Monday, May 14, 2012

Quad Rock

A steady rain fell on Friday night as Maddie and I sat in the Runner's Roost and gave out t-shirts and parking passes for Fort Collins' first ultra.  There was a quiet excitement in the air as the trail running community from the Front Range and beyond prepared to run the inaugural Quad Rock 25 and 50 mile races, organized by our very own trail running super stars, Nick Clark and Pete Stevenson

On Saturday morning, I woke at 3:00 am after a restful night's sleep, ate a bowl of oatmeal, drank a cup of coffee and then drove over to pick up Cat and Brian and head to the start.  We were greeted at the entrance to Lory State Park at 4:20 am by the second place finisher at last Sunday's Colorado Marathon, Sarah Hansen, who wished us well and pointed us towards a place to park.  There is something wonderful about standing around in the predawn darkness with all of your friends getting ready for an amazing adventure on the trails. After we picked up our race numbers from Mary and took off our warm clothes, we walked to the start line to hear Nick give final race instructions.  It was pretty cold so I went with long sleeves over my Fort Collins Trail Runner shirt and then I saw Sam in just a singlet and made a last second decision to toss the long sleeves and commit to some suffering.  I also forwent a headlamp figuring I could get by with the light of the other 200 headlamps on the trail for 20 minutes until dawn broke.  Both of these decisions ended up being good since the 7 minute pace we went out at warmed me up quickly and lighting was fine.  A few minutes in, we turned off the park road on to the winding East Valley single track and I took a look back to see the surreal sight of of hundreds of headlamps moving in a single file line steadily along the trail.

I ran with Kyle and Justin and we clipped along the Valley and across the border into Horsetooth Mountain Park.  We hit the turn on to Sawmill and I joked with the runners around me saying, "Here's where the fun begins," knowing that the 21+ miles ahead were all straight up or straight down.  I ran the Sawmill, Stout, Towers climb pretty well and arrived at Towers aid station in 1:08. Aid station captain Chris Hinds and his crew filled my water bottle, gave me some encouragement and sent me on my way down Spring Creek.
Kyle was just ahead of me through here and Scott passed me going down hill looking very strong on the first lap of his 50 mile adventure.  We ran past the falls and came into the Horsetooth aid station (mile 10.4) in 1:38.  This was another wonderful aid station captained by Rob and staffed by good friends.  Pete was there telling me to keep pushing for a sub 4 hour finish.  Betsy helped me fill my water bottle and gave me a chunk of peeled banana and some gummy bears.  Mike (running the 50) appeared as I was heading out and he also seemed to be having a great day.  I left the aid station heading up towards the rock thinking, "I really only have 15 miles left?"
The climb up the rock trail was fun and I hit the beginning of Westridge with Mike and Kyle and a couple others.  Westridge has been difficult for me in the past with some steep uphill sections and lots of semi technical downs.  Today it felt easy and I ran it comfortably with Mike and before I knew it, we were back out on Towers Road heading back through the Towers aid station.  From here we went down Mill Creek, another technical down hill that I have struggled with before, but I knew that today this descent was mine so I let it go and enjoyed the ride.
I felt good all the way down to the Arthur's Rock trail and my last aid station of the day.  I was glad to see Mindy and Lindsay and others dressed in tu-tus and helping tired runners.  I gave Mindy my gloves, filled my water bottle and mixed in the Gu Brew powder that I had been carrying to get some electrolytes in me for the final climb up the Howard Trail and then the descent of Timber to the finish line.  I was a little tired, but there was only 7 miles to go.  I headed up the trail just behind Mike and we traded positions a few times as we zig-zagged back and forth up the Howard switch backs.
photo by Erin Bibeau
I got to the top of Arthur's still feeling great and now I knew there was only about 4 miles to go and it was all downhill so I gave it everything I had left.  This was absolutely the fastest I have ever gone down Timber and I was keeping an eye on my watch.  It looked like a 4:10 was going to be really close and I knew all I could do was run.  I wasn't too worried about it either.  In fact I was having such a good time that I was wishing the end was not so close.  With a mile and half to go, I could hear the finish line, the trail smoothed out and I ran hard.  A quick glance at my watch showed 6:40 pace which was as fast as I could run and some quick calculations of remaining distance and time told me that I was going to be just over 4:10.  I finished in 4:11:40, 11th place and am very happy about my race.  Just a few weeks ago, I thought a 4:30 was a really ambitious goal for this race and I ran nearly 20 minutes faster than that and it felt easy.
photo by Marie
The rest of the day, I bundled up in all the clothes I had (it never warmed up) and helped and cheered for 50 milers at the turn around, talked and laughed with friends, ate, drank, met Scott Jurek, and enjoyed a couple hours of volunteering at the Arthurs/East Valley Tu-tu (2.2) aid station.  Molly finished her shift at Horsetooth and picked up Maddie on her way to the post race festivities.

