After finally running my first ultra of the year last month at the Devil on the Divide 50k I was hungry to back on the starting line an actually race. Like I wrote about in my race report for Devil on the Divide I went in pretty smashed, was not in race mode and just wanted to get in a long day on new trails… and absolutely suffered and got my ass kicked. With The North Face 50 looming in December I wanted to get a hard race effort in my legs and hopefully rebuild some racing confidence after getting owned a month ago.
Since I wanted to go into the race with some fresher legs I took the week pretty easy but not in full taper mode. The weeks prior to race week had been really solid on the training front and actually way better than expected. I had two weeks back to back that were over 70 miles which is a lot for me and body felt great doing so.
I was stoked to see some fast dudes on the start list because I really wanted to race and not just run. This was first race I’ve done that was put on Human Potential running and it was rad. It felt like running one of the Old Goat or Big Baz races back in SoCal. Even though I like to go out and race hard I don’t take my self or the race too seriously… and it’s good to be out on the trails and at a race where having fun is the priority. I mean who doesn’t want to be offered fireball shots mid race?
The race started in the Indian Creek Campground and I had run or ridden all of the course before so it was good to have an idea of what I was getting into. I also knew that the course was almost 35 miles and those extra 4 miles could make a difference, especially if you didn’t know they are coming. I wanted to start out mellow but not let anybody get away. As we left the campground and headed for the first climb I was jogging in 3rd until we hit a little single track cut through to the fireroad. Instincts took over and I moved to the front and lifted my pace a bit.
I knew Michael Aish was right behind me and know that dude is on completely different planet than I’m on when it comes to running. From what I’ve read on his blog he’s also probably the funniest, most honest dude in ultrarunning and I was hoping to run some miles with him… or try to. As we reached the top of the first climb I probably had a 15″ gap on the next dudes and then I just let it rip on the 6+ mile descent.
Around mile 9, a couple of miles into the 6 mile climb back to the campground, i saw Luke out on course and couldn’t see anybody behind me. I kept my effort in check on the climb and just wanted to be conservative and save some matches for the final grinding climb of the race. I got back to the start/finish at the end of the first 15 mile loop in just over 2 hours and feeling good. As I headed out for the second loop Aish rolled in a couple minutes behind. That had me running scared as he had definitely closed the gap on towards the end of the first loop.
So for the whole second ~20 mile loop I was just waiting to get passed. As I ran towards Waterton Canyon I just tried to keep rolling and to keep eating and drinking. At mile 21, in waterton canyon, we started a steep 4 mile climb. I ran most of it but power hiked the steeper sections in order to keep my heart rate in check in an attempt save something for when I had to “race”. I was still just waiting for somebody to come up on me and pass me and I was hoping to go with them. I was moving well but didn’t think I was going very fast.
I hit the final aid station at 25 miles and was still in the lead. After some coke and chips I rolled a couple of miles down and then started the final 6 mile climb. I was still feeling ok but climbing was becoming a grind. Again I was hiking the steeper sections but now was also cracking and hiking some of the not-so-steep sections. The climb just goes on forever and when I would think I just climbed the last section and would start to descend I’d quickly see the trail going uphill again just ahead me. At this point i was still passing folks running the 50 miler (they started 2 hours before us) but i was now constantly looking over my shoulder… still just waiting to get passed.
I finished the climb and just had a 1.5 descent to the finish. I rallied and rolled the descent and was now just thinking about seeing Maggie, Fi, and Ruby at the finish… there’s really nothing better than that after a hard day of racing no matter what place I’m in or how the good or bad the race was. Fortunately this time around it was able to hold on for the win.
The race was a lot of fun and Human Potential put on a killer event. I’m looking forward to jumping into some of their Fat Ass races this winter and more of their races next year. I got what I wanted out of this race and now am really looking forward to North Face in just under 6 weeks. I wasn’t really sore after the race but still took it pretty easy last week. I plan on hitting it hard for another 4 weeks, tapering for 2 and then toeing the line on marin headlands and giving The North Face 50 another solid go.
way more important and exciting than any race… maggie and i celebrated 3 years together this past week. it’s been a completely awesome 3 year adventure with her and now with our little family. she’s definitely the best thing that’s ever happened to me.