The Mt. Werner Classic 50K occurred at a perfect peak in my training cycle. July was a busy month of trail running and peak bagging. The first two weekends were full of exploring the resort towns of Telluride and Crested Butte, while the remaining weekends delivered plenty of time-on-foot devouring front range trails and the Epic Relay route. I credit the beauty of Colorado for keeping me charged up and excited to race, explore, and discover my athletic potential.
The Climb (9-miles): I had been eyeing up the 9-mile climb up Mt. Werner for quite some time. It’s not something you can fully prepare for, nor want to prepare for, for that matter. Just lock and load, as they say. Find a pace that keeps your legs churning uphill and your heart rate level. I’ve never done much in terms of heart rate management, but from my triathlon, stair climbing, and sprinting days, I recognize the effect a fluctuating heart rate (i.e. effort) can have on endurance. For the first half of the climb, I followed Jonathan Marsh, a seasoned trail runner, who I was sure would kick my ass in the race. I know he just moved to Colorado, so it was either the altitude or an illness/injury that kept him from turning on the jets. After hanging with him for a while, I charged forward and ran with two other guys who were quite conversational during the climb.
Out and Back (13-miles): After reaching the Storm Peak aid station, I filled my hand-held water bottle and marched on to the next stage of my race. This was a fairly flat 6.5-mile trail hovering around 10,000-feet above sea level. I was happy to have finished climbing and looked forward to the more familiar rolly-polly, zig-zag of single track trails typical of Colorado. I pulled away from the others during this stretch, cognizant of the need to “cruise” on any terrain that was flat, straight, or downhill. I developed this mindset by my training in Altra Olympus sneakers. These maximalist trail shoes offer 36mm of cushioning in the sole. That invites heavy-footed runners like myself to kamikaze down the hills, letting the cushioning absorb any inconsistencies and rocky protrusions. I was relieved to reach the aid station at Long Lake. Here I ate two glorious Honey Stinger chocolate waffles, and turned around to retrace the course back home. I was thrilled to be greeted and encouraged by all of the other participants in the race while on the return route. They truly helped me run faster by giving me something to think about. I’m always thinking about where-the-heck I am on the trail, and seeing others in awe of my progress, helped distract me from what I was actually accomplishing.
Downhill to Home (9-miles): It was a long slog down from the top of Mt. Werner. I welcomed the assistance of gravity, but the fatigue thru my legs prevented the spritely rebounding that I was accustomed top. Here is where my course recon came in handy: Knowing how far you have between aid stations is critical in the waning stages of a race. Little lights-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel along a 31-mile course are essential to keeping sane and churning onward. I had about 5-miles between Storm Peak and Rainbow aid stations. Here I let my legs get sloppy, as I traversed the single track and eyed the Mountain Village beckoning like an oasis. From Rainbow it was another 2.3 long miles to an unmanned water station called, Christy. This aid station could not have come soon enough. Each turn I made, I prayed that the water jugs would be glistening around the corner. When I finally made it to the station, I topped off my bottle and kicked it in to finishing mode. This wasn’t particularly fast, but it was aided by adrenaline and knowing that I was oh-so-close to the finish line.
I had a solid stride in the final mile or so on the dirt access road. It was nice to stretch the legs out and propel towards the finish. I was greeted at the finish line by some puzzling looks of ‘is this a racer’ or is this ‘Joe the Jogger.’ The race director declared that I looked so strong thru the finish that they didn’t think I was a competitior! You can double check my Strava results. The proof is in the pudding.
A few minutes after finishing, my cheering contingent of Julia and Molly arrived. They claim is was a pitstop at the liquor store that delayed their arrival, and ultimately missed my finishing glory. It was no bother to me, as I was able to enjoy their company as I refueled and waded in the man-made brook at the base of the resort. We baked in the sun as we awaited Twig’s arrival shortly thereafter.
The refreshments, course markings, and aid stations were all top notch. Thank you Steamboat Running series for an excellent production. I hope to be back on the trail next year to defend my King of the Mountain award and Course Record!
Read more about the day in the Steamboat Pilot.