Quick Race Facts
Big Turtle 50K
31 mile out-and-back
~4,538 ft. elevation gain
single track, gravel double track, minimal pavement
forested ridgeline, 4 climbs
12 hour time limit
Last year’s Big Turtle 50K was my trashiest run of 2018. I was undertrained and paid the full price. This year was redemption time!
It’s always tough for me to get into shape coming out of ski season where I run as little as 30 miles a month. This ski season was a little different with a monster trip to ski 10 mountains in Utah and Colorado in mid-March. That trip wrecked my legs, but also got me into some great shape through active recovery - a.k.a. running.
In the weeks leading into the race, I built up to 35+ miles per week with a race sim spread out over 3 days the week prior to the race. 15, 5, and 10 on consecutive days was just what the doctor ordered. I’ve also added more yoga to the mix split between strength-based slow flow yoga and recovery-based yin yoga.
I also dialed up my hydration, nutrition, and pace planning to be sure everything was set before toeing the start line.
My race plan was simple. Take it super easy in the first half and maintain or better my pace in the second. Keeping up with hydration and nutrition should keep me from bonking energy-wise, and I was certain my body was up for the task thanks to a really good - even if short - training cycle.
At the starting gun, I elected to walk until we reached the top of the first climb. It’s always a hiking fest when the opening mile is a climb, so no need to rush there at all.
I took my time and was the last one that the race director, Mike Whisman, would see start the single-track portion. I thanked him for putting on such great events (Next Opportunity Events are always tip top), shook his hand, and kept moving at my measured pace.
Once on the ridgeline, it’s a nice 4 mile run through a lot of forested single track with small ups and downs that make for really nice running. Following that, there’s 6 miles of mostly gravel Forest Service road that has sections of single track mixed in just to the side of the road.
Coming off the gravel section, I checked my time and was well ahead of schedule. There was no one around except the fast folks coming back in, but I was on plan and that’s what mattered.
Following the gravel section, it’s about 6 or 7 miles of climbs and descents, so I took my time in this section and finally started to see some people. At mile 11, I saw the leader who was straight up flying. Between miles 13 and 14, I saw the pack emerge. At the 15.5 mile turnaround, I started to pass some people.
So, this was the real test. Last year, I had bonked at the out and struggled coming back in. This year was going to be different…I hoped.
I started back up the hill and continued to pick my way through the more technical and steep portions until gaining the ridgeline the final time at mile 20. From there, it was truly smooth sailing for the next 11 miles into the finish line.
Sure, I could feel the fatigue growing, but I kept asking my legs to go and they did. I finished in 9 hours and 16 minutes - 2 hours and 29 minutes ahead of last year and a new personal best.
That’s a redemption run:-)
My best run to date. This was the most satisfying run I’ve ever had. Coming off a real shit show last year, I did everything I could to make this thing perfect. It was. The plan was well thought out and better executed. I’d planned on a 9:45:00 time and beat that by almost a half hour - and felt great after the finish.
Better shoes this year. One of the major gear changes I made was switching to Columbia Montrail XSR shoes. These are billed as crossover shoes that are as good on trails as on roads. This is mostly true, as I’ve logged hundreds of miles in them on every surface - dirt, mud, gravel, chunk rock, pavement, sand, snow, and ice - and the only place they struggle is in mud or slick rock.
For this course on this day, they were ideal. They stood up particularly well on the ~12 miles of gravel and only faltered on a couple short, slick, and steep muddy sections. Otherwise, my feet and I couldn’t have been happier.
Next Opportunity Events is rockin’. Mike and Brandi do an awesome job at their races. They’re well organized and have a distinct flavor to them. Between Big Turtle, War Hammer, Breaks, and Rough Trail - each race offers some serious punch, and when you finish one, you know you’ve earned it.
Wildflower season in full effect. Throughout the race, you couldn’t run far without seeing wildflowers in bloom. Big Turtle is at the perfect time of year to stop and smell the trillium. Seriously, flowers were everywhere.