Saturday, May 2, 2009

Collegiate Peaks (Bridesmaid Revisted)

Peaks just south of Leadville

I had set a fairly attainable goal of beating my time from Fruita (7:44) for the Collegiate Peaks 50 in beautiful Buena Vista this weekend, but the real goal was to go one better than my second-place finish in the desert. The legs were pretty fresh, all things considered, and thankfully the calf was mainly background noise through most of the race.

We got into Buena Vista Friday and I immediately got a ticket from the local constabulary for driving 25 in a 15 mph zone. Welcome to town! After learning that cops in Buena Vista have little better to do than issue ridiculous traffic tickets, we made our way to the cabin we had reserved for the weekend and settled in for the night.

Home for the weekend

The race was a 6:30 start, so we were tucked up in bed pretty early so I could roll around and at least rest, if not sleep a great deal. For whatever reason, I was playing around with numbers in my head and trying to figure a million different variables on how to get close to Tony Krupicka's course record from 2007 (6:53). When numbers start rolling through my mind they take a long time to go away, so it was a pretty restless night's sleep. I finally gave up at 4:00 am and got the coffee going. I like to get up at least two hours before a race so I can get some food in my stomach and a couple of cups of coffee, allowing time for digestion and expulsion. My race-morning breakfast of choice is two glazed donuts, but I had failed to find donuts in Buena Vista the night before, so had to settle for scones.

Got down to race HQ about a half hour before the off and did the usual: milling around, multiple trips to the john, retying shoe laces, etc. Chatted with JeffO a bit, who recounted his torturous-sounding Zane Grey run from the weekend prior, and then hung out at the start with Bryan G and his dad Norm, waiting for 6:30.

We took it out at a relatively easy pace from the gun and, as at Fruita a fortnight back, Bryan and I caught up with each other's goings on as we eased into the opening two to three miles of hard-top running. A slew of people were in front of us through these miles, but we were certainly in no hurry so early in the race. As we made the turn onto trail, we started picking off a few of the eager beavers.

On the longer stretches it looked like there were a good ten to twelve runners ahead, and by the time I made it past Keri Nelson - the lead female runner in the 25-mile race - at 10-11 miles, I figured there were maybe seven or eight ahead, assuming most if not all were 25-mile runners. I was pretty much locked into place here with a sizable gap to two other runners in front that I was getting a visual on. Keri was keeping me honest, not giving up much ground behind. The pace felt good, and I didn't want to push, so I just settled in and focused on hydrating, fueling and running a good line through the curvy jeep track.

A good 70 percent of this race is on hard-packed forest road/jeep track, with continual ups and downs and a couple of big climbs and equally big descents. The rest of the course is a mixture of sandy trail and singletrack. The sandy sections were a major pain, and no matter how much I tried to find firm ground, I always failed.

By the top of the last big climb on the first loop, I had closed the gap significantly on one of the two guys I had been tracking. I caught him soon after, on the drop, and we chatted briefly. He was in the 25-mile race, but informed me that the guy he had been running with was a 50 miler by the name of John Anderson. Name didn't sound familiar. I was content to plug away at my pace and not worry about wasting energy chasing the lead. With 30 miles left in the race, there was plenty of time to worry about racing.

By the bottom of the big 1,000 foot drop, there was a long and tedious section of firm county road that finally led to the last mile of singletrack down to the Arkansas River. The sound of moving water was a welcome break and meant that the turnaround was nigh. I began looking for oncoming 50 milers, as the second loop was in reverse. I made it to the footbridge over the Arkansas, just a few hundred meters from the turn and race HQ, but still no runners; by the start/finsh still nobody. Hmm. Either John had dropped or he was taking his merry old time refueling at the aid station. Dana had a new bottle ready for me when I got in and I was reasonably quick back out. However, just as I was getting ready to set off, another runner came into the turnaround and shot by me. I really had no idea what was going on, but the volunteers at the start/finish assured me I was in second.

I made the turn at just over 3:20, which I had figured in my hours of digit crunching the night before would be good for a shot at seven hours if I could stay reasonably strong through the second half. Ideally, I had wanted to come through in 3:15, but I wasn't too concerned as I was happy with my energy levels and the way my body was feeling, so I set about chasing down the guy in front.

Many of the oncoming runners on their first loop gave me updates as to the position of the front runner, so even if I wasn't getting visuals on the tight singletrack, I was getting verbal assurance that he was no more than 30 seconds to a minute in front of me. By the time I got back up to the road, the margin was confirmed visually. And so began a 90-minute stalking session. We were running at very similar paces, and I was in absolutely no hurry to chase the lead, perfectly content to let him worry about the guy behind. He was shooting regular backward glances, and I can only imagine it was a little frustrating for him to see me hanging around within striking distance for miles on end.

It wasn't until mile 35 or so, and the end of a major climb and descent, that I finally caught up to the leader. We chatted a bit about race plans and other stuff. He introduced himself as John, and explained that he had gone to his car to pick something up at the turn, which was why I never saw him until he shot past me. It was pretty evident from our conversation that we were both just trying to get a read on the other guy's state of mind and body, and had little to no interest in actually socializing, but neither of us was giving up much information. His response to my question about how he was feeling was to state that he felt great. Sure.

