2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  THE GOLDEN GATE DIRTY THIRTY 50K RACE

SUNDAY, JUNE 6

" . . . At mile 23.4 you will reach the fourth and final aid station. Stock up here for the
steep, 1,100-foot climb to the top of Windy Peak . . . Just remember, when you are
suffering at this point (?) it is all worth the great view from the top of Windy Peak --
and the descent is fast and furious! Punch your bib at the top of Windy Peak, take in the
beauty that surrounds you, do a dance, and turn around and head back down . . ."
 
~ from the 50K course description on the Dirty Thirty race website
 
 

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 the race:


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 Park.

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 entry.)

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 very "technical."

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 milesabout 9,000 feet of climbing and 9,000 feet of descending. Some of the grades are steep.


Click here for a larger view of the elevation profile.

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.

The 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 behind them


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,


The 50K course is marked in red; it includes several loops on different trails.

the 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 he made.

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 Creek


First view of a snow-covered peak in the distance


Down into one of the valleys


Abandoned cabin


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 difficult."

 

 

 

Above and below: views from the summit of Windy Peak

 


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 10 AM:

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 line:

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 Barn:

 

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 masters male).

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 last hill.

He finished in 8:45 hours, a slower time than he expected (that was pretty much the same sentiment I heard from other 50K finishers!).

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 Homelvig.


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.

POST-RACE THOUGHTS

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 the race.

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!

When the 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 was different.

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 10-hour cut-off.

Nada.

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 more 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 proceed.


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.

What happened?

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 to CYA. 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 enter).

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

Happy trails,

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

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