Jim took several photos of the surrounding mountains and valleys
from the peaks of the mountains he climbed during the GGDT 50K
race, including a couple from Windy Peak. Runners were treated
to marvelous views of Mt. Evans, a 14er, and more distant
peaks in the Continental Divide from several vantage points in
Yes, 50K runners had to follow that pink
ribbon over the rocks!
That's part of the Black Bear Trail in
Golden Gate Canyon State
INTRODUCTION TO THE DIRTY THIRTY
The Golden Gate Dirty Thirty event, a mountain trail foot race
which included distances of seven, twelve, and thirty-one miles,
was held yesterday in a beautiful state park about an hour's
drive west of Denver. According to the
website, the event is a
fundraiser for the Colorado Mountain Club's Youth Education
Program. This is the second year for the races to be held.
Jim first learned about the Dirty Thirty when he was looking for
a 50K to use as a training run between the Jemez 50K in northern
New Mexico and the Bighorn 50K in northern Wyoming. The timing
and location of the Dirty Thirty was just right. When we found
out that some of our good friends would be there running or
volunteering, too, Jim registered for the race.
Karen Pate gives me a warm greeting at the
first aid station while our dogs sniff butts!
(More about why I was there in the next
The website describes the courses as 90-95% dirt single track
trails through aspen groves, pine forests, and rocky ridges. Add
pleasant, flower-filled meadows and beautiful mountain views to
that list. Footing ranges from soft and smooth to rocky and
There's something for everyone!
Elevations in the 50K range between 8,000 and 9,500+ feet, about
900 feet lower at the highest point than the Jemez races, so Jim
was relatively well acclimated for the altitude. The elevation gain
and loss is pretty significant for 31 miles: about 9,000
feet of climbing and 9,000 feet of descending. Some of the
grades are steep.
here for a larger view of the
Add in some rocky and/or rooty trail sections, multiple stream crossings, and hot, sunny
meadow exposures, and there were plenty of
challenges for ultra runners in this race.
Despite his slowest-ever 50K at Jemez Mountain two weeks ago (10:52
hr.), Jim was fairly confident he could make the one publicized
cut-off at 22 miles into the Dirty Thirty race; neither
of us was aware of any
final cut-off (more about that later). Although it is a
difficult 50K, the Dirty Thirty course is not as rugged as the
Jemez course. Jim predicted a finish time at least an hour
faster than Jemez.
THE 50K RACE
In this entry I'll present Jim's photos and perspective of the
race itself and my crew/observer perspective/pictures of the
start and finish. This entry will have the "people pictures."
While Jim was running the race, Cody and I had our own
interesting hike on seven miles of the course; I'll show
you some of those "scenery photos" in the next entry so you can
see how beautiful Golden Gate Canyon State Park is.
THE START: LET'S RUN!
When we arrived at the start/finish area at the Red Barn on
Crawford Gulch Road the large parking lot a quarter mile up the
gravel road to the Mountain Lion trailhead was already starting
to fill up at 5:15 AM. The hike down to the Red Barn for Jim to check in
was a good warm up before his race, which started at 6.
sunrise with a still-bright crescent moon in the sky was vivid:
Registration went smoothly. Here Jim (in black ATY jacket) waits
in line with other runners while Pat Homelvig (far left) checks
in. Theresa Daus-Weber is in the blue jacket on the right:
Jim had several minutes to socialize before the race began at
the intersection of Crawford Gulch Road and the gravel road up
to the parking area:
Jim (L) and Ulli Kamm (R); Matt Watts
Anne and Matt Watts (white shirts); Anne
ran the 12-miler, Matt the 50K
Runners listen as RD Megan Finnesey gives
her pre-race briefing.
And they're off . . . about six minutes late, by my
watch. When I asked Megan if that would affect the cut-off time
at 22 miles, she said it shouldn't be a problem because she didn't
expect any runners to miss it.
Jim (above the arrow on the right in the next photo) started
out near the back of the pack and ran/walked the gradual
quarter-mile climb to the parking area. He left his fleece
jacket on our truck but carried a light rain jacket in case a storm
blew in during the race.
Runners then headed up a little steeper climb on the
Mountain Lion Trail:
Although the course had many turns onto various trails,
course is marked in red; it
includes several loops on different trails.
trail and the intersections were very well marked with pink
ribbons and flags for the 50K:
Little pink flag planted on Windy Peak
(Jim's photo -- I didn't get up there)
The other colors were for the 12-mile and 7-mile runners. The
race website also had detailed course directions;
Jim carried a turn sheet with him but didn't need to refer to it
during the race. He did use the pace/aid station chart
JIM'S PHOTOS OF THE COURSE
I'll show photos of the first five miles and last two miles of
the course in the next entry. Jim took only a couple pictures
through those areas while he was running. Here are shots he took
of other runners and the scenery during his race:
One of the multiple crossings over Deer
First view of a snow-covered peak in the
Down into one of the valleys
Another view of the Continental Divide
John Fraser's cabin in Fraser Meadow.
