Monday, September 26, 2011

The Bear Chase Trail 1/2 Marathon

So yeah, I was a little quiet about this but I ran a race this weekend, The Bear Chase Half Marathon trail race.  While I ran the half marathon, there was also a 10K, 50K and a 50-miler.  The course is at Bear Creek State Park, which is on the complete opposite side of town from me and an area I have never run before, so that was pretty cool.

Is it a bad sign when you Physical Therapist is at your first real running race in over a year and a half post-injury?  Hum...  I was kinda hoping I'd get a pre-race leg massage treatment, like when I go in weekly and get my hamstring magically "fixed"  - but ... uh...not so much.  But it was pretty cool to be there with him none-the-less.

So let's just start this off by getting all the disclaimers out before I start writing about the race, you know so there are no excuses later on when I start whining about my pace :).  Here we go: this is a trail race, according to Fast Cory, you have to let your pride down a little because the trails can quickly slam your pace to a halt when you're tackling big, bad-ass hills (and rocks, and dirt, and mud...); it was hilly; it was fairly warm; I waded through not one but three water crossings; I had an ominous scratch at the back of my throat for the past few days, many half sleepless nights this week; and my allergies are screaming in the red zone right now, my nose is a constant drip and my eyes look like I've been crying for weeks on end.  I think those are all the possible race hindrance concoctions, could have sworn there were more, but guess not.  Well, aside from the fact that my current post-injury pace is hovering just above the pathetic zone.  But we won't go there.  Again.

My goal for this race was not to race it for any sort of PR or even to knock out anything outstandingly speedy.  My goal was to finish strong, and give me some indication where my currently fitness level is.  And see how prior ailments held up, especially my foot. That's all.  In fact, I had no customary pre-race anxiety attacks (love to not so much); when you have zero expectations, it's hard not to exceed them.

The first 6 miles passed without incident. The trail was dirt packed with many loose rocks which wandered through the trees around the lake.  It was nice and shady with some rolling hills.

I found a guy who seemed to have a good, steady pace which seemed to bode well with how I was feeling (and he was kinda cute, which helps the pace :)) so I stuck behind blue shirt/green shoes guy for this entire stretch and I became his wingman.  I probably was annoying him, whatever.  I was pleased to see I finished the first 6 with a 9:25 pace...this is by far faster than I have run anything this distance for ... well know.  I knew I could run a bit faster here, but I didn't know if I could sustain this pace for the entire race duration so I was really pleased my old race antics of starting out too fast were not coming into play....but really, I had no idea how I'd fare by mile 10, let alone 12 or 13.  Many times I recall thinking just how much fun I was having on the trails and how lucky I was to be running them!  As mile 6 finished, the view of Mt. Carbon came into view.  Let me just say that any hill which has a name associated to it, particularly a name beginning with "Mt." is gonna be one.  tough.  hill.  Mt. Carbon lived up to it's Mt. name.
Mt Carbon in the background.  That sucker HURT!
Going up Mt. Carbon was difficult and I resorted to walking it since everyone around me was and passing people was pretty difficult.  I probably could have run it, but it wouldn't have been pretty and I'm certain it would have zapped my energy for the rest of the race.  Going up it was actually shorter than coming down the thing ... and since I am a scaredy cat on steep, rocky downhills, I took this downhill section fairly easy, yet steady.  But man, there was a nice view of the Denver Skyline from on top this hill:

After I reached the bottom of the "hill", I managed to get my pace back on track and caught back up to cutie-pie blue shirt/green shoes guy, who got a little too far ahead of me on the hill.  I still felt good at this point, but I could tell I was starting to tire.  Just before mile 8, you see this sign:

Three River Crossings Ahead.  And Rivers they were (at least for Colorado).

