For a local trail race capped at 80 runners, there was certainly some talent on hand at the Crazy Legs 10k+ today. Local speedster and recent 2:32-marathoner Steve Folkerts was favorite in the men's field, while Seattle Marathon winner (2:38) and Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Michelle Suszek, was the hot favorite in the women's field.
Before lining up for today's race, I was yet to be 'chicked' on the year, but the chances were looking reasonable that I might take an ego blow today, despite being the defending champ and course record holder.
The 10k race (6.5 miles) starts and ends at the Devil's Backbone trailhead, just west of Loveland. The first mile and a half is up and down a short hill on buffed-out singletrack, which is followed by a short and very sharp climb to a set of rollers, leading to approximately three miles of very technical rock running with continued rollers up and down from a ridgeline that overlooks the Blue Sky valley. Once through this section, there is a screaming descent to the last mile of fast, rolling singletrack.
It's a tough course with some good climbing that rewards those prepared to put their ankles on the line through the rocks, while also allowing faster runners to pick up a head of steam in the opening and closing miles.
With 140 miles on my legs from the seven days prior I was hoping for a slow start to the race so I could keep contact with Steve and hopefully gain an advantage through the technical stuff on the middle section of the course. This didn't happen. Steve bolted from the gun, and after running with him for a quarter mile or so, I soon realized that my legs were in no shape to perform the task that was being asked of them. Steve led from start to finish, while I sat in second from start to finish. Certainly not as exciting as last year when I won by a second.
Steve ran a very strong 40:18 for a new course record, while I was incredibly surprised to cross the line in the same time as last year (42:08), when I was in full race mode and pressing the whole way. Given the lead in my legs and the lack of any challenge from behind, I'm taking that as a very positive sign, even as I grow tired of the unwanted weight that I've been carrying in my legs these past few weeks.
Michelle smoked the course in 44:xx, finishing third overall and crushing the previous record by over six minutes, while my neighbor Amy took second in 49:xx, a time that would have been good for the win any other year.
Great to see Steve running so well this early in the season, especially as I have him (and other ringers) lined up for a little Green Mountain Time Trial action (see comments) up in Boulder in two weeks. Boulder, Denver and any other city being represented in the TT series, be warned: Fort Collins means business and we're bringing our 'A' game/team.