2007 Sweetwater H20 50K Race Report

That was a hard 31 miles – 8 hours and fifteen minutes of hard.

I was looking for that Zen’ experience and I found it at the SweetH20 50K Trail Run. There were hills. Boy, were there hills. There was a plethora of technical terrain with flavors of jagged rocks, big ol’ fallen trees, creeks, steep ridges and possible drop-offs. I saw a deer at Top of the World arguably the toughest section of the race, and a snake in my face just past the last aid station. and no, I wasn’t hallucinating

Note to self: don’t run head first into thick trail branches — feeeeeel your way through.

This is always how I envisioned Ultras. I had such a great time, I’m afraid my fingers are gonna’ bang away on this keyboard for quite awhile because of that. My apologies in advance for being a giddy geek about this event – here is my race report:

Within the first two miles of the race, we were presented with some pretty technical descents chock full o’ overgrown brush, thick roots and rock hills. Throughout this section my army man, kid-side kept coming out and I pretended I was running Barkley and Hard Rock. {I warned you I was geeky}

The Sweetwater State Park trails are really beautiful. Mostly single-track, mostly rugged and awfully winding A lot of the trail blazes are blurry in my mentally mangled state, but it was after some of this technical portion that we moved into some nice trail cruising on the blue blazed trail. I felt great at this point of the race. Running all the uphills {purists, shhh.} and leap-frogging with a few other cool folks as I trotted along feeling strong, happy and diggin’ on the nature.

After a very technical, rocky section along the river, we headed towards Top of the World {TOTW}. I don’t know how to explain this other than it was mutha’ #$%@! difficult. I will say this, we met a veteran ultra runner on the course who has run an unbelievable 250 ultra races nationwide and rated the difficulty of this race a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. TOTW begins with a straight-up climb, through thick leaves and loose rocks. It’s almost impossible to keep one’s torso upright. I kept thinking of all the tips I heard from ultrarunners along the lines of,

“Pretend there is a bungee cord connected to your belly and the top of the hill and lean back…”

Yea, right – Do that on this hill and your tumbling backwards quickly and likely to take out a few other climbers below you.

So, you charge up this long, steep climb, take a deep breath, look to your left and see an unbelievable series of four loooong, steeeep climbs. The view is incredible, but the difficulty immediately evident. This is when I go into my,

“don’t-talk-to-me-and-no-I-don’t-want-to-joke-about-how-hard-this-is”
-mode.

I just checked out mentally and emotionally, and climbed one foot after the other, saying to myself, “how do you eat a mountain?” …”one bite at a time.”

The desecent at TOTW is even more demanding. One wrong move and you could be sliding hundreds of feet down the hill and getting torn to shreds by the rocks. This is where I saw the deer. Yea, we’ve all seen lots of deer, but in this “gettin’-my-nature-on” mode, it was twice a cool as usual. She looked at me, but didn’t run away. Made me feel welcomed in her domain.

After TOTW, I was running mostly by myself. Just’a sludgin’ up Jack’s hill on the white blaze while stuffing my face with Pringles and peeing out the side of my shorts. Nice image, huh?

Fast forward through most of the white and yellow blazes as I mostly ran these alone and still continued to feel pretty damn good for 15 miles in. but then, here comes the river crossing…

I loved it! I don’t know why so many runners were crying about it. Yea, it was cold, wet and with all the mud on my feet, turned my shoes into cinder blocks within 10 minutes of the crossing; but it was a great break in the run and the added difficulty of the rapids and rope assistance was just plain ultra. Or at least how I envision ultra. I slipped on a rock and sank neck-deep. After that, it was pretty much do whatever it takes to get across. Ultra list member Roger Ackerman was right in front of me and unfortunately slipped on the rocks …then, popping up with a bloody hand. I remember thinking, that sucks, but lots of peeps jumped to his aid, so I kept moving forward — meeting Bruce.

I don’t know if meeting Bruce was helpful or demoralizing. Bruce, is a Douglas County Rogue Runner {I think} who has been running for five years, 17 ultras and truly looks like an ultra runner unlike this Clydesdale. He knew a lot about the race and the course and was very helpful at keeping me aware of what was upcoming. He hung out with me for awhile when he could have easily been running way ahead of me and shooting for a better time. You gotta love this about veteran ultra runners.

The demoralizing part of Bruce came when he announced to me that we would be doing TOTW a second time. WHAT???!!! No way. I quit. I’m done. There is no way I can do that portion of the race again. The ups tweaked my low back and knotted my hamstrings while the steep downs crushed my quads and shoved my feet so tightly within my toe box that there were times when I thought my foot might just rip through the front of the shoe.

Next thing I know, I’m about 21 miles deep, feelin’ pretty rough and looking straight up at the beginning of TOTW all over again. But, it wasn’t enough to make us do the same, previous four, massive hills in succession — no siree — instead, the course brings you to TOTW from a more outside point requiring two additional climbs, before the leafy, loose-rock back-breaker, and then on to the four killa’ climbs. As my stepson would say, “that’s just mean”. Personally, I would lean more towards a few more adult-flavored words.

I pushed Bruce to go ahead as he was capable of much more and hangin’ with me was not going to help his times any. People say they don’t care about finish times when you tell them to go on, but I think everyone cares about their times a little bit.

I ran most of the end of the race with a cool guy named Rick. We had great conversation and pushed each other to run when one or the other was displaying weak will. I hung with Rick until the very end when I just couldn’t stop running. I was so eager to finish, I blasted out of the last aid station and ran at a decent clip for most the remaining portion of the race. There were some evil technical portions and rock climbs at the very end, but for the most part I was grinding it out to the finish and par for the course, the finish was at the top of a hill.

I loved it. It was, by far the most demanding, visually interesting and physically satisfying run in which I have ever participated.

One not-so-happy point: As I get more races under my belt, I still can’t understand why some people complain so much and run with scowls and grumpiness. I met some incredible people at this race. People remembered my name and offered lots of encouragement – it’s these parts of ultras that are just the bomb.

But I also heard people complain about running a little out of the way, wanting to complain to race director …and, how the course was too hard, too many hills …whatever.

It’s an ultra …on the short end of the ultra scale, but still an ultra. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s suppossed to shake you up a little inside …and outside. If it doesn’t – it wasn’t a good race.

I just ran a good race. A great race. …and I’ll run it next year. Where’s the link?

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Comments

[...] 2007, the inaugural year for the Sweetwater race, and my first year running ultras, I completed the race in around eight hours and fifteen minutes [...]

enjoyed reading this post. thinking about running this race in 09, but probably need to hold off until 2010, when I’m better trained. Thanks for posting.

Hello, I am trying to locate people in douglas county
who do rock climbing. My grandson is very intersted
if you can give me any info.
Thanks
Gloria

[...] year, the SweetH20 was one of my first 50K races, and I was just to happy to finish, although as more time went by, not necessarily proud of [...]

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