Race Review: Castle Rock Trail Festival Ridgeline Half-marathon

Ridgeline 2016small steps

That is my takeaway from the Ridgeline half-marathon.

This review is going to more of a story of a race gone wrong than of the race itself. The Trailridge Race series is a well-organized course and the trail running is very challenging. I was the one who wasn’t well-organized.

The moral of this blog is that you should do what I say, not as I do. I have a habit of trying to find where my breaking point is. That drives me to take chances and push the envelope. For better or worse, I can honestly say I pushed it to the limit in Castle Rock.

The Backstory

For 2016  I started getting serious about running. Post college, I had done a few races then stopped for 30 odd years. Man, the time goes fast, doesn’t it? In typical fashion, I jskipped 5K and 10K’s and jumped into half-marathons. I could do the distance but I was accumulating injuries along the way. I had calves that were locked up and angry with me. I knew what caused it, chronic heel-striking but I was running out of time to fix it in time for the race.

Looking back at it, I should have just pulled out of the race or at the very least switched to the 10K. Again, do as I say, not as I do. Just so everyone is clear about this, going into a long, hard race and hoping a chronic injury doesn’t flair up is, well…a recipe for disaster. I knew it in the back of my mind, but I showed up anyway. Kind of. I was dreading the race and ended up in the port-a-potty when the starting gun went off. Is there anything worse that being in a stinking port-a-potty and listening to the announcer count down “10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1”?

Anyway, I finished my business and jogged up to the starting line as if I just wanted to give the other runners a bit of a head start. It is important not to have that look of panic in your eyes. Quickly I found that not only was I out of breath, my right calf was acting funky less than a mile into the run. It finally seized up about 1.5 miles in. My thought was, well, I still have one good leg, maybe I can get away with a little compensation and make it through this thing.

At mile 3, I received my answer. No, you idiot, it doesn’t work that way. My left calf had now locked up. Two calf strains and ten miles to go.

A Brief Explanation of Muscle Strains

This is an ugly subject and I feel like a fool for being the example.

Grade 1 Sprains- Up to 25% of the muscle tears and slight discomfort is felt. Heck, I had that getting out of the car.

Grade 2 Sprains- Up to 90% of the muscle is torn.Yup, that is me.

Grade 3 Sprains- The muscle ruptures and life comes to a grinding halt. I wasn’t there yet. Hopefully I could hold out.

What a Smart Person Should Do.

A person of intelligence, would assess this situation and decide to turn around. The big problem was that I was three miles in to the race. If I quit, I had to go back the way I came which was three miles. A three mile walk of shame. I didn’t come here to give up and limp home. A Smart person would live to fight another day. What I did was dumb. I kept going.

This doesn’t make what I did okay but it really didn’t get worse after that. I mean I had some touch and go moments. Moments were I thought I could feel the muscle tearing but I was at that point of no return.

Ridgeline 2016

photo courtesy Linhart photography

At about the 8 mile mark I had my headphones on and was running on top of the mesa. All of a sudden “I’ve got a name” by Jim Croce comes on.

I Got a Name

Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I got a name, I got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I got a name, I got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid
Moving me down the highway, rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by
Like the north wind whistlin’ down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud
Moving me down the highway, rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by
And I’m gonna go there free
Like the fool I am and I’ll always be
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Oh, I know I could share it if you’d want me to
If you’re goin’ my way, I’ll go with you
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Movin’ me down the highway, rollin’ me down the highway
Movin’ ahead so life won’t pass me by
Songwriters: Charles Fox / Norman Gimbel
I Got a Name lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
Something about hearing that song at a time when I was in a ton of pain on top of that mesa, just brought everything together. I had the feeling that the universe wanted me there doing this race for a reason. I was meant to be there and to do this. Honestly, it was an overwhelming moment. At that time and place there was no where else I would rather have been. Period.
Ridgeline

Photo courtesy of Linhart photography

 

Thankfully this thing ended after 13.1 miles. I remember crossing the finish line and looking for a place to sit down. When you run in pain, your body tends to keep everything moving. You are in survival mode. The problem and the severity of your situation comes into play when you stop. Even going from a slow run to a walk, I could feel everything starting to lock up. So I hobbled over to a bench to take a break. My car was a good 40 yards away and I couldn’t get there. The car was there but it just as well could have been a mile away. After about 15 to 20 minutes of massaging my calves, I made the brave attempt to walk barefoot to my car and made it.

