Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 Bear Chase 50 Trail Run

Date: 9/25/11
Stats: 50 miles; ~3,400’ elevation gain
Results: 7:32:54; 4th overall (out of 103)

I went into this race with mixed emotions. I was excited to race again after a great race at Leadville, but I also was unsure about my how my body would respond to racing. Yes, Leadville was 5 weeks ago, so I should be recovered. However, my IT band had been giving me some issues lately. Nothing serious, but I know it’s not an issue to be taken lightly. IT band syndrome sidelined me for over a month during my IM Louisville training in 2010. Because of this I only ran 4 miles in the week leading up to the race. At this point I was not going to see any fitness gains. Being as fresh as possible was my #1 priority.

Course Description
The 50 mile course is comprised of four 12.5 mile loops around Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood, CO. The elevation gain is 3,400 feet and most of the run is on single track trails. The climb up Mt. Carbon is the only significant hill on the course. Three creek crossings per lap (all within a half mile) are also worth mentioning. The race was well supported, with the average distance between aid stations being just 3 miles.

On paper this looked like a relatively easy ultra, especially compared to Leadville. But the relative ease of the course was actually a double edged sword. The lack of hills meant that racers would be expected to run a lot if they wanted to place well. And that’s exactly what I did for the first lap.

Lap 1 (7:30/mile)
I hung with the lead pack for the first lap. Besides a quick stop at the mile 7 aid station we ran the entire section. It wasn’t a crazy fast pace. I was still in my comfort zone. But I knew that I shouldn’t push it much longer. As much fun as it was to be at the front, I knew I would have to run my own race. From here on out I ran most of the race by myself.

Brooks Williams leading the pack through the first creek crossing at mile 7

some smooth single track with good views of the foot hills
Lap 2 (8:52/mile)
During lap 2 I started to worry about my left IT band. It was tight and occasionally I would feel a sharp pain around my knee. The pain never got too bad, but it was annoying that I had to constantly worry about it. During this lap, my pace slowed more than I was planning on.  However, I was still in good shape to hit my goal of 7:30, which equates to a pace of 9:00/mile for the race.

halfway point

heading out for lap 3
Lap 3 (9:26/mile)
It really started to get hot; into the 80s. The first few miles of the course were shaded, but most of it was very exposed. Because of this I was stopping at every aid station to drink. I opted for the small hand held bottle as opposed to the hydra pack.  It was nice to have an excuse to stop at all the aid stations to fill up my bottle. However, I need to be more aware of how much time I waste. It’s easy to get comfortable just standing around and eating.

Derek was pretty liberal with the sunscreen!
Lap 4 (10:23/mile)
I started lap 4 in 5th place. I had a feeling that the top 4 guys were too far ahead to catch. But I really wanted to finish sub 7:30 so I tried to stay focused on that goal. Around mile 6, during the climb up Mt. Carbon, I passed a guy and moved in to 4th place. He looked like he was in pretty rough shape, and I managed to jog up a lot of Mt. Carbon to create a couple minute gap. The creek crossings at mile 7 were refreshing. I actually considered lying down in the water to cool off but didn’t want to waste much time. I kept a pretty consistent pace for the last few miles.

I cruised to a 4th place finish in 7:32:54. This was good enough to win my age group. I was actually 2nd, but the other guy (Brooks Williams) got 2nd overall so I got the award for first in the 20-29 age group. I was a little bummed that I didn’t have the energy to push a faster pace on the last two laps, but I’m satisfied with the overall result. I’m definitely happy that I decided to run this race. Not only is it conveniently located just 20 minutes from home, it’s a pretty cool course and a well organized race.

crossing the finish line

relaxing with Jess after a tough race
It’s amazing how much less complicated a 50 mile race is compared to a 100 mile race. I know, I’ve only done one of each, but it’s true. The logistics and race strategy are much less complex. During Leadville I was constantly planning for the future…eat something now so I don’t bonk later; take a salt tab so I don’t cramp later; take a headlamp in case I don’t hit the next aid station by dark. I was always thinking about something. This wasn’t the case during the Bear Chase. And I got to push the pace early on without the fear of having to walk the last 30 miles. Granted, the satisfaction of finishing was not even close to a hundred, but this race was a ton of fun and a great race to wind down the season.

Thanks to Jess, Mom and Derek for spectating and crewing!

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