Breck Crest Marathon
Yesterday was the 17th annual Breck Crest Mountain Marathon. Held in Breckenridge, the race starts along the river walk, meanders through town briefly before hopping onto the Burro Trail at the ski area. From there, the race follows single track and jeep roads for 3,000' up onto the "crest" of the Ten Mile Range before dropping over onto the Copper side of the range and descending about 1,000'. Hooking up with the Colorado Trail, the course then climbs back up to the crest, and heads east towards Frisco and Dillon Rez. Finally, after some time the course drops down and then heads back towards Breck on the Peaks trail. This was my first time running the race and running any of these trails, although I've done the Ten Mile traverse from Frisco to Peak 10 and down.
The race started with both the full marathon runners and the half marathon runners, who split off at Aid Station #2, so it was difficult to tell who was in what race and exactly how fast of a pace to head out with. I stayed somewhat behind the lead group, feeling fairly good but not 100%. Because you don't start directly on single track, there is plenty of initial room to get a good position and then work your way up. My goal was to get to Aid #3 by 2 hours (since I was hoping for a 4 hour time), which I did. However, Aid #3 is not the halfway point, so I guess I should have shot for a slightly faster time. I was feeling good until around Aid #4, at which point I started to fade and really struggled with the final 6 miles of rolling terrain back to Breck, not to mention the final 2 miles through town on pavement. I ended up with a time of 4:33:29 good for 21st place. The RD did an excellent job, the stations were well stoked, people were friendly, and overall it was a great race. My only complaint is that the Peaks Trail is super popular, so you have to dodge LOTs of hikers, mountain bikers, dogs, etc. which can prove to be tiresome and annoying when you are racing. But I guess that is just one "aspect" of the course.
I've really learned a lot this summer. It has been my first time ever racing, and trying to balance all of the different aspects while still putting in a good performance has been hard. Working on fuel prior to and during the race has been an interesting challenge. Likewise, figuring out how to taper and just how much has also been a challenge. Finally, just racing itself has been interesting - learning to deal with the psychology of the race, other competitors, people behind and in front of you, the adrenaline, and so forth have all shown me that I still have a lot to learn. Running in the mountains is one thing, but racing in the mountains is almost an entirely different thing. Right now I'm really enjoying both, and I know I can do better at the races if I can just figure everything out. Obviously, it takes more then one summer and six races to get a handle on all of the psychological, nutritional, and race-related aspects associated with racing, but I've really enjoyed it. I'm really excited to try and keep some fitness through the winter (and not just start running in April after 6 months of doing no running or endurance activities like I did this year) and see if I can't perform better next summer (or maybe just this fall - the season is not over yet). Either way, adding in some racing has really livened up the summer and brought an entirely new aspect to running that I have enjoyed. Now just to put in a good time!