The Aftermath

Needless to say the next week was painful. In fact I couldn’t run again for two months.

Was it worth it?

Well, do you want the politically correct answer or the truth?

I will see you there next year!

Race Review: Bear Chase Half-Marathon 2017

Bear Chase Half-marathon

This is a review of the Bear Chase 13.1 or half-marathon.

First, a quick introduction to how I review races.

Races, to me, serve a purpose. I am not a gazelle and will never win any of these races, so I pick runs that are long and will challenge me. It is easy to stay with 5K’s, finish in a half hour and move on with your life. I want more than that. I want an experience and the half-marathon always seems to be a very rewarding distance. Things start to get ugly for me around the 8 to 9 miles mark and that gives me a good 5 miles to sort my life out. In a review we need to look at a couple things.

  • Did the race challenge me?
  • Was it well planned and organized?
  • Were there still beer and pancakes at the finish line. You know, that kind of stuff.

 

So let’s break this race down because I had a lot of fun running it and look forward to running it next year.

Start time 7:00 a.m.

The Bear Chase half-marathon

Bear Chase is in Bear Creek park in Lakewood. This is part of a series of races by David Manthey and Runner’s Edge of the Rockies. The race is easy to get to. Just take 470 and get off on the Morrison exit. It is on the east side where you drive by in the summer and see people water skiing on a small lake. Heck,  I never knew there was a park there, so I was very surprised that it existed and that they could make a 13.1 mile course out of it. It turns out that the park is pretty massive and there are more than enough trails to make this work.

7:00 a.m. is the perfect time to start the run. As you can see, the sun was just starting to come up and there was an energy in the air. A mix of anticipation, awe, and serenity. It is always fascinating to me how an event can have an energy of it’s own. The weather in the mid 50’s was perfect.

I am a simple man and I only need a couple of things pre-race. The ability to park, find a bathroom and get to the starting line. It seems simple but it is critical. The volunteers at Bear Chase were well-trained, polite and really seemed to be into volunteering. In addition, there were bathrooms in the parking lot as well as by the start line. Smart. Those of us in the know also found the park bathrooms were also unlocked. Parking was easy, the start line was about 400 yards away and in my usual fashion, I arrive at the starting line with 45 seconds to go due to a last minute bathroom stop.

The People

I don’t know how to estimate the size of a crowd for a single track trail race. There enough people there to fill up the start line and everyone was able to disperse and find their grouping by the first quarter mile. That is good because I always hang out near the back of the pack and try to settle in to my pace. I don’t want to slow anyone down.

One of the great things about races are the people you meet and the runners here were some of the friendliest. In fact, I was talking to one woman whose sister had run the 50 mile the day before. We were talking about Ragnar Relays and she wanted to team up and do one. We were supposed to exchange numbers so we could put a team together but we ended up getting separated and it never happened. So, if you are reading this and still want to do a Ragnar… I would also be up for Chase the Moon.

The Course

Enough about me. The course for the half-marathon featured two pretty good hill climbs, three stream crossings and a vast swath of level trails. Nothing exceeding technical which is a good thing. We started off fairly level for the first mile or so until the first hill climb. I always get confused whether to call a small mountain a mountain or a big hill. It is a good sized hill, let’s leave it at that. Steep enough that I chose to power hike  instead of run. Credit to the photographer that hiked up the other side just to take pictures of us on the decent.

