Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Copper Mountain 50K as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review and write race reviews!
What an experience at Copper Mountain! This was one of those races/experiences where before, during, and immediately after I thought “What the hell am I doing?” and evolves to “That was freaking awesome!”
I woke up on race morning after a fitful night of sleep. Like, I was about to run up a mountain (twice) going from 9k to 12k feet of altitude. Certainly I was hoping my getting to Colorado on Tuesday would help, but I wasn’t sure when you basically double the altitude.
The plan was to get ready, enjoy a cup of home (hotel) brewed coffee and then casually walk down to the start. That plan was thrown out the window when the coffee maker in my hotel room didn’t work. Starbucks it was! I rolled into Starbucks with virtually every other runner in town, and hunkered down in the corner to drink and get ready for the race.
Here is where I ran into Hollie (check out her blog FueledByLolz) and we talked about what the hell we were about to do, hydration plans, and running in general. Oh, and the fact that it was a chilly 45 degrees at 6am race day.
After drinking my coffee, I rolled over to the start area to hang out. I met up with fellow BibRavePro Maria (who was running the 10k) and we chatted for a bit before my running nerd geeked out and saw Mike Wardian (who finished 13th overall and as of this writing is running the Hardrock 100).
Tim, Jessica, and Andy rolled over soon after and we got the obligatory BibRave photo taken care of, and it was time to zone in for the race.
Start to AS# 1 – I started near the back of the pack, because finishing was the only goal of the day. The start of the race was a little congested, since we very quickly rolled into the single track. But going slow the first time up the mountain was no problem for me, I didn’t mind.
I had told a friend that my goal was to get to the top averaging around 13 minute miles.
We weaved through some single track, and I got into a nice rhythm on the switchbacks during the first portion of the race. We popped out on a fire road, where I ran with a group of runners for a bit. We came up to AS 1, and blew right past since we felt good and still had fully stocked packs.
AS #1 to AS #2 – I would say my only challenge came in this section. The course was more of the same: single track switchbacks. You have to realize, the entire first 6.5 (roughly) of the course was going up the mountain. Literally all uphill.
I will say, I could feel when we eclipsed 11,000 feet of elevation, which came between miles 3-5. I noted it on this loop, but was still moving and felt fine, but I could still feel the shift.
Just after a funky little out and back, we got on a jeep road that would take us to the top. A lot of runners passed me on this, but I deliberately took it slow, knowing we’d be doing this climb again in a few hours.
As I was going up, the leaders were coming back down. And man, those dudes were FLYING. Considering the winner went 3:57, flying is not an inaccurate term.
At the top of the mountain, the views were great and AS 2 was better. This AS had ALL THE THINGS for us as runners. And this included my favorite perk of all: pickle juice. It tastes so gross, but I always feel like a new man after drinking it. After fueled up at the Station, it was time to head back down the mountain.
Oh, and that goal of 13 minute miles? Got to the peak averaging 12:58s. Perfect.
AS #2 to AS #3 – Gravity is a wonderful thing.
I was able to absolutely cruise down the mountain (to the tune of a 7:09 next mile). I saw Tim (25k) and Brenda (50k) working their way up as I was descending the mountain. After the race, they both said I looked good at this point; and I’ll admit I felt good too.
On the downhill, I pulled up next to another runner who had gone to school at Iowa, and was from the IL suburbs. In addition to running, we had plenty to talk about. It was also nice to be able to tick off some miles and just chat with another runner too.
Other than the downhill, this was a fairly uneventful section of the course. There was a little single track, but we were on almost all jeep roads, making for some easy downhill miles. We grabbed some quick drinks and food at AS 3 and were on our way.
AS #3 to AS #4 – More downhill!
Rinse, wash, repeat from the last section of the course.
Despite the easy running, the red flag did get raised only a little ways into this section. As we were charging down another hill, we saw some of the 50k leaders coming back up. What? Did we have to come back this way? Why yes, yes we did.
AS #4 to AS #5 – Holy crap. I don’t think anyone running the 50 or 25k were expecting to have to climb a beast of a hill at this point in the race. And this climb was grueling. GRUELING. Nothing was better than getting to the turnaround and letting gravity do the work to take me back to AS #4/5.
It was at the turnaround where I dropped the guy I was running with since the peak of the mountain. Never saw him again.
AS #5 to Start/Finish – Remember that downhill I mentioned where we saw runners coming back up? Yeah, that was what greeted us coming out of the AS. Yet another late race climb.
Once we got to the top, it was time for the downhill to the start/finish.
And let me tell you, I LIVE for technical downhill running. Years of running in Glen Park had made me a strong technical downhill runner, and it helped a ton in this section. I passed a ton of people as we barreled toward the start.
I spent some quality time at the Start/Finish AS and refilled all of my packs. My official split for the 25k was 2:49, which was great for what this course offered.
All you need to know is that my 25k split was 2:49. And I got to the top of the mountain at 4:55. That was a brutal brutal brutal climb.
The altitude really started to effect me on the second loop, and the climbing was no picnic either. I had all the effects of altitude sickness going up this time. Light headed and nausea were the big two for me. And you know that head rush you get if you stand up too quickly? I had that literally every time I stopped running to talk. Every. Time. In short, I felt dreadful.
I told myself I just needed to get to the top of the mountain. Once I got to AS #2, I was hurting, but knew I was in good shape. And by that, I mean I knew if push came to shove, I could walk the rest and make it in before the cutoff. That being said, a strong wind would’ve probably knocked me down.
But I made it to the top after trading places with another runner! We refueled with Coke and pickles (the fuel of champions) and let gravity take us back down the mountain.
We continued to trade places, added another runner to our mini pack, and made a pass of a runner all before the next AS. Much like lap 1, the trip down the Jeep road from AS 3 to 4 was uneventful.
Remember how I said that climb after AS 4 was horrible the first loop? It was so much worse the second time! We passed another runner, but I got left behind by the other two I was running with. I continued to watch them get further away from me as we climbed the final real hill before descending back down the switchbacks.
Going down the switchbacks still felt good on lap 2, but not as good or fast on lap one. But I knew I was less than 5k from the finish, and it was literally all downhill from there. While I didn’t see the pass, I did end up passing one of the two runners who had gotten away from me in the last few miles.
Coming into the finish, my only worry was that I would trip and fall for all to see as I was hurdling (ok…jogging) into the finish.
With the whole BibRave crew there to greet me, my first words were “Holy shit. Never let me do that again.” But a few days later, I was wondering if maybe running Killington in August is in the cards.
After I laid down on the ground for about 15 minutes, I wandered back to my hotel, got cleaned up, and headed back for some food and beers with the crew.
All in all, this was an absolutely amazing experience. Amazing. While the race was certainly painful, I would run it again in a heartbeat. Awesome job by Under Armour for putting this on, and a big thanks to BibRave for giving me the opportunity to run it.