Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Barr Trail Mountain Race

Near the finish.
Photo courtesy of pikespeaksports.us

I fell in love with the Barr Trail Mountain Race the instant I finished it the first time in 2009.  There's a beauty to its simplicity - go up, tag Barr Camp, come down.  Furthermore, my familiarity with both the course and many of its participants and spectators make it fun - there are always plenty of folks to catch up with after the race.   The timing of the event, only five weeks out from Pike's weekend, seems to add to the draw.  By mid-July, the top guys are beginning to fire on all cylinders, so the competition can be quite stout.  This year's field was missing the likes of Matt Carpenter, Ryan Hafer, Ricky Gates, Peter Maksimow, and Alex Nichols.  All five of these guys put up blazing sub-1:36's in last years edition.  However, rumor had it there would still be some strong guys in attendance - supermaster Bernie Boettcher, Pike's usuals John Tribbia and Daryn Parker, long-time sandbagger Doug Ryden, Olympic Trials marathoner Trent Briney, to name a few.  In addition, there seemed to be more second-tier guys than usual.  This just meant I wasn't going to find myself in no-man's-land for long.  I was as excited as ever to have a good day!

After the Summerfest half, I took one full week to do nothing but easy runs in hopes of getting some life back in my legs.  Scarily enough, I was still feeling the effects of the race (no spring, quick to fatigue) as I began to warm up.  While in actuality the temperature was already quite high, I honestly didn't notice it as being out of the ordinary.  In fact, the similarities between conditions 09 to 10 to 11 seemed quite eerie to me at the time.  As the countdown to the gun drew near, I placed myself somewhere in the second row and put myself in a calm place.

Knowing I lacked a spring in my step, I decided to settle into a pace even more conservative than usual.  Within a few hundred yards, I counted a good thirty runners in front of me.  Not much changed as we hit the W's as I found a sustainable gear and locked into it.  GZ and I exchanged a few words as I caught up to him - he was out conservatively as well.

I got to the top of the W's in the mid-21 minute range.  This was nearly a full minute slower than 2010, but I felt no panic as my plan was to have a strong uppper climb.  By now, I had slipped into the top 20, and over the next mile I moved past the top four ladies.  It was a real bummer catching up to Brandy Erholtz.  She is perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever met, and it was evident she was laboring as the top two girls slipped away from her.  I wish ill will on no one, but it's even harder to see such a good person struggle. 

I approached No Name Creek just in time to grab on to a train of three guys, and the four of us worked together for the next few minutes.  I later came to find out that the group included Falcon High School's Bryce Gregorie, who is one of the top three cross-country returnees in Colorado.  I could now taunt my Cheyenne Mountain boys: "Heck, even I beat Gregorie, you better do it now too!"  While my legs were still leaden, my breathing was much more relaxed than that of anyone around me.  It was around here where I conciously turned the real race button on and started to push things a bit.  I went off the front of the train and began hunting. 

Approaching Bob's Road, I was unsure of my place, but figured it must be somewhere around ten to twelve.  I caught a couple more guys before the turnaround, and then began to wait for the top guys to start passing me on my way down.  To my surprise, I made it much further up than in years past before Scott Gall, Daryn Parker, and John Tribbia came zooming by.  A large gap followed them, and shortly before the turnaround, I caught a glimpse of Bernie Boettcher, Doug Ryden, and two other guys I didn't know.  Wow - these guys were all so close!  I knew both Bernie and Doug were downhill monsters, but I wasn't so sure about the other guys, so I went on the offensive. 

I caught Trent Briney within a few minutes.  He didn't seem to be enjoying the downhill.  I knew the chances of catching Bernie or Doug were slim, but anything can happen, so I continued throwing myself down as fast as I could go.  Another runner - Tate Benning, I believe - eventually came back to me, and I found myself in 6th place with just under two miles to go.  It didn't last long, though...as I hit the W's, Bryan Rawlings caught me as if I were standing still.  There was nothing I could do but watch him ride off into the sunset.  I finished up as dignified as possible, taking the final uphill turn and kicking it in in 1:46 and change - good for 7th place.

This was the first race in 2011 I could use as comparison to past years, and I'm actually quite pleased with the results.  I shaved about a minute off of last year's time.  That in itself is OK.  However, it seemed that almost all of the front of pack runners were a good two to four minutes off of last year - Bernie, Tate, Brandy, Amanda, GZ to name a few.  I know comparing my 2010 vs 2011 placing - 18th vs. 7th - is a comparison of apples and oranges - but it does help suggest that I'm in a good place this summer.  Five weeks until Pikes weekend, and I seem to be on the right trajectory. 

Many thanks to all the people who put the BTMR together - John O'Neill, the Colorado Running Company, Neal and Teresa, the high school volunteers at the aid stations...the list goes on and on.  I had the opportunity to catch up with tons of runners, including a rare Krupicka sighting.  BTMR is a great race, and one I will likely return to do no matter what the upcoming years bring!


  1. Scott Gall is a good runner. He won my friend's 50k, (Hawkeye 50k) beating, among others Badwater champ Zach Gingerich. Iowa putting a good performance in the mountains!



  2. Awesome effort out there Sean. Remember now, if you decide to sleep in, you are going to have to demonstrate great feats of strength and stamina.