Grand Mesa 50 mile race was, hands down, the most beautiful race I have run to date. It starts at 10,500 feet in elevation, just outside the Grand Mesa Lodge in Colorado. This year it rained a ton and hailed quite a bit the day before the race and through out the night. All the rain had the temperature a perfect 48* at the start.
Not so perfectly, the rain kept me awake and freezing in my tent the night before…a bit wet too! When my phone alarm went off at 3:45 I was already awake. After eating an almond-butter sandwich on potato bread, I dressed in my tinniest shorts. The choice was easy- rain was expected and I wanted to wear what stayed ON when drenched. (That meant no skirt for me. 😦 BOOOO.)I picked my thinnest sports bra for the same reason and put on a cap-sleeve Champion tech shirt, followed by a long sleeve tech shirt and fleece gloves. My outfit did not match, and that bummed me out (navy blue shorts, white sports bra w black trim, pink gloves, light blue and yellow shirts), but I needed to wear what would handle 50 miles and rain best. One minute before the 5am start, I was downing an Amp and walking fast towards the start line. Lucky for me, the race started two minutes late, just as I reached the line and finished my Amp.
I pushed the start on my GPS and took off. Right away I realized the 1st of my colossal mistakes. As a veteran trail runner, I know I am not supposed to try out new things in a race. Yet I do. (Why?) This time I chose to run with my head lamp over my visor for the first time. My thinking was solid. LOTS of runners use a head lamp over their visor. With the predicted rain, I wanted my visor to shield my face and I needed to use lights for the 1st 45 minutes of this race. So it made since to run with my visor on and my head lamp on top. Problem is, the visor cut out too much of my light beam. I just could not see. I had a pulley band light on one wrist so that I could carry two hand held bottles and still have a light on my hand. Thing is, when I tried (for like half a second) to move my bottles around and free up a hand to remove my visor, I could see NOTHING. Dangerous running trails on the side of a mountain in a line of runners blind. Stopping wasn’t much of an option either, as the trail was narrow and truly on the side of a mountain. (Plus, I dislike stopping.) I figured my best bet was to keep running with my visor on and be extra careful of the rocks. HARD. I counted down the beeps on my GPS, figuring the sun would be bright enough to light the path by my 4th-5th beep (mile). It was. 🙂
Background info on this race: This race is harder then it looks on graphs. The low point in the 50 mile is just under 10,000 ft and we run maybe a half mile there. And it is on a hill, so down and right back up. I would only call one of the hills (hills in the mountains, ha!) a true climb. But I am use to running hills (and sloped mountains). For the most part, I do believe this 50 miler is runnable. Having said that, I did not even try to run all of this race. The hills (climbs?) may be fairly short (the longest maybe 2/3 of a mile. I think.), but most of them are on the technical end. Rocks, roots, and Rocks.
About mile 6 is the biggest climb. It took us up onto The Spine. SO spectacular I was wishing I brought my camera along. I would have stopped and used it. The Spine is super narrow in parts and super rocky. At one point, there is a 300ft drop on BOTH sides of the pure rock trail. Book it thru there, would ya’? I saw Duncan book it…I took my time.
Colossal mistake number two for me was nutrition. I took in about 600 calories in the whole 50 miles. And I know better! But I didn’t eat. Why? I asked myself after the race. Why did I carry my little bag full of jelly beans for miles and miles and only eat 4 or 5 every few miles? How did I make it thru 4 of the 6 aid-stations chocked full of foods and grab nothing? The answer: I had to go to the bathroom. Had I realized this was keeping me from eating during the race, I would have made a pit stop before mile 25. But I didn’t put it together until after the race. I’ll blame lack of oxygen to my brain for that.
Colossal mistake number three was hydration. During the first 11 miles there was no aid, so I carried 2 bottles. But I dropped one (along w my lights and long sleeve shirt) at the 1st aid-station. Some how I missed a note from the Race Director that said one of the aid-stations was moved. This was a bad bad mistake, as I had to run 9 miles instead of 7 in an exposed field on 12ozs of water. Miles 22.5ish to about mile 32. I had drained my bottle by mile 28 (slow running) and was feeling very awful by the time I got to the aid-station. But what to do? I downed 24ozs of water, ate 2 power gels (yay bathroom brake!) and ran on, feet and calves cramping.
When I reached the next aid station (mile 37ish), I ate a few pretzels and a piece of tortilla with PB, drank more water and tried to run more. But my legs were getting worse. The cramps in my feet hurt so much…but I knew I had to finish. I was less then a half marathon from the finish line.
A half marathon at 10,000 ft in the air. A NOT flat 10,000 feet. With ATV traffic. 2 stream crossings. Giant rocks stuck in the ground with mud and puddles around them. Spars markings that had me doubling back often to make sure I was on the right trail (only twice had I gone wrong. Still glad I checked every time I was unsure!)I prayed for no more rain and alternated granny jogging and walking up the hills, while gritting my teeth and trying to push thru the pain of running the downs.
Funny thing is, the end of my race was hardly slower then the start. I watched my GPS cover the miles no more then a minute slower on my way back then I had on my way out. And the end is a bit more up then down. This, I believe is due to me having tried to pace myself and the fact that this course is hard to actually run. The Race Director said he was going for “something between Hardrock and Leadville”. I think he got that. I would call this race Bandera at 10,000 ft. 🙂
I finished in 8:18:00, or right under. 1 hr after Duncan (1st finisher)) and about 45mins after Troy (2end finisher). 1st female and new course record- for me and Duncan. There was no official race clock. Just a flashing LED type clock in a tent just past the finish line banner. And being the race started late, I think all the runners times are 2 mins off. No big deal. I kinda like it, actually. Laid back and fun. And such a beautiful course!! 🙂 Right up my ally for racing. 🙂