The river crossings were actually really fun, and definitely helped cool you off, but it was very difficult to gain composure and get back into a previous pace when your shoes are water-logged and felt like you were carrying lead pipes on your feet.  I really struggled after the 3rd one; once we exited the water, we came upon part of the golf course paved path, which was uphill, and I just slapped my feet at barely a 11 min mile.  I was also out of water so relieved to see an aid station ahead; these were not plentiful along the course like in a road race, they were spread out about every 4 miles, and my little 6oz handheld water bottle was dry!

I think the stretch at miles 9-11 was probably the toughest for me, the trail was utterly exposed now, not one single tree to provide any relief from the heat (about 83 degrees).  It was also very hilly here and around mile 10, I saw a patch of mud on the trail so I maneuvered off the side a little to avoid muddy shoes and yep, I bit it.  I apologize if the two women behind me are reading this, the poor things almost went down on top of me but thankfully caught themselves.  They couldn't have been nicer and helped me up.  No trail race, especially one Jill runs (or bikes) is complete without a few battle wounds.
Yes, this is the same knee, same spot on
my knee even, where I had numerous bike
falls this spring/summer!  That thing is
never going to heal!

I am actually thankful for the women directly behind me because my ego wouldn't let me have a little tizzy fit like I wanted so I just got up, brushed myself off (my hands were full of dirt and gravel) and got back into pace.  But it wasn't easy and I saw my pace starting climbing into the high 10's.  Mile 11 brought the last aid station and I was so relieved; I spent a couple minutes here downing Powerade and orange slices, and then headed for the finish.

One more big (and I mean BIG) hill to climb and once I reached the top, it was either the sugar from the Powerade or the euphoria or both, but I felt amazing.
Off to the right in the middle, you can see the Red Rocks Amphitheater,
home to many cool summer-time concerts.
With a mile left to go, I started passing people.  ME!  I don't mean in a typical way, like the idea of beating someone, nothing at all like that about them or me.  Trail running has nothing to do with passing anyone because people are going different distances and everyone walks different sections.  But for me, it was something huge because I had something left to give at the end and I couldn't believe it.  I finished the last half mile at a 7:18 pace, and I.  Just.  Smiled!!!

I stuck around after I finished because I wanted to see PT-man come through his 2nd of 3 loops for his 50k.  The guy is simply impressive....he never even trained for this race, heck, he barely even ran more than 10 miles a week to prepare, yet here he was running 32 miles (it'd take me a good 2 years to feel "ready" for something so scary to me).  He came through about an hour after I was done and I helped him get some fuel; he was feeling great so onward he went for his final 13 mile loop.  I decided then I had to see him finish so I talked to a few people I knew at the race then went to my car and turned on the AC full-blast and just chilled for a couple hours.  Eventually, I went back out in the heat on the course and waited for awhile and finally found him, still running, and ran with him the last couple miles to the finish.  Words can't even express how happy I am for him!

Throughout this whole race, I'm excited to say that my foot held up very well!!!  I had absolutely no excruciating pain and only felt it whenever I hammed down the hills.  My mid-foot striking is paying off big time and I remember feeling at some point in the race that I'm no longer even forcing the mid-strike, it's just happening.  How cool is THAT?!?!  And my past month nemesis', the hamstring and back, held up remarkably well too.  A little bit of hamstring annoyance going up Mt. Carbon but it quickly went away when I got to the top... and my back, well, I can't even remember one time thinking about  it.  I'd call that a VERY copacetic day and I couldn't be happier!  It was a day of tests on so many levels and I say I passed, passed and then passed again!!

My 2:11 time (it was a bit long, 13.25 miles) wasn't even close to where I left my half marathon time road times of about 1:44 about two years ago, but I am just fine with that.  For the most part.  I ran strong, I remained strong, I had enough umph at the end to kick it into high gear, and I got to run on some incredibly beautiful trails.  And I had an absolute blast!  I plan to be back next year ...... and me and my foot are going to kick some serious trail butt, and it will be about pace!  I can't wait.

