On June 3rd I ran in the 9th annual Golden Gate Dirty 30 trail race. It was my second “ultra” race and one I could definitely see going back to run again in the future. The event is so well executed thanks to a crew of awesome volunteers and one very dedicated race director, it’s tough not to view it as one of the premier 50k races in Colorado if not the country.
Truth be told the Dirty 30 was intended to be a tune-up race for my first 50 miler at the end of the month – the San Juan Solstice in Lake City. The Dirty 30 is a tough course and a perfect lead-in to a mountainous 50 miler like the SJS. Snaking up through the hills of Golden Gate Canyon State Park near Blackhawk, the course racks up 7,300 ft of elevation gain over the 32 mile distance. The raging creeks and lush valleys of early-June also make it a beautiful course, and a perfect way to dive from spring skiing right into the summer running/hiking season.
Leading into the race I found it difficult to balance skiing with logging solid training miles on the trail. It’s a nice problem to have I suppose, but on the other hand it was tough to feel truly “ready” on race day. Being such an early race I feel like everyone who runs the Dirty 30 likely struggles with similar issues though, as most trails don’t fully dry out until May even at low elevations in the Front Range.
To recap the race itself…the day started off nice and cool which allowed for efficient travel through the first 12 miles up and over the course’s high point near 9,500 ft. I did my best to go out relatively slow and make up some time by limiting my stays at aid stations. From aid #2 the course drops over a thousand feet of elevation down the steep, rugged Black Bear trail, which is where I felt the subtle cracks in my training for the first time. Elevation gain is elevation gain – whether it’s on snow or trail – but skiing vs. running downhill are two completely different animals, a fact I was not-so-subtly reminded of on just about all of the big descents.
From aid #3, another big climb back up to 9,300 ft caps off a majority of the elevation gain, save for the final grunt up Windy Peak between aid #4 and aid #5. Clouds rolling in and out pf the area obscured the sun somewhat, keeping things relatively cool into the early-afternoon. Still feeling pretty good I departed aid #4 with hopes of possibly finishing in under 6 hours.
But getting up Windy Peak was brutal, more brutal than I had expected, and as a result my pace slowed to a crawl. A few 17 minute miles to the top of the peak effectively dashed any hope of a sub 6 hour finish. But I figure that’ll just make for a good reason to go back.
From the top of Windy Peak I coasted down the last big hill and was greeted by Anna-Lisa and Sarah who had camped out on the trail above the finish line. They were holding a series of colorful poster board signs and although I couldn’t read them at the time, they were encouraging nonetheless. Thanks again gals! I finished with a time of 6:23:55 (full results can be found here) which I felt was perfect for my first go at the course, realistically speaking.
All in all this Dirty 30 is a fun, challenging, and well-coordinated race less than an hour from Denver. I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re into this sort of thing (and there’s also a 12 mile option for those who aren’t looking to destroy themselves).
And with that I’m on the fast track to Lake City for a go at the San Juan Solstice. It’s a race I’ve been dreaming about for years. We’ll see how it goes in about a week here…