Me and Scott                          photo by Cat
Sam, Kyle, Justin, Jen, Laura, Brian, Tim, Shaun and Cat all ran amazing races in the 25 with fast times, high places or a lot of grit to get it done.  Mike, Scott, Ryan, Steph, Kristel, Chris, Kris, Phil, Katie, Brian29 and Chris ran the 50 and all finished very well meeting and exceeding goals they had set.  It was one of the better days I've had in a while.  Nothing beats spending the whole day outside in a beautiful place with all my friends running, laughing, playing, cheering, suffering, eating, drinking and living life in the moment.  Pete and Nick put on a great event that already has a reputation of being a race not to miss.  The Fort Collins/Front Range running community is a wonderful, supportive family that doesn't hesitate to jump in with both feet to support their friends whether it is volunteering for their race or giving them a hug and and listening ear during tough times.  Quad Rock is now without a doubt my favorite race ever.  Can't wait until next year.
Laura, Jen and Cat showing off their post race fashion

SAM working the finish line with a smile

TNC giving out the 25 mile awards

Cat took 1st place masters and 5th overall . . .again!

Leah, Maddie and Sarah enjoying the finish line fun

50 mile winner and course record holder, Ryan Burch with a smile just after his finish

Kyle ran an amazing 25 mile race with a 4:05 and 2nd place masters finish,
but got crushed in the half mile kids race. Maybe he's not a short course specialist afterall.

Sam, Brian, Maddie, Cat, Jen and Ryan

Hinterberg coming in strong in the last 100 yards of the 50

8:49 and 10th place overall.  I think that equals a 17:30 and top 10 finish next month at WS.

Lindsay, always with a smile at the Tu-tu aid station

Steph, with 2.2 miles to go to her 2nd place finish

Steph trying hard to get some fluids and calories down

Brian29 had an outstanding race in the 50 with a blazing last 2 miles and a 10:19 finish

Cat, Mindy and Lindsay cheering runners and trying to stay warm

Katie, after 48 miles, still had some spring in her step on her way to an 11:11 finish for 11th place!   Wow

RD is a tough job, especially if you also mark the course, run an aid station and sweep the course

Eric put in 50K worth of sweeping, cheering, taking photos, all in his lovely pink tu-tu
Quad Rock's official cake baker


  1. Hey Alex, whatever you have been "on" these last couple of months, I have gotta get me some. Amazing!

  2. You know that there is something wrong with you if the thought "I really only have 15 miles left?" ever crosses your mind. Great run, Alex!

  3. That ginger ale with 2.2 miles to go was just what I needed! Congratulations on running yet another great race! Leadville isn't going to know what hit it after you get done with it. Think much of it is from all the snowshoe racing you did over the winter? Anyway, well done!!

  4. Congratulations once again! That was a really fun day.

  5. Scott Jurek? How the hell did I miss that?

    Great run and thanks for all your help at the turnaround! QR definitely has the makings of an instant classic. We had a great time meeting the FC crew on Thursday and Saturday. You guys (and gals) are welcome in South Dakota anytime!

  6. Alex, well done, again. I'm impressed at not only how well you've been running but how many successful races you've strung together.

    Mindy, at Big Horn last year I said that same thing, but with 12, not 15, miles to go. Where's the line?

    Chris, I hope to come out and enjoy your race, maybe next year.