YABRR: Ouray 100 2018 Edition
Updated: Dec 14, 2018
Ooops, make that the Ouray 50
Never mind, make that the Ouray DNF
As usual, the important things come first. Thanks to Jen Kirkpatrick for pointing this race out to me, Alex Weaver and Landon Turrubiarte for keeping me company on Vert days at CRP, the Sunday "Running sucks" tire crew for company as well. Also, most importantly, Shellene for not only putting up with me, getting me to and from the race, but also dragging me up a couple mountains before the race (I got my second 14er, she added 6 more to her list). There are also two runners from Colorado that I would like to thank, but since the results are not posted I don't know their names.
Phobias that you may have to overcome (in ascending order of occurrence) while racing this race:
Claustrophobia: fear if tight spaces
Astraphobia: fear of lightning
Acrophobia: fear of heights
Atychiphobia: fear of failure
The trip up was a "standard" summer vacation for us, head to Colorado for some climbing and final altitude training. Normally we head to the Front Range, but this year we were in the San Juan Mountain range. This allowed Shellene to pick up some new mountains, and put us at the Hardrock course for that race. I should be posting photos from there over the next few days. Unlike "normal" years, this year I managed to pull a muscle in my back right before the race (I've had a bad back for decades, running actually keeps it in check). After much discouraging words, I was able to lie flat and attempt to relax it, but I knew that I wasn't going to make it to the start of the 100. Thursday during race check-in, I got passed by Tim Conway on the sidewalk :-) , I dropped down to the 50. This way I got an additional 28 hours to attempt to recover.
Saturday morning, right before the race began we got treated to a sample of what was to come, a small hailstorm hit. Shortly after it stopped, the race director counted down, and then the murders began.
The first section was a nice and easy (for this course) 3.5 mile dirt road run with just over 1,300 feet of climbing to the Weehawken aid station. This section includes the mesh bridge and cable assisted climb section, neither of which actually bothered me (I was expecting a small issue with it) as well as a tunnel (got to watch a lady with Claustrophobia sprint it). During this section the first real rain storm hit, so out came the rain gear (for most runners). From there, the "real" course began, with the run up to the Alpine Mine Overlook. This was a 5.1 mile round trip with 2,361 feet of gain in the 2.55 miles. Since it was an out and back (all the sections were out and backs), we got to see all the racers on this section. As we were heading up, the second hailstorm hit, adding a nice layer of slick to the course (the trail was actually the water run, but at least it wasn't Texas gumbo mud). There were a few runners who decided to see how well the could fall on this section. From a few view points, we could see the town below (way below). The four of us from DDR were close together through most of this section.
After returning to Weehawken, we headed out on the long stretch to Crystal Lake, where we would see our crews for the first time. This section was referred to as the "Sound of Music" section, the mountain views were incredible. As we were going up a goat-trail, the skies decided it wasn't tough enough for us, and gave us our third hailstorm. On the way out, we covered an additional 7.1 miles and 3,611 feet of climbing, with a nice 2,750 foot drop down to the aid station. I hit the aid station with 25 minutes to spare, with Alex and Landon right behind me. Changed out some stuff in my vest (added warmer clothing, and a heavier rain jacket) since it was going to turn dark before I made it to the next aid station. For the record I had covered 15.7 miles, with 7,293 feet of elevation gain in just about 6 hours.
