I was dying to get back out there sooner than later and waiting another 1.5 months for another crack at SOMETHING after my second DNF of the summer just seemed too far off to figure things out and “make it right.”
I knew Mt. Werner 50k in Steamboat was taking place two weeks after Silver Rush 50, and I figured it was time to get some things straight. Having run (and gotten completely spanked!) by this race last year I knew it’d be a good option for what I was looking for. Just some freaggin peace of mind that I’m capable of running these distances I train for, but that maybe I need to either A.) take it down a notch with the high altitude races or B.) get higher up earlier in the year.
A few days before Mt. Werner I attended the weekly Runners Roost run club in Denver. Mike Aish was speaking after the run and he said something that REALLY stuck with me…
“If you’re not afraid to fail, & you can get up & get back out there, that’s the best thing you can have as a runner.”
My chest got tight, my eyes stung a little and that was all I needed to hear.
I ended up coming down with a summer cold and a fever two days before the race. Luckily my fever was gone by Friday and any symptoms I had were from the neck up – which is clear to run in my book! After what was probably my most INSANE work week since being back in Denver, the trek up to Steamboat was made after work on Friday. Rolled into town around 10:30pm and stayed at the Grand which is within walking distance to the start. I laid everything out (which is something I haven’t done in a while) including my breakfast, and timed it so that I was able to get up, scarf down some breakfast and go back to sleep for an hour before getting dressed and walking over to the race start.
The scene at the start line this year was quite a bit different than last year. Well.. for starters.. there was actually a starting line this year. It was also VERY clear this was going to be a much different race this year. The women’s field was STACKED with strong runners this year and I knew right away my 3rd place AG award on a rough day from last year was a complete joke. (No really. It was. The gal who ended up taking 3rd in the open AG this year ran over 2 HOURS faster than I did last year.)
Before the start I was able to catch up with some Runners Roost teammates and some of my favorite trail running gal pals, which is always so great! It takes the edge off, and there is just something about getting to enjoy the same day on the trails with your friends and people you look up to that is just awesome!
Anyways.. so about this 50k…
If you aren’t familiar with Mt. Werner 50k it’s a wonderful race put on by the Steamboat Springs Running Series. It starts at the base at roughly 6,896 ft. Right off the bat you’re greeted with a 9.5 mile climb to the top of Mt. Werner to 10,200 ft. Once there it “rolls” along Mountain View Trail until you hit the turn around at Long Lake. From there you run back along Mountain View and then back down the mountain. According to my data it’s about 6,252 ft of vertical.
This year they had Tailwind Nutrition on course, which ended up being great for me. The day before I had a much needed crash course in nutrition at higher altitudes from an old friend. He suggested that liquid calories in frequent small amounts would be much more beneficial for me. With that, I decided to ditch what I had been doing in Leadville and just go for something new. I had experimented with Tailwind a little this spring and wasn’t against it, but wasn’t entirely sure I could solely rely on it for 50k. To me it was worth shot, because heaven forbid if I had to throw up one more GU….
So, everyone is lined up and the race starts…
Right off the bat I get passed, but my legs felt great and the gear I had felt justtt right. I sip away on my Tailwind, let the music on my iPod flow and get lost in the beauty of Mt. Werner. The wildflowers were absolutely stunning. My ascent up the mountain was 9 minutes faster than the year before.
Once to Storm Peak, I’m tempted to let the legs loose as I knew the course would start rolling. I chose to hold back. I knew that even though it was tempting to let it rip, I knew I still had a 9 mile descent that I had NO legs left for last year. This year was going to be different. All I wanted was to finish and feel good – I didn’t care what the clock said.
Photo cred: Joel Reichenberger
One of the many things I love about this course is the out and back along Mountain View. It’s so awesome getting to see the top runners on their way back or any people you happen to know. I was feeling great and getting pretty close to the turnaround on a downhill section. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but the next thing I knew my entire body was flying through the air. When I hit the ground I hit HARD with my left knee taking the brunt of the fall. Easily ranked as one of the top 2 most painful spills I’ve taken. The wind was knocked out of me, but I still managed to let the most atrocious sound escape my mouth. It was a mix between a scream and a muted moan. Whatever it was, was enough to startle the runner just ahead of me. He immediately rushed over to make sure I was okay. I thanked him and reached for his hand so I could stand and he suggested maybe I take a moment to sit and make sure everything was okay. I insisted to immediately stand, hobbled until I could walk and walked for a minute until I could run. I knew that if I sat there it was going to sink in and hurt more.
Once at the turn around I grabbed a piece of fruit and recognized a local Steamboat trail runner, Will. I congratulated him on his recent Hard Rock 100 finish and out of the aide station and on my way back I was. The way back along Mountain View was pretty uneventful. The legs still felt great, but at one point I noticed I was starting to feel a little low and spacey as it was getting hotter. I made a mental note to grab some Coke at the Storm Peak aide station.
At Storm Peak, I grabbed some Coke and started my way down the mountain. I noticed that my legs and everything in general felt INFINITELY better than they did the year before, but holy thundercats was it HOT. The miles ticked right on by and I thanked myself for taking it easy on Mountain View, as my legs felt fantastic on the descent. The only thing that caught me off guard were a few heart palpitations on some short uphill (and typically runnable) sections. I’m not sure what was causing it – heat? altitude? but I opted to power hike instead of run those sections. With about two miles to go it was getting insanely hot. There was a water stop about 2 miles from the finish. I knew I had enough Tailwind to finish the race. I topped off one of my 10 oz bottles of Tailwind and proceeded to dump it on myself. It was much colder than I expected and very much welcomed. I made the descent down the mountain 30 minutes faster than the year before. With a mile to go I knew I FINALLY had a day that I was proud of this summer and happy with. I’m usually a finish line crier – but I couldn’t help but just smile this time. Redemption feels so, so good…
I finished the day with no tears, no puke, minimal blood and quite a bit of sweat. I ran a course PR of 39 minutes, and while I didn’t place this year, I’m so lucky to have the privilege to continually toe the line with such strong and inspiring women…
Cassie Scallon, Cara Marrs, Anna Moseley, some crazy tall girl & Anita Ortiz
Huge shout to my girl, Rachel, on finishing her first ultra marathon! She crushed it!
Those are our “it’s really damn hot and someone should feed us” faces.
I really love this race and hope that next years race schedule allows me to come back!