The Wyoming Rocky Mountain 50k is held in the Medicine Bow National Forest, which sits on I-80 between Cheyenne and Laramie. I was interested in this race because I had never run any trails in Wyoming and the venue sounded fun. Jo and I made the 5 hour drive on Saturday morning and the race was being run on Sunday...because it's not Utah.
My disappoints began early with a cotton race shirt, pink bib and a damn speeding ticket! The speed limit in Wyoming should be no less than 300 mph!
I've been feeling good and running well this month. Everything has been clicking for me lately and I was eager to get to this race and I expected a strong display of running badassery!
Getting ready to line up and get this thing GOING!
A few things about the race itself...
I had a lot of trouble getting information about the course prior to the race. The website has outdated and irrelevant information and the race has this motto (actually published on the website), "Where the race director promises you nothing, and he delivers." Emailing the RD wasn't much help either because he's a master of single word answers. Maybe he's shooting for a "Barkley" feel to his event by keeping everything top secret.
This isn't really a trail race because it's held on dirt and gravel roads, plus a section of paved frontage road that runs parallel to I-80. The dirt roads aren't bad, but the frontage road sucks.
Our race began at 6:00 AM on Sunday, along with a half and full marathon. All 3 races begin together and run the same course. Each race is an out and back format.
The race starts at 8800' and drops to 8000' at it's lowest point and there's a never ending supply of rolling hills and steep climbs. This race will test your high altitude training, as well as, your quads and climbing ability!
Given the location, a lot of runners had made the trip from Colorado to run this race. There were a lot of pretty speedy guys and girls at the start line. This was not something I expected.
The course looks like this...Except rarely this flat.
The race got started right on time and we immediately began a long descent. I was positioned up front and planned to get into the lead if I could. I was prepared to run hard and possibly break the spirit of a few of the fast guys in the hopes of getting their minds set on something other than winning. I've never tried this trick, but I figured it would be worth a shot. Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy that's never won a race before, so take it for what it's worth. I can assure you, I've done dumber things.
The RD has a strict rule about wearing your bib in front, so I swung mine around to cover my left ass cheek as a sign of rebellion. I'm sure he was furious!
I was letting Jo know who the "fast guy" in the field would be. Who says profiling doesn't work? I was dead on!!!
I took the race lead in the first 2 minutes of the run. I eventually dropped all the 50k runners and I was pacing off the marathon leader, running shoulder to shoulder. Yeah...that felt pretty badass.
I came to the first aid station at mile 4 and flew right passed it without stopping. I was carrying all the fuel I needed and I didn't plan to make any aid station stops during the race. I was loaded up with Hammer gel in flasks and a few Hammer Bars. The Perpetuem stayed home this week because I expected a short outing.
Some early morning scenery
After a few miles, I eased off my pace and was running alone. I held the race lead for several miles and was feeling strong. Eventually, the "fast guy" caught me and I let him go. After a few minutes, I was passed again and didn't put up a fight to save my spot. I was content to let them lead for a while, but I planned to keep them within sight. So far, my race was going exactly as planned.
Giving up the lead actually felt good because I was a little anxious knowing people were gunning for me. I wanted to let them battle it out for a while so I could relax and develop a plan for taking the lead later in the race.
After the half marathon runners turned to head to the finish, we made a steep ascent and entered the paved frontage road. We ran along this asphalt for a little less than 3 miles and came to our 2nd aid station. I paused long enough to remove my arm warmers and hand them to Jo, then off I went.
Coming into the 10 mile aid station
We left the pavement after this aid station and were back on the dirt roads. The park is beautiful and I was really enjoying the scenery. I tend to run with my eyes glued to the course, but I forced myself to pay attention and enjoy the area.
More scenery at Medicine Bow
Heading to the marathon turnaround point and mile 13 aid
Snow capped mountains in the distance. That's Colorado!
And then the wheels fell off...
The weather had been cool and overcast all morning. Somehow, without warning, it got really warm. I didn't seem to notice right away because my mind was focused on keeping the leaders in sight.
