Saturday, April 23, 2005

Spring Desert Ultra - 25 miles

While the event name has the word ultra in it the course is a 25 mile loop that can be run a second time in the opposite direction to make 50 miles. I only did one loop to keep the distance, time, and exposure to heat a little more sane. This is the third year, and third course, for this event held just west of Fruita, CO off from I-70. I made the trip Friday afternoon, carpooling with Jan Ingbrigtsen. We got some dinner in Grand Junction and picked up our packets at the race hotel and then continued west to find a place to camp. We stopped at the start line, but there were signs forbidding any overnight camping so we continued about 8 miles further west to some BLM land that was designated for camping. It was sparsely occupied mostly by ATVers spending the weekend in the hills. With the race starting at 6:30 am we decided to wake up at 4:30 to make sure we had time for breakfast, to take down camp, and make it to the start before the parking lot filled. If you don't get there early enough you could be parking up to a 1/2 mile away. I got a little sunburn last weekend so this time I put on some sunscreen and then got in line for the port-a-potty, another thing I forgot last weekend. The weather was just warm enough that I decided to not wear any extra clothing for the start so it was down to shorts and a short sleeved shirt at 6:15 in the morning. The RD announced that like last year there was a crisp $100 dollar bill waiting for the first male and female make to the top of the first hill about 1.3 miles into the course. The race started slow last year so I decided that I'd start out front and see if that bill could be mine. When the gun went off I found myself quickly off the front. Tania Pacev, a fellow Denver Trail Runner was up front with my for about a minute, but then dropped back. I checked my pace and felt that I wasn't pushing it yet so I stuck with it. I could hear some people behind me, but that were at least 10 feet back. I didn't actually look until I made the turn to the hill and the next person was probably 30 feet back. At this point I wasn't going to let anybody take this from me so I pushed harder than I should have up this first steep, but short hill. I made it to the guy holding my bill and happily grabbed it out of his hand. My race could have been over here, but I kept moving. This may have been the top of the fist hill, but the climbing wasn't over, after a short flat section the trail keeps climbing. Two guys caught up to me shortly after I hit single track, but they stayed behind me. I remembered this as a fairly short hill so I didn't try to move behind them like I should have. Unfortunately it kept climbing for probably 10 minutes or so and I led the whole way up. At the top we got caught be a couple of other guys and one of them went by pulling everybody else. I quickly fell into 4th and had Buzz Burrell right behind me. At this point I didn't feel too bad and decided that I didn't have much to lose by trying to keep up so I pushed a little, to keep the leaders close and after awhile Buzz wanted a piece of the action and blew by me to run with the leaders. I kept them in contact until the first aid station at around 6 miles. There was another long climb after that aid station and that is where I really started to lose touch with the front runners. I had a decent lead on the rest of the pack, but I knew that going out as hard as I did was starting to come back to bite me and it was just a matter of time before they caught me. A group of three caught me a few minutes before the second aid station and passed me when I stopped there. Two others caught me shortly before the third aid station at about the half way mark. We all stopped shortly there, I went out with one of the guys and the other fell behind us. The guy I left that station with was running the 50 so not direct competition to me. I started to get a second wind and wanted to push and catch the group of three that had passed me earlier. That never happened and my pushing turned to agony as we entered a section of the course that wasn't part of last year's course. There was a steep and very technical downhill that made me really feel my quads. The 4th aid station wasn't until mile 19 and the long stretch took its toll mentally. After the 4th and final aid station we started up a service road that was quite steep and most people including me walked up until the pitch let up a little. One of the group of three had dropped back and I caught him at the aid station, but he was also running the 50 and had pushed himself too hard so I quickly left him. What was concerning me was the guy I had dropped at the last aid station was starting to catch up. I gathered what strength I had and pushed up as hard as I could. Once at the top I felt OK, but that didn't last and even on some flat sections I had to walk just to keep moving. He finally caught me shortly after starting the downhill back to the frontage road that we started on. That was probably the longest and hardest downhill I've ever done. Finally I made it to the road and trudged the final mile just looking forward to being done. Results were never posted at the finish and the awards weren't until 8:30 pm, way too late for me to get back to Denver so I still don't know for sure how I placed. I'm pretty sure that I was 6th overall since one of the front runners got lost and came in after me, but I have no idea if anybody ahead of me was 29 or younger.


Anonymous said...

What do I say!!:) To me a good run. The saying goes better a bird in the hand than two in a bush and so goes the $100! Way to go. Keep Running!


Anonymous said...

Hey Mike! Way to go. We just got back from Jamaica and I had to check out your site. We'll try to get in touch by phone on Sunday. MOM

Scott Dunlap said...

Great run, Michael! I loved the blow-by-blow recap too. $100 bonus?!? Who could resist?

Happy recovery, and good luck at Collegiate Peaks this weekend. I'll see ya in Deadwood!

- SD