Stream Crossings

bear chase stream crossing

On the website, they warn you about stream crossings along with the notion that once you do it, you will want more in the future. I agree 100%. I know some runners were freaking out at the prospect of getting their feet wet but as a guy who does obstacle course races, this was a pleasure to go through. Every race should have them.

Bear Chase stream crossing 2

The water was probably shin to knee deep. Not a problem if you have decent shoes and non-cotton socks.

The rest of the course was single track trail with some paths as you wind around the park.

bear chase single path

One really nice aspect of the race was how the course was planned. The water and steep hills were fairly early in the race. The midpoint featured single track out in the open. The last quarter wound through the creek with shade trees. I was getting hot and tired at this point and there is nothing better than a little shade. Whoever designed the route, thank you for that little kindness.

Swags and Pancakes

bear chase swag

We can all pretend like we don’t care about the medals, but come on…look at this!

bear chase pancakes

After burning 3,000 plus calories, can you imagine how good this tasted!

Conclusion

bear chase

 

Hopefully I have given you a good idea of the race. You have the choice of 10K, Half-marathon, 50K, 50 Mile and 100K next year.

These days between Spartan Races, trail runs and road races and my day job as personal trainer, I keep a busy schedule. Races I love are put on the calendar for next year with a few slots for fill in runs. The Bear Chase is a definite for me next year even though it is a week before the Ridgeline. I really enjoyed everything about it. I know that in doing reviews, one should point out a few negatives but I don’t have any. If you are thinking about doing a trail race, this is a great one to pick. It is challenging without being soul-crushingly hard.

Race Review: Castle Rock Trail Festival Ridgeline Half-Marathon 2017

Trail Ridge half

This is a review of the Castle Rock Trail Festival Ridgeline Half-Marathon 2017.

First, a quick introduction to how I review races.

Races, to me, serve a purpose. I am not a gazelle and will never win any of these races, so I pick runs that are long and will challenge me. It is easy to stay with 5K’s, finish in a half hour and move on with your life. I want more than that. I want an experience and the half-marathon always seems to be a very rewarding distance. Things start to get ugly for me around the 8 to 9 miles mark and that gives me a good 5 miles to sort my life out. In a review we need to look at a couple things.

  • Did the race challenge me?
  • Was it well planned and organized?
  • Were there still beer and pancakes at the finish line. You know, that kind of stuff.

The History

This is my second year running this race. For me, the Trail Ridge run is the quintessential trail race. It is almost all up and down with a couple flat spots thrown in for fun. The fact that it is hard also makes it the gold standard to test your running. You can check out my previous post here, to hear about the troubles I had last year at this race. In short, I blew out the right calf at about mile 1.5 and the other one at mile 3. Basically I ran the last 10 miles on two calves that were seizing up with every step. Have you ever strained a calf and feel it tear a little with each step? That was me last year. I hobbled across the finish line and found a bench, unable to make it back to the car. It was then and there I plotted out my revenge on this race. I never said I was smart but I am vengeful.

So in the last 12 months I have worked on my midfoot strike, put a lot of effort into form and spent some time on the Castle Rock Steps. I couldn’t wait for the day to take my vengeance against these mountains.

The People

Castle Rock Trail Festival

The castle Rock Trail festival is just off 1-25 and Plum Creek Rd. inside the Phillip S. Miller park. It is easy to get to and parking is a snap. As you can see, the finish line is also the start line. All the volunteers were upbeat and the announcer did a great job of staggering the start. That is an important but often overlooked detail in these races. Let the gazelles fly and let the rest of us mosey on down the trail.

Trail runners are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Except for the old guy that yelled at me for wearing headphones, everyone was a joy to be around. In all fairness, this incident occurred on top of a mesa and everyone was set in their pacing. No one had passed anyone for a few miles so there was no reason to think anyone would be passing me. Oh, and there was plenty of room to pass. Okay, he was right, no need to wear headphones on a trail run. If anything, you can’t hear the rattlesnakes that way.

