Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stumbling into the Barr Trail Mountain Race

My plan for last weekend was to do the Colorado Springs 10K Classic, but I missed the start by 24 hours. Somehow I had convinced myself that the 18th was Sunday, not Saturday. No idiot, it's not 2014. I got up early and drove to the Springs with plenty of time only to find that no one was at the start line. No one. I quickly figured out my mistake and after a minute of fuming decided to do a 2 to 2.5 hour run on the Barr Trail in prep for the Pike's Peak Ascent next month.

I drove into Manitou Springs, parked, and saw dozens of runners with race bibs waking up the avenue toward the Cog Railway. A race?! I grabbed my stuff and headed to the start. The 12.6 mile Barr Trail Mountain Race was about to start. I was the last entry and promised to bring them cash after the finish.

The course is nothing short of brutal, starting at 6,530 feet and heading up a steep road for a half mile before it joins the Barr Trail. From there it was endess switchbacks for another 3 miles before it opened up a bit. I kind of went with the flow for a quarter mile but dropped into an easier pace for awhile before finding my hill rhythm some 10 minutes into the race.

I had a good group to run with and by 3 miles I was passing runners and gaining on others. Twice I got within seconds of the 2nd place woman (a 2:41 marathoner), but she'd pull away. At the turn around (1:19) I was about 21st place and a minute plus behind her. However, there were a dozen or so runners within 30 or 40 seconds behind me but I was confident that I could hold most of them off because normally I'm a decent downhill runner.

How wrong was that?

I felt fine for most of the first mile on the descent, but one by one--on the technical sections--other runners screamed by. We had a few rather open stretches where the trail was smooth and I could catch up (running XC downhill style), but as soon as it got rocky or gravelly I would slow down. By half way down the descent about 5-6 runners had passed and I kind of knew it was over. So I eased up and ran at a moderate effort--if not easy at times--because I did not want to fall. Zoom, zoom, zoom, they kept catching me from behind.

With just a kilometer or so to go two more runners were flying down the hill and I figured that I could hold them off, so I picked it up and prepared for the final stretch. Mistake!

They were only 10 or 15 meters back when I caught a toe on a rock and went flying head first down the trail. Scraped my palm, forearm, and hip. I was stunned and layed on hte ground for a few seconds. They asked if I was okay and I figured, yeah, okay enough, and they sped off. I lumbered up and did my best to get down the trail without anymore spills or getting passed.

The result was pretty discouraging, as I lost a good 8-10 minutes from the runners that were around me on the ascent. Other than bonking at the California International Marathon in 2005, I've never lost that kind of time in a race.

I dunno. I ran in road shoes, not trail shoes that might of helped a bit. But mostly it's obvious that I lack the technical downhill trail running skills.

Still hung on for 2nd in the 50-59 age group and I got a funky chunk of wood with BTMR branding and a US Coast and Geodetic Survey Marker (Pikes Peak ---> Elevation 14,115 ft) tacked on.

Speaking of 14,115 ft, that ascent next month is going to be tough. This is one I'm going to go for the experience as much as any competitive effort. Just finish it and enjoy the trek.

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