2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  THE NORTH FORK 50K & 50-MILE TRAIL RACES

SUNDAY, JULY 18

 
"The North Fork Trail Race is run on trails in the beautiful Buffalo Creek Recreation Area
in the Pike National Forest, starting and finishing at Pine Valley Ranch Park in
Pine, Colorado. The course is very hilly and it will be challenging for those not used to
mountain trail running, but speedsters who are used to altitude will find the course
quite runnable. The friendly aid stations and beautiful scenery make North Fork
an excellent choice for a first trail ultramarathon. Come join us!"
 
~ from the North Fork Trail Race homepage
 
 
Jim and I cannot say enough good things about the inaugural North Fork Trail 50K and 50-miler! Kudos to Race Director Janice O'Grady, her husband Tom O'Connell, and the cadre of experienced ultra runners who volunteered in various capacities to make the race a winner for everyone who participated.

Janice and her husband aren't new to either ultra running or race directing and their experience really showed.


A scenic view of Pine Lake

When we're out on the course running an event we don't always know what goes on behind the scenes; as long as check-in goes smoothly, the course is marked adequately, the aid station are well-stocked, and volunteers are cheerful and helpful, everything may appear to be "running" seamlessly with the management of the race.

Behind the scenes, however, things may be falling apart. Volunteering at a race, especially at the start/finish or working the ham radios, gives us a more realistic perspective of what's going on, including what's going wrong, although there are still some aspects of any event that are unknown to us.


Janice and the timing volunteers at the finish line patiently wait for the first runners to come in.

Any glitches at North Fork were minor, despite the complaints of one experienced ultra runner who got off-course when she wasn't paying attention. Jim and I thought the organization and execution of this race were superb.

From the many compliments about the race that I heard runners giving Janice at the finish line, so did most of the other runners. Terri Handy summed it up nicely when she compared the efficiency and service at one of the aid stations to an Indy pit stop: volunteers offered up all sorts of food and beverages, massaged her shoulders, wiped off her legs with cold water, and even applied sunscreen! Jim said he also was treated like royalty at that aid station.

Note that all of the aid stations except one were (wo)manned by experienced ultra runners. Not only was Janice able to recruit quite a few Colorado runners to volunteer at the race, several of her friends from California even flew out to help! Some of our Colorado ultra buddies worked the Sandy Wash Aid Station at 42 miles, including Pat Homelvig and Matt and Anne Watts, and Leadville "Cut-Off Queen" Joann Beine directed runners at the 31-mile split all day and evening.


Race logo on the handsome volunteer t-shirt (the actual logo is smaller than this)

Jim was very pleased with the aid stations and course markings in the 50-mile race. He thought the pre- and post-race organization was good and he was very happy that there was still plenty of food left at the end -- thoughts of the post-race hamburgers motivated him all day!

As expected, Jim's main problem was the heat; the temperature at the start/finish got up to 90 F. during the afternoon. He was trained for the altitude, hills, and distance but not that much heat. Although he didn't finish as fast as he'd hoped, he finished within the time limit and won the M60+ age group! More about that later.

I had one of my best race-volunteering experiences ever, in close contact with Janice for almost 14 hours, from early-morning check-in (~5:15 - 7:15 AM) to helping at the finish line and handing out awards to each runner as they finished throughout the day (~9 AM - 8:30 PM). Every aspect of the race that I observed either went very smoothly because it was so well-thought out before the race or it was quickly addressed as the race progressed.


Shelter we used for the race; volunteers are setting up the finish line after the race started.

Janice used to direct the popular Quicksilver ultras in the San Jose, CA area. When she and Tom moved to Conifer, CO west of Denver about four years ago they scouted trails in the area for their own training purposes and for a potential new event to direct.

The location they chose in the Pine/Buffalo Creek area is perfect for a trail ultra and we predict, based on how pleased this year's runners were, that the event will quickly fill up in 2011.

You've been forewarned: if you want to participate in the North Fork race next year, enter as soon as registration opens this winter. Jim definitely wants to run it again (unless we go on a big adventure we're considering farther north next summer) and I'm even toying with the idea of walking the 50K. The time limit for both the 50K and 50-milers is 14 hours, with an early start offered for the longer race. If I decide not to enter, I'll be more than happy to help Janice at the start/finish again. She's so low-key and personable that she's a delight to work with.


