Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quad Rock 25

2012 Quad Rock 50
On Saturday May 11, I ran the Quad Rock 25, a killer (both in its levels of awesomeness and its tendency to literally kill your quads) trail race in the foothills of Fort Collins, put on by Gnar Runners, with a 25 mile and 50 mile option. I freaking love this race. Last year, the race's inaugural year, I ran the 50 miler for my first ever 50. And blew up pretty badly. I ran a 13:36 with a 5:50 first half. It took nearly a week before I could walk normally again and months before I could even fathom wanting to run anything more than a couple of miles again. But the trails that day were magical. Ethereal in beauty, with a light frost hanging on the leaves of the trees and a mist pervading the trails, our trails were transformed that day. If I was ever to have a long rough day on the trails, it was at least a great day to be on the trails.

This year, I decided to run the 25 mile option. I set some pretty lofty time goals for the race, with a hard C goal cut-off of running under 5 hours. Mostly though, I just wanted to run as hard as I could, not blow up, and have a great time. Lindsay and I got to the race start right around 4:50AM, got our bibs,  stashed our drop bags for the finish line, and generally milled around waiting for the 5:30 start.
2013 Race Start
Photo by: Michael Hodges
This year's course started 30 minutes later than last year, in the early dawn hours of the morning as the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon. We took off in a big group down the Lory Park road towards Arthur's Rock Trailhead, a minor reroute this year after the March 2013 wildfire destroyed some of the bridges along the valley trail. I settled into a fairly easy pace, keeping my eyes peeled for THE Kristel Liddle. We turned on to Sawmill and began our first ascent of the day up towards Towers Rd. As we turned onto Stout, I found Cat and ran with her part of the way up Towers. I pulled on ahead, having a much shorter day than she did, and trying to run a bit harder on the ups than I normally do.

Coming in to Horsetooth Aid, I saw Rob Erskine straight off, being basically completely awesome in his role as aid station captain. Even more awesome, though, was the cooler parked on the bench next to him, marked "Liddle/Wilburn" and filled with bite-sized snickers bars, icy cans of coke and coconut water. I snagged a handful of snickers and stuffed them in my pack, downed a few mouthfuls of a coke and took off again, up the 2 mile climb to the Westridge junction.

Mile 19 or so, heading up Howard. Photo by Erin Bibeau
I was moving a bit slower than I wanted on the climb up Horsetooth, but I knew Mill Creek would come soon enough, and with it, some solid downhill sections. A huge shout out to Chris Hinds as well, for his lovely aid station at the Towers Road/Mill Creek/Spring Creek junction. Last year, he had some delicious and reviving ramen noodle soup going on his camp stove. But this year was even better - mounds of fresh-cooked and greasy bacon. I grabbed a huge handful and stuffed it into my pack. For the last 12 miles, whenever I started to feel a bit hungry or weak, I'd just alternate between munching on slices of bacon and chomping down mini snickers.

Cruising down Mill Creek, I caught up with, and passed, a couple of runners I knew. Kristel caught up behind me, and shouted forward that I'd better stay ahead of her. I found another gear and picked up the pace a bit. Crossing one of the gushing springs that had popped up after weeks of rain and snow, I passed by two men who were limping along pretty badly, waiting for some crew to come and help them out of the course. The course crosses over from Horsetooth Open Space into Lory State Park and turned down the Mill Creek Link towards the Arthur's trailhead, and I approached the Arthur's AS at mile 18 or so to find Mindy hiking up to help the guys I'd passed. It was so wonderful to see her, and to hear her encouragement that I was in a "really really good place, keep running hard!"
Running down Mill Creek towards Arthur's AS.
Photo by: Michael Hodges
I really don't think that Howard Trail is that brutal of a climb, but since I only ever seem to run it mid-way through Quad Rock or during a training run on the course it always seem much worse than it is. A few switchbacks before the Arthur's Rock turnoff, a woman running the 25-miler passed me by. We'd been going back and forth all day and as much time as she'd ever managed to get on the uphills, I'd always been able to catch her pretty fast once the course turned downhill again. So I let her go, feeling comfortable that I could bomb down Timber fast and hard enough to pass her before the finish. That didn't happen. I guess she found another gear, because she crossed the line a little over 2.5 minutes ahead of me. After doing my best to make a dramatic finish (er totally missed that whole crazy finish line thingy), I ended the race in 4:59:59. Sub 5 hours. I will take it. 7th woman, 44th overall. Not too shabby, I suppose.
Finishing. Photo by: Shannon Price

I spent the rest of the day gorging on the delicious food at the post-race barbecue, and drinking Mountain Lightning. I finally made my way over to the Arthur's Aid Station around 3PM to help out, just in time to see most of my favorite Fort Collins and Boulder runners finishing up the 50 miler! It was great to have a chance to cheer people on and bask in the race atmosphere without still running. I know quite a few of them didn't have the races they'd hoped for, but despite that, they all were moving well and looking strong (despite a few good-natured flip-offs at the news that they were still 2.5 miles to the finish).

A huge thanks needs to go to Pete and Nick for putting on such a great event, as well as one to all of the incredible volunteers out on the course and in the shadows for helping things to go so smoothly. And with that, bring on the next few months of training for my first 100!

1 comment:

  1. Well done THE Jessie Wilburn!!! Bring on the Leadville training!