ReportOn July 16, 2006, I ran the Barr Trail Mountain Race in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Twenty-three runners from the Rogue training group in Austin travelled to run the race, and most stayed a few days for additional training runs out of Barr Camp in preparation for next month's marathon. The course runs 6 miles up 3600 ft along the Pikes Peak Marathon course to Barr Camp(10,200ft) and then run 6 miles back down. The challenge is to finish within the 3:30 cutoff time.
I arrived a couple of days early and took a short run/powerhike up the first few switchbacks of the trail on Friday evening. On Saturday I ran with a few from the hotel to the Garden of the Gods park and back for a nice short run.
Sunday was race day. I selected the 3:10 finish to memorize in the pace chart since it had nice round numbers even though it was a little faster than what I thought I would do (36 min to top of W's; 1:01 to NoName creek; 1:30 7.8 sign; 2:00 barr camp). The crew from Austin gathered at the start. JT, a former Austin resident now living in Colorado was also there. I planned to powerhike up the 1st three miles, which is some of the steepest of the course. So I was a little suprised at the start to see everyone start running when the gun went off. But that only lasted a few feet and then everyone was power walking.
As we turned the 1st switchback, I looked back and saw there were less then 15 runners behind me, and 5 of them rogues. I made it to the top of the W's in 38 minutes, two minutes off my plan and nearing the latest I could still make the 3:30 cutoff.
4 Rogues were trailing me by 30-50 feet. I knew they would pass me at some point. On some parts of the trail where it flattens a little bit I broke into a slow jog, but they still kept up. I got to No-Name creek aid station in 1:02; 1 minute behind my goal. So I am catching up a little. Each of the aid stations was pretty good with people handing out water and gatorade. There were also people looking up names by the race number bib and cheering everyone on by name. A little later, Matt Carpenter came running down the mountain in the lead, as Kirk overtakes me from behind. Steve comes by 1:20 into the race.
Gradually I encountered others from my training group on my way up as they headed down the mountain. I lost some time as I gave way to runners coming down the mountain. I managed to take a few pictures as we pass, but I couls get the camera out in time for everyone from my training group. Then during the final climb to Barr Camp, I could not maintain pace as the trail got steep again. I got to Barr Camp at 2:05. 5 minutes behind goal but still with time to finish.
During the decent, I ran the first stretch out of Barr Camp hard. One guy in front twisted his ankle bad, and took 40 or 50 feet before he could stop. When the trail leveled off, I had to stop to get a rock out of my shoe. Then I continued the decent. I walked through a couple of waterstops, but the stops that were 30 minutes apart coming up are now 15 minutes apart or less going down. I reached the top of the W's with 32 minutes before the cutoff, and I know I can make it at this point. I am really feeling it in the calf muscles. As I approached the end of the trail with 15 minutes and a quarter mile to go thinking everything is just about done, and I step funny and my leg cramped up. All of a sudden I could not run and worried about having to crawl to the finish line. But I stretched it out and kept going, finishing with 10 minutes to spare. The finish is a little evil with a short steep uphill after 6 miles of downhill. Finishers within the 3:30 cutoff time received a nice finisher's technical T-shirt.
I stopped after the race to soak the legs in the ice cold water at Soda Springs Park. There was pizza handed out at the awards ceremony. 4 Rogues won age group awards.
Load this file into Google Earth for a 3D view of the course:
After the race and awards ceremony we went back to shower, check out of the motel, and then went to the train station to travel to Barr Camp for 3 more days of training runs for next month's Pikes Peak marathon. We managed to pack into the Cog rail train with our backpacks, which was rather crowded since there was no storage space (it's designed for day-trips). The train dropped us off half-way up the mountain, and then we hiked in the rest of the way.
Barr Camp was run by Neil and Teressa, who were excellent hosts and excellent cooks. The first day I did an easy 8 miles on the Elk Park Trail. Afterwords a few of us went back up the trail to soak in the ice cold water of a creek, and then we stopped off at Meditation Rock for some incredible views of the area. Each day, we took turns filtering water from the stream and filling everyone's bottles and bladders. We went through so much water. That night, we left the door to the bunkhouse open to cool down. Unknown to us, another camper not in our group had stashed some food in a cooler outside our door. About 1:30am we woke to the sound of someone dragging the cooler around and off the deck. At first we thought it might be some of our group from the other building playing a prank, but it was a bear. Charles got up and closed the door. It ran off with a plastic bag of groceries, and the next morning we found the trashy remains of the food wrappers.
The second day was the big run up to the summit. I woke up to find my camera battery had died, so I had to borrow pictures from others for my photo album from this poin on. We ran from Barr Camp 6-miles up to the summit above 14,000ft, then back down to A-Frame (half-way between camp and the top). Then we did some hill repeats running back up to the summit and then down to Barr camp for a total of 18 miles.
This was only the 2nd time I had been on this part of the trail. The first time was last year's Ascent race, where much of my time above treeline had been during the hail storm. So it was very different for me to see the rocky mountain covered with spots of green grass because it was covered in white snow and hail in my prior memories. Until now, I had thought there were large chunks of time that I had zoned out and forgotten. But running the trail again, I remembered more than I thought I did. I remembered many points, but sometimes remembered them in the wrong order or else did not know where they were in the course because the visibility was so poor that day. This run helped me put in perspective the places I remembered from the previous race. And it helped me to think about a plan for the next race.
On the way up, I hid a water bottle at A-Frame the first time I passed, and picked it up when I returned there after the 1st summit. We kept a sign-up sheet at A-frame for everyone to sign as they passed to record if they were headed back to the summit or to camp, so we might know who was still out on the mountain and where to start looking in the event someone did not make it back. During my second summit of the day, Coach Steve passed me on his way down and let me know who was left on the mountain. I was probably going to be the last one down, so it was my job to grab the sign-up sheet as I passed. At the summit house there was a fast food restaurant. I tried to eat a hamburger, but was not feeling so well so I only ate half of it. Then Ruth Anne and I left at the same time to head back down towards camp. I passed Charles who was waiting on Ruth Anne, and got to A-frame to find that several campers had moved into A-frame. One of them had stashed the sign-in sheet in his backpack, but he gave it back. Thunder clouds were rolling in, and by the time I got back to camp we were in downpour. I ended up showering with the hose in the rain to wash off all the salty sweat and felt a whole lot better afterwords.
On the final day, we hiked down the mountain with out packs, ha a final lunch in Manitou, and made our way to the airport for the afternoon flight home.