My legs got heavy and my turnover began to slow. This wasn't a slow process, it seemed to happen all at once. I didn't feel bad, I was just having a hard time getting my speed dialed up. As I passed through the mile 13 aid station, I was trying to figure out what went wrong. I felt fine, I've been eating and drinking all morning and I know my electrolyte mixture is right. I'm handling my nutrition plan like I always do so it shouldn't be an issue with fueling.
Nonetheless...I was slowing down fast.
Coming to mile 13 aid station
My mind kept returning to dehydration, but I hadn't really been sweating much and I had been drinking plenty. Then suddenly, I got a painful cramp that I am all too familiar with. It's definitely dehydration. The altitude played a factor in drying me out, and the light wind was whisking away my sweat, giving me a false impression that I wasn't losing much body fluid. Before I knew it, I was DEEP into dehydration.
I slowed my pace and began taking in my Endurolyte Fizz drink, trying to bring myself out of the red zone. I've run in these conditions enough to know how to adjust my electrolyte intake for this environment. I just blew it and was now paying a steep price for it.
I made it to our 50k turnaround and I was still in 3rd place but had lost direct contact with the leaders.
At mile 17, I fell to 4th place. Off the podium!
I saw Jo at the mile 21 aid station and told her about my problem. When I get dehydrated, I become the biggest brat in the world. I was in full "A-Hole mode" when I stopped and talked to her, and as usual, she dealt with it like a pro!
Back on the dreaded blacktop!
At this point, I'm just fighting to keep my position in the race and trying to keep fluids moving into my body. I was angry about my situation and especially angry at myself. I was not in a happy place.
But I was certainly in a beautiful place. Me running toward the hills!
Jo was shadowing me during these miles, just in case I needed something or in case I fell over dead. At one point, she passed me and asked if I needed anything. I figured it would be a good time for a beer.
At mile 27, working on alternative hydration techniques!
Drinking beer at an aid station during an ultra is not new to me, but it's clearly not something that the other runners had ever seen. They were looking at me like I just kicked a box of kittens into a wood chipper. Get over it fellas!
As I was drinking my beer, I fell to 5th place. The beer washed that problem away too.
A few minutes after leaving the mile 27 aid station, I began to feel much better. I picked up my pace, regained perspective and began to have a little bit of fun again.
At mile 29, I had to run up the steepest and longest grade on the course. I knew what I was in for because its the same hill I had bombed down earlier in the day. There was no doubt it was going to be brutal. When it arrived, I chipped away at it and worked myself to the top.
At the finish!
By the time I crossed the finish line, I felt surprisingly strong again. I had managed to pull myself out of my bad place, but by then, it didn't much matter. The Hammer products that I use have never let me down, but I have to use them correctly to get the benefit of them. I failed at properly planning for this race and I paid the price for that failure.
Let me give you a quick executive summary:
- I was in great shape and figured to do very well
- I lost sight of my hydration and wrecked my plans to be on the podium
- I became a big baby and whined for about 12 miles
- Like with most things, beer soothed my wounds
- I somehow managed to hold 5th place overall
- And...the fast guy I pointed to at the beginning of the race DID end up winning
I'm a little put off by receiving a belt buckle for a 50k. I don't know the history behind this race, so maybe there's a logical reason, but I don't like it. Nonetheless, I'll add it to my collection of awards and will appreciate it for the keepsake that it is.
Maybe I'll tie a ribbon around it and make it into a medal.
This race report may seem a little uninspired, and if so, it's probably because I'm a little uninspired at the moment. I have a lot of mixed feelings about what happened out there today but I know I need to take the time to study my mistakes so I won't repeat them in the future. In the cycle of training and racing, we only have a limited number of opportunities to really shine on race day. If I had been smarter, today would have been that day. I'll be a better runner for this experience.
We leave in a couple of days for the long journey to South Africa so I can run the Comrades Marathon next weekend. This is the oldest and largest ultra in the world. We're excited about the trip and all the great experiences that will come from it!
Thanks for following along! I hope to see many of you out on the trails (or gravel roads) very soon!