Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Collegiate Peaks 50

start/finish and turn around with Mt. Princeton in the background
Shadow and I went out for an easy 2 mile run at the park on Friday morning before the kids and I packed up the car and headed for Buena Vista.  We stopped at DIA on our way through Denver to pick up my mom who had flown out from California for the weekend.  We checked in at Mount Princeton Hot Springs in the early afternoon and Maddie and I immediately put on our swim suits and made our way down to the hot pools.  The relaxation pool was a nice 103 degrees and knew I shouldn't sit in there for too long on the night before a big race, but it felt soooo good.  Before getting completely cooked, I moved over to the cooler (94 degree) pool and played with Maddie for awhile.  Our soak and playing time in the hot springs left me feeling much more relaxed than I had felt ealrier in the day which helped me feel a little better about running 50 miles the next day.  We headed back to Buena Vista to pick up my race packet and get some dinner.  We had veggie pizza and salad at Buana Vista Pizza Works, a perfect prerace meal and then headed back to the lodge for an early bed time.
My mom drove me down to the community center the next morning for the 6:30am start.  We ran in to Ashley who was getting ready to run the 25 mile race as a warm-up for the Quad Rock 50 in two weeks.  Out on the start line, I met up with Kyle and then without a gun shot or horn blast someone said go and we started running.  The first 3 miles were mostly flat and partly paved and Kyle I ran along at a very casual 9 minute pace and talked with other runners.  The course then took a turn on to a dirt road across the Arkansas River and then up on to the trails.  The next several miles rolled along on a mix of dirt roads and trails with some moderate climbs and decents.  I was feeling pretty good and trying to run very conservativley, keeping the pace in the 9-10 minute range.  Kyle and I ran together off and on for the remainder of the 1st lap.  The biggest climb in the first lap was from mile 15-18 and climbed about 1000 feet.  I ran this section and felt pretty good and then started heading down for the final 7 miles of lap 1.  My goal going in to the race was to run 4:15 for the first lap and 4:45 for the second to secure a 9 hour finish.  A little mental caluculation showed that I was right on pace to get this done.  The miles back down to the river went well and I counted about 25 guys ahead of me that were heading back up for lap 2.  I was feeling good about the opportunity for a top 30 finish and I felt like I might be able to catch a few guys on the second lap.  I came in to the turn around with 4 hours and 10 minutes on the clock and Mom, Micah and Maddie (the 3 Ms) were there to help me refill by bottle and grab me some food.  I took a pretty leisurly stop that lasted about 4 minutes. 

heading out for lap 2
Kyle and I headed out for lap 2 together about 4 hours and 14 minutes in.  Right on pace.  The second lap goes in the opposite direction of the first which meant that we needed to climb back up the seven miles we had just decended.  I kept a pretty solid pace until the final mile of the climb where I decided to walk a bit before reaching the aid station at mile 32.  A quick assessment at the top of the hill told me I was doing pretty well and I realized here that after the next 4 miles of downhill to the next aid station, I'd only have 14 miles to go to finish this race.  My legs were getting tired, but overall I still felt great.  I took the downhills conservatively not wanting to blow out my legs completely and cruised the rolling sections through the next two aid stations. At the last aid station at mile 44, one of the volunteers looked at his runner list and told me I had moved up quite a bit since the turnaround (I had passed 7 runners).  I told him I was having a good day.  They told me all the rest of the runners ahead of me had a pretty good lead and the winner had finished in 6:35 (a new course record).  I knew that I had a sub 9 hour finish in the bag and it sounded like I wasn't going to catch any more runners, but I was feeling too good to just cruise it in so I decided to push for a sub 8:50 which I could do as long as I kept the pace close to 9 minutes for the remaining, mostly downhill, miles.  Within a mile after leaving the aid station, I saw another runner ahead and I passed him notching 8 passes on lap 2.  I kept pushing through the final couple miles of trail and then saw two more guys running ahead of me as we dropped back down on to the road.  I picked up the pace to make a definitive pass with less than 3 miles to go.  The final three miles were my fastest of the day (8:18, 8:38, 7:53).  I passed one more guy in the last half mile and sprinted in to the finish still feeling good.  My finish time: 8:47:39.  This was more than an hour faster than my previous 50 mile best.  This was without a doubt the best race I ever ran.  I never hit a wall or fell apart.  No death march, no pitifully slow miles.  I ran smart, stayed well fueled and exceeded all my goals.  My only concern is that maybe I ran too conservatively.  Could I have pushed it more and finished in the 8:30s?  My finish put me at 14th place male and 17th place overall.


GPS data

Me and the 3 Ms at the finish line

Kyle finished soon after me in 9:03 with an even bigger PR than mine.  He looked really strong and is in great shape for the Bighorn 100 eight weeks away where I get to pace him through the night from mile 48-82.
Kyle comes in for a strong finish

big 50 mile PRs for both of us
The 3 Ms and I with Kyle and his siblings went from the finishline to Eddyline Brewpub for dinner and well deserved beverages and then off to the Hot Springs for a long hot soak.  It was a great day of running and playing in the mountains with my family and good friends.  Racing season is here and it is off to an amazing start.


  1. I was wondering how the pacing went down -- *PERFECT*!
    You went to the mountains and gained wisdom, but...

    "My only concern is that maybe I ran too conservatively. Could I have pushed it more and finished in the 8:30s? "

    Beware: this is a fool's-errand of danger and despair.
    Only he who evenly or negatively-splits should question if it was too conservative.
    I am planning on pacing more like Steady Alex for Quad Rock and WS!

  2. Congrats again, Alex. Just so you don't do anything stupid like run 200 miles before pacing me at Bighorn, you're actually pacing from mile 48 to 82, so 34 miles rather than 20!!

  3. Nice run, Alex. Great day for it.

  4. Mike: thanks for the paceing advice. It did work out well. And I think you're right, I'd rather be a little conservative and finish strong than push it too hard and stagger in. I still have a little work to do though to figure this out completely.

    Kyle: Thanks and congrats to you too. I knew something looked wrong about those pacing miles, I'll fix it and I'll be rested and ready come June 15.

    Tim: Thanks! Good job to you too! It was good to see you out there.

  5. Impressive splits for those last 3 miles and congrats on getting in under your goal!

  6. Wow Alex! It sounds like you ran the perfect race, which is just about impossible to say in an ultra. See you at Quad Rock!

  7. Nice race, Alex! You are really coming on strong with your running/racing. I think I'll follow the Steady Alex racing plan for QR as well.