My primary goal for this year's Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Run was to finish strong. This goal was the result of my having come completely apart during the last 13 miles of last year's race. In that race, my quads were gone after I left the Printer Boy aid station with 13.5 miles to go. That meant that I suffered while I walked most of the way up the gravel road from 11,000 feet to 12,200 feet. The ten mile rolling gradual descent to the finish was a death march. My quads kept me from running a lot and my back gave out with about four miles to go, making it hard for me to even stand upright, let alone walk or run with balance.
During the last year I have worked hard on my core, building a powerful 8-pack and lower back muscles to match. I also converted ALL of my runs to the hilliest courses with hope that the 500-1500 feet of elevation gain each run would add up to better results. I am fully aware of the fact that a race of this distance, at this altitude, and with this vertical is completely outside my range. It is a perfect venue for stretching my envelope.
I also gained entry into the San Juan Solstice 50. My plan was to complete this brutal course with enough left in my quads to attempt the SR50 four weeks later. So, I took a camera and tried to not be competitive. I even backed off in the end when my knees started to ache on the Slumgullion descent. Smart move!
In the end, I do believe that my quads were not fully recovered for the SR50. Maybe the two 3K+ climbs I put in last weekend were a factor. Even though the legs felt great during those runs, the runs were only 60-90 minute efforts. Anything longer and I might have noticed my quads were not 100%. Maybe.
Race details: about 48 miles - almost 8000 ft of climbing/descending - mostly horrible footing - sunny - start temp of 50F and finish temp (record) of 80F - La Sportiva Skylite 2.0 (perfect!) - Smart Wool Comp Socks - Brooks Infiniti III Short - RaceReady Sleeveless - Garmin 310XT - Indy Mesh Hat - Kinesys 30 Sunscreen - Nathan 1.5L Vest - Hammer Gels and Perpetuem - Nuun Electrolytes - POSITIVE ATTITUDE!
The plan was to mimic last year's exit splits of 2:03, 4:07, and 6:07 at the Printer Boy and Stumptown aid stations. I also wanted to move more efficiently through the aid stations. Last year I hung out for no good reason in each of those places - my sons crewed me well and did not contribute to my lolly gagging. This year I had splits of 2:07, 3:57, and 5:56.
The aid station time was cut by about ten total minutes, so I was moving at about the same rate overall. The steep climbing was a bit slow, indicating that the quads were not 100%, but I seemed to be moving efficiently everywhere else. Part of this was the adrenaline rush I got when passing the rest of the field near the turn-around. I LOVE out and back courses for this reason. I kept a smile on my face and constantly laid out my dry humor. I kept telling the people I passed on my return up the steep Ball Mtn pass trail to tell the guys behind me that I was smiling and sprinting. I did get winded as if I had been sprinting when I reached that 12,100 foot pass. It was right on the pass that I caught a guy and started to press the pace a little for the first time all day.
I must admit that I was ecstatic when I got back to Printer Boy due to how strong my legs felt! I was excited in my belief that I would go low-8 on a day with a record high temperature.
At the interim aid station in the gulch I was already 26 minutes ahead of last year's pace. This was because I had walked less than half of the climb up the gravel road and because I had run smoothly at an 8:0x pace down the gulch despite its challenging footing. I hit that aid station with a guy who had just over five minutes on me when we started down. I also caught glimpses of two other runners. Needless to say, I was psyched about this year's finish.
With about 3.5 miles to go I was still moving quickly when I started looking for the power lines we would pass under. Because my legs felt so strong as I left the last aid station, I decided to pick it up under those lines where there was relatively good footing - provided my legs still felt good. They did!
One poor decision, one moment that lacked attention, turned everything around. I looked up for the power lines while under the shade of trees and clipped a rock with my right foot. This section of trail has many embedded stones and should be run with focus. I experienced the hardest fall I've ever had on a trail when my second foot also clipped a rock as I tumbled forward. I should note that it is almost always my right toe that clips rocks and roots due to a sciatic-induced drag of the right leg which becomes more pronounced the longer I run. Surgery some day?
The fall resulted in both hands landing on a jagged rock that would have hit my face and both knees crashing into another jagged embedded stone. I then bounced onto my left side and skidded on more embedded rocks as I rolled over. Fun, fun, fun! Pain, pain, pain!
A few seconds later I was brushing myself off with bloody hands as I cursed myself. Stupid dork! Who looks up in the shade? Dorks, that's who! Idiot!
I then struggled to hit 12 minute pace during those last few rolling miles. Both knees swelled instantly. There was also the typical pain in my right hamstring that comes with catching a toe. It was hard to relax and not focus on the stupid move.
I finished 12th in 8:27. I wore the number 12 because I also finished 12th last year in 8:41. In a trend being experienced by trail races all over the country, there were almost twice as many entered this year. There were 279 finishers, 32 DNFs, 61 DNSs, and dozens of people walking around with open wounds from falls. The kind medical crew cleaned my wounds with a pesticide sprayer and they taped ice onto my knees. It was embarrassing to be more beat up by that one misstep than the other 750,00 steps along the route.
This was a great weekend. That is after I ignore the lack of sleep (30 min. Sat night!!) thanks to bears, men with guns, ATVs, and normal insomnia. And the sinus infection that came on Saturday morning. Yes, it was truly memorable. I saw old friends (including John) that I have met on previous adventures and new friends (including Tina) from the SJS50. And I made some new friends, most notably, Sergio and Robert.
Sergio and Robert rode in the SR50 bike race on Saturday. We hatched a plan to crew each other while in line at the Provin' Grounds on Thursday. It worked well, even though Robert reached Printer Boy much earlier than he thought he could while I was being held a mile away where the race course crossed a road. I was arriving about a half hour earlier than they had requested, but Robert smoked that first leg. Things went smoothly from there. We served each other well. Thanks, guys! We also enjoyed a couple of great meals and long conversations. Add these two guys to the list of awesome people I have met in these mountains.
The 2011 SR50 proved to be the physical and mental challenge that I expected and hoped it would be. I am walking away from this one with great satisfaction, lessons learned, and with one bruised and battered body. Yeah, Life IS Good!!!