Fraser was a miner in Black Hawk before
becoming a homesteader in this valley in
1859. He built and lived in this log cabin.
The Black Bear Trail is rated "most
Above and below: views from the summit of
Jim even noticed some unusual flowers near
the end of his race!
THE FINISH PARTY
I came down the last two miles of trail that the runners in all
three races used. It is part of the Mountain Lion loop
but ends at a different trail head closer to the start/finish
area. When I was still about a third of a mile out, I could look
down and see the 7-mile runners about to start their race at
This is the view of the finish chute (between the orange cones)
a couple hundred feet after the runners came off the trail:
After going across the finish line, runners could go across the
road, soak their feet in Nott Creek, and enjoy the post-race
festivities in a grassy meadow near the Red Barn:
This view is from the meadow, looking back toward the finish
Runners could just hang out with friends or participate in a
silent auction, visit a few sponsors' booths, get a massage,
listen to a fun marimba band (Pick Up Sticks),
and/or enjoy the post-race meal outside the nearby Red
I was able to enjoy the music and Anne Watt's company for a
while after she finished the 12-mile race.
I watched in a somewhat detached manner the lengthy, rather
disorganized awards ceremony (below). I didn't know anyone in
the 7-mile race. Anne was the only person I knew in the 12-mile
race; she's an ultra runner but ran the shorter distance
after recently recovering from a knee injury. Jim and I don't even know most of
the runners in the 50K. The only runners whose names I
recognized that received 50K awards were Anita Ortiz (overall female
winner/first masters), Darcy Africa (second overall female/open
winner), and Tim Long (second
Nearly half of the 50K field was still on the course when the
awards ceremony began. Since runners had to be present at the
awards ceremony to receive their awards (monetary or
merchandise), I don't know if or how the older age-group winners
got their goods.
Unfortunately for Jim and most of the people we knew in the 50K
race, the awards ceremony and music were both finished by the time
they came in. Fortunately there was some food left for them.
About 2:30 PM Cody and I joined Anne at the bottom of the hill where
runners came off the Mountain Lion Trail and headed for the
finish line a couple hundred yards away. We watched as Joy
Robertson bounded down the hill, then Matt soon after:
Matt leads three other runners down the
He finished in 8:45 hours, a slower time than he expected
(that was pretty much the same sentiment I heard from other 50K
After Matt got some food and fluids, he joined Anne and me at
the trail head to wait for Jim and another of our friends, Pat
Matt and Anne Watts
A few more friends came in: Ulli Kamm (9:20 hr.),
Terry Handi (9:50 hr.), then Pat (9:59 hr.).
When Pat finished, we saw that most of the finish area had been
dismantled. We also learned that the RD was telling people that
the finish cut-off was 10 hours. That was news to us! Some other
crews were as surprised as I was, although I didn't say anything
to Megan. I just kept hoping I'd see Jim come down that hill!
By that time I was getting concerned about him. He was long past
his predicted time and I wondered if he'd gotten injured or
lost. Karen said he looked fine the last time he came through
her aid station at 23+ miles, but I knew the loop to Windy Peak
near the end of the race was challenging.
Then we (Anne, Matt, Karen, Pat, and me) saw Jim! He looked good
striding smoothly down the hill:
He was tired but he had a big grin for his fan club!
He kept on running and beat me to the finish line. Megan wrote down his time (10:37 hrs.) and
congratulated him for finishing the race. She didn't say
anything about him not being an official finisher.
Jim's focus was on 1)
eating and 2) sitting down for a few minutes so we headed over
to the Red Barn, where he got some leftovers. One or two other
runners finished after he did.
Jim felt better after the Dirty Thirty than he did after the
Jemez race but he did have some "issues" with the altitude and
dehydration. Although he didn't throw up, he had problems with
gagging as he tried to eat solid food in the heat of the day. He
probably needed more calories, fluids, and electrolytes during
This morning he wasn't as sore as he was after Jemez, which
indicates he's becoming better trained. Hopefully he'll get in
some more good training before the Bighorn 50K in three weeks and
feel even better during and after that race.
I mean, we do this to have fun, right?? These last two races
weren't very much fun for Jim. It's amazing how much more fun
they are when we're better trained for them!
results were posted to the website, the Dirty Thirty
seemed like even less fun. Jim was listed as a DNF even
though he finished the race.
I have more of a problem with that than Jim does. I don't think it's
"fair" to make up the rules as you go (instituting a 10-hour
time limit without notifying the runners). Sometimes RDs have to
be flexible and make certain decisions during a race, but this
There was a
discrepancy on the website about the cut-off time at mile 22,
which was a trail intersection and not an aid station. One web
page said 1:15 PM, another said 2 PM. Jim wrote to Megan
to ask which was correct. She responded that 1:15 PM was the correct
cut-off time at mile 22. (Those times are both still on the
website as I write this entry in retrospect on 7-21-10.) There was nothing on the website prior
to the race about a 10-hour total time limit for the 50K,
nothing in Megan's e-mail correspondence about a 10-hour cut-off
at the end, and nothing said at the pre-race briefing about a
Jim looks at it with more acceptance and takes responsibility
for continuing on with the rest of the 50K distance. He knows he missed the
intersection at 22 miles by a few minutes and apparently one or
other runners did, too. He wasn't sure that was even the right
place, however, since no one was there to enforce the
cut-off or give him a ride to the finish, as stated on the
website. Runners were told they could 1) stop there and get a
ride back to the finish or 2) continue by foot for another three
miles to the finish, eliminating the five-mile loop to the top of Windy
Peak and back.