Janice (blond hair, sunglasses) talks with one of the female finishers (in white cap)

Jim wisely chose to "pre-board" an hour before the official race start. So did the only other M60+ entrant in the 50-miler, Ulrich Kamm, who does more race walking than running. That was a good decision for both of them; they finished in 14:03 (Jim) and 14:35 hours (Ulli), which would have been DNFs if they'd started at the regular time.

In addition, neither man would have been eligible for an award if another M60+ had finished the official 50-miler. Since none did, Jim and Ulli received the first and second place M60+ awards. You can see race results here for the 50K and 50-miler.


Jim runs toward the finish line at the end of 50 miles.

That's the executive summary of the race. For more photos and details, keep reading . . .

INTRODUCTION TO PINE VALLEY RANCH PARK

Jim and I really appreciate the extensive "open space" park system in Colorado. I've written previously about some of the parks we visited in the Colorado Springs area. Each park has something different to offer, but all of the ones we've seen so far have great multi-use trails and scenery -- and entry is free to visitors! I've commented that it's one of the few government services I'd be glad to ante up taxes for if we lived in the area.

Pine Valley Ranch is an 820-acre open space park in Jefferson County. Prior to the county's purchase of the land in 1986 and subsequent development into a picturesque park, the pine-studded property had a colorful history since the mid-1800s in the hands of private owners.

Going backwards, it has been a conference center, a fishing retreat, and a family's personal resort. Before that, it was homesteaded, logged, and used by a company that harvested ice blocks from Pine Lake. Train tracks used to parallel the river; now a scenic rail trail does.

You can find a lot more information about the park's facilities and recreational opportunities on the website link above. This link shows a map.


One of the observation decks along Pine Lake is reflected in the water.

Not only is this a fine venue for a trail race, it's also a pleasant place for families to hang out while waiting for their runners to finish.

There are several shelters and lots of shade in the picnic area, smooth trails and observation/fishing decks around the lake, interesting rock canyon walls near the parking area, a meandering river that is fairly flat and calm on one end of the park (below) and has cascades through the canyon at the other end, and a rail-trail that crosses the river twice on sturdy wooden bridges.


Race namesake:  North Fork of the South Platte River

Janice rented the large shelter closest to the ranch depot for the race start and finish. Although there are several trails around Pine Lake, along the North Fork of the South Platte River, and up into the hillsides of the park, there are many more miles of trails in the adjacent Pike National Forest.

And that's where Janice sends runners in the North Fork races. This link takes you to the course descriptions, maps, and elevation profiles.


Bridge over the river that runners cross near the beginning of the race

Cody and I were able to explore about three miles of trail in the park after all the runners started the race. All the trail photos above and below are ones I took fairly close to the start/finish. Some are on the last mile of the race course, which finishes on the north side of the lake. Jim didn't carry a camera during the race and I didn't get out to either of the two aid station locations where crews can meet their runners.

The next five photos are on the south side of the lake and not on the course:


Enclosed shelter that groups can rent

 


Not only was this area logged in the 1800s, wildfires in 1996 and 2000 have also taken out some of the
 pine trees in the adjacent mountains. The burn areas don't detract much from the race course, however.

 

That's a pleasant walk for families while they're waiting for their runners to return.

I'll show some course photos after I talk about check-in and the start of the race.

LET'S RUN!

Pine Valley Ranch Park is about 40 miles from downtown Denver. Runners who either lived closer or spent Friday night closer to the start could pick up their numbers and handsome embroidered technical running shirts at the park on Friday evening. Those traveling from farther distances could wait and check in on Saturday morning.


Very nice short sleeved 50-50 volunteer t-shirts (L) and synthetic embroidered entrants' t-shirts (R)

Jim checked in on race morning because of the distance we had to drive from Kenosha Pass.

Although there are dispersed camping sites in the Buffalo Creek area of Pike National Forest a few miles from the start, we've driven up and down the dirt forest service road twice in our truck and haven't found any sites suitable for our camper. Nor did our forays show any good places for us to camp on or near US 285 except for Kenosha Pass, a 45-minute drive to the west. That's a neat place to stay so we enjoyed a week there and just drove further before/after the race.


