Race Report – Snow Mountain Ranch trail half marathon

Since last spring I’ve been really enjoying running 🙂 Maybe because I found that my IT band hurts a lot less when I run on trails (and sadly, treadmills) so I’ve given up running on concrete. All of my long runs have been on dirt, mostly non-technical, but with some hills. I’ve really embraced the single track and the fact that it’s okay to walk up a steep incline, especially since I can hike it faster than I can run it. So a couple of months back I decided to sign up for my first official trail race…The Snow Mountain Ranch trail half marathon.

Snow Mountain Ranch is north of Winter Park on the south end of Granby, Colorado. The race is above 8,500 feet so the air would be thin. It was a beautiful morning while I made the 1.5 hour trip from my house to the race venue. The sunrise was gorgeous and the temps in the low 50’s.


I got there way too early and ended up sitting in my truck just to kill time. The race was set for 9am but didn’t get started until 9:10am. I positioned myself in the very back so that people weren’t struggling to get around me on the trails. It’s important to seed yourself properly in a race. As the gun went off, I began my shuffle and started my watch when I passed under the start/finish archway. We didn’t have timing chips for this race so it was up to you to clock yourself.

I lined up behind 2 other girls and was following along. I got the urge to pass but kept thinking I’m not really the passing type I should just stay here. I kept feeling like the pace was too slow and that I should move ahead. Really? Me? Passing people? That’s not something that I’m used to doing. I get passed all the time and I’m used to that but I wasn’t used to the feeling of passing others. I went with it and passed. I was still feeling good so I continued with that pace.

After the first 2 miles in, I was at 23 minutes which meant that I was running 11:30 minutes per mile. I knew this pace was too fast for me to maintain so I tried to tell myself to slow down. It was hard to slow down because I was having so much fun and was excited to see what would be around the next corner. The race director had told us that there were moose on the trail the day before so I was keeping my eyes peeled. I never did see any moose but I saw tons of their tracks on the trail.

The trail was made up of wide open jeep trails, 4×4 tracks where you’re running in the tire marks, and narrow single track. Parts of it were flat but there was also some good climbing too. Certain stretches were somewhat technical but overall the course was perfect for my ability. The race is configured like a double lollipop that you run through twice.


There were certain people that I would pass and then they would pass me while I walked on the uphills but then I would almost always pass them again on the downhill or the flats. After a few times of this I wouldn’t see those people anymore. I think my practice of walking on the uphills worked out pretty good. It would get my heart rate down, let me catch my breath, and give my IT band a rest.

When I would take my eyes off the surrounding mountains and the continental divide I would check in with how I was feeling. I didn’t have any cramping and overall my legs were feeling good until around mile 10, when my IT band was feeling the effort. I took 2 vanilla GU’s: one at 45 minutes in and one at 1:30 in. I drank almost my whole water bottle and I took nothing from the aid stations. I stopped to stretch my IT band only once.

My absolute favorite section was called Moose Drool. You start out running uphill on a jeep trail surround by tall grasses and then you enter Moose Drool. It was magical! A narrow single track that weaves side to side through tall Aspen and Evergreen trees. Since it was fall, all of the golden Aspen leaves had drifted down and completely covered the ground making it seems as if we were running on a golden carpet through the woods. This did make it a little difficult since the leaves were covering the tree roots on the trail and could cause trip hazards. The canopy was so thick that it would only allow certain rays of sunlight though adding to the enchanting feeling. I was so happy running though this section that I felt like a little kid. I could feel that I was smiling ear to ear and running faster than any other section of the race. I only wished I had my camera with me. Since we had to run the loop twice I would get to experience it all again!

I ended up crossing the finish line in 2:27:47 which meant my average pace was 11:30 min per mile (the run ended up only 12.85 miles). I was thrilled! That was as fast as I have recently ran 2 half marathons in Arizona that were flat, on concrete, and at 1,000 ft elevation. The only 2 downsides to this race was that no one announced my name as I ran through the finisher shoot and that they had ran out of most of the food by the time I finished. I did get a hot dog (sarcastic yeah). I had been hearing the announcer call out names of finishers while I was running and couldn’t wait to get there and have the same treatment but I guess he had to use the restroom or something. Ugh.

I think I’m sold on the whole trail running thing! I cannot wait to recover and get out there again. With the snow coming pretty soon (last night to be exact) my trail running days may be limited until next spring but I’m already checking to see what races I should do next year!


~ by willtriforbeer on September 30, 2014.

2 Responses to “Race Report – Snow Mountain Ranch trail half marathon”

  1. I’m jealous! Great pic, looks like a fabulous course~

  2. Glad you had a good run! I know you enjoyed the beauty as much as the run. Yes, time is getting limited for you, I’m sad too but for different reasons.

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