Race Report – Devil on the Divide 22k 2016

I was super excited and nervous for this race! Excited because: how often do you get to race on top of the continental divide, nervous because: what kind of crazy person runs on top of the continental divide. I was pretty sure that I could accomplish the 14 miles that it would take to reach the end but I didn’t know what kind of shape I would be in at the finish. There was 3400 ft of vertical climbing and the race topped out at 13,200 ft. As far as a finishing time…I had no clue.

This race was a point to point so the buses dropped us off at Henderson Mine and from there the race took Jones Pass up to the continental divide and the trail went south and eventually merged with the Herman Gulch trail and ended at Herman Gulch trail-head. When the gun went off my friend Kristen and I started running slowly. The steepness gradually crept in. Kristen pulled ahead since she is a much better runner. I kept it slow and contained. I was concerned, however, about the time limit. I only had 2 hours to reach the first cut off point at mile 4. I know that sounds like a long time but when you’re running straight up a freakin mountain it can take quite awhile. I would start to get outta breath so then I would hike, power hike more like. This still did not let me catch my breath. In fact, looking back at the whole race, I never caught my breath. I did a lot of hiking up to that first (and only) aid station at mile 4 but after that is when it all got really fun! First of all, I ate bacon and chips at the aid station, that always puts a smile on my face. Second of all, I was on the top of the world. I could see a helicopter flying lower than where I was running. There were no clouds and the weather was perfect. Cool but not cold and sunny but not hot. It wasn’t even too windy considering that we were on the divide. Running along the edge was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. I just kept saying to myself “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I was even passing some people. I think I was just so amped up that I was functioning off of adrenaline only.

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I finally made the top (13,200 ft) at about 6.5 miles in. Quite a bunch of us where snapping pics of each other and enjoying the moment. I was thrilled to be part of such an awesome community of trail runners.

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We started to descend, which I actually enjoy. There were rocks strewn about and the trail curved this way and that but I love the thrill of going downhill fast and having to intensely focus on your foot work as to avoid a spill. I got at the tail end of a group of 5 guys who were pushing the pace. I stayed with them stride for stride and I felt like part of a team, an unstoppable team, doing a crazy and amazing adventure. I’m sure I had the biggest grin on my face at that point. We stayed together for quite awhile until we began climbing again and a couple of them peeled off to strip down some layers. I stayed with one guy that kept moving. When he would hike up a steep section, I would do the same. I was learning from his technique.

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One section of the trail is an out and back to Herman Lake. At the lake is a checkpoint that you must get your race bib punched to prove that you didn’t cut the course. When I was almost to Herman Lake I felt the tiredness catching up to me. I took my 3rd gel and a little water. At the turn around a very enthusiastic guy threw me a high-five and on the way down there were so many exchanges of “strong work”, “nice job”, “looking good”, etc that I got my energy back. I started cruising as I re-entered treeline. The forest was cool and I could feel the chilly sweat in my wind jacket. There were large root systems that I was continually dodging and afraid of twisting my ankle on. I caught back up to one of the guys from the pack. Turns out he was from Cincinnati and does this race every year (impressive) the 50k distance, not the 22k. I stayed with him through much of the trees until he slowed and I passed. Now I was running by myself. I knew that I was near the end and I could feel the sense of accomplishment bubbling up. “I can’t believe that I’ve done this” I thought. I crossed the finish line with a smile and some cheers from the 15+ people at the end. More bacon and chips awaited me at the finish. I rode the shuttle the 25 minutes back to the tents where I met up with Kristen and enjoyed some beers. I came in 3rd in my age group (F40-49) but sadly there were only prizes for 1st place in each age group. Back at home I enjoyed another beer in my newly acquired mug!

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~ by willtriforbeer on October 1, 2016.

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