If the Indian Creek 50M had been held 72, 48, or even 24 hours earlier, the outcome for me would likely have been very different. I woke up on Tuesday with a sore throat and had full-on cold symptoms by the end of the day: coughing, wicked congestion, body aches, and a slight fever. I crashed by 8PM on Tuesday night, and through Thursday afternoon I slept for more hours than I was awake.
My excitement about Indian Creek 50M had never been high. Race director “Sherpa John” Lacroix puts on quality events that are well organized and reliably supported, that have a personal touch, and that take racers through pleasant Colorado country. I’d wholeheartedly recommend them.
But elite talent has not yet bought into his Human Potential Running Series, which includes the Silverheels 100 that I finished in August. And so the motivational oomph to train and race hard is not the same as for a Run Rabbit Run or TNF 50M Championship.
Between the two-week recovery from Silverheels and the two-week taper for Indian Creek, I had a five-week training block, during which I averaged 70 miles per week and 15,000 vertical feet of gain. That may sound like a lot, but many of these efforts were at lower intensity or on overnight backpacking trips. No run was longer than 19 miles; and I did no tempo, track, or taper workouts.
HPRS events are qualifiers for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 100, however, and in that respect they have been critical to my 2017 plans.
My developing cold certainly did not improve my race outlook. On Friday I became increasingly confident that I would at least finish, but a conservative race plan seemed prudent.
Through the first aid station at Mile 9.2 I hung in third place, among a four-man lead group. It felt like a casual start, with an average heart rate of just 132 bpm. In comparison, in June at San Juan Solstice I averaged 149 bpm to the first aid at Mile 7.3, and then 140 bpm for the next 8.2 miles to the second aid.
For the next 14 miles I ran in the lead with the eventual second place finisher, Adam. We conversed at length about hunting, writing, marriage, and ultra running (in that order, remarkably). When Adam faded due to some GI issues, I found myself in the same position I did at Silverheels — solidly in the lead, not feeling great, and a lot of miles still to go.
Given the record-setting heat on race day (85 degrees at DIA!), the section between the Rampart-2 and Reservation-2 aid stations (miles 23.5 to 32.8) were perhaps the most challenging. For 9.2 sunny and dusty miles the course cuts through grassy plains, scrub oak slopes, and open woodlands, while climbing and descending 3,500 net vertical feet.
I had anticipated this section, but should have better prepared for it by preemptively hydrating. Instead, up to that point I had been drinking to thirst, which required little fluids in the cooler and shadier morning hours. As I neared the end of this leg, increasingly I became water-obsessed and my legs seized up.
But the day changed dramatically for the better at Rampart-2. I downed a quart of water and filled two 17-oz bottles for the road. I took 400 mg of ibuprofen — which I’d never done during a race but which I hoped would reduce my muscle tightness — as well as a 50-mg caffeine pill. And I was greeted by David Eitemiller, who was dressed to join me for the last 18 miles.
The final loop was the most enjoyable of the day. My legs loosened up and I began to move well again. The course stayed out of the sunniest and most sun-baked terrain, and crossed a few natural water sources where we could top off our bottles and soak our hats. And I was extremely thankful for the company.
In the final miles I could have run much faster than I did, but there was little point in that. I didn’t want to drop Dave. I had a lock on first, and my finishing time was irrelevant. Plus, I was excited about the prospect of doing stairs on Sunday with ease. With intentions to run the Boston Marathon next April and UTMB next August, I suppose it’s a finishing effort to which I should not get accustomed, but on Saturday it felt right.