Jim kept moving forward past the intersection at 22 miles, not
sure if that was really where the cut-off was supposed to be. He saw a ranger in a pick-up truck
after another mile and
asked if he was the person giving late runners a ride back to
the finish. Neither the ranger nor two aid stations volunteers
in the truck seemed
to know anything about the cut-off or rides to the finish. They
gave Jim some water and advised him that the last aid station (at 23.4
miles) was just ahead.
When Jim got to the aid station he said he thought maybe he'd missed the cut-off
at 22 miles but no one was there. Did they know anything about
that? Was the cut-off location somewhere ahead? The volunteers
weren't sure what was going on and apparently assumed he was still in the race; he was allowed to
A volunteer and a crew person wait at the Windy
Peak loop intersection for the first 50K runners.
The volunteer at the intersection for the Windy Peak loop
(photo above) farther down the course directed Jim up the Coyote
Trail and told him
which way to turn toward the finish if he (the volunteer) was gone when Jim got
done with the loop. Jim talked to another volunteer farther up
the mountain and saw another runner behind him on a
short out-and-back section in that loop. Those volunteers also
apparently assumed he was still in the race.
It's my guess that one or more volunteers failed to show up at
the 22-mile mark where runners were supposed to be pulled after
1:15 PM. We've never been in any other race with an
interim cut-off where there wasn't a real, live person to pull
the late runner from the race. Were the runners just supposed to
self-police? If so, that's a first for us in hundreds of
ultras we've run. Jim, Bill Moyle, and perhaps some other
runners weren't sure what they were supposed to do at that point
(if that was the point) since no one was there and no
vehicle showed up to take them back to the finish area.
Volunteers farther down the line apparently assumed that any
runners still on the course were to continue forward and do the
five-mile Windy Peak loop.
It's my contention that an event in its second year should have
better communications with its runners and volunteers before and
during the race. Someone should have known this spot was not
"manned" and there was apparently no one to take runners back to
the finish (there were no vehicles at the aid station at 23.4
miles, either; the volunteers walked in or were
transported in by rangers).
Another glitch I noticed during my own run on the Mountain Lion
loop was that the volunteer stationed at the intersection for
the Windy Peak loop had no clue that the 7-mile runners were NOT
to go up that loop. They were supposed to go straight to the
finish line two miles away. He didn't know that until *I* told
him!!! He said he thought all the runners were supposed to do the Windy
Peak loop. He didn't notice that only two colors of ribbon
continued up the Coyote Trail to the peak.
Now I can just imagine how PO'd those 7-mile runners would have
been if they ended up doing the 12-mile course! I wasn't even in the race, let alone the person in
charge of the course monitors who should have properly informed
him of this very important fact. I just happened to come along
at the right time, I guess. I didn't want to get him in trouble,
so I didn't say anything to the RD when I got back to the finish
area. Maybe I should have told her so something similar doesn't
happen next year.
Nice "Molly Maps" design on the attractive
blue short-sleeved synthetic entrants' shirts
There were other problems I noticed, like the disorganized
awards ceremony. Several times there were long pauses when
it was unclear who was getting which OA or AG award or which
monetary prize. Both the awards ceremony and the 50K race
started late; I don't know if the two shorter races started
on time. It was apparently OK for race management to be "late,"
but let some runners come in past the newly-created finish
cut-off time and there's no mercy . . .
Did Not Finish? Yeah, I have a problem with that. Enforce the
published cut-off properly and don't make up a new one after the race starts
That's not "being flexible;" it's RD 101.
This race is clearly focused on the faster runners:
witness the list of monetary prizes for speed (yes, I know this
is a race, but it's skewed in several ways against older runners), the timing of the awards
ceremony at 1:30 (half the 50K runners were still out on
the course when it began), the arbitrary decision to cut off the official finishers
at 10 hours (and not even list the unofficial times for those
who went the entire distance, but list them as DNF), and the upper age group category
of "50 and over" (the
latter doesn't give much incentive for competitive runners age 60+ or 70+ to
Maybe I'm being too harsh but I'd caution slower
and/or age 60+ runners to give it a lot of thought before entering
this 50K. If you're younger, faster, and more tolerant of the
type of things I've mentioned that concerned me . . . give it
a go. There were some things about the event that I really liked
and the venue is fabulous.
OK, end of rant.
Next entry: some photos of the beautiful Mountain Lion
Trail at Golden Gate Canyon SP
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil