Behind the Rocks Ultra

Oh. My. God…. so, I know I try to keep my blogs short to keep you here for just two minutes or so, so I’ll do my best here. I got to tell you though, I’m beyond stoked with how this second Ultra run of mine went. So please read… go on this quick journey with me. Celebrate with me!!! And let’s then go have a beer, go run, or go ride our bikes… or whatever pleases us. πŸ™‚

So let’s recap the first Ultra really quick for a second. Seriously, just bear with me ok… because these improvements are the most important part for me….

Back in July 2019, I completed my first Ultra. Average pace of 19:29, total time (which is what matters really) 10:05:40, moving time of 9:14:31 (terrible… WAY too much stopping). Finishing with 31.09 miles and 2,391 feet of vertical gain. Let’s not leave out the fact that my friend Laura quite literally had to yell at me to put my shoes back on my feet when I said I couldn’t do it anymore. Seriously. I sat my ass down and took my shoes off. She yelled at me and Matt stared helplessly not quite sure what to do. But with tears in my eyes and searing pain in my back, I did it and finished. Still an awesome feat for me.

Fast forward to yesterday. Average pace of 15:08, total time 8:07:47, moving time 8:00:12 (SO FUCKING excited about that one). Finishing with 32.25 miles and 3,944 feet of vertical gain.

For a better visual….

Total Distance31.0932.251.16
Total Elevation Gain2,3913,9441,553
Average Pace19:2915:084:21
Total Time10:05:408:07:471:57:53
Moving Time9:14:318:00:121:14:19
Stopping Time0:51:090:07:350:43:34

I cannot begin to express my elation at this improvement… words just cannot express. I went out with a goal to completely in 8 hrs with an average 15:15 pace (was off because I think I miscalculated the course, but no big deal). 8:07 is meeting that time as far as I’m concerned. And I had only 7 minutes of stopping time… which may actually be somewhat high due to the insane turnaround point that Garmin may have actually stopped reading as movement. But whatever, let’s leave it at that and let me just talk a bit about the race itself.

So I’m not really one to worry much about a course. I don’t study it, I don’t preview. I have a basic understanding and then I just go out. This is the case both with running and riding. It just doesn’t matter for the most part at the end of the day. I’m going to do it and finish. So all I knew about this course is in general was that it was technical trail in places, it was on trails I’d ridden parts of my mtb on before, and it was in a place with a beautiful backdrop. I love running on technical trails, so I figured this was going to be my jam… so yeah… ummm, I should have trained on a stair stepper. HA!! Kelsey and I started together, leading out our wave to the expanse in front of us eager for a fantastic day!

Start line COVID protocol
Hells yea here we go!!!!

It’s hard to describe, but the downhill was on chunks of rock that were part of a four wheel drive trail that Jeeps crawl up. Carnage from past victims was obvious in several places. I saw pieces of tail light, headlines, I saw chunk of metal that came from who knows where on a vehicle, and a big swaybar link that someone will likely be missing greatly on their drive home. So these weren’t rocks I could just mountain goat and fly over, this was STEPS. And in places, it was putting two hands down to lower yourself slowly down the slippery sandstone rock. It was comical at times… runners gather at the top of a rock shelf evaluating and discussing the best way down. Some just sliding down on their butts, others nervously looking for a supporting hand.

Steps down. Hellllooo quads!!
Steps up. 😩

The other icky challenge was the sand. It had rained two days before the race and the ground still had a lot of moisture in the sand which I think actually helped a TON. But running in soft sand isn’t easy no matter which way you slice it. My last training run for this was in powdery mashed potatoes conditions. Little did I know that was actually perfect training for this race. lol I met Rich from the Highlands back in Denver and we chatted about some of the psychology of why we do this dumb crap, the motivation behind putting ourselves through this pain…. but that’s for another blog. We plodded along through the sand for a few miles together before he went on ahead. He’d done something like 20 ultras and was a pro at this stuff, so he had a quicker pace than me.

Squishy sand but gorgeous sunrise views with runners stretched across the valley.

PLEASE let me talk about the turnaround point… so I missed the memo about this one OH MY GOD. So about mile 13.5 or so you drop on to this single track with jagged rocks poking from every direction, shin, waist, or head high. So you’re navigating through this obstacle course when you turn a corner and suddenly… it is EXPOSED. And when I say exposed, I’m talking about if that wet sand on the bottom of your shoes causes your foot to slip you are falling down 50-100 ft to the canyon. It was absolutely fabulous. At one point, you were quite literally rock climbing! This one section had two options for a way down, neither of which felt comfortable (I went down one way, came up the other way). One poor gal was freaking the fuck out going down as I was coming out. I felt bad…. and gladly accepted a helping hand for the last climb up and out. Less than a mile out of the canyon from the turnaround point I passed Kelsey going the other direction and cheered her forward, warning of the fun ahead of her. LOL

Look carefully at this pic and the guy with the yellow jacket in front of me, look where he is walking… my line to follow him! Then down to the runners on the left. The pic doesn’t do any justice to the narrow passage here.

The rest of the run was truly a huge chunk of climbing. I knew and expected this, so it took the burn out of the arduous task ahead of me, but it sucked. About 2/3 of the way through, my new friend Erin from Lakewood (also back home) stopped to walk with me as we lamented our puffy, swollen hands. We stopped briefly at the next two aid stations for Cokes and oranges. The company was amazing for some of those final miles. She took off with about 4 miles left. My hips were just screaming and needed a little more walking time.

The contrast of the red dirt, blue skies, and snow capped white La Sal mountains was a view that just never got old.
See the cars and finish line in the distance? Yeah… that view was a bit of torture!!

The final torture was the view of the finish line and piles of cars in the distance…. 3.5 miles away. Oh my gosh how those miles drug by. You can imagine my elation as I turned the corner and started up the last douchegrade hill to the finish line… scanning frantically for Matt. I saw him crouching behind his phone taking pictures of me and beaming from ear to ear. He put his hand out to give me a high five and I plowed that last 100 yards to the finish line. Holy crap I did it!! And never once did I hit that point of “I’m not having fun anymore”, and that probably made it SO much better. Erin greeted me at the finish line and we promised to connect back home… crazy girl only started running this last year and has been running 100-milers. She would fit right in with my tribe. πŸ™‚

Stole this pic from Nick… he captured with his snazzy camera at the finish 🀩

I have to mention Kelsey again, this was her first Ultra. I waited with Matt and her husband Nick for her to come. She’d gotten injured and walked a huge chunk of the way back because of the pain. So I was anxious to run her in to the finish that she’d trained so hard for. I screamed (literally, screamed) when she turned the corner. She started crying which of course made me start crying… we walked up that douchegrade together and I hugged her at the other end of that finish line. She did so well, despite adversity in the day. Her training paid off, and she completed her first Ultra. Freaking amazing!! So proud of the girl… πŸ™‚

All that being said… this weekend has been freaking amazing. A fun spin out ride with Kelsey on Friday, the race Saturday, Matt and I rode our bikes up Colorado National Monument today then drove the car up through the rest of the park, and tomorrow we’ll go mountain bike one of our favorite trails here in Fruita. I’m so grateful for him, for friends, for family…. everyone who has supported the road here. It’s been an incredible journey. And now…. I’m excited to no longer train, and to ride my bike, run, climb, or do nothing (almost nothing), whenever I want and for however long I want.

So for now… I am cracking a beer, and enjoying the rest of this amazing weekend. πŸ™‚
CHEERS everyone!!!

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