Three months ago, Kellen said, “Hey I’ve got a great 13-mile trail loop from my house, you should bring up some Denver peops and we could put on a race in October.”
At the time, October seemed like a lifetime away, but low-and-behold, the leaves have turned, the days have become shorter, and here we are in the fascinating month of October. There is an inherent energy around October: the weather patterns start to gurgle a bit, like a lawn mower engine that hasn’t been started for a month… Mother Nature coughs some frost-biting temps, followed by a gentle breeze cast over a mild autumn evening. In October, we uncover our winter apparel: longsleeves, hats, mittens, tights – a first-day-of-school excitement swirls as we eagerly show off our #weatherproof outfits to those not accustomed to braving the outdoors all winter long.
October is also a phenomenal time to run the trails around Colorado. Tourism spikes around Colorado in the Fall as leaf-peepers travel through the picturesque landscape, nourished by the rich colors of the foliage and highlighted by the stark-contrasts provided by a low sun and pillowy clouds. All the while, our Instagram feeds pile up with vibrant & portrait-esque panoramas.
So here we are, a group of 22 Colorado trail runners. Somewhere along the access road to the Strawberry Hot Springs, there is a starting line… err, starting control tower slash wind mill. We are greeted by a few cautionary words from the impromptu race directors, and then the group sped out of the start enthused to navigate the technical course around Rocky Peak.
For the in-the-know-locals, here was the uber-descriptive course description:
The course started at Lower Bear and traveled through scrub oak, aspen forest, blue sagebrush and dense pine to Elk Park Road. From there, we traveled north on Elk Park road to the Zirkel Wilderness. We traversed this breathtaking single track to Swamp Park trail – identified with steep switchbacks as we descended down into Swamp Park. Once down in the valley, we were faced with three raging river crossings (accurate descriptor). Once dry, we followed the trail on the far bank and headed south down Swamp Park trail to Mad Creek Trail. We took Mad Creek down hill to the parking lot and followed Elk River Road to the Hot Springs Trail. We raced up the Hot Springs trail to the Strawberry Hot Springs and continued on up the road. The race was not over when we got to Lower Bear (though most of us Denverites took the more-familiar access road)! The SBT locals ran up Lower Bear trail to the junction with the “private” trail at the base of the Long Ridge. This amounted to 16-miles of trail running bliss!
For us Denver folk, we were shit out of luck on the navigation end. Having never run these trails, nor seen a map of the woods, we were best suited pacing with the locals as we bit off chunks of the course. One leg at a time, we took frequent breaks to re-fuel and re-group. It was nice to reconvene with everyone, and we were provided with plenty of photo-opps as the backdrop to our run was relentlessly impressive.
As we maintained our pace through open meadows and along the river banks, our legs burned, our sense of direction wavered, and our energy stores hit EMPTY. Well, that was my experience, at least. As I neared the 3-hour mark, my body began to bonk and all I could think about was gorging the finish line FOOD. I had finally brought enough water to sustain a 3+ hour run, however, I failed miserably in supplying adequate nutrition. I’m used to sucking down an energy gel every half-hour or so on the trail, so bringing a measly supply of two gels, simply did not suffice. I learned my lesson, and hope to never feel that empty feeling of lethargic jogging that overtook me in the final miles of the run.
Nonetheless, I took the easier route home from the Hot Springs, sticking to the access road and driveway, rather than falling prey to more climbing on the trail. Once through our imaginary finish line, I immediately began refueling with a bountiful selection of beek jerkey, pulled pork, salmon, & Cape Cod potato chips. Best post-race refuel EVER! Thanks to the big-wig race directors (Kellen & Twig), hostess-du jour (Britta), and awesome crews from both Denver & Steamboat that came together to fulfill the vision of this most ultra fun run!
Now, it’s time to start training for the 2nd Annual…