At 7:30 a carload of us from Boulder pulled into the lot, arriving a mere 30 minutes before race time. We leisurely applied sunscreen, visited the john before getting to the serious business of standing around. The group of racers assembling in the parking lot was a lot smaller than the crowds I’ve recently seen at the 5430 Sports triathlons held at the Boulder Reservoir this summer, which was a nice change. It’s always nice to try out a relatively new race in the quiet of your own backyard without the heavy breathing and stink of 3000 of your closest friends.
A few minutes before race time Paul, the race director, said a few words. “Thanks for giving me another chance. This year, no one will get lost. The course is very well marked; don’t go through the white tape, and turn where the little signs are. The ground is really saturated; try to avoid the big puddles of mud, they’re about 8 inches deep.”
I grinned; I really like mud and a nice, saturated ground. Forest running is a total high and worth every speck of dirt.
At the sound of the gun folks took off with mincing steps so as to not trip over someone else’s feet. Luckily this lasted less than a minute before racers sorted out their paces; magically there was room for arm swinging and long strides over mud puddles.
The race starts at the base of Eldora Mountain and immediately goes UP. We climbed steadily for a little over a mile before leveling off in a meadow for a few minutes of quick recovery, and then started another huge climb. Water and Gatorade was available at Mile 2, handed out by those wonderful, friendly volunteers that make or break a race.
Immediately after the water station we went down a steep single-track. I’m pretty good on downhills and can pick up speed during my controlled plunge to the bottom.
And so it went. Lots of ups, a few downs, and after the second water station we were directed up another hill and ordered to “stay to the LEFT!” After a moment I could see people hurtling down the trail on the opposite side as if their butts were on fire. I idly wondered what race those very fast people were running and turned to ask the guy next to me, but stopped short when I saw his head hanging down and heard the rattle of his breathing.
We climbed the ridge and turned right on the hairpin turn when suddenly I was one of those incredibly fast people rolling down the mountain. Ahhh, I see… this section was a brief out-and-back. Now that the climb was over it was time to pick up the pace and let it fly.
After the last water station a young woman and I anchored onto each other. Her steady breathing alerted me to her presence; on an open section of moderate uphill she crept past me. My GPS had stopped tracking mileage somewhere in the forest so I didn’t know how much farther the finish line was and didn’t want to bust a lung keeping my lead. I kept to her heels until she stopped short and said “Whoa” as she looked at the steep downhill we had to navigate. Because downhill is an old friend, I regained the lead easily and showed her the best route into the valley.
I heard generators below me and knew we were almost to the finish line. The young woman had regained her lead and now I chased her down. Knowing that it really wasn’t even half a mile made the last quarter mile go fast; I passed her easily and flew into the finish shoot.
This is a fabulous trail race at elevation that begins at 9200 feet with another 1000 feet of overall gain. The trail covers beautiful terrain that is only accessible during the winter; this race is the only time the general public is allowed on the mountain outside of ski season. I love this race and the constant hills and descents, and will absolutely be back next year!