North Fork 50: The Trail is only part of the Race

Normally I would not consider dropping a race.  This time was a unique set of circumstance that had me thinking about doing it.  Many excuses ricocheted around my brain leading up to Saturday reminding me of Lucy’s enjoyment of baseball on Charlie Brown’s team—I’m undertrained (true with only 20 miles in 5 weeks); I’m not healed from Laurel 77 (unknown since I didn’t run much); and I just didn’t feel up to the task.  Perhaps all these were signs of overtraining as I have been on the training clock since last August with only a short break around the holidays?  So with questionable physical conditioning and unable to shake my mental blasé I dropped to the 50 K race at check in.



This decision did not make me any happier but I felt I could suffer long enough if needed.  It’s only a 50 K, a known enemy, I kept telling myself.  Ultrathoner stayed the course and kept to the 50 M but took the option to start one hour earlier than the race start for a possible 15 hour race window.


The race start and finish was behind the parking lot restrooms at the Pine Valley Ranch Park.  The post race festivities were under a large pavilion bristling with enough picnic tables to allow a seat to anyone who wanted one.


After seeing Ultrathoner off I met up with Ally who I last saw at the Colfax marathon this past May.  Once again we were going to partner up to keep each other motivated in an attempt to complete the course.  She is a race maniac who enjoys the race and the finish instead of worrying about her speed so with this being her 10th, or so, race since May we didn’t think I would slow her down.




Being the first year of the race benefited us as it was not a sold out event.  After the race start with both 50 K and 50 M runners the pack quickly thinned offering plenty of room and an uncrowded trail for the remainder of the day.  The chill of dawn and the adjacent river became a distant memory as both the sun and runners quickly gained altitude with the former starting to bake the latter due to a cloudless sky.




The course is all trail, mainly single and some double track jeep roads, with much of it running through the Buffalo Creek 1996 and High Meadow 2000 burn areas.  There are some steep sections and some rocky sections as you would expect any course calling itself a trail race.  There are several big climbs and downhills, but most of the climbs were moderate as they are frequently used by bikers and horses.  For some it was more challenging as the course is between 6,700 – 8,000 feet elevation.  Sections along the ridges and along Buffalo Creek were rolling, mostly gentle and often downhill. 


The RD mentioned that most of the course is in the pine forest but it sure felt that we were out in the open a lot.  The burn areas were certainly open and exposed to the hot July sun.  They did offer some beautiful views of the surrounding high mountains that otherwise would not be possible if it was fully forested.




The aid stations were well stocked with very helpful volunteers who knew how to help ultra runners get resupplied.  Ice arrived at the stations by late morning significantly helping to cool us down between stations.  For readers who have not run in this type of heat putting ice under your hat, a bandana or bra (women only please!) helps to cool the body quickly through direct contact and more importantly evaporative cooling.  July days in Colorado are also very dry so sweat evaporate almost instantaneously which does not help at all.  Running generates a lot of heat, especially in 95F/35C weather so evaporative cooling can keep you in a race.


The last couple miles were mainly downhill on double track which was a nice way to head to the finish.  As we made the turn at the last checkpoint I was glad we were heading to the finish for beer and a burger instead of going back up the hill for another 19 miles.  I can run the 50 M next year!


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About Haliku

Mountain climber, ultrarunner, scuba instructor, world traveler, student of life
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2 Responses to North Fork 50: The Trail is only part of the Race

  1. Xenia says:

    Congrats on finishing the 50K and thanks for the ice tip. I admire your attitude about dropping down from the 50M. I'm just starting to learn how not to take things like that so hard myself.

  2. Ultra'thoner says:

    What a great race. I'm glad I wised up and took the 50-k DNF instead of another 19 miles of suffering. That cold beer waiting for me made stopping early worth it!

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