Janice (L) and volunteers set up the registration table before runners begin arriving.

Janice kindly offered an early start for 50-milers who had concerns about finishing the moderately-difficult course in the 14-hour time limit. Now in her 60s (but looking much younger!) and not as fast as she used to be, Janice can empathize with runners who have increasing difficulty making cut-offs in ultras. All she asked was that runners notify her of their intentions by 8 PM the night before the race. 

Ten runners, including Jim, took her up on that. Even though in retrospect it appears he probably could have pushed a little harder and taken four minutes off his total time (he finished in 14:03 hours), having that extra hour made the race less stressful for him.


Jim (R) and Traudl and Ulli Kamm hang out before the early start at 6 AM.
Traudl walks a lot but usually crews for Ulli at ultras.

So . . . early check-in from 5:30 to 5:45 AM and a 45-minute drive to the start . . . that meant getting up at 3:45 AM. Ugh.  We felt like we were preparing for a 100-miler.

Oh, and did I mention that I volunteered to work check-in on Saturday morning?? We had to get there early anyway, and l love doing registration duties. We arrived at the park a little after 5 AM so I could help set up the numbers and shirts before the early runners arrived.

After the ten early starters checked in I took a little break and followed them down to the start:


Janice (L) gives instructions to the early starters.


Pat Homelvig (R) adjusts Karen Pate's pack while Jim (in white shirt) listens to
Janice's pre-race briefing. Pat worked an aid station while Karen was running.

The temperature at our campsite at Kenosha Pass (elev. 10,000 feet) was a comfortable 54 F. at 3:45 AM. At 5 AM we were surprised it was about 8 colder at only ~ 6,700 feet at the park. The same principle was at work as at the Grouse Gulch aid station at Hardrock: aid stations in valleys near creeks and rivers can be colder than elevations higher in the mountains.

Later in the afternoon, we'd all be wishing for some cooler air, especially the runners.

OFFICIAL RACE START

After Jim and the other early starters began running at 6 AM I returned to my job of handing out shirts to the runners who were checking in. By then a steady stream of entrants were arriving:

The runner limit this first year was 150 between the two races. About 130 registered prior to the race and about 125 of those started.

Only one of 78 runners in the 50K race did not finish, which is a very high finish rate. The time limit for both races was 14 hours (with an additional hour for 50-mile early starters). A person trained for the altitude and distance should be able to walk the 50K in that time, which is why I'm considering doing it next year.

It was a much different story in the 50-miler. Because of the heat, less than two-thirds of the runners who started that race finished the distance. About one-third of the field dropped out or came in after only 31+ miles. Runners had to make a decision at the trail junction at 31.5 miles:  the 50K runners headed to the finish at that point, and the 50-mile runners had to continue on for another 18+ miles for an official finish.

Runners who were entered in either race distance could change their minds before the race started, even on race morning (that's generous), and were given new numbers. The website made clear, however, that runners couldn't make the decision to change distances during the race. So even though about a dozen runners in the 50-miler stopped at the 50K (or longer) distance, they are DNFs.

Everyone understood that rule and I didn't hear anyone give Janice any guff about it when they finished. All I heard were regrets that they hadn't changed their minds before the race began.

More runners switched from the 50-miler to the 50K prior to the race start than vice versa. That's to be expected even on a cool day. Jim was one of the few who decided to move UP from the 50K to the 50-miler because his training was going well. He did that several weeks before the race, however, before he knew how hot it would be! He says that next time he'll enter the 50K and stick with that. Even with 15 hours to complete the race he felt pressure the whole way.

[Side note: as in most races, the entry fee for the North Fork 50-miler was a little more than the 50K because the runners use more aid station supplies during the race. When Jim switched to the more expensive race and asked Janice how she wanted him to pay the difference, she brushed it off and suggested that we donate it to the North Fork Fire Dept., who would be receiving the proceeds from the race. How many RDs would suggest that, instead of saying to send them a check ASAP? We wrote a check to the fire department and gave it to Janice on race day.]

