2014 Sageburner 25K: +2400′ / 2:02 / 3rd
How does skiing fitness translate to running? That was the question of the hour at the 2014 Sageburner 25K at Hartman Rocks just outside of Gunnison, Colorado. Other than the odd jog when down in Denver, I had mostly stopped running after becoming snowed in last November. At the start of April, with (infrequent spells) of warmer weather hinting at a still-hypothetical but approaching summer, I started to make the trip down to Gunnison or Crested Butte to rehabilitate my legs to repetitive impact. After a month and a half, I had logged a few long runs in Boulder, a handful of decent track workouts, and a 15 mile tempo run in 1:39. Some quality, but not much in the way of volume, rarely getting out to run more than two or three times a week. I did, however, continue to ski plenty.
And the skiing seemed to help, to a point. I struggled tackling uphills with any measure of speed, and felt the miles in my legs much earlier than I would have liked, but overall leg strength let me hang on once my shallow running base failed me. I ran in 6th for the first third of the race, before slipping past Bobby Reyes on one of the more technical descents and moving in behind Timmy Parr before he decided to get down to business and jump into second place ahead of Sean and a Western State cross country runner. The WSCU runner eventually blew up, and I had a nice time chatting with Sean before I pulled into 3rd on an extended downhill, a position I held for the rest of the race, with a brief scare around mile 12 when Bobby pulled back into my peripheral vision and goaded me into picking up the pace. I hammered the final descent down from Hartman’s slickrock spine and crossed the line in 2:02:30. Slower than I was hoping, but the race ended up being close to a mile long, so I’ll take it.
The course itself is a deceptively challenging bit of running, but beautiful.The trails at Hartman Rocks were designed with mountain bikes in mind, alternatively technical or buffed, rock or sandy, and constantly rolling. Bobby described it a bit like running fartleks: you’re either hitting 12 minute pace uphill or 5 minute pace downhill, and never get the chance to fall into a groove. You’re also always between 7800′ and 8400′ elevation. But spring in sagebrush country is lovely, pale green affair, and you get to soak it in for 25K, winding in and out of little washes, around rocky outcroppings, and through the odd grove of marooned aspens. Certainly a race worthy of your consideration.