The Elk Double is Vacation Races Rocky Mountain Challenge race. It consists of a 5k on Friday night followed by a half marathon on Saturday. For a total of 16.3 miles. Now, I routinely run these distances. However, one tiny tiny detail, I don’t run at 7600′. The entire game plan? Survival. Not speed. Not time. Survival. Quite the change for this competitive (against myself) girl. I like pushing myself against myself. However, this time, I had to just sit back and enjoy the experience. Besides, this is all just training for #ECSUT.
Friday night was strangely humid. Overall if I had to use two word to describe the 5k: complete cluster. Lack of communication followed by miscommunication made even starting the race a disaster. The 5k follows the path around Estes Lake which is paved with concrete. My poor knees were not happy at all. Ultimately, finished in around 40 minutes. Not great, not horrible. Two highlights? First, there was a wedding that was taking their pictures up against the shore line…yeah I photo bombed them. Second, an ENTIRE TABLE of piles and piles of Picky Bars. OH MY!
Saturday morning came super early (0330). I had already packed my hydration the night before with Tailwind and stuck it in the fridge. I also packed a couple of Picky Bars and Stingers just in case. (My motto; Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.) I made my standard pre-race shake (Vega, fruit, squash, and chia) to keep my stomach happy. Even though I wasn’t hungry at 0330 I knew I had to eat.
The start of the half was much more organized than the 5k. Vacation Races started right at 0600 as they said they would. While 0600 is super early I’m incredibly grateful for it. The temperatures were cooler and the sun wasn’t quite high enough in the sky to be baking on my skin. The course itself was a beautiful, albeit challenging one. The elevation profile doesn’t lie that’s for sure. It was extremely easy to discern the locals from those that had traveled in from sea level. The locals were galloping down the course with ease. The rest of us were just happy to be breathing!
The course itself was hard to access by spectators. Occasionally we would hit a pocket or two of random supporters. They were most welcomed. While out on the trails I enjoy my peace and quite, on road races I truly do enjoy the encouragement. I think it helps. Hands down the best sign I’ve seen in a long time was this one. I am thankful for the folks who did manage to find their way onto various spots of the course. Thanks for your support!
The aid stations were well stocked with water, electrolytes and Honey Stingers. Around mile 7 there was an aid station stocked with bananas and oranges too! Oh and the “Village People”. When I asked them if they were the Village People they laughed and started doing the YMCA. I love people with a sense of humor. Thanks guys! I took the opportunity to fill up my hydration pack again. Mile 7 and I’d almost polished off 70 oz of water. Yikes.
The next couple of miles had the best views of the entire course. After a nearly 3 mile climb those views were worth it. Talk about take your breath away gorgeous. That right there is hands down reason enough to run this race. Did I happen to mention that this was also the downhill portion of the course? Even better.
The aid station at ~11 was probably the best aid station of the whole race. It was staffed by a bunch of teenage girls who had turned up the tunes from their car and were dancing while cheering us on. At mile 11 it was most welcomed! Thanks girls! You guys rocked. Finish time 2:58. Not too shabby for a girl with asthma from sea level.
While I still hate the pavement, this race was a great one. It was really awesome to get some training time in at a similar altitude to what I will be running at in Utah. Thank you to the town of Estes for supporting this race.