Indian Creek Fifties -- 55K Race Report
This past weekend I finished the Indian Creeks 50s 55K. If you were paying attention, you knew this was coming based on this post regarding how terrible I am at tapering. Technically my watch clocked me in at 33.7 miles for this race, which is a 54k and change, but I’m going to go ahead and round up. No recipes here, because there are only three appropriate choices after you’ve finished a big race: going to a restaurant, ordering takeout, or having someone else cook for you. I was lucky enough to have choice # 3, although I kept stumbling into the kitchen in an attempt to ‘help’, which I’m sure was disconcerting as it required me hopping off of the bar stool I was sitting on and making a wounded animal noise every time I did, because, ow, legs.
So, now I’m resting. I pointed out on Monday that I was going stir crazy already, and someone was quick to remind me that it had barely been 24 hours since I finished my race. I’m sure to be a delight to all my loved ones for the next week or so that I spend not running. But let’s talk about this race.
This course is seriously stunning. You go from fire roads to single-track, back to fire road…there are these sort of secret garden-style parts of the race where you’re running on a carpet of yellow Aspen leaves and the branches of the trees are making a roof right over your head. Then moments later, it’s a wide open meadow with a copse of stunning Aspen trees that are sheltered and still have their Golden leaves intact. I didn’t take a single photo, but trust me, it’s all there in my brain, and because other people did take photos, which I borrowed. Every now and again I’d even peak the Denver skyline way in the distance, which is exactly where I like highly populated areas.
This was my second ultra that I’ve finished this year. I had this one amazing moment after leaving the first aid station, at mile 14ish, which was full of delicious food and drinks and super friendly helpful people. I’d filled up my water, and I trotted off double-fisting grapes and potato chips. I was back on the trail, still double-fisting, there was nobody ahead of me or behind me, and everything was so peaceful and I had this absolute “Man, is this the best sport or WHAT?” moment. Potato chips usually bring out my enthusiasm.
My directional struggles were strong during this race in spite of the fact that the course was well marked and there really were few options to go off-track OR switch onto other trails. I’m just really bad with directions, so I constantly doubt myself, which is sort of hilarious for someone who spends most of their free time gallavating on trails on their own. I had this one panicked moment where the guy I was a few yards behind suddenly took off into the undergrowth (probably taking care of business) and my mind went “Well, one of you is going the right way, and one of you isn’t…and you’re NEVER the one going the right way.” My advice, if you ever do this race: Trust me, you’re going the right way. But print out the map, just in case. I always do. I'd like to think I made many people really happy because if someone came up behind me, or I came up behind them, I would greet them with "Wow am I happy to see you!" which is rarely an appropriate thing to say to a complete stranger.
My mind goes in really strange directions when I’m moving for seven hours. At one point I had this bizarre ‘If a tree falls…’ thought, only it went like this: “If a trail runner has a tattoo, but they’re wearing long sleeves and nobody else on the trail can see it, do they really have a tattoo?” These are the questions we must ask ourselves when running. (And no, I’m not making fun of anyone, I have a full sleeve, so it was more a question about myself. Was my tattoo even there?! Once I took my long sleeve shirt off I was relieved to discover that it was, in fact, there.)
The elevation is not a joke, especially not the last big climb. During the pre-race meeting Sherpa John mentioned that that last six miles were going to be gnarly, so I started psyching myself up early. I knew what it was going be like because we went down those six miles on the first loop. It was great that I was prepared, but also terrible that I knew what was coming. It’s also a seriously amazing view, so if you do this race, pause your suffering to take in the beauty of the surrounding area. I was really losing steam towards the end, but a super friendly mountain biker came by at a key moment and told me I had about two miles to go, and I looked great (LIAR, but I loved you for it.)
I got clipped by a mountain biker for the first time ever. The dude sort of slowed down, but not really. It was at mile 30, and I could not have gotten out of the way had I wanted to. He clipped my elbow and I’m pretty sure I just sort of twisted around and snarled, zombie style. He said “Sorry!” about 50 times, and I said nothing back. Not because I was super mad but because I was on MILE 30 and the power of speech was evidently something I didn’t possess in that moment. However, when another biker came bombing down behind him and I had time to think, I shocked myself by shouting at him at the top of my lungs to slow the F*** down. I did not even know I was capable of that sort of outburst. He did not slow down, but I don’t blame him because a deranged zombie-lady was cursing at him. Probably prudent to keep up a swift clip. Hopefully the people behind me were okay.
Let me tell you how much I love Human Potential Running Series and its people. Sherpa John & Ashley were so involved all day long, and all the volunteers were fun and not at all perturbed about touching and helping sweaty, tired runners. Also, some of the aid station volunteers had to really huck supplies a long distance—full jugs of water—so I cannot thank them enough for taking care of us and having such good spirits. The vibe of this race was so friendly and super low key. I didn’t stay for too long after I finished because I knew I needed to drive myself home while I could, but I signed up for their membership for 2017 the second I got home. I can’t wait to spend more time with this crew—they’ve got the right idea about what it means to put on a trail race.
So overall summary: I can’t believe I powered through this race. I loved every minute, and loved/hated some moments pretty intensely. It was more power hiking than running, because it was a very hot day, and as I already said, the elevation change was humbling. My hip, which is a frequent cause of concern, got pretty spicy early on, so really the race was between me and my psyche to just keep plugging along. In spite of that, I still sneaked in as the second woman overall—exciting! As always, the running community inspired the heck out of me. People were constantly checking in on each other and offering water, electrolytes, etc. It was an inspiring day, and an inspiring race. And in spite of my aching body, I cannot wait to do it again.