The only thing I would warn people about is that this is a hard race. If you are new to trail running or just getting back in shape, the Bear Chase may be a better choice for you. Or just do the 10K version of this one.

Unless you are like me and do both. The Bear Chase on Sunday and the Trail Ridge the following Saturday. I guess I forgot to mention the Ragnar 7 Summit Challenge I also did that week. No wonder my legs were tired. No excuses, I like a challenge.  Anyway, great people, the volunteers were very friendly and it was a good time.

The Course

Castle Rock Trail Fest

Castle Rock Trail FestCastle Rock Trail Fest

Castle Rock Trail Fest

Well hell, take a look at it. You get the idea. Some people flew through it, others, like me, chugged. That doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy getting my butt kicked again because I did. Things started breaking down around mile 8 and I just had to settle into that grind. At that point the feet hurt, hips hurt and I was just tired but that is also the time where you can bring out the best and the best races force you to cope with adversity.

 

Conclusion

Trail ridge 2017

trail ridge elevationtrail ridge 2017

 

So What I take out of this race?

What can you take out of this race?

I can’t say I am impressed with my time but it is an honest time. That was all I had to give on that day. I thought it would be faster but that is how it goes sometimes. This time is about 1 minute slower than my Bear Chase time and is about 3 minutes slower than my half marathon pace on asphalt. That gives you an idea of the quality of terrain you have to deal with. One last thing, they did have beer at the end of the race but the line was too long. I had margaritas waiting for me at Hacienda Colorado. Great race, see you next year.

 

Big Man Runs Fundraiser- Homes For Our Troops

Big Man Runs Fundraiser- Homes For Our Troops

Big Man Runs Fundraiser- Homes For Our Troops

Yup, after much thought I have decided to run the Ridgeline Half-marathon again this year. I am calling this the revenge tour and it includes:

  • Summer Prairie Dog Half-marathon in Castle Rock
  • Fort Carson Spartan Military Sprint
  • Wildcat Ridge 10 Mile in Highlands Ranch (if they have it this year)
  • The infamous Ridgeline half-marathon in Castle Rock.

Hey Mike, looks like Ridgeline has a 50K, why don’t you do that one?

Because the half-marathon damn near killed me. That is why. Listen, this is my revenge tour, not yours.

Let me take care of the half-marathon first and next year maybe we tackle the 50K.

Ridgline half-marathon

Trail running sucks. It is very different than running on pavement. But where else are you going to get views like this!

I hate this race but I am sucked in to her siren song. No matter how much it hurts, I must go.

big man runs fundraiser

Don’t let this fool you. I wish all of the trail was like this!

I remember are endless climbs, rocky, root-filled descents and general pain.

I strained both calves 2 miles into the race and ran 11 miles on two category 2 strained calves. With each step I felt my calves ripping, almost like you were tearing a piece of paper.

A painful day but a great day nonetheless.

 

Big Man Runs Fundraiser- Homes For Our Troops

Maybe this gives you a better perspective of what is going on. Start to your left and climb up, then descend, then go left and go up another hill, then go down…13.2 miles. You get the point.

 

What I am saying is that this is a fantastic race and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it again.

Maybe this time I will be able to walk back to the car.

Enough about me, Big Man Runs Fundraiser- Homes For Our Troops

 

I couldn’t be part of the military due to asthma. However, my son joined the Army in September and that makes us a military family.

These are brave men and women that want to serve our country and commit to a cause. It is absolutely shameful how little we do for these men and women when they get back, especially when horrific things happen to them. I am dedicating this race to them and would like to think that with each mile, maybe I can make someone’s life a little better.

The goal is to collect $1,000 by October 8. All donations go to Homes for Our Troops. The link below is a fundraising link that goes directly to their site.

If you would like to make a difference, please give what you can. Anything will help and everything is appreciated.

Thanks, and I will give you a report on how the race went Oct 9th. Maybe October 10th, it depends on how beat-up I am.

Click here to go to my donation page