About ten minutes before the official race start the runners gathered near the river for Janice's pre-race briefing. Then they were off:

 

 

We wouldn't see any of them back at the finish until a little after 12 noon.

Now let's see why it took the 50K winner 5:17 hours to finish the course (besides the heat, that is).

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Janice has written a good description of the race course on her website. Here are the highlights:

  • 100% dirt single- and double-track
  • Mostly good footing
  • Some long ascents and descents
  • Mostly rolling sections along ridges and Buffalo Creek
  • Only a few steep inclines and rocks
  • Lots of pine trees
  • Some burn areas that afford more vistas (bad news-good news)
  • Altitude 6,700 feet to 8,100 feet
  • Elevation gain about 4,500 feet for 50K and 7,200 feet for 50-miler (x2 for total gain and loss)

This is the elevation profile for the 50-mile race Jim ran. The hills aren't that steep; they are exaggerated like all profiles that are compressed so tightly on the horizontal plane. You can access the profiles for both race distances at the link above.

The courses and written turn directions look complicated, with 50-mile runners going through one of the six aid stations three times and another four times. However, Jim had no trouble following the excellent course markings.

This is a map of the course from the website. Go here for a larger version you can read better.

The race starts in Pine Valley Ranch Park near the shelter and ranch depot. It follows the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail on the south side of the river for 3/10ths mile, crosses the river on the large wooden bridge I showed above, and heads up into the mountains.

The start of the race is shown at the top of the map above, which is actually south (upside down). The cross-hatched section is the park. The large green area is Pike National Forest lands; pink areas show where the two large fires occurred.

COURSE PHOTOS NEAR THE BEGINNING & END OF THE RACE

The pictures in this section are ones I took after everyone started running and the start/finish volunteers had some time to kill. These show part of the trail in the first and last mile of the course.

After the runners cross the river about 4/10ths of a mile into the race they head up into the mountains on the Buck Gulch Trail:

When I was hiking two cyclists headed up the same trail (next photo). I wondered if they were a nuisance to the runners. Jim later told me he encountered a lot of cyclists during the race and sometimes it was a problem to get off the trail. Even though cyclists are supposed to yield to runners and hikers, they rarely do in our experience (anywhere in the country).

There were some pretty flowers in this area and other parts of the course:

 

 

About half a mile from the finish the runners came back down to Pine Lake and followed the trail around the north and west sides of the lake to reach the finish line:


The lake is straight ahead.


Looking backwards:  runners come toward me and lake is on the right.
I drew red arrows on three of these photos to show the direction runners go.

More than a few runners probably felt like jumping into the water! Some did get into the river after finishing the race.


Looking back again: less than a quarter mile to go now.

At this end of the lake runners turned to their left, crossed another bridge over the river, then turned right to a short path that took them to the finish line. I'll show photos of that in the next section.

VOLUNTEERING AT THE FINISH LINE

I enjoy working the finish line in various capacities at ultra races so I told Janice my first choice of a volunteer job during the race would be to help with timing. She assigned me to work with several other folks doing timing and related jobs at the finish line.

As I mentioned earlier, it was one of the most enjoyable volunteer race jobs I've had in recent years.

We had to make an adjustment in my assignment, however. I was originally supposed to do a timing job that required the ability to read. Ha! Yes, I can read but that morning I just happened to break off one of the nose pieces on my "good" glasses and I couldn't wear them. My moderate to distant vision was just fine in my spare glasses, but not close-up.

That turned out to be a good thing for me because Janice asked me to handle the finishers' awards instead. Cool! That's even more fun than timing and the way she wanted it done was double fun.


Labels with runners' names and times were added to the board on the right as they finished.

Cody and I got back from our hike about 9 AM. I tied him up in a shady, grassy area where I could keep an eye on him but he was completely out of the way of the shelters and the race finish area. During the day I was able to take him for several short walks along the river in the other direction when we had lulls at the finish line.

It was still three hours before anyone would finish but already volunteers were busy setting up the finish line, firing up the BBQ grill, putting out bowls and boxes of food, plates, and utensils, and hanging sponsors' banners around the shelter.

