The 2012 Collegiate Peaks 25 and 50 Mile Runs was held on Saturday, April 28, 2012 in Buena Vista, CO (that’s Bee-you-na Vista. The race is directed by Burke Kaiser and is sponsored by the Buena Vista Optimist Club. This years event was the races 12th running. It was voted “Best Colorado Ultra in 2009″ by Colorado Runner Magazine.
This was my first time running the Collegiate Peaks 50 Miler. The race served as my 16th Fifty Mile Race and my 38th Official Ultramarathon of any distance. Something about the races website drew me in initially. From the second you venture to their corner of the inter webs, I knew I was looking into a race that didn’t spend entry fees for the glitz and glamour. I arrived in Buena Vista with the expectation that this race, even while being around for 12 years now, is a bare bones event that still very much holds on to the roots of our sport. I wasn’t disappointed.
During the pre-race meeting the Race Director explained to all the very foundations of this event. “..about 12 years ago now, a group of runners got together here in downtown Buena Vista and decided to go for a long run. As the years went on, the groups size continued to grow, until eventually they knew they needed to organize it as an official event.” The former Race Director then spoke about how “this is a runner friendly race. We’ve worked diligently to keep this race about the runners, unlike many of those other races we’ve all been to where they’ve blown the whole thing up.” After hearing these sentiments, I knew I was running in the right race this weekend.
Pre-Race and Shwag (3 STARS)
Online registration did not go as easily as I had hoped. Problems with the processing of my credit card forced me to register via. snail mail and a check. I never received a receipt or e-mail notification that my check was received; I only knew it had based on my name appearing on the race website under “registered entrants.” Even then, it was another 3 weeks before my check was processed. Small potatoes but inconvenient none-the-less. (Reg. = 2 STARS)
Race Weekend Check-In went flawlessly and with great ease. The volunteers are friendly, helpful and truly supportive. The pre-race meal is $12.50 during time of registration or $14.00 week of. It’s your typical pre-race pasta feed with various kinds of pasta to satisfy all diet types. They even serve up garlic bread, the best home-made meatballs I’ve had in some time, dessert, lemonade, iced tea and water. The community feel during this meal was something special and again is attuned to the roots of our sport. It’s well worth the $14. (Feed = 5 STARS)
I love the race shirt that I got except I, myself personally, would never wear it because I don’t tend to wear race shirts that come with the race sponsor’s logos on the back. This is a personal preference of mine. The quality of the shirts are great and comfy. A few ultra-runners mentioned their displeasure with the 25 milers and 50 milers sharing the same shirt. Same as with the race medals. The race medals are cheap, low-quality, medals with this years date on a sticker placed on the back. Next years runners will get the same medals with new stickers on the back with the 2013 date. This isn’t that big a deal as my 50 mile medals all end up in a box in the closet anyway. (Shwag = 3 STARS)
The Course (4 STARS)
The race profile online is deceiving. What looks like a course full of difficult climbs, the real data of climbing 1,400′ in 6 miles doesn’t sound like that big a deal. The truth is, that no matter how many miles it takes to climb 1400′, the course is a relentless roller coaster ride with long climbs and long descents that mask periods of consistent rollers. This course is ultimately challenging. (Challenge = 4 STARS)
The most challenging aspect of this race is the cut-offs. Runners have 12 hours to complete the run. Races of equal and lesser difficulty all possess a 13-Hour time limit. Extending the overall cut-off of this race would hurt no-one and in turn, continue to emphasize this race being runner friendly. At aid station number 9 (Mile 35.4) I was told I had just made the cut-off by 14 Minutes. At aid station number 10 (Mile 38.3) I was told I had just made the cut-off by 14 Minutes. At aid station number 11 (Mile 44.3) I was told I beat the cut-off by 1 Hour 50 Minutes. There seemed to be some confusion out there, some angry runners in-turn, and a lack of continuity. (Time = 2 STARS)
The course itself was stunningly beautiful. The terrain itself and the surrounding mountains and rocky tops, it was breathtaking. Very easy to get lost in the moment and experience flow on this course. There wasn’t a moment while out there that I was not in complete awe of all that I was seeing. The views alone truly erase any negative connotations derived in other aspects of the race. (Scenery = 5 STARS)
Aid and Value (4 STARS)
The race itself does not permit crews out on the course or at any aid stations. Spectators are not permitted on the course. None of the aid stations offer the use of drop bags. Runners must rely on what they can carry themselves for 25 miles at a time, and whatever is available at the aid stations. 50 Mile Runners may access crews, their vehicles and personal assistance at the 25-mile turn around (the start/finish area) only. The aid stations on the course are lacking. Offerings at each stop are limited to: Lays Chips, Pretzels, Bananas, M&Ms, HEED Products (Heave), water and de-fizzled coke (late). Runners I was around were searching for more food choices (sandwiches especially) later on in the event. (Race Food = 3 STARS)
The cost to run this race is an ultra-cheap $75. Race organizers could charge an extra $10 and bring the price up to $85 and I’m 100% certain runners would pay it in a heart beat. Especially since this race supports local Buena Vista youth considerations. All told, the race is very reasonably priced and event at $85, I would find that price fair for a 50 miler. (Price = 5 STARS)
FINAL SCORE = 4 STARS
Overall I truly felt like this was a great race. Ultimately it is underpriced and perhaps a higher entry fee would afford better aid station foods and more money for the supporting organization. The course is challenging and amazingly beautiful. The biggest change this race could make to improve it’s overall score, in my opinion, is extending the time cut-off to 13 Hours. I would totally run this event again without hesitation or question. I highly recommend it to any and all ultra-marathon runners and even venture to say that it would make a descent first 50 to those who train diligently. I highly respect the races dedication to the community based, low-key running, roots of our sport. While I give it 4 out of 5 stars as the numbers go; I’m more inclined to give it a 5 based on biased personal opinions. Hey! CHECK THIS RACE OUT!
by Sherpa John
See more of John's writting at sherpajohn.blogspot.com