Monday, September 7, 2015

Demons of Dust. And rocks - lots of rocks.

For the fifth year in a row, Mrs Notthat and I set up a trip to the Greater Pagosa Springs Area that matched up with a trail race put on by GECKO. As with last year, we chose the Demons of Dust event that runs alongside their Devil Mountain 50M/50K event. The course was significantly different than last year though, and once we arrived in Colorado, we found out that it had changed again.

The one thing that was reasonably obvious was that this course was going to have significantly more climbing than last year. Like about three times more climbing, up something called Chris Mountain.

Here is a simplified course map of sorts.

Double-click to see this bigger.
One thing about this course that I was happy to see, was that all three distances (Half, 10K, and 5K) started at the same time on the same trail. This meant that, if things were going horrifically, I would have two chances to drop down to a shorter distance.

I had two reasons to find relief in that:

  • I had no idea how I would do running at 8,000 feet of altitude, especially after a tough race the previous weekend.
  • I would have my great-nephew Blailand with me, running his second Half Marathon, and having a safety plan was a good idea. (But mostly it was the first thing.)

The race started and we were off! Team Lucas had two of us running the Half and four others running the 5K, including great-nephew Landon running his first 5K! (Another bonus runner was grandkid Riley, who had come along on our trip in large part to dodge the smokey wildfires that were really compromising his breathing back in California.)

We started on a fairly flat single-track trail. While it did create a bit of a conga line, it was actually pretty easy to go around slower runners if you wanted to.

Sadly, Landon managed to "become one with the trail" pretty early on. The trail was reasonably smooth at this point, but it did have occasional rocks that you had to be on the lookout for. Landon was able to continue on though (and I believe had a couple more occasions where he became one with the trail).

After a little bit, Blailand and I passed Mrs Notthat (who was still nursing an injury) and Grandkid Riley.

About half way around the 5K loop, the trail changed its tune and became very rocky. This was a sign of things to come.

Notthat becoming one with the trail.
Look at that picture. See any rocks? No. I have no idea what I tripped on, but I did it and managed to skin an elbow and get my shirt dirty. (And get a little bit of a rest.) Blailand was the only one around to see this, thankfully. (It only took him about a mile to stop laughing about it.)

"Which way do I go?"
Most of the turns had a volunteer to show us which way to go. (He used both arms since he could tell I was a bit dim.)

"Which way do I go?"
After about three fairly flat miles, we hit the turn where we left the 5K runners and headed out to Chris Mountain.

This was the first aid station, about mile 3.2 or so. We would see them again MUCH later.

At about mile 4, we hit the 10K turnaround. This was also where we left the smooth dirt road and started the serious trail up Chris Mountain. I asked Blailand how he was doing, and he said fine, so we decided to go for it and get the Half done!

The trail up the mountain started pretty nicely. I love running through this kind of foliage when I know there's no chance of any of it being poison oak.

It wasn't long before the trail started climbing though, and its true rocky nature became apparent. We would get to come back down this trail later, and I had hoped to make some good time on it, but my downhill technical running skills are pretty horrific, so this was not a happy thing.

The eventual Half winner flying down that rocky trail.

After a bit, we made it to the unmanned second aid station, about mile 5.2. This meant the first climb was over, which was a happy thing. At this point we went on a four mile loop that took us a bit back downhill before bringing us back up to this aid station.

The trail on that loop was pretty nice, although the climb back up to that aid station was rocky and seemed to take forever.

But we did it, and made it back to the aid station, now at about mile 9.1.

(A mildly interesting note: Shortly after we started back down from here, we met another runner coming up to this point. After she filled up at this aid station and started around the loop, she came across a large bear. The bear stood up and she stopped. The bear wandered off, but that was hardly comforting. Fortunately, she was able to call her husband, who happened to be at the start/finish area, and an ATV was dispatched to come get her. I mentioned this to my sister Bonnie, who has been all over these hills, and she wasn't surprised at all - she's seen a number of bears in this area. All of this made me wish I had been keeping a sharper eye out just for the chance to catch a glimpse of a real live bear in the wild!)

Blailand and I tried to go as fast as possible on this downhill, but I was already gun-shy after tripping once, so I was very conservative, and managed to stay on my (slow moving) feet!

We eventually made it back to the 10K turnaround. After that rocky trail, it was nice to get a bit of fairly smooth fire road.

This was the fourth aid station, about mile 11. We made a right and left the road for some more trails (the "10K" loop). This section was pretty nice with minimal climbing and minimal rocks. But it still seemed to take forever.

The trail out on the loop was a relatively nice ATV trail. I had noticed this bit of tape and the markers, but it had completely escaped me that we should turn there, and I kept on going on the ATV trail. Until I heard Blailand call out and, very politely, point out that I was a moron and had missed the turn. (He was of course right, and if he hadn't been paying attention we could have added at least a bonus mile or so.)

That turn led to more of the same kind of trail we had started on, and was really great. The only troubling bit was that my GPS was telling me that we were significantly past the point where we should have been finished. I started to get nervous, even though there were others ahead of and behind us, until Blailand heard the finish line music.

Blailand stormed the finish line with gusto!

Picture my brother took of Blailand coming in - she's ready to tackle him if he doesn't stop soon!
Me coming in. Nobody needed to worry about trying to tackle me. I was DONE!
Getting our medals. Note all the trail I had been carrying around on my back.

The only sad thing about this race was that several conflicts greatly affected the number of people Team Lucas was able to enter. It was great to get this many though, and we are already scheming to make it a lot more next year.

As always, the event was a blast. GECKO puts on a number of great events in the area, and we've always enjoyed them immensely.

A funny thing was that I was asked if I would answer a few questions for a newspaper article the GECKO people were putting together about the race. The result was this (you can double-click the pictures to maybe make them legible):

Wow. This was a bit stunning! I'd say it was humbling, but, well, my rapidly exploding ego won't let that happen.

I do like that Blailand got his name in his hometown newspaper for running up and down Chris Mountain - something none of his middle school classmates have ever done (or likely thought possible). I'm hoping he's had to explain that more than once, and maybe some of the girls are looking at him a bit differently.

A HUGE thanks to the people at GECKO, especially Kirsten, for all you did to make this so cool! We can't wait to get back here next year (we are currently thinking of the Turkey Track Trail race in June in the hopes it will have fewer scheduling conflicts).

Team Lucas will again be out in force! (And I promise not to bleed all over the trail again. Probably.)

That's it - move along.

PS: Here is a link to some more pictures I took at the race.


DAK said...

I truly love 'Not That Becoming One with the Trail." Finally, a running photo I can relate to.

Fun Size said...

You know you are up in altitude when you start seeing Aspens. I love those trees but the altitude that comes with them not so much. And you even made the paper. Nice!