Howdy crew. Here is a little write-up I did for our local paper, The Gunnison Country Times. See y’all this weekend. Looking forward to it. Safe travels.
‘Jack’s Trail’ comes as a rude awakening as you begin the 31-mile Sage Burner adventure by shocking your body awake. Then comes the ripping downhill on ‘Tail-Pipe’, followed by the beautiful ‘Ridge Trail’ with fancy footwork ability a pre-requisite to get down in one piece. Thus is the way of this beautiful race. Up and down, up and down. The rhythm of Hartman Rocks is interwoven into this racecourse. Indeed, the course builders; Dave Wiens, Scott Drum, and Jake Jones had this in mind 3 years ago as they mapped out what has become an instant spring-time classic running race. The Sage Burner has lived up to its billing as a race to showcase the beauty of Hartman Rocks, and I for one, am completely hooked. I love this race, not only because it is in my backyard, but also because the true nature of Hartman Rocks can only be experienced by running a large loop which includes every major Hartman Rocks’ single-track. This race has it all, from steep climbs and nasty drops to gradual dirt ascents and technical running sections.
This Saturday I will be racing the Sage Burner 50km for the 3rd consecutive year, as will many other folks as well. Many have faced challenges and many have effortlessly floated on its ‘buttery’ (thanks for the term Tony) single-track. 2008, the first year of this great event, saw 70 people toe the line in either the 25km event or the 50km event. Last year this event tripled in size to over two hundred competitors. I believe 2010 will be closer to 250 runners challenging themselves in this beautiful setting.
As you move on from ‘The Ridge’ trail and up the big climb on ‘Top-of-the-World’ you do begin to warm up and find a rhythm, one that will not leave you, if you are lucky, until the finish. Dropping down the North side of ‘Top-of-the-World’ the main goal needs to be to stretch out the legs from all the initial climbing and technical running. As you head down onto the ‘Water Treatment Plant Trail’, the temptation is to pick up the pace and hammer it out. Don’t. This could leave your legs devastated for the rest of the race. A quick scramble up to ‘Gateway Trail’ leaves you gasping and quickly you come to the realization that this is only 7 miles into the race. No time to dwell on this though; it is time to move on. Eventually, through a mix of technical rock sections and dirt-single-track bliss, you end up about to head out on ‘Buddy Bear Trail’ and onto ‘Dirty Sock Trail’ and beyond. It is here, approximately 11 miles into the race that aid station two greets the runner. This is the time to re-fuel and re-focus.
The bone crushing descent down ‘Enchanted Forest’ and the subsequent climb leaves you on the verge of serious fatigue as you see the ‘mile 15 aid station’ and begin your drop down toward the ‘Aberdeen Quarry’. This is a chance at brief rest before a gigantic climb up the technical ‘Skull Pass Trail’. I have many fond memories from this climb as a place where decisions are made and character is forged. In the inaugural 2008 Sage Burner this is where I launched my attack on a flagging Tim Parr and begin to try and overcome a 5-minute deficit. A sagging spirit is quickly renewed at the top of this climb as you pass the aid station and realize you have just passed the halfway point. The ‘Outback Trail’ is next which is by far my favorite part of this racecourse as I usually use this as my ‘surge’ trail.
Working around in this counter-clockwise fashion, the racer maneuvers eventually to ‘Bambi’s Trail’, Gold Basin Road and then up the infamous ‘Elevator Climb’. This steep quad-buster takes you from Gold Basin Road back up to the ‘Power-line’ and ‘Joshos Trail’. Most people hike this climb and they cannot be blamed for that, as this climb comes some 24 miles into a difficult run. Dropping down ‘Joshos’ and ‘Broken Shovel’ is the time to put the ‘hammer’ down, as this is all gradual dirt single-track. Just don’t forget the ensuing run back up the ‘Sea of Sage’. After navigating the devastatingly deceptive ‘Rattlesnake Trail’ it is all downhill on ‘Becks’ and the infamous ‘Notch’. If you have any legs left at all for the ‘Notch’ this is a great place to make up time on those who have destroyed their legs long ago. However, taking risks coming down the notch is not advised, as any fall will lead to serious wounds. Coming into the finishing stretch is exhilarating with many spectators and the bloom of pride from finishing a daunting 31 mile run in the beautiful Hartman Rocks Recreation Area.
I look forward to seeing you all out there this weekend, battling hard, fighting through fatigue and pushing back boundaries. The Sage Burner is a fantastic race that has become an instant Spring Time Classic in the high desert. It is a course to be respected and a field of participants to be admired. Race hard. Don’t quit. Happy trails.