Friday, August 9, 2013

Colorado Springs Part II: The Race

My cousin Melissa, her husband Mark, and I rose early in the morning with light pre-race breakfasts of bananas, bread, and peanut butter and checked out of the hotel. During the ride over nerves were definitely flowing. On our way over, Mark joked that I better find my confirmation email for registration, just to be sure. I wasn't going to get out of the race that easily! When we got there, it turns out there was a glitch with and his registration hadn't gone through! He had to wait in line for same-day registration and completed his registrations just minutes before they closed race day registration. Karma, Mark, karma, hehe.

Once we finally got going, the nerves started to fade and we each ran our own race. I saw Melissa a few times at turnarounds, but other than that, we were all pretty much on our own! Pictures of the trail are courtesy of a runner from Virginia, who was nice enough to email me the pictures after the race! Silly me didn't bring my phone with me, and the scenery was incredible! Despite the monstrous hill, but I will get to that soon enough...
When we started, we were on a paved road, but only for a mile or so. The road quickly turned into a loose dirt/gravel, and stayed that way for a few more miles.
And the route just kept going....
Almost 4 miles in we were directed up a single track switchback that just kept getting narrower and was marked by the orange ribbons tied to trees. There were a few times where I went so long without seeing another living soul that I was certain I had gotten lost. Then I'd see someone else and be reassured that I was on the right path.
This is what the crazy mountain climb was like. Once the route turned into the single track, it started going uphill. Extremely. The race directors mentioned it would be hilly, but they didn't mention that we would run some hilly miles, climb a mountain, and then continue with more normal hills. This part of the trail was a mild part that was much flatter than the rest. As you can see by the view, we were quite a ways up, and this wasn't even the top! There were stretches where I thought my legs were just going to protest and not work anymore, especially on the climbs where you could only get a bit of grip on your toes and had to scurry up because the trail was almost completely vertical. Needless to say, it was intense! Also, I wasn't as acclimated as I thought because once my body hit the crazy mountain track, I definitely gasped for air. A lot of this race was alternating between walking and running for me. I think most everyone walked up the mountain section. All the trails that broke off the main one and headed down the mountain were blocked off, of course. There were a couple of false peaks that made you think it was all downhill from there, but no such luck. Eventually we reached a point where there were volunteers and the trail broke off into two directions: completely uphill or meandering downhill. Sure enough, we were directed up the mountain further, with the disclaimer, "you're almost there!" Almost there my @$$. It was more climbing for what seemed like forever when the trees finally broke and revealed an observation tower and some fine young gentlemen holding the most delicious thing I would ever taste: orange slices. The sweet, succulent juices were a small miracle to my fatigued body and dry mouth. And the relief of going down hill was terrific. I adjusted my knee brace and I was off.

I was sure I was the last person while I was going up this trail. It wasn't until I reached the top and turned around that I realized there actually were some people behind me. I can't explain how wondrous it was to travel down, and how bad I felt for everyone still ascending. I was really excited not to be last, though. Nothing like a little confidence boost :) The route descended down a trail that was different from where we went up. However, it looped onto the same loose dirt road that we started on. As I neared the bottom of the single track that started the hike up the mountain, I remember thinking, "IF THOSE VOLUNTEERS MAKE ME CLIMB THAT *expletive* MOUNTAIN AGAIN, I QUIT!" After the race, I learned both Melissa and Mark had the exact same thoughts, so I guess the volunteers sensed our feelings, and thankfully we were waved past the trail.
Even with my handheld waterbottle, I was so grateful for the water stations and volunteers on the route. They directed us and were a very pleasant reminder that we were still headed in the proper direction. They had also marked the route with powder arrows letting us know where to make turns and where not to.

After the large mountain trek, we continued on twisting, turning roads with large hills. We were also directed around a loop very close to the finish line, which was kindof frustrating. I turned off onto the loop with people who had already finished the loop and were being directed to the finish line, "about a half a mile away." I was very jealous. The loop also contained a hill, surprise, surprise.
Finally I approached the finish line! I think the extreme elevation made my Garmin off in distance because it read just over 12 when the finish line came into view. Everyone else's apps were doing the same thing, though. But at the beginning of the race there were some mile markers that were only .01 off of my Garmin, so I have confidence that the race distance was actually 13.1. I'm counting it as 13.1 regardless. It was a really tough race!
When I saw that Mark and Melissa had their phones in the picture taking position, I grew confident that no one was going to redirect me just before the finish line for another mile. I was finally done. My chaffed legs could stop moving in just a few feet!
SUCCESS! VICTORY! TRIUMPH! RELIEF! All of it mine, and it only took 2 hours and 50 minutes! :) After crossing the finish line, I laid in the shade for a few minutes because my legs refused to hold me in the upright position without threatening to cramp. We waited around a little bit while I recovered, and it was a good thing we did.
Awards were given and Melissa placed second in her age group, and so did Mark! Did I mention it was both of their first half marathons too?! How freakin' cool is that?! Although I didn't place, I am so proud of myself for finishing. I even beat some Colorado natives! Woohoo! I glanced over the registration sheet before the race, though and I definitely traveled the farthest to run it :)
After the race we doubled back and took some pictures of the banner, as more proof that we truly did accomplish so much that Saturday.
We joked about how now we can accomplish anything after tackling the mountain.
Beulah may be a small town, but it's got some big hills!
And some determined visitors ;)
This is my Garmin's satellite map of the trail. Doesn't look so bad from a bird's eye view.
An elevation profile, so you know what I mean when I say a mountain.
And finally, a summary with my splits and the total elevation gain. When every hill was added up, my legs climbed 1,748 feet.

Having the race over was a relief. We were all so proud of our accomplishment for the rest of the vacation. I can't speak for Mark and Melissa, but I still am very proud. Not sure if I'll do that course again, but to say I've tackled it once is amazing.

Safe and happy running!

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