Janice explained how to do all the timing jobs and I helped arrange the finishers' medals and awards for the overall and age-group winners on a table near the timers:


Blue for 50-mile finishers . . .


. . . red for 50K finishers.  The Plexiglas overall male-female 50K awards are in the back left.

Everything was ready for the runners well before they began showing up a little after 12 noon. It was a great time to make new friends with the other volunteers.

Finally the front runners began coming in, slower than Janice had predicted. It's always hard to tell when the first one is likely to arrive in a race's inaugural year, even though Janice and Tom knew most of the runners and their capabilities. Janice was present to greet almost every finisher.

I knew only about a dozen of the folks in the two races but it was still fun to watch everyone finish. It was even more fun to be the one to hand them their finisher medal and age-group award, if appropriate.

It was a bit of a problem sometimes to determine if they were official finishers and not 50-mile DNFs, as well as who would be getting an age-group award (three deep in 10-year age categories). I had to rely on the timers for that information, and sometimes the runners would be gone before I knew what they were supposed to get. I eventually tracked everyone down -- even if they went to the river to cool off!


First 50K female, Kelly McConnell; this was also her first ultra.

Janice also had a special award for the fastest runner doing his or her first ultra marathon (there were a whopping thirty ultra-virgins registered) and the first firefighter. The North Fork Volunteer Fire Department, which protects the area in which the race is run, is the recipient of race proceeds. Quite a few of their members ran the race, as well as some local EMTs and rangers. Other first responders and rangers volunteered.

The community support for the race was very apparent, which indicates a lot of good public relations by Janice and Tom.

PLAYING SANTA CLAUS

That brings me to the MOST fun part of my job:  I ended up being the person who decided which finishers would get which sponsors' prizes! I felt like Santa Claus.

Since Janice knew most of the runners she didn't want to appear to be playing favorites. The other timers had their hands full with their jobs. I was the one mostly standing up and going back and forth between the awards table and finish line to dispense the medals and awards, so I also became Keeper of the Sponsor Goodies by default.


Janice takes a picture of the first 50-mile male, Bill Fanselow

I was also given the responsibility of deciding who got what. There were a dozen nice items ranging from water bottles to socks to gift cards to running shoe coupons. I gave eleven of the twelve gifts to people I didn't know (which was most of the field) so no one could accuse me of favoritism, either.

Picking out appropriate people for particular gifts was interesting. Some choices were obvious -- that guy sure could use some new trail socks, that gal would probably enjoy this gift certificate for such-and-such, etc. Everyone seemed pleased with their random gifts.

I had some trouble giving away the one pair of compression socks in my possession. Although I've seen a lot of runners wearing them at other races, it was so hot at North Fork that I saw no one wearing them. I just started asking finishers if they ever wear them. Finally I found a worthy recipient: our friend Terri Handy, the one exception I made to my rule about not giving anything to someone I know. She was very grateful because she does sometimes wear a pair in races and she will need more when she has ankle surgery in two weeks.


Runners, crews, and volunteers enjoyed the post-race party.

The two La Sportiva shoe coupon recipients were fairly easy for me to choose: I gave one to a young fireman in the 50-miler. It was his first 50-mile race and only his second ultra. Turns out, he's the husband of the nice woman who did the catering. She did a great job with the food (more about the food later). Janice thought he was a good choice, too.

I gave the second shoe coupon to the first female 50-mile finisher, Maria Petzold, who was also second overall in that tough race. She totally cleaned up, getting free shoes, a medallion, and wooden plaques for being first female and first in her age group. I bet she was glad she traveled from California to the race!

POST-RACE PARTY

Everyone involved with the race was invited to enjoy the post-race food and beverages in the shelter at the finish line during the afternoon and evening -- not only runners, but also their crews and the volunteers -- at no extra cost. That is becoming more rare at ultras, where RDs sometimes charge even the runners for a meal as complete as this. The fees for this race are reasonable and don't seem inflated to cover the cost of the post-race food.

Janice and Tom went to great lengths to provide a wide variety of tasty food on a budget. They bought some items in bulk at Costco, e.g. (including melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies) and supported their local Safeway and smaller stores with other purchases for the aid stations and post-race picnic. Some friends also donated their time and/or costs to make certain items like the best potato salad I've ever eaten (a non-traditional recipe that included green beans and parsley).

