or stomach issues. I did slow down considerably throughout this last 5 or 6 mile stretch of the race but, this would be the only negative on the day. I finished in first place with a time of 7:38 which gave me a 22-minute cushion on the ‘PR-machine’ Corey, who ran 8 hours flat to set a nice PR. Way to go man. Anita was not too far back of Corey. Buddy Adam St. Pierre rolled to a gigantic PR as well, good enough for a solid 10th place result. Nice work St. Pierre. (I am tremendously excited to be pacing Adam at the Western States 100 in June)
With Parr winning the 25 mile race earlier in the day in 3:09, Gunnison swept both men’s races for 2011. A bit of tightness and fatigue after the race was ‘up-staged’ by the great time sitting around and chatting with new and old friends at the finish line. Put this race on your calendars for next year. Next up on the race calendar is the Collegiate Peaks 50 mile
in Buena Vista, CO on May 7. Should be a solid field of racers with Corey Hanson, Ryan Burch
and Dylan Bowman
(among others) towing the line. Here’s to a great couple of weeks.
Live well. Train well. DC