While I guess this officially becomes a DNF, I think there should be a new category called DNF-LBF, the LBF for lead bike fiasco.
I'd been looking around for a spring half that would be a good gauge of current fitness, close enough to home that I could get back to the family quickly and have a sense of where my speed is at (or not at). I even gave it a reasonable taper in the week running up to it which coincided nicely with a down week. The stars were aligning....
A lot of local races have had a hard time this past year, as with so much flood damage on the front range it has meant that courses have had to be re-routed, events cancelled or moved to a completely different location. This was a case of the latter with the start beginning a bus ride away on a dirt trail that wound down onto a bike path on it's way to Westminster, before an out and back section to end at a park near the Westin hotel.
A small field gathered and with no one taking the front early, it was left to a couple of us to lead the way. It's tricky running in Colorado as you either seem to get absolutely stacked fields where placing high is really tough, events where you can be right up there, or occasionally, just one or two folks that dominate and dust the field by minutes. I guess it always depends on who shows up, but this dynamic still feels really unusual to me. Running in the UK I would struggle to finish top 10 even in the most local of 10Ks. You have some freakish mutants out here in the Boulder area but the depth isn't is great as say the UK, or particularly somewhere like Japan at the next tier down.
The first mile went by at 6.00 which was a bit too quick but felt easy enough given that it was almost all downhill. I've been trying to nail a regular, dependable taper that I can have as a go to before races and this was feeling about as good as I've felt in a long time with getting it right. Good to remember for the next race out in a month or so.
The trail wound through muddy areas away from the reservoir, twisty little goat trails, avoiding new construction machinery and big puddles towards the second mile. This is where some of the problems started. I was 10 yards behind the lead runner and the lead bike was starting to look around a little confused about the way to go. He dropped back behind the both of us for a second through a sandy section before his bike washed out and he had to catch up. We were still on a trail at this point, but I started to get that sinking feeling that it might not be the right one. The biker took the lead again but now had taken his cell phone out of his pocket and was looking even more confused. Argh!
I'd always read stories of going off course, getting lost etc. and wondered what that would feel like in a race situation. I knew that going for a time was pointless as I've not been wearing a GPS in races lately and that it was going to have to turn into a race for places based on effort. I looked back with the thought of turning around and finding the right way but there was such a steady stream of folks following that maybe the whole field was coming this way. Maybe the organizers would treat this as the 'new' course and register finishers accordingly.
We continued on and on with no sign of the next mile marker. We actually started heading west at one point and climbing again which was funny given that it was a west to east downhill race. Eventually we popped out on a busy highway road with no shoulder and were led down for another couple of miles in busy Saturday morning traffic into a twisty, winding neighborhood. The lead biker stopped and motioned that he needed to wait at the intersection and suggested we head in a rough, arm waving direction to look for the bike path. We dutifully followed, resigned now but also realizing that I had no idea where I was, and the fact that I needed to at least get back to my car and might as well make the most of a workout.
I'd lost all energy to race though, particularly as we hit the bike path and it became clear that half of the field had made the correct turn. We hit mile 3 with over a 30+min detour between miles 2 and 3 and started working our way through the rest of the field. I'd sat on the bus with a couple of people that were hoping to walk the half in about 3 hrs and I caught them near the mile 5 marker. I knew no matter what happened that there was no way I'd be running through the field to get even close to the front again.
The trail running nemesis of the concrete bike path was like hitting my head with a hammer every step. I would have been more willing to suffer the pounding on a legit, measured and certified course but all of the energy I had put in to preparing was completely drained out of me with the big detour. We were nearing the finish line and the prospect of making this a 16mile run on more concrete led me to making a quick turn to hit the finish chute, tear my number off and call it a day.
I found the race director and shared a few thoughts, got an agreement for a free entry and picked up my bag. I told the RD that I was going to go easy on him as he was going to hear it from all the other runners all day long so I did have some sympathy. The organizer Josh actually seems like a funny, straight up guy that was just dealt a bad card on race day so I consider it a one off for the races they run. It sounds like the construction workers on the course may have moved a few course markers and this caused all the confusion near the start.
I'm reminded by a quote I love " It's only running" and can now chuckle at the farce it turned into. The legitimate would-be-winner ended up 18th or so in the results and gamely stuck it out to finish the complete distance, while someone else found it was there lucky day and took home an unexpected win they might otherwise never had. I'm sure there were mixed emotions all around from the participants.
On to the next one. Will start to look for another half to get some more speed endurance in the body.