When I became a trail convert, from running marathons to ultras my focus switched from racing to sightseeing. With marathons it was about PRs, running faster, and time, time, time while ultras were about the scenery, conversation and finishing no matter how long it took.
Here’s what I learned:
1. I love technical trails, steep climbs and rock scrambling. The Dirty 30 course has some steep technical ups and downs and these were the sections that I savored.
2. I need to train A LOT more on smooth, flat and rolling trails. In the race every time I hit these sections people I passed on the technical portions would fly by me. Because Leadville has a lot of runnable miles, I know I can’t ignore running flat miles (ugh!).
3. Racing for me is relative term. My finish time was not fast but I was pleased that I had run hard the entire race but also took a photos, made a few friends and felt strong the entire time.
4. Lightning and thunder are great motivators. At the end of the race there was a steep climb to the top of Windy Peak. I cruised up and down this section because the the idea of being caught anywhere near the summit with a storm approaching overrode any fatigue my legs felt.
5. When in doubt, stick to the Boy Scout motto “Always be prepared.” I’ve often been compared to a pack mule due to the amount of stuff I carry on a run. Racing is no different. I carried my Ultimate Direction Wink Pack and 100 oz bladder (thankfully not full), food to feed at least 5 runners and enough extra clothing for a serious storm. I didn’t use most of it but it felt like my security blanket. I stayed well hydrated, could fuel on the trail and felt comfortable that I’d be able to finish in any kind of weather.
6. Nutrition counts. This race solidified my fueling plan for Leadville. I’ve been consistently fueling with water, Energybits, Fuel 100 Electro-bites, bacon, trail mix (mostly pecans, walnuts, dried blueberries and cherries), potato chips, nut butters, olives and a drink mixture of One coconut water with salt, agave, and either coffee or ginger water. With the heat and harder effort I had steady energy levels and quick recovery times. I found the one thing I need to add is some simple sugar once in awhile.
7. What you wear counts. Normally I avoid running in the heat but in a race situation you don’t have control over weather conditions. I found wearing a breathable InknBurn singlet tank kept me cool while also protecting my back from any chafing from my pack. As an added precaution I used Squeaky Cheeks powder for areas salt typically builds up. What I discovered about the Squeaky Cheeks is that even after hours, if the powder is on your body and you add water, it almost relubricates spots. I used to use a goopy gel to prevent chafing but have found the powder more effective with a better scent. (Free samples available here or – see my twitter feed).
8. Don’t wear the timing chip ON your ankle bone. The sorest spot on my body is my bruised ankle from the timing chip. How silly is that?
I loved this race! I can’t say enough good things about the Dirty 30. Here are some reasons I’d recommend this race.
1. The course – The views from every part of this course are stunning. You run through fields and forests, over roaring creeks, up rocky outcroppings and even summit Windy Peak. The course has a little bit of everything so you never get bored.
2. The shirts and post-race drawing – I heard some people saying the $90 entry fee was too much but with a quality race shirt (and women’s cut too), beer glass, shuttles to the start and finish, well-stocked aid stations and amazing prize drawings I definitely got my money’s worth. There were so many prizes, I’d guess 80% of the folks who stuck around til the end won something.
3. The volunteers – Every volunteer I met was extremely helpful. I don’t know if Megan, or if the aid station captains train the volunteers but they seemed to go out of their way to make sure the runners were well accommodated.
4. The people – It was exciting to see the elites running the race but even more of a treat to see long-time ultra runners and friends at the race. The male and female winners stayed to the very end of the festivities. The post-race party encouraged runners to stick around.
Thank you Megan for a fantastic experience! I’ll be back to run again or volunteer.