As we crept down the dirt road towards the start the sun was just arriving in pink waves behind the mountains. It was cold and I was quickly handed a goody bag and my number. Thankfully it was a small number (hint to other race directors) and easy to pin to my shorts. With the changes in temperatures I knew I would be shedding layers so a number on the shorts is a must.
Soon dancing feet were gathering at the start line and we received our last bit of directions. With that we were off and running. I went off the front just a few feet to give my wife a good giggle and my teammate a scare...soon I was back where I belonged...in the pack.
The course was going to be easy to follow-just follow the Pony Express. As forewarned, a few hunters blew past in a cloud of pathetic glory with their hunting limos (ATV's) in tow and their loaded weapons primed for the unarmed animals of the wild. If you want to impress me you need to run the animal down.
From the comfort of my car I was armed with video and digital cameras, gallons of water, bags of food and running clothing suitable for any weather. I was looking forward to making sure my two runners had exactly what they needed to keep running comfortably....for 50 miles. As I stopped three miles up the course my guys, happily smiling, didn't need a thing, but I knew it wouldn't be long before they'd raid my loaded car.
Soon a hopscotch pattern of support vehicles fell into rhythm and it was easy to see who was in the lead by the clouds of dust on the horizon. As the early miles ticked off I kept remembering the haunting words about mile 18...something about "mentally challenging."
My teammate and I were singing 80's metal songs as we approached the infamous miles from 18-36 and we were mentally ready. Ripping through Bohemian Rhapsody we hit the 25 mile marker in 4:05 and of course my initial thought was the odds of pushing it for an 8:10 finish...
And then there it was..."The Climb"...Not daunting because of its size, just the only real elevation on the course. it was a welcome sight after the long drags. We power walked up the climb and were met at the top with the news we were the 19th and 20th runner through. What wasn't mentioned was it was including the early starters so I guessed we were sitting around 8th and 9th on the road. Just a guess.
I made stops every 2-3 miles, sometimes more frequently to shout encouragement, snap photos and shoot video. First priority was always making sure my two runners had filled water bottles and gels ready to grab. I think they enjoyed the ice cold washcloths I provided as well. The weather was heating up and they were often engulfed in the dust from passing cars. Still, the goal was no stopping, boys! They grabbed what they needed and headed off again. I was eagerly awaiting the moment when I could yell, "Single digits, guys! Single digits!"
There were a couple targets up the road and I could feel a good amount of giddy-up in my legs. And with the faith I had in my training and knowing I had the best support crew out there I hit the gas with 10 miles to go. This was going to hurt.
My first mile of the final push was a 9:21 and then followed up by a 8:47 bringing me into the 8 mile range to finish. I realized if I kept up a good pace I could break 9 hours...as long as I didn't break down first. I started to filter through some 100 milers and early 50 mile starters. I was even lucky enough to catch a few targets I was thinking about. They were nice and we would exchange words of spirit. With salt accumulating on my shirt and sweat pouring off my head I was nearing the end.
The out and back added a little more excitement for the day as I was smiled at by an oncoming speedy looking 50 miler after the turn around...could he actually catch me with the finish in sight? Dig, dig, dig! I told myself and kept pushing. With one last glance over my shoulder I grabbed the Colorado flag from my wife and trotted colorfully across the finish line in 8:49 and 5th place overall! My teammate was soon to follow in 7th place and we took a long well deserved sit near the cookout.
The opportunity to act as support crew for my husband and friend is an experience I will never forget. Most races do not include the option to follow runners for 50 miles. I felt like the coach, chef, photographer, videographer, nurse and cheering squad. Needless to say, I'm their biggest fan and watching them cross the finish line in great spirits ended my day perfectly!
At the end of the day we both accomplished what we traveled all the way from Boulder to do. We ran a solid race and represented Colorado the best we could. A special thanks to my wife-the woman who makes me believe I can do races like these. THANKS for all the support!
See you out there...just listen for Bohemian Rhapsody.
Pony Express Video Link