Editor’s Note: If you’ve been to November Project – Denver, you know Ryan Wooderson aka Woody. I’m trying to think of the best way to describe him and I just keep coming up with the words, ‘smooth jazz.’ He’s a cool cat and always has a good story to tell so I was excited to hear his report on the Dirty 30 12 miler, a race on my personal bucket list. Although it didn’t go quite as planned, Woody showed that it’s attitude over everything and that any day you get to run in the mountains is not a bad day.
It all started like an ordinary day with the 3 S’s – shit, shower, and sustenance (this is Colorado, shaving is optional). Today was the day of my first solo trail race, and like any other race day there were some butterflies. I’ve done a couple North Face Endurance Challenges as part of a relay team, but this solo business was new territory. It was also my first trail race at elevation. I had no clue how the day of firsts would progress, but so far so good. I just wanted to go out, have fun, and finish strong.
The Dirty Thirty holds court at Golden Gate Canyon State Park, about 35 minutes northwest of Golden. I got to the shuttle parking lot about 40 minutes before the gun – I hate sitting around before a race. Unfortunately, due to the craziness of the week before, I failed to notice on the website that the last shuttle ran to the start (about 15 minutes via old lady-driven school bus) at 8:30. It was 9:15, the lot was full of cars, no attendants, and 2 very obvious trail runners meandering the side of the road. They looked like characters out of a Jack Kerouac novel in search of dharma with mountains as their backdrop. We teamed up to hitch a ride to the start line in a beat up Honda Civic with some cat named Mitch and his lady who was going to spectate. We hurried to grab our bibs, made the requisite bathroom stops, and slathered on some sunscreen thanks to the race volunteers who were a little surprised that we were starting 15 minutes after the gun. There were a lot of “we’re not mad, we’re just disappointed” faces. As I crossed the start line I felt like I was heading to my room after missing curfew.
With 4,000 ft. of elevation change throughout the 12-mile course, the initial climb was steady with the occasional and extremely welcome rolling single track. The course was prettier than a Wednesday morning NP bounce in the sunrise, with a mix of evergreen forest and creek side aspen groves through the first 3-ish miles.
After a mile-long switchback descent I came into the first aid station at mile 5 to snag a strawberry and half a monkey pickle, and filled my bottle half with water, half with whatever they had for electrolytes. I was feeling good and excited for the quick descent before the long climb to the checkpoint at Windy Peak. The downhill was a blast and I could hear other runners whooping and hollering through the trees as they cruised down the soft dirt that was 2 raindrops shy of mud. I’d never run on clouds before, but that’s what I imagined it feeling like. With one more stride of my left foot I felt a thud, then a pop, then pain shooting up to my knee and down to my toes. Ankle sniper. It was only mile 6. I half jogged the rest of the descent and hiked most of the climb to Windy Peak. As much as I make a living asking people to listen to their bodies, I failed to heed my own physical therapist advice, so I kept going. Practice what you preach.
The next 4 miles were a mix of walking, hopping, and jogging, mostly on my right leg, and a stop, drop, and roll down the hill after both of my legs said “Screw you, guy.” The second aid station was resplendent with Ginger Ale, Coke, water, and electrolytes. I was more than ready to be done and didn’t take as much water as I should have. I was tired and parched by the time I crossed the finish line.
After refueling in the race village, my Jack Kerouac buddies and I hopped on the slow bus. There was standing room only, but not much of even that. It was like being on the subway in Hong Kong rush hour. After 10 minutes of winding mountain roads, the fatigue and dehydration caught up to me. Women and children wept in fear. There were no survivors.
It was a rough day, but a few hours in the Colorado mountains and sunshine with a story to tell are pretty hard to beat.