I'm headed to the mountains tomorrow for a couple days, soaking in some yellow-turning aspen trees.  I probably won't have internet so I apologize in advance for lack of blogging, but I will catch up upon my return, and I should have some amazing pictures to share.  I hope to do a little cycling...and my newly beloved trail running!

Until then....

Run Strong, my friends!

Week 4:
Run: 4.5 miles Easy/Recovery
Run: 10.2 miles.  First 5 miles: 8x35 sec fartleks at 3K pace, Second 5.2 miles were steady pace and hilly
Run: 10.25 miles @ base
Run: 6 miles @ base + 6x35 sec hill sprints
Weights: 40 minutes
Swim: 1500 yds
Run: 7.9 miles at base on trails
Run: 13.25 miles Bear Chase 1/2 Marathon
+ 2 miles wu/cd
Run: 53.91 mi
Swim: 0.87 mi
Weights: 40:00 minutes

I need to - again - work on more weight training, more core work, I'd like to get a biking day in there, somewhere, and swim twice a week.  Not sure where, but that's the goals.  Overall a great week, and I am feeling much better this week, after my hamstring was "fixed" at PT on Wednesday.  Looking forward to week 5!


C2Iowa said...


Your determination is awesome. The pic are good too.

Cant wait to see the pics of the aspens. Sending you an email later today.

Well done Jill.

Jennifer said...

Holy cow! This is such great news! I am so excited for you sweetie and can't wait to hear about future adventures. You are on the road back and your excellent attitude and positive outlook are so inspiring! XOX

misszippy said...

Way to go Jill! So cool that you are able to do this. Pace? Not a concern, especially on a trail 1/2. What a beautiful course, too. You are SO back!!!

bobbi said...

What a gorgeous course!! Congrats on finishing strong and without pain!!

Rose @ Eat, Drink, and Be Meiri said...

What a beautiful run!

And it sounds like you got through it awesomely!

Tara said...

Oooo, I like the new picture at the top, I sooo need to redo my stupid blog.

Yay for you girlie! I'm so happy to hear that your stupid heel didn't give you any problems! That is fantastic! (I'm also happy you found a cutie to run time get his phone number..hehe).

I'm glad that you went out and had fun and didn't have any of your usual pre-race anxiety. Trail races are just super fun, one of these days after we do our Ironman (haha!) I am just going to concentrate on running trails.

Ok, well you have fun in the moutains. Rick and I went and biked the Colorado trail this weekend. Sooo much fun. You be careful up there, no more falls and wounds!

P.S. Your PT rocks. I'm so happy that he did it!

Teamarcia said...

Yay for the happy heel and the mid-foot strike! Yay for you! Remember Geri from 2 summers ago we had lunch w/her after the race? She ran it too!

Karen said...

Awesome Jill! What a beautiful race set up... Way to go :)

Mike said...

Trail runs always leave a smile on your face! Nice photo for your blog header.

HappyTrails said...

Yay Jill! I am so happy for you! Beautiful trail run on a beautiful day and a beautifully, well-behaved body to carry you through! You are on the come-back trail (pun intended). That is a nice course - not too easy, not too tough, just right. That exposed area, though, after the water crossings is my least favorite part. Hot, wide-open with the sun beating down, and those short, steep hills take it out of you. This race is on my list to do next year, if all goes well.
Have fun in the mountains! :-)

Marlene said...

WOOT! Way to go, lady!!! Way to run strong and have fun doing what you love!!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

2:11 for a half on trails is OUTSTANDING! You don't give yourself enough credit.

Great job! Enjoy those mountains!

Johann said...

Well done Jill! Wow, 2:11 on the trails is fast in my book. I have some of those scars and stuffed up places that never get to heal. I always fall on exactly the same spots. At least we don't get any new scars often. Take care and run well. You are back in full force!

Terzah said...

Awesome! I'm sorry it was hot (and it WAS hot), but you did everything you set out to do and more. Especially great given your disclaimers at the beginning. :^)

I hope you enjoy your time among the aspens. We were camping up there over the weekend and it should be just about perfect for you this week!