Two volunteers tended to the large grill from about 11 AM to 9 PM, serving up tasty hamburgers, turkey burgers (yum!), and veggie burgers until the very last finisher was fed. There were also several kinds of salads, baked beans, an assortment of condiments, munchies, two kinds of cakes, those awesome cookies, and lots of soft drinks and beer.

I was impressed with the variety of food and how good it tasted -- better than at many races we attend. I had no idea what would be provided so I took enough food for myself for the entire day. I ended up having lunch and dinner on the house, and was encouraged to eat even more than I did. There was enough food for everyone, and some for volunteers to take home, although the supply of cookies and water ran very low at the end.

Not much water, but plenty of beer -- bet that was a nice finale for some of the later finishers!

At many races, the aid stations and finish line run out of food (especially the good stuff) before all the runners come through. Back-of-packers often get short-changed because RDs either underestimate what is needed or they don't want a lot of food left over. Janice understands that every runner, even (especially*) the slower ones, deserve the same consideration as the faster runners so there was a generous supply of food at this race.

(*I could reasonably argue that a runner who takes 14 hours to finish 50 miles needs more calories than a runner who finished in 10 hours.)

Jim and I both appreciated that there was still a good selection of food when he finished at 8 PM.

INTO THE EVENING

Time flew pretty quickly for me most of the afternoon and evening. After the main bubble of runners in the 50K came through, the 50-milers trickled in sporadically because there were fewer of them and they were spaced farther apart.

When there were lulls Janice, the timing volunteers, and I took sporadic breaks to eat, go to the bathroom, socialize with runners, etc. I had plenty of time to take Cody on short walks, too. He went pretty much unnoticed by everyone because he was mostly hidden in some tall grass in the shade. Occasionally someone would go over and pet him, to his delight. Who doesn't love a Lab? (OK, some curmudgeons don't . . . )

Since Jim wasn't familiar with the course and a lot can happen over 50 miles, his main goal was to get done within 15 hours so he'd be counted as an official finisher. He wanted to get done faster than that, but the early start gave him a little time cushion. He seemed well prepared for the race (except for the heat) and I pretty much assumed he'd finish.

I wasn't certain of that, however, until I saw him coming around the corner toward the finish line at just over 14 hours.

Some aspects of this race are low-key. Although the aid stations were plentifully stocked and manned by experienced ultra runners, there were no means of communications out on most or all of the course to report times, drops, or problems -- few or no cell phone connections, no ham radios. Some of the aid stations kept splits and their captains brought them back to the finish after their station closed, but by then many of the runners had already finished or been transported out.

What that meant was that no one at the finish -- Janice, the timers, other volunteers, crews -- knew when any of the runners had checked into or out of the aid stations. Some crew members came to the timers to ask, and we couldn't tell them.

Until runners returned to the finish by foot or with an aid station volunteer, we had no clue about who was where.

This was very different than, say, Hardrock, where communications are finely tuned at even the most remote aid stations. And that's fine; I'm not complaining. This is how ultras used to be before many of them got so technically sophisticated. Sometimes it's very refreshing to get back to basics.

The lack of communications did make the last few hours of the race a little nerve-wracking for me, however. I was happily clueless about Jim's progress until a runner who DNF'd told me he'd seen Jim at the Homestead aid station at 34 miles. He said Jim was considering dropping there, fried from the heat and tempted by the hamburgers he knew "had his name on them" at the finish line!

So of course I wondered if he'd be coming back early, discouraged about a DNF.


Where's that hamburger???

Fortunately, he didn't quit. After a short break he did what good ultra runners do: he got up out of that chair and continued on.

One of the things that kept him going was his determination to stay ahead of Ulli Kamm, who has finished some 100-milers that Jim DNF'd. This time he finished well ahead of Ulli. He gained some additional motivation when our friends working at a later aid station strongly encouraged him to keep going. And Karen Pate, who dropped there, said she pretty much "goaded" him into continuing!

Although Jim was tired at the end he did accomplish his goal -- and more. He never dreamed he'd get a plaque for first place in the M60+ age group!

