Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dirty Thirty

So this one was billed in my mind as a last long, hard effort before Western - a training run with a competitive twist. I'm not usually one to line up for a race without intending to put forth a hard, competitive effort; if I want a training run, well, that is easily achieved from my front door. However, being just three weeks out from the first big race of the summer, I wanted something approaching race effort, but nothing too detrimental - an in-between effort.

Soon after the start. Joe in yellow. All Photos (unless otherwise credited): Woody Anderson. More here.

Photo: Tony Krupicka. More here.

From the off, it was Joe Grant (in English mode) and me setting the early pace. Through the first set of switchbacks, it was pretty apparent that it would likely be the two of us off the front for this one. After running the first mile or two quite sociably, it seemed a bit weird that we'd be 'racing' for the $100 prime at the first aid station (6 miles), so I suggested that we just run it in together and split the cash. Joe was on board. And so we jigged up the creek, crossing back and forth innumerable times, before bopping up and out of the short but steep valley side and down the other side into the first aid.

Pulling up the forest-road climb from the aid, mine and Joe's paces separated a bit and I began to pull away slowly. This was essentially how the race would play out until about mile 24 or so. I would catch brief glimpses of Joe on some of the heavily switchbacked climbs, or hear him coming into aid stations after me for the next couple of segments, but it generally seemed like I was building a lead. My effort was generally hard, but my motivation waxed and waned, so I was in and out of paces and efforts. I was feeling strong enough that I was easily able to push hard when the mood came, and it did frequently enough.

The miles were clicking off quickly, much helped by the varied terrain and views. We had a great morning for running with still conditions and no significant heat until the race was essentially over. I remember a beautiful meadow that offered up some fast turns; sandy sections; rocky, technical mountain climbs and descents; a little ridge top action; bomber forest road descents, and not so bomber forest road climbs. A little bit of everything for everyone.


I was through mile 20 in exactly three hours, with just the pull up Windy Peak left in terms of big climbs. I felt like things were enough under control that I would probably stay on pace through the last third for a run in the 4:30-4:40 range. Unfortunately, I 'pulled a Nick' and made a wrong turn just before the mile 25 aid station, hanging a left and getting back on the trail markers from an earlier part of the course. Ho hum.

"Am I on course or off course? Pretty sure I'm off, but there were definitely markers indicating a left. Still feels wrong."

Judging by my paces on the segments before and after the wrong turn, I figure I was off course for 16-20 minutes, but it felt longer. It wasn't until I hooked up with Jason Koop, also off course, that I finally got back on track, now sitting in sixth or seventh. By the mile 25 aid, just before the climb up Windy Peak, I was in fourth or fifth and an estimated seven minutes behind Joe in first.

I was kind of annoyed but glad to be back on course. The off-course adrenaline rush had me pushing at my hardest effort all day. Half way up the climb I passed Nick P to pull into second. He told me there was an out back from the peak where I should get a read on the gap to Joe: Five minutes with four or five miles to go. I ran hard, but didn't kill myself on the descent. I got a couple of time checks along the way and it didn't seem like I was gaining nearly enough, so I cruised the last couple of miles to save the effort for another day. Three weeks from now.

Joe ended up winning and setting a new course record, with a strong 4:49. Darcy continues to show good form, winning and also setting a new course record on the women's side of things.

Finishing with my boy. Photos: TK.

Darcy getting it done.

Ali Gali and his mom getting down to some marimba. TK

With a $100 up for the prime and $100 for the win, Joe - being the British gent that he is - split it down the middle, letting me have the $100 prime. Dana and I probably spent about $100 the rest of the weekend camping in Minturn with the kids and hanging out in Vail at the Winter Mountain Games with friends, so thanks Joe. Much fun.

It's always tough to mark courses on tight acreage, and aside from my blunder I thought Megan and her crew did a great job with the flagging and marshaling. My left was unfortunate, picking up flags from an earlier part of the run the way I did, but I probably also should have figured something was up after I realized that I was back running that section. But again, you never know on tight courses like the Dirty Thirty as sections are often repeated. I would definitely suggest for next year that there is a race marshal there at that turn or that the flagging from earlier in the race has been taken down after the last runners are through.

No biggie though. I got what I wanted, which was a solid training race where I felt in control and ready for plenty more at the end. A nice last little confidence boost as I start to taper down the mileage. This old man needs a little longer than most to feel fully refreshed and primed for an 'A' effort.


Aid 1 (5.2): 43:16 (8:30 segment pace)
Aid 2 (11.8): 57:51 (8:45 pace)
Aid 3 (16.8): 49:13 (9:50 pace)
Aid 4 (23.5): 80:21 (12:00 pace)
Finish: (31): 63:18 (8:26 pace)


  1. "This OLD man?" WTF?

    Nice work there Nick. As always, a pleasure seeing you, awesome effort and will be yelling at the screen here for you in a couple of weeks.

  2. The nickname "Wrong Turn" Clark was not meant to be self-fulfilling. Looked like an awesome course. You are so ready for 6/25!

  3. Solid run despite the wrong turn. I think you would have run 4:3X, which is a very good time on that course. Hopefully you had a good trip up to Vail afterward.

    "pulled a Nick"...hmm maybe I should see about changing my name. Hopefully we can find our way to Auburn in a few weeks ;)

  4. The race wasn't challenging you tacked on a few extra miles for good measure. Think they will buy it?

  5. "Old Man" is a deceptive term. Most view it as one who is old in years and slow in movement. I tend to view it as one who is seasoned, experienced, and competent given the task at hand. Not measured in years but in wisdom. It's also the first sign of a sandbag...taper well!

  6. How about "Great job, Old Salt!" (A seasoned veteran with stories to match..."old chap" would be too crusty)

  7. GZ - I'm certainly no spring chicken, but as Ryan points out that's not necessarily detrimental...yet.

    Nick - no wrong turns at WS. I'm getting the course map tatted to my forearm.

    Burch - wise words for a man of your youth. We should find some time this weekend to exchange WS notes - maybe over the course of a few miles.

  8. Way to go Nick! Tough break at mile 25... I almost missed that turn too! It was good seeing you out there, and good luck at WS!

  9. Good running with ya Nick and hanging out with you and your fam at the end. Tear it up at WS!

  10. I have another shot of you on my post, but my camera isn't nearly as good as Tony's.
    You had it in the bag!
    Always good seeing you and the clan.

  11. Nick, it seems the gap at AS4 was 10+ after speaking to some of the other AS4 volunteers after I spoke to you at the finish. Sorry about the gross misjudgement when you went by, there was quite a bit going on, but aren't several minute gaps on big steep mountains what you eat for breakfast? Looking forward to seeing you make history on the 25th.

    FCTR Shaun

  12. No worries Shaun, I was pretty confident that I wouldn't catch Joe after giving up 20 minutes - he's too good of a runner. And as an aid station volunteer, time keeping is not exactly your main task. Thanks for being out there.

  13. Dude. I am so impressed by your consistent and calculated build up and progression over the last 1.5 years I've been following your exploits. You seem to have been systematically ratcheting up your fitness and durability one notch at a time, more effectively than anyone I have observed. It is super motivating to watch. I'm totally stoked for you at western this year!

  14. Nick - Great race in spite of the detour; you guys were cruising right along at aid 2 when I saw you. I got a couple of photos of you coming through that are here. Feel free to use them as you wish.