We pulled into the penultimate aid station (38 miles) together after I had tried to make a bit of a move, which John seemed to cover with ease. Somewhere between this aid station and the next (6 miles out) there was a steep and steady climb, and for whatever reason I decided to let John gap me here as I went through a mental lapse and kind of gave up on the race for first. However, after chomping through a pack of lime sports beans I was re-energized and set about chasing John, who was now out of sight, even on longer stretches. By the time I hit the last aid station (44.3), John had three minutes on me, according to the volunteers. I knew it was mainly downhill from here to the finish, so pushed as hard as I could, promising myself that if he was within sight on the final two to three miles of road to the finish after the tight singletrack, I'd lay it down and give chase with whatever I had left.

Turns out I never caught another visual on him, but I still pushed pretty hard in an attempt to break seven hours. I got to the river in 6:59 and jogged the rest of the way in, finishing 10 minutes back on the course record at 7:03, and five minutes back on John.

I'm so stupidly competitive, I put in a final effort to pass these two 25 milers

John Anderson had a strong run for the win

I was pleased with my time, and was really pleased to find fuel in the tank late in the game. My 25 splits were approximately 3:22 and 3:41, which is way better than I managed at Fruita (3:28, 4:16) two weeks earlier where I really suffered through the last seven or eight miles. Bryan edged out Garrett Graubins by a minute or so to take third in 7:27. Helen Cospolich ran a very impressive race in just under eight hours for the win in the female race, setting a new course record in the process.

All in all a good day. Just waiting for that 'W' to materialize sometime this season.

It was great to see some familiar faces and also meet a few new ones. Caught up with Patrick Eastman and his wife from Laramie. They are expecting their first baby in June on Dana's birthday - pretty cool; chatted briefly with Derrick, a fellow trail runner from Fort Collins, in the early stages of the race; and had a good chat with John Anderson after the race. He is a strong and steady runner, who should be hard to beat at Hardrock if he gets in. Failing that, he plans to run Big Horn. I also had chance to chat a bit with Boulder blogger extraordinaire, Tim Long, after the race.

The race was impeccably marked, although there was some trail marking vandalism which caused Tim and possibly others to make a wrong turn 47 miles into the race - brutal. The course was great, although the venue was a bit impersonal and sterile which made for a weird atmosphere. The course has approximately 5,000 feet of climbing - it felt like more - but the firm and non-technical footing make this a pretty fast track.

Splits, if you're interested:

Out _______________ Back
5.7.... 48:22 (48:22)... 50.0 ... 47:27 (7:03:41)
11.7... 48:11 (1:36) ... 44.3 ... 49:50 (6:16)
14.6... 20:29 (1:57) ... 38.3 ... 28:04 (5:26)
17.9... 33:24 (2:32) ... 35.4 ... 25:28 (4:58)
21.8... 27:16 (2:57) ... 32.1 ... 39:48 (4:32)
25.0.. 24:00 (3:21) .... 28.2 .. 31:18 (3:53)


  1. I'm still in BV.
    Wish my tweaks had stayed in the background.
    You really killed the course, and you sure gave John a run for his money. Very impressive! You'll get your win this year, I'm sure.
    Hope your calf heals up.

  2. Nice running Nick! Looks like that calf "tweak" went away eh? Congrats on a strong race!

  3. Excellent report! You nailed the 'weird atmosphere' at the community center. I thought I ran to the wrong place to finish since there were only a handful of people there and they were all inside. Sorry about the ticket. If it makes you feel any better, I saw the money-generating, misdirected-power-minded cop pull over a few cars on that 15mph speed trap. Two bicycles passed me while I was driving that stretch.

    Again, great race and really enjoyed getting to meet.

  4. what the heck? glazed donuts for the prerace meal, i love it...breakfast of champions...only before an ultra. is that a uk performance secret? great job out there!


  5. Thanks, Jeff! You looked good when I saw you. Hope that heel eases up on you, you've got one packed running schedule!

    Scott - I guess it probably is more a tweak than anything - soreness is not as bad today as it was after a 5k last weekend, so good sign, but you're always paranoid about these things. Congrats again on a killer run in Cali - way to represent Colorado running.

    Tim - I figured I probably wasn't the only one. Must have been a revenue day for BV police dept.

    Ryan - I'd say you pretty much killed your goal in Fort Collins today. Great run! However, a couple glazed donuts and you would have run even splits for a 2:42;-) Looks like it was an all out sprint for fifth.

    Let's get out for a run next weekend, if you're around.

  6. It's really hard to go 15mph in a car, if not impossible. Lame.

    Great race and I love the picture of you picking off the 25 milers! I've got pumped for that as well finishing a marathon and you see the half marathon walkers and being the same way to toss in a kick to beat them.

  7. Marvelous run, Nick. Great write up, too; Hilary and I really enjoy reading your blog. We'll plan to visit again if you can make it up for Pilot Hill.