There wasn't any electronic timing at the finish or even a large clock, yet times were very accurate. The timers looked at their watches and recorded times manually, just like in the "old days." Other timers kept track of the runners by age group in each race and updated the finishers' boards soon after each runner came in.

Despite the heat and the lack of radios and high-tech equipment, there weren't any big problems regarding the runners to report out on the course and the EMTs didn't have much to do at the finish. Janice required all the runners to carry water bottles. Volunteers encouraged runners to eat and drink a lot at the aid stations and made sure they had full bottles when they left. And most of the runners sensibly slowed down in the heat and took good care of themselves between stations.


Thistles about half a mile from the start/finish lines

At the finish line I heard of only two problems and both were addressed immediately.

Janice's husband Tom and a friend of his found out early on while riding around to the aid stations that 500 pounds of ice wasn't going to be adequate for the high heat. They purchased more ice and water so runners wouldn't get dehydrated or over-heated and delivered it where they could; not all stations were accessible by vehicle.

And when they heard that three runners had followed the wrong ribbons off-course along one road, they and a ranger quickly went out to the location to see what was wrong. They determined that the course markers had not been sabotaged; the ribbons were a different color and were there for a different purpose. Two of the runners quickly realized their mistake and turned around. A third one was off-course longer before she realized her mistake. She's the only person I heard complaining about anything at the finish.

SURPRISE!!

After Jim came in at 8:03 PM I had the pleasure of giving him his finishers' medal AND his first-place M60+ age group plaque!

The look on his face was priceless. He thinks it's the first time he's won his age group in an ultra, but I don't think it is. It's just been a long while. And he used to routinely win his age group when he was doing road races in his 30s and 40s.

Jim was twenty minutes ahead of the next finisher so I had plenty of time to cater to his needs. He was hungry but wanted to sit. I told him what foods were available and he told me what he wanted. While I was rounding up his hamburgers and fixings, he relaxed and talked with some other runners. One of the few people we knew in the race, Bill Heldenbrand, ran the 50K and waited around until Jim got done. That was nice, Bill!

There were only two more runners who came in after Jim. Janice gave the finishers' medal to the first one and I handed Ulli his medallion and 2nd-place M60+ plaque. He was also surprised to receive an award.

Thank you, Janice, for recognizing the male and female 60+ categories. Some races don't. Although there weren't any F60+ runners who finished the 50-miler, there were a total of four men and women over 60 who completed the official 50K race. You can link to the 50K, 50-mile, and first-year age-group records here.


A storm was brewing when we left the park at about 9 PM.

Jim and I are both glad we participated in this race. Running a new race can be a crap shoot. North Fork was a very successful inaugural event, one Janice and Tom and all of their volunteers should be proud of. Although low-key, the event was very well organized and executed.

Good job, folks!

After the race Jim was "hammered" (his word) from fatigue but had no injuries or other physical problems. Although he had some GI distress from the heat during the afternoon he didn't throw up. He was dehydrated and wished he'd carried two water bottles instead of one. He had to ration fluids more than he would have liked.

Jim's very glad he took the early start at 6 AM. Not only did it provide more of a time cushion, it also gave him an extra hour of cooler air. The downside was that the first aid station wasn't open when the early starters reached it at 4 miles; Janice duly warned them before the race to carry enough fluids to reach the second AS at ten miles. Jim discovered that even in the cooler temperature he would have been better off with two bottles from the start. Having to ration fluids so early in the race set him up for some dehydration in the afternoon heat. He made sure to drink as much as he could while he was at each subsequent aid station and had to make his 20 oz. bottle stretch up to 5.8 miles between stations.

After a good night's rest, Jim feels much less fatigued this morning. He's a happy camper and starting to talk again about entering the Bear 100 in September . . .

ADDENDUM:  Three weeks later we had dinner with Janice and Tom. Janice was able to donate a sizeable amount of race proceeds to the North Fork Fire Dept. after all the race-related bills were paid. Considering the reasonable entry fees, we were surprised there was that much money left over! These folks are a class act.

Next entries: more adventures in Colorado Springs, where we'll hang out for a couple weeks and try to do some of the things we couldn't do in May (like climb Pike's Peak)

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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