Questionably Texan said...

So glad that you're able to write race reports instead of PT reports! Looks like you're making a strong comeback!

Paul said...

Yah, what Jesse said above...8)

Congrats! Trail races are tough and the times are almost meaningless except comparing one year to the next...but 2:11 is pretty fast!

Foot ok for hilly trail half: Check!

You gotta stop burrowing around in the dirt though 8/

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

Great job! Looks like a beautiful place to run and great job on the time. It is harder running on trails!

ShutUpandRun said...

Nice work. Wahoo!! That actually looks like a really pretty trail, never been there.

Julie said...

YOU ROCK! :) So very happy for you ! Just what you needed to boost your confidence!


Have fun in the mountians...jealous of the trip and riding. Looking forward to getting together soon!

Black Knight said...

Not only a half marathon, but on the trail too!!! And what a trail!!!!
You are SuperJill!!!!
Glad you ran without pain.
Very good job.
Beautiful header.

Christi said...

Congrats Jill! I am so happy that things went well for you. Well, besides the falling part!

Have a great time in the mountains.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Where was the bear you chased? The name of the race is misleading, I mean, I would be upset to learn I wasnt chasing a bear!! Sighhh!!!

Congrats on the race

XLMIC said...

Well done, Jill! Said with utmost respect, adulation and joy! You deserved to have such an awesome run :) And it is beautiful there... wow! You are coming back, lady :)

Caroline said...

you are sneeky.....a race report with no warming of a race to come....if there was one..I missed it...

oh this is so fantastic! I am happy for you! BDD stole my joke...I forgive him for this time only.

and you went for the trail...the road that was too simple for your big comeback!!! overachiever!!!!

Jason said...

Great job on the race. And getting back in the saddle again is coming along nicely for you.

How are the wounds healing up?

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Sounds like you are getting back! Nice scenery too. Well except that knee...

Kate Geisen said...

Jill...a 2:11 half marathon on TRAILS?? Up hills called "mt something"? Um, that looks pretty freaking good to me!! Way to go! SO happy for you!!

And I have a matching scrape on my knee from this past weekend. :)

Jess @ Blonde Ponytail said...

Holy cow!! that's a great trail time isn't it???? wow!! And with the wounds you get extra props!

So happy you are running and in your happy zone again!!!! :)

Lindsay said...

a long 2:11 trail isn't that far off from a road 1:44, in my *expert* opinion.

i am sorry that it took me 9 hours to comment. please accept my apology and understand that some of us have to work for a living.

congrats on the run and i am glad your dumb heel is a thing of the past!

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

I agree with Lindsay! Trail running is way slower than road running. Great job Jill! And nice weekly mileage! You are going places now:)

ajh said...

Man you are as fast on trails as I am on roads! Way to go, Jill! And the climbing! You are incredible.

Char said...

Ego and determination are sometimes the strongest tools in your arsenal when things aren't going your way. Sorry about the fall - but you got a good wounded soldier pic out of it. Shows just how hard core you really are. And well done on the race!

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

Yay!!! Sounds like it was awesome besides the fall!

Cory Reese said...

Simply incredible! Your pictures are so awesome. I'm a wussie - I can't imagine crossing rivers like that and then continuing to run in soaking shoes.

You amaze me. Way to go!!!

mtnrunner2 said...

Nice run! That time sounds really good for a trail 1/2 with the trail surfaces and ups and downs.

Funny, I've been on the other side of the water crossing on the far side of the golf course (next to the concrete path/houses) and thought that trail was for horses. lol. I turned around.

I like certain parts of Bear Creek a lot, kind of like Cherry Creek with more hills.

And certain parts of the body just have to get used to being scuffed up! Heal fast.

Abby @ Have Dental Floss, Will Travel said...

Passing people in the final mile - that's when you know you've got this. Way to go!

Becka said...

