Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cheyenne Mountain 50K Race Report

Cheyenne Mountain 50K = An Awesome Race. 
Me, Michael, Levi

The weather forecast wasn't exactly what we were hoping for on our first camping adventure with now 3 month old Felix... windy, snow, rain, sort of cold, but we were going for it!  

Maggie, Felix and I headed to Colorado Springs Friday afternoon where we enjoyed some time with friends (Brain Dumm, JFK 1st place winner) and met up with Levi.  After getting our race packets and having some good pasta at Rasta Pasta, we headed to Cheyenne Mountain State Park to set up camp.  It is great to have camping options for races.  Our site was nice with a view of the city and Fort Carson. 

Levi and I caught up a bit and I told him the big news of deploying.  I am to leave Colorado May 8th for a month of training followed by a 6 month deployment to Iraq to train Iraqis on how to be officers.  To say the least, this has been stressful and pretty bad news for the family, for running and in general.  With only a few weeks to prepare, I've been stressed, busy and anxious.  Combine the deployment news with the fact that I missed a week of running with a nasty cold 2 and a half weeks ago and another week off before that from an injury and last, but not least, my sleep has been interval based for the last 2 months.  These factors equate to some setbacks to being ready to race.  

After having such an amazing race down in TX last month on a very hectic zero sleep night before, I may have been overly confident that I could run well no matter what.  I did have a solid 100 mile week two weeks before the race, but it also left me beat down.  

Anyways, on to the race itself; I've been looking forward to this race due to the fact it is only a couple hours from home, it is all on trails, this was Levi's debut to Ultras, the chance to win $500 and for the plain thrill of racing a trail ultra.  Everything was well set up and ready to go.  Right off the bat there were four of us in the lead pack, Levi, Michael, myself and another guy.  A mile or two into the race I passed Levi and the other guy to take the lead as I felt the pace wasn’t quite fast enough. 
From here I lead with Levi behind me and Michael behind Levi for a few miles until Levi had gas and let Michael pass him.  We were moving pretty fast, but from the first mile I was having a hard time feeling out the right pace.  In my two 50 mile races, finding my pace wasn’t an issue, I ignored the other racers (in front and around me) and ran my own race.  Today, I didn’t find that pace too often at all and not at all in the second half.  The two main reasons I felt “bad” on race day was one, that I wasn’t race ready and two, I was stressing about Levi and Michael being mere inches (sometimes less) behind me.  My go to race strategy is to run even splits and pass and run confidently in the second half.  Today, I felt confident in winning and therefore took the strategy of leading and expected no one to be able to hang-on after around 20 miles… obviously not the case. 

After going around the start/finish at just over 16 miles we were right under 2 hours, so low 7:00 minute mile pace for a pretty technical loop with lots of turning and 1,875ft or so, of climbing.  I’m confident Levi, Michael and I could have run 1:50 low for the 25K. 
The figure 8 shaped loop was pretty awesome, a lot of technical rock, forested sections, scrub oak dry plains, wide-open trail in the meadows and rolling hills.  I wish I were able to relax and enjoy the race more.  For all of the first 20 miles me, Michael and Levi, in that order were NEVER less than 2 seconds apart.  It was like running the mile in track, no one dared take a step off the pace and this made perfect sense as Levi and I, and I would assume Michael (heard he is new to trail running), are track and road racers until recently… just a bunch of jockeying “roadies”. 

Somewhere while climbing around mile 20, Levi slackened the pace to where he could no longer hold myself and Michael’s hand and that would be the last time we would see Levi.  At this point, I gained a little confidence that Michael would join Levi soon, but that wasn’t the case. 
At what would become the turning point of the race, I paused to grab my 1st Endurance Liquid Shot at about mile 23 and in that 2 seconds, Michael didn’t obviously wait for me.  Funny thing is, that after 3+ hours of close formation flying, I did see the slightest pause by Michael as I reached down for my bottle… funny, wish it had lasted just a few more seconds.  For the next mile I tried to keep confident, keep pace and hope Michael wouldn’t make a big move.  It wasn’t a big move at all, but a move regardless, late in the race, after being the leader for so long and I wasn’t able to field it.  
At around 24 miles, 8 to go to the finish, I lost contact, confidence and steam.  This disastrous event took place right at the most challenging part of the course for me: the flat, open section.  Getting passed in the second half of a race is really tough for me and this was no exception.  All hell broke loose.  Most races are decided mentally and this seemingly small occurrence, was too big for me to mentally handle. 

The next 8 miles were very interesting in retrospect.   I completely shut down and clocked a few 10+ minute miles on the climb up to the turn around, but Michael must have been hurting too, in gaining only 2 and half minutes on me.  I wasn’t bonking like I did at North Face, the 1st Endurance EFS kept me fueled and I was hydrated, I just didn’t have the mental and physical energy to keep up race pace.  Levi was at least 2+ minutes behind me but managed to cut the gap by the finish to less than a minute.  I think he could see me sand bagging it on some of the open sections in the closing miles, which motivated him.  In hindsight, I wish I would have just stopped running at the beginning of the climbs around mile 25, caught my breath, stretched, re-set and then started running again. 

By the last two miles, my strength was back and I was running fast, but Michael was too far away. 

Michael 4:09
Schlarb 4:11
Levi      4:12

Along with accepting my reality (not being race ready), I learned a couple great lessons in Ultra racing.  The race itself was awesome and Andrea (RD) did a fine job on putting together a top-notch event.  I plan on being back next year. 


  1. Good race down there. It was fun running past the three of you the few times we did.

    BTW that "some guy" in your lead pack was Dan Vega, who just won the Antelope Island 100-miler a few weeks ago. I talked to him after the race - in the previous week, he had felt close to 100% again, but almost immediately he could tell he didn't have it and bowed out after falling off the early pace.

  2. Darn roadies!

    Congrats, still, on a solid, if less-than-satisfying, performance.

    And, good luck w/ all the preparations for deployment. Hang in there.

  3. Nice meeting you down there. I certainly hope all goes well and seamless with your deployment. Lots of good thoughts headed your way man.

  4. Jason-Top Notch performance. Thanks for coming down to the race; I am so glad you enjoyed the course and found it to be worthy of calling it a good race. My thoughts will be with you and your family during your time in Iraq-Keep in touch for next year definitely.

  5. Jason, if you are interested in another race at the same place in the Fall (Oct 8th) - it is an XTerra event (3 different races to choose from: 26.2, 13.1 and a 5K. This will be the 3rd year this year. I ran the 1/2 last Fall at it was a good event.

  6. Jason - hope all is well with you.

  7. It is quite a run. 50 Km is a distance that I bet that I couldn't run and most of my friends at pph free trial community can't too