Report by Kari Kennedy
To give you a comparison, Durango is to Bandera, as Bandera is to Rockledge. Holy cow what a run!!
I know this is that same weekend as Palo Duro, but if anyone can take the time to get out to do this race someday you should. It's part of an entire runner's weekend in Durango where they hold a 25/50K trail runs on Saturday and 10k/half/marathon for the roadies on Sunday. As a bonus, if you run both days, you get a special plaque commemorating that you did the double. www.durangomarathon.com
The morning couldn't have been prettier for running. 2 of my girlfriends, Lauren and April, and I tried this race as our girls' weekend out. We decided to start with the "hikers", aka, the slow folks. The "real" runners started out an hour later. It was about 42 degrees and crisp at the start.
The run starts out along the river, then within about 1/2 mile, starts the first climb up about 250' up the side of a hill to the college overlooking the city on a nice narrow trail. The trail wasn't well marked, so a couple of us ended up going about 200 yards further than we needed to before a biker caught up to us and pointed us back (damn!). After a quick street crossing, there's more climbing up another hill, then along a powerline on a ridgeline. The sun was just starting to peek over the hills at this point. The trail here was just like Rockledge. A few bumps in the road, rocky and fairly narrow. That was the last of the comparison to Rockledge, though. LOL!
The girls and I went mountain biking in the same area as the run the day before, so we could get an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. I noticed a particular tree we'd passed at one point and made a note of the time. I was already about an hour into the race and thought that we might be passing this point again on the return.
After another small climb, we ended up in a valley meadow. Even the flats were deceptively uphill!!! It was really tough to catch a rhythm, probably partly because of the altitude (or so I'd like to believe ;->). It warmed to about 50 by now and the sun was fully out! Beautiful. Next thing you know, I'm happily going along in the meadow, when I look UP to see a few people ahead of me going up a steep switch back. Damn again! That trail felt like it would never stop going up! Walked just about all of it, except for the few fleeting moments of flat spots. At one point, some local mountain bikers passed us on their way up to one of the cutoffs. These people are amazing athletes up in CO.
FINALLY! We made it to the top of the hill after about a 700' climb. Like I said, this made Bandera look like a cake walk. From the top of the hill, you could see down into the valley we'd just left, plus the Durango valley. The Durango-Silverton train's whistle could be heard in the distance. Trees were turning golden. What a sight! Now for the fun part!
The 50K folks took a right here and went off another direction. For those of us on the 25K, Anasazi's descent was a scary quad-burner! I can't imagine doing that on a mountain bike without a will already made out! It was narrow, rocky, rutted, and when it wasn't that, it was a gravely, volcanic ash looking material that was slippery! I looked over at one point on the descent and noticed Lauren on her last bit before she made it to the top and woo-hoo'ed over at her! I think the whole place heard those loud dang Texans! Oh well!!! The descent was fast and furious! It was almost a dance to get down all the rocks. Thankfully, since we're used to running at DNC and Rockledge, we did better than a lot of other out of staters who gingerly seemed to go down the rocks.
We ran through the valley a little more, then back up onto another ridgeline. I heard some fast feet coming up behind me (about 2 hours into the race for me now) and it turned out to be the first and second place men who were like lightning! Amazing! They'd started an hour after I did and were already way ahead. They kind of gave me a little boost of energy to get going a little faster. Many of the other real runners started passing shortly after that so I was on the side of the trail a lot. I got sidetracked again slightly, but other runners passing me noticed the correct trail, so I got back on track.
The trail dumped us back to the top of the powerlines again and past that tree I'd noted the time at earlier. I looked at my time and figured that I had about an hour left and that was enough to finish right around my goal time/PR. Thankfully, the rest was basically flat/downhill. It was awesome to see the town again and start to hear the people down at the rec center where we started. Came into the finish line 20 seconds under my goal of 3:30, so life was great - enough for a couple of tears. Yay! Lauren finished about 15 minutes after I did, then April came in later - both were all grins as well. Last year, the 3 of us could barely manage the 10K, so we'd come a long way in a year. Now we're definitely hooked on trail running!
Overall, it was decent race. The swag was good, t-shirt was a nice technical shirt that I'll be wearing again for sure. Sign-in/packet pickup was disorganized and could've been done a lot better and the course wasn't marked well at several intersections. Both of these things we mentioned in a note to the race director. The course was beautiful, scenic and the aid stations were manned by very nice people!
We spent Sunday enjoying the festivities, embibing a few free beers from the sponsors at a local micro-brewery and then sat in a spa and got massages. What a way to go.
Next year, we're going to "Do to Double" and add on Sunday's 1/2 marathon.
Sorry this was long for a 25k report, but I'm still on a Rocky Mountain High! Hope y'all did well in Palo Duro! Can't wait to read some of those reports.