Wow! You booked it!!! That is a crazy fast pace! Nice job on the finish! I ran the 50 miler and it was BRUTAL :)

Aimee said...

Woohoo! I LOVED reading your race report! You did sooo awesome! Yay, yay, yay! :)

RunToTheFinish said...

woooooooot you ran a race!!!!!! I think trail races look amazing and beautiful...hence I am pretty sure I would be a disaster because I want to look around and take everything in

Anne said...

A 2:11 trail half mary with huge hills, three river crossings 1.5 years hiatus and a face plant? You're my hero!

Denae said...

Great Run! I used to live near Bear Creek and ran on those trails often. I moved up north about a year ago to Arvada and am exploring new runs up there now! Good Luck at Denver RnR! I am getting nervous and super excited!!!

Glenn Jones said...

Excellent Jill! And half an hour off your old PR isn't bad at all. Especially for a trail run!

Ewa said...

Congrats, Jill. You ran strong and you have scars to prove it. :) You are quite fast on those trails. I am just a tiny bit envious.
Enjoy your aspens and biking (while I am sweating my a$$ off in 90F heat in Silicon Valley - oh, sorry envy speaking again).

Raina said...

Look at you! Where were you last year? This is just a great turnaround.
I love that your midfoot striking is coming naturally now.
Well done on a tough course and NICE week of training to boot!

Tim said...

Thumbs up.

Jenn said...

Seriously Jill! I am SO self-absorbed this week. Please forgive me for seemingly only caring about myself.

OK-AWESOME race!!!! This sounds like a blast! Yes, what's a few more scars-ha! Your legs look REALLY good in the water traversing pic!! 7:18 for last half mile. You have to be pumped about that right now!!! I'm smiling too!!

54 MILES!You ran more than me in the last 2 weeks combined-ha! and you swam AND did weights. Oh Jill-so happy to see you back in the game!

OK-off to worry about myself some more!! Love you. Thankyou so much for your continual support!!!

Molly said...

I wondered how wet those shoes got after you ran through the water, what an adventure!! How cool indeed about the mid-strike! I had a dream last night that I was running with a forefoot strike, maybe my subconcious is telling me something. Enjoy the Aspens!

BrianFlash said...

Great race - glad to hear the foot injury is coming along well :)

Sarah Grecco said...

How amazing! What a pretty route. I love everything about Colorado!

Get Up & Go

DRog said...

nice battle wounds!
you DO always seem to come away with some good ones:)
and passing people at the end !!!
so glad the foot held up - a good sign and Good Things To Come!


Kandi said...

Congrats on a great race. It sounds like you had a lot of odds against you but you overcame and kicked butt! I'd be mighty proud of a tough trail run half marathon in 2:11!

Adrienne Langelier, MA said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome!!! Way to go running a total obstacle course of a half! Exciting stuff to see you racing again:)

Who can go wrong with having a cute pacer? :)

I feel sore just looking at the pics.

Keep running happy!

Amanda@runninghood said...

crud, I totally missed this. My method of reading blogs is pathetic. I usually start down the list on my blog roll (which is way too long) and then if I get distracted, I end up missing the ones that were posted really early. Anyway, enough excuses...

This race sounds so awesome! LOVE the picture of you going through the water! And 2:11 for coming back from a major injury and running on this tough course...You will surely be back to your 1:44 or better soon!

Love the image of you smiling after finishing your last half mile in a low 7 pace! So happy for you! I can imagine how amazing that felt!

Your training looks so stellar!

Catherine said...

Uh...2:11...?! I would loooooooove to have this be my time in any half!!! You rock girl! Seriously want to move to CO...just don't know how to start...

2 Slow 4 Boston said...

Look at you go girl! Knowing some of your background, I thought a 9:25 pace for 6 miles, on a trail, with some hot weather sprinkled in was an awesome pace. Then to top it off by running down the home stretch at a 7:18 pace must have felt great.

Glad the foot did alright, but it's too bad you've been replacing one injury for another two (hamstring, back).