Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 Backcountry Wilderness Half Marathon Race Report

The plan was to test out altitude to see how it personally affected me as a runner, especially with my iron levels now regulated and normal. I was SUPPOSED to be flying into Denver, driving 4 1/2 hours west over the mountains, and then running the Rim Rock Marathon (road race) on Saturday, before the long drive back to Denver and then fly home Sunday.

The night before I was supposed to leave, sudden severe weather alert. 7-14 inches of snow expected all weekend over Vail Pass and the area exactly where I would be driving through. And I've never driven through snow. And I'm driving a rental car I'm not familiar with (a RAV4).

Um, NO!

So Thursday night, I'm scrambling for alternative plans. I'm cancelling hotels in Grand Junction, CO, and rebooking hotels in Denver. Suann and I find a trail half marathon in a Denver suburb. The Backcountry Wilderness Half Marathon. I have a plane ticket and a rental car. I might as well do the best I can with it. Roll with the punches!!

Friday, I flew to Denver in the morning. I went to Jelly for a late breakfast for a pork belly eggs benedict. I wandered around downtown. I enjoyed an amazing lunch at Euclid Hall, even sitting at the Chefs bar and watching chef Jorel Pierce work with staff while they cooked lunch.
Fueling right with a roasted marrow bone. One of my favorite foods!

Saturday morning was cold and windy. It was funny that a week before I woke up at 3:50 am for a 6 am 50K race start. But this weekend, I woke up at 6:15 am for a 30 minute drive to an 8:30 am race! It felt like I was getting up so late!

The weather forecast showed snow later in the day, but those rain clouds seem to be rolling in. It was supposed to be rain, because it was supposed to stay mid to high 40s the whole time we raced. The winds were almost 20 mph, and I hemmed and hawwed over what attire for my upper half between wind, somewhat cold, and chance of rain. At the last minute I settled for a short sleeve shirt, changing in the car, and my light but Cocona fabric so thick weave jacket. And in my haste, I never thought about the idea that with now zippable pockets, I should bring my nice gloves anyway. Gloves left in the car - rookie mistake.

The Backcountry Wildnerness Half Marathon was in Highlands Ranch, and my friends Courtney and Luke were very familiar with the race. It was rolling hills, but very runnable, with a nice downhill stretch.
Stolen from Becka. Rolling hills!
It's the plains, the foothills, the highlands, so not a lot of trees. And for this season, mostly yellowed scrubby grass. But you could see for days. And for an altitude test, this was perfect, moving between 6000 and 6500 feet elevation the whole time.
Great views! I could even see downtown Denver's taller building 20 miles away!

I met up with Becka and her sister L before the race. I'd just seen Becka a couple weeks before at Palo Duro 50K but it was great to see her again.
Me and Becka before the race
We all lined up and then had to all get re-sorted when they figured out they had lined us all up on the wrong side of the start line. The race advertised it was 95% dirt trail. Um, no. It was easily 1.3ish miles until we got off the sidewalk. Oh, and the first few miles are all uphill, which would be nice downhill at the end, but hard to get started.

The views were awesome, and I snapped a few pictures of the storm rolling in.

And then at 4 miles in, the temperature seemed to drop about 15 degrees. And the sleet started.

Against my Brooks earwarmer, I could hear *plink* *plink plink* of the sleet. And I could hear *crack crack* *crack* as it hit the grass. Miserable, and through mile 4 my hands got progressively more frozen.

Mile 5, and the sleet turns to blowing snow. Giant flakes. Blowing into my eyelashes, into my mouth, and I can feel it melting into the side of the earwarmer. And my hands are seriously cold and I'm so mad I don't have gloves.

From miles 5 to 9, I run mostly with my hands shoved deep into my pockets, and my handheld Amphipod water bottle shoved up between my shirt and my jacket, with my pocketed hands underneath it to keep it secure and from falling out. I'm amazed I keep a good pace. I realize that slowing down just means longer to be freezing.
You can see the flecks of snow falling against the backdrop of the bushes on the sides
Mile 9-10 has a nice more undulating, slightly more technical, single track section through some barren trees. Mile 11 I start speeding up. It's more downhill, and I know I'm set for a big trail half PR. I pass a handful or slightly more in the last two miles.

The last mile is back on sidewalk. So again... 95% dirt trail? No. More like 82% trail.

And then the deadly uphill for 20 paces. STRAIGHT uphill. And I've spent most of this race slightly pushing pace and huffing and puffing from the altitude. And my mind and body say "no, just no". And 3 people pass me on that tiny super short uphill, as I powerwalk up it. Because any more huffing and puffing and I may just pass out or throw up in the finish corral.

Becka and her sister are 2 of the 3 to pass me in that last second, which is at least nice to finish right behind them. A new trail half marathon PR by 18 minutes with a time of 2:51 in snow and altitude makes me so happy (previous PR was Grasslands Half at 3:09). Later I saw that I ran even splits over the course, and I'm very happy about that!

The medal is very unimpressive. An extremely cheap small dog tag with the race name and date. It was Veterans Day weekend though so perhaps that was the tie-in, although no tie-in to the date was ever mentioned.
Stole this from Becka's page. Don't even know where I've put this medal at this moment.

I'm freezing, and there's no post-race food left for us, which is fine for me since I don't normally want anything right after anyway. So a quick goodbye and then 40 minutes warming up in my car so that I could feel my fingers again. SO. FROZEN.

Oh, the shirt by the way, was an okay gender-specific technical shirt. Except I wore it the other day and the seam around the neck ever so slightly chafed me all the way around. I've never had a shirt do that before, so that's interesting.
Back of the shirt
I went for brunch to Rioja back in downtown. Started with a house made doughnut filled with lemon curd and marscarpone cheese with a blueberry compote, and then their eggs benedict. Delicious!

Next up? North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco on December 1st. I'm running the 50K. Then a quick 18 hours in Napa of food and wine!

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