Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sage Burner 50K - Rookie Race

Sage Burner 50K - Rookie Race

Yesterday we ran the Sage Burner 50K at Hartman's Rocks in Gunnison. This was our first ever race - trail, road, or otherwise. I've never been much of a racer, but this year I've decided to really pursue this end of the "sport". As a rookie, I made all of the classic mistakes. However, I also learned a ton and am confident that for the North Fork 50K I can improve my time substantially.

So how did it go? The first 18 miles were not really a problem, and I was about 5 spots out of first. However, it was here that I bonked. B-O-N-K-E-D. Since I had never done any kind of race before, I foolishly assumed that the aid stations would have food that I could grab to keep my energy up. Wrong. There was plenty of food: watermelon, pretzels, chips, snikers, M&Ms, as well as water and an electrolyte drink (Acli-mate - pretty good). The problem is, when you are running and trying to keep moving, these items don't really work well. I needed gels, goos, bars, etc. Lesson learned: bring your own fuel. I ran the entire 50K on no food, only water and Acli-mate.

As a result, I came in 26th overall - 6 hours, 57 minutes. A time I am confident that I can improve if only I had fuel during the race. I had plenty of water (I only used one water bottle, but my hydration was never a problem). My feet were fine (I lubed up which worked well). However, trying to run the entire 50K on no fuel turns out to be really hard. Lesson learned.

Looking back, examining the course map now that I have run the race, here is what I would do differently:

1) I started pretty good, but I did go a little fast on the downhills because of some other runners - ignore them and keep your own pace. Easy lesson.
2) Lube the feet well. This worked great, and I did not develop any blisters or sore spots over the entire race.
3) Bring your own fuel. This is the key. Next race I will be sure to have some goo or other types of energy items. I notice a lot of people slamming goos, energy jelly beans, and some other stuff. The food at the aid stations is EXTRA. Easy lesson.
4) Try and learn the course better prior to the actual race. Knowing the course is key. The Sage Burner has a TON of small ups and downs, plus some loops, that if I had known the course or trails, I would have been better able to judge how far I had, etc. This is not always possible, but something to think about.
5) Try and train more. I have only been running for the past two months, with my first run in 6 months in April. I don't think this was too big a factor in my performance (I attribute 80% of my sluggishness to having no fuel), but having only 2 months of running on the legs prior to a race may not be the smartest way to go. Easy lesson.

The course is very nice, with excellent views all along the way. It is very sandy, which is something I'm not used to running in the higher mountains. There are also an insane amount of small ups and downs. All the trails are mountain bike trails, so even when it is semi-flat, there are little woops all along the way that prevent you from getting into a longer groove.

Would I do this race again? You bet. The course switches direction each year. This year we ran down the Notch for the final. Next year it will go up the Notch first. It is hard to say, but I think going up the Notch, and having Josho's and Bambi's at the beginning as opposed to the end would be slightly easier. All and all, I am glad to have this done. I am also kinda glad that I did the entire race on no food/fuel. Sure, it screwed my time, but I now have a very powerful mental tool - I can run/shuffle/crawl 50K on nothing. Next time I'm out on a long run, or the next race, and I'm starting to feel tired, I can just tell myself that I can go another 50K before I seriously am in trouble.

I'm really looking forward to the North Fork 50K now with all of these lessons learned. I am also excited to see how much I can improve my time with some fuel in me. I would like to also thank all the people that put on the Sage Burner - everyone was super friendly, the aid stations were well placed and the volunteers were extremely nice and helpful. The race is top quality; my performance was not. Lesson learned.


  1. Nice write up, and a tough course to "start" racing on! North Fork has awesome trails with LOTS of exposure - a pack or two bottles would be advised as it gets super hot out there.

  2. Thanks for the advice. I'm worried it will be very hot on the day of the race...