Race Report: 2013 Greenland Open Space DIY 50 Mile
This was one of my most satisfying races ever. Only it wasn’t a race. Not a real one, anyway.
I finished the Leadville 100 on a Sunday morning in late August. Happy to cross the line for the 5th time in a row, but disappointed with my lackluster result. I still had a lot left in the tank.
I went for a 2.5 mile walk on Monday, a 4 mile jog on Tuesday, then rolled straight back into training for my next race. The Bear Chase 50 miler, six weeks away.
Last year I attended the race for the first time to crew for my buddy, Stu – and take some photos. I ended up getting a few published in Ultrarunning Magazine, which I thought was cool given it was my first ever attempt at shooting a trail race.
Things have never lined up for me to do this race until now. It’s not an incredible mountain journey, but it offers a very well organized event on a fairly fast course. I was looking for a new 50 mile PR and trained for it with a mini-cycle of recover, build, and taper that played out with weeks of 44, 60, 80, 62, and 28 miles following Leadville. The first four weeks each included a long run in the 20-27 mile range.
My weight was still 10 pounds higher than it should be, but otherwise I was feeling fit and ready to smash my 8:44 PR. I was even entertaining thoughts of going sub-8, but now I’m getting ahead of myself.
Mother nature threw a MAJOR wrench into the works a couple of weeks before race day with epic flooding along the Colorado Front Range. The small reservoir at the park where the race is held was massively enlarged and a good portion of the course was submerged under 20+ feet of water! Check out Jeff’s post to see what things looked liked after the water receeded. The pics of the huge cottonwood trees barely reaching above the water line are incredible.
In an impressive display of quick thinking, teamwork, and dedication – David, Ben, and the rest of the organizing crew secured permission and mapped out an alternate course. The race was on!
Until it was not.
On the day before the race, it rained some more. All. day. long.
Thankfully, there was no new flooding danger or damage. The trail was very soggy, though – which is problematic for a loop race like this as several hundred runners will be covering the same ground over and over again. In the interest of avoiding excessive damage to the trail system, the park officials made the call to have the race postponed from Saturday to Sunday. The forecast looked sunny and warm for Saturday, so the trails would have a good day to dry out.
The postponement was a possibility that I didn’t see coming. I was all systems ‘go’ Friday night. Bags packed, shoes ready, 4:00 AM alarm set. I happened to check my phone one last time before going off to bed and saw this Facebook post that stopped me in my tracks:
Normally it might not have been that big of deal, but this particular Sunday was a no-go for me. What to do?
I sort of had this fuzzy idea of maybe just going for an all-day run somewhere, then that kind of morphed into thinking why not just do my own race? Line up, start running when the clock hits 07:00, and don’t stop until I’ve covered 50 miles. Treat it exactly the same as I would if it were a real race. When my wife suggested Greenland Open Space as the venue, I was sold. It has a nice rolling 8 mile loop that would be perfect for what I was after. I started my final preparations before going to bed and laying there thinking to myself that this idea probably sounded a lot better in my head than it would turn out in reality. All I could do is try.
I wasn’t worried about going the distance, I was worried about doing it in a decent time. I didn’t want a repeat of my two previous slog-fest 50 milers this year. I knew I just had to lock into my pace, and let my training do its job.
I backed my car into the parking spot closest to the trail entrance before dawn and set up my aid station in the trunk. I would stop here every lap and refill my bottle, plus grab any snacks or gels that I needed. The clock would be running the whole time, so I tried to arrange everything in an efficient manner.
At about 5 minutes to 7:00, I was ready. Just enough time to swing my arms back and forth in the cold morning air, look around at the huge empty parking lot, shake my head, squeeze my eyelids shut, and put my finger on the start button of my watch.
I headed north on the road away from the park, planning to do a 2 mile out and back before coming back for 6 laps of the 8 mile loop. I felt good. Optimistic, even.
I hadn’t been on the Greenland trail for over 5 years. I missed a turn right off the bat that would have allowed me to bypass a climb and run a flatter route along the western perimeter. Oh, well. I stuck with my mistake and kept the climb in the mix for the duration. It’s not like the course was a ball-breaker, but it was a little more hilly than I remembered. Sandy, too. A bit slower than I was planning on, but whatever.
After completing the first lap I crested the final hill where the parking lot comes into view. It was packed! Music blaring, pop-up tents, and huuuuge horse trailers were everywhere. I guess there was some sort of organized ride going on and I would have to contend with horse traffic on the trails for a good chunk of the morning. It ended up slowing me down a few times as I would have to pull off the trail for a few minutes to let them all pass. Thankfully they stuck together, so once I was clear I didn’t have to deal with it for the rest of a given lap.
I altered the direction of my loops on the 3rd lap so I could run longer without crossing paths with them again.
Back to the run – my legs ached way more then usual for some reason, but I was able to run through it. I had one aid station stop that was 1:30 and the rest were all under a minute.
I zoned out and didn’t even bother hooking up my iPod. There was a steady south wind blowing that made things tough for a while. Once the horses disappeared, it was just me and my breathing to break the silence.
I had originally hoped to get close to 8 hours, but couldn’t quite squeak under 8.5. Still a 10 minute PR and a very satisfying effort on the trail. Other than pulling over for horses or to water the plants, I was running the entire time.
I liked the do it yourself approach. I got my ‘race’ in and put my training to good use. I wasn’t too sure about the idea when I finished, but now that some time has passed I could totally see doing this type of thing again. Maybe next time 100??