Leaving Crystal Lake, we immediately had to climb all that wonderful descent, it wasn't nearly as fun as it was on the way down. We spotted Jen in the final section, she was moving as fast as safely possible to make the cutoff (they were actually very soft cutoffs during the race). About 1/2 way up the skies opened once again, with hailstorm #4. Since I was climbing, I knew that I was going to generate enough heat to not need the rain jacket, so I just kept moving. At one point I passed a runner, and we exchanged pleasantries (in the middle of the hail and lightning show), he was all bundled up and was from Golden Colorado. I'm not sure what he thought of the fact that I was running in a short sleeve shirt through the cold (I'm guessing until I commented on the fact I was from Dallas that he thought I was from Alaska). I ended up finishing this section with two local runners (one from Durango, the other Silverton). We ran into a runner who had missed his turn to Twin Peaks, and put in serious bonus miles. After he got his course correction, he was rather annoyed about the signage; but the three of us were of the belief that you should know the course, and then promptly missed two turns ourselves. The problem (in my opinion) wasn't the on-trail signage, but the signage on the dirt roads was low to the ground and kept getting knocked over by the wind. Over this 8.6 miles (2,628' of elevation gain, 4,553 loss) I actually put an additional 35 minutes in the bank, hitting Fellin Park for the first time with an hour to space. Since I had eaten properly over that past section, I spent 30 minutes refueling with hot food (broth and then quesadillas), and trying to find Coke. Fellin Park was the main aid station for the second part of the course, yet they didn't have caffeinated soda (and I don't drink coffee). Luckily, just as I was getting ready to head out, the Crystal Lake aid station supplies were brought in, and they had Pepsi (beggars can't be choosers at this point).
The next section was the one I was most worried about leading up to the race, and was one that I intended to scout out on Wednesday (before I hurt my back), the concern was justified. Even though it was only 6.3 miles and 3,450 feet of climbing, there was a couple of exposed sections, including the climb to Twin Peaks, where we had to punch out bibs. I actually did that climb as a rock climb, and descended in a crab walk. My two slowest miles were in this section, one of which had 1,269 feet of climbing in the slick mud. This section also included some incredible views of Ouray all lit up below. I actually survived the climb and descent of Twin Peaks, but it (and the overlooks) pushed my Acrophobia to the limit. As I was descending on the main trail, I managed to get tangled with my poles, and the low bushes. This caused to me go flying off the trail downhill. I landed in the bushes, on my back, slightly upside down and unable/unwilling to safely move. The good thing was the fact that there were three runners behind me (including the two locals who I had run with earlier) and they were able to respond to my cry of "help", and extracted me from my predicament. I knew I was going to be in trouble once the adrenaline had worn off though. I kept plugging though, and made it to Silvershield aid station with 3 minutes to spare. At this point, my options were to head back the way I came, which would have included going over a steep downhill rocky section where the fall would have put me in a river, or walk 2 flat miles back to town. Up the trail I went, and made it back to Fellin Park 27 minutes over the cutoff. I had covered 36 miles and 14,000+ feet of climbing in 15:42, cutoff was 15:15
The folks at the aid station said I could continue, if I thought I could rally. Since Shellene wasn't planning to be at Fellin until I started my final section, I had nothing better to do, so off I went. I managed to add about .75 bonus miles due to missing a sign (I should have known the course enough to not need it, but I was a bit tired). I knew I was done, and decided that I would turn back at 5:30AM no matter where I was on the trail. This way I could meet Shellene at 6:40 (cutoff for the start of my final loop). That turn off was 1 mile and 1,400 feet short of Chief Ouray Mine. At the pace I was going, I would have been at least 1.5 hours past the cutoff if I had pushed up the the mine. All in all, I made the right choice.
One side note, SPOT tracking for races should never be depended on as the only tracking. It seems that my tracker stopped working at Weehawken, and there was no check-in at any aid stations. If something had gone wrong, nobody would have known where I was.
Could I have been better trained: always. Could I have done things differently during the race: always. Could I have made it if I didn't have back issues: maybe, but in reality once I started running my back felt good, until I fell.
Final thoughts. This is a tough race in a beautiful area, the RD "gets" it. He had a runner who got time-cut on the 100, and wanted to attempt the 50 (depending on where he got cut, he could have gotten over 12 hours rest), the RDs comment was "off course, let's get you another bib". If it wasn't for my Acrophobia I'd probably go back, but I honestly don't know if I can handle it (irrational fears being irrational after all).