I have done my share of trail running over the years, especially in 2010-2012 when I trained for and ran four trail half marathons and a six-day, 120-mile trail race. I think this race was as difficult as any single day of running back then. The altitude (9000-12000 feet) and elevation gain (+3000 feet in 7 miles) are challenging enough, but for me the real difficulty was the trail condition.
This race is primarily on very loose rock jeep roads, which is my least favorite running surface of all time. The above photo is actually one of the nicer stretches of trail. All the way up the hill I was thinking, "I can't wait to get to the single track!" But when we finally reached the mile-ish of single track up and down the very top of the mountain it was a narrow path of scree cut into an otherwise very steep hill. And I now revise my earlier statement to be that scree is my least favorite running surface of all time.
There are so many gorgeous trails in this vicinity that I think would have been more pleasant to race on that I'm surprised anyone wants to do this race year after year. I guess people don't do it because it's pleasant. The point is that it's a doozy. I'm just not in the right frame of mind for serious adventure racing right now.
My official finish time is 3:53:34. That is 15:34 minutes per mile pace, which isn't so bad for a trail race. I usually estimate 15 minutes per mile for trail running to account for elevation and technical terrain. The mile of single track scree took almost 30 minutes to navigate!
The Bright Side:
1) I managed to keep a fairly decent 11 minute per mile pace for the last 5-6 miles once we were back on the jeep road down the hill despite being completely exhausted.
2) The scenery and wildflowers were quite lovely.
3) My parents both did the race with me. It was nice having someone to carpool and commiserate with! They are both right behind me in the first photo, although my dad was ahead of me most of the race otherwise. My mom and I were accidentally twinsies in the same hat and pink shirts.
4) I really like the t-shirt. It is not a tech shirt, but I have more than enough tech shirts. It's just a nice soft comfy t-shirt, albeit in a slightly wonky bright green color.
1) I don't really care for up-and-down-the-mountain style races. I can do hills, but I'd rather the uphill be interspersed with the downhill throughout the entire race rather than each one all at once.
2) If contemplating future trail races... Confirm the trail conditions ahead of time.
3) I'm pretty sure I've put my kinda-sorta-maybe-someday dreams of an ultramarathon behind me. At least in the near future. I just don't have the necessary time/energy/guts right now.
And that's all I have to say about that. What's the hardest race you've ever done?