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
Behind the scenes, however, things may be falling apart. Volunteering at
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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.
link takes you to the course descriptions, maps, and
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Runners who were entered in either race distance could
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
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
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
[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).
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
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
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
COURSE PHOTOS NEAR THE BEGINNING & END OF THE
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
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
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
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
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
female and first in her age group. I bet she was glad she
traveled from California to the race!
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
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
(*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.
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
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."
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
At the finish line I heard of only two problems and both were addressed
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
delivered it where they could; not all stations were accessible
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
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
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
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
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 4½
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)
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil