Yesterday, I did the Bear Chase 50K in Colorado, near Denver.
The Good: Very well organized, top-notch friendly, hard-working volunteers, RIVER CROSSINGS that breathe life back into your poor, tired, hot legs and feet (twice!) big-assed medal, nice finish-line party. It is a great trail run for anyone doing their first 50k.
The biggest exception is that this race isn't quite as scenic as Palo Duro. It takes place on a man-made recreation area, in the middle of which is a gold course and a square, man-made lake.
The first loop is a 10K, and it's nice, and almost completely shaded, and flat, and you think, wow, this is going to be a cakewalk!
There is a tiny moment of worry and doubt when you notice the sign for loops 2 and 3 point towards a large hill, and you see a line of people snaking up the side of the hill, but you immediately put it out of your mind, because you are on loop1, and remember, if it isn't happening now, it doesn't exist.
You come in to the start/finish, where you have a bag o' stuff, if you're like me, lose the arm-sleeves and grab the sunscreen, and head out onto the second loop where, eventually, you become one of those people snaking up the side of that great big hill.
There is a cool part of the course where you have the first big climb (about mile 12 on the first loop and then mile 24, I think) and when you come up over the top of the climb the skyline of Denver is in view. It's kind of a strange thing to see in the middle of a 50k trail run, but also kinda cool.
At east aid station, someone would run out and ask what I needed, and take my bottle, and then by the time I got there, it was already filled up with ice, which is one of the main advantages to an urban-type trail run. They never, ever ran out of ice.
In miles 14ish and 26ish you run through a small woodsy section and there are three river crossings. You can't jump these; you're going to get wet. They're only about 12 to 18 inches deep, however, and slow-moving, basically what we call creeks in Alabama, not rivers.
The first time you just sort of natter to yourself and think, I hope I don't get blisters. But then there is the second time you cross through these.
Oh. My. The second time.
Sometimes toward the end of the first full loop God decided to hate on me, and turned on the heat. The back 2/3 of the big loops are out in the open, with no shade, and it started heating up fast, and there is a little over 4 miles between aid stations in the middle of which is the "big" climb on the course. When I headed out onto the second loop I took my bandana and loaded it with ice at each aid station. I had been making excellent time, but no more: my pace had been in the mid 12s and it soared during the second loop. I am a firm believer in the "run as you feel" mentality, so I didn't push it.
On the 2nd loop when I got to mile 26, when I got to the first river crossing, I stopped and sat down on my butt and let the cold water envelope me from the waist down. And peed. That wasn't planned by the way, it just happened. But the sitting, it was fantastic. I did it again, twice, (not peeing, just sitting) with each crossing. Renewed, I bid a sad fareware to the cool water and then headed out to the next aid station at Fox Hollow. I was pretty satisfied to feel that I was well-hydrtated, and my legs were definitely back online.
After Fox Hollow is another sharp, short, but still disappointing climb, and you run a long section through a grassy plains area, much of it near a highway. It is fully exposed and you are hot. But, like most of the course, it's runnable, and the rivers had awakened me, along with the knowledge that I was less than 5 miles from the finish.
Plus, at Fox Hollow, I had two small cups of icy mountain dew, and taken two gels that themselves had caffein in them (that I had with me) as well as a Stinger waffle. It took a short time for those to work their way into my bloodstream, and I eventually came back to life and started passing people. Mostly men.
You know, I always feel bad for men when I pass them. I just do. Usually, they are super fit-looking men, in their 30s or 40s, with close-cropped hair, muscles, and spandex. They have on their zensah leg sleeves, small, efficient and aerodynamic waist belts with fluid, and you can tell they work out. Everything about them screams aerodynamic. Everything about them shouts efficiency.
And then *I* trundle past them like a large pack mule. I usually have a very large floppy hat on, and a back pack full of my crap; I usually have gels, sunscreen, asthma inhaler, various pills, maybe a towel, some TP, maybe a snack or two, some lipstick - shutup - and I'm wearing a bandana loaded with ice, an ipod, and large, round sunglasses. AND I'm carrying a handheld bottle. Plus, I'm doing some sort of slow shuffle jog when I pass these guys. I usually just say "hi" or "nice job" or some other inane thing, answer a comment about why my tattoo has a horse on it, and then I'm on my way. But I do feel bad. Not bad enough not to pass them. But bad.
I want to give a shout-out to Jennifer, who gave us a place to sleep and fed me the night before, how awesome of her! She also did this race, and finished, too. I met her at my failed Bighorn 50 mile attempt.
All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Next Up: The Point Defiance 50k, in Puget Sound.