On Sunday, July 8th, my husband had been in Afghanistan for approximately 18 weeks, and I ran my 11th deployment race. In case you’re new to my blog, I’ve been “Running Through Deployment”; keeping myself healthy and goal-oriented while my husband is deployed.
Running Through Deployment Race #11 was the Summer Roundup 12K, and – having not done my homework in advance – I only learned on race morning that it was a trail run.
For those of you who aren’t runners and don’t have a good gauge for metric system distances, a 12K race is just under 7.5 miles in length.
The organizers of this race (Triple Crown of Running) have the niche in Colorado Springs on difficult races. Each year, they put on a total of five events on three courses. The events are the Garden of the Gods 10-Miler (and 5K), the Summer Roundup 12K and the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.
I volunteered for the Garden of the Gods 10-Miler, and I ran its sister race, the Garden of the Gods 5K. Garden of the Gods is notoriously hilly and there’s very little shade on the roads there. Races there tend to be tough. The altitude in the Garden is a bit higher than in the Springs, the hills there are long and challenging, and the exposure to the elements means the potential for lots of sun and wind.
The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon are held on two consecutive days in August. The Pikes Peak Ascent – which takes place on Saturday – is a essentially a half marathon that follows the Barr Trail up the 14,114-foot mountain. The Pikes Peak Marathon – which is held the following day – follows the same course to the peak before runners turn around and make their way back to the foot of the mountain.
The Summer Roundup 12K is a trail race that begins in Bear Creek Park in Colorado Springs. The race is used as a training run for many of the same athletes who are in training for the Pikes Peak Ascent or the Pikes Peak Marathon.
Check out the elevation map from my Garmin:
We started the Summer Roundup at 6,142 feet above sea level, reaching 7,132 feet at the highest point of elevation in the race. Because it’s an out-and-back course, that meant a total elevation gain of 1,282 feet occurred in less than 4 miles.
We made our way through the trails of Bear Creek Park, which are largely single-track, making it difficult to pass other runners. Eventually, the single-track trail opened up onto High Drive; a road that Colorado Springs athletes know as a challenging training grounds for hilly hikes, rides and runs.
Although the High Drive portion of the run started out on asphalt, it didn’t take long until we were running on a dirt road, with deep grooves cut into it by mountain rains. The road wound its way (very steeply) upward until we finally saw the halfway turnaround.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “it’s all downhill from here”, don’t be fooled. Downhill doesn’t always mean easy.
After almost four miles of uphill climb, my legs were feeling the burn, and my quads were quivering with each stride I took down the steep hill. The grade was so steep that I couldn’t open my stride up completed (as you do on lower-grade downhills) to gain speed. Instead, I found myself putting the brakes on. I was fighting against the gravity that wanted to pull me downhill faster than I was confident my legs could move.
As I came down the final two miles or so of the course, I began picking off other runners. I’d paced myself well for the first 2/3 of the race, and still had some steam left to push forward with. I finished strong, and that strength was visible to friends who saw me cross the finish line. Another racer even found me afterward to congratulate me. She’d been determined not to let me beat her, but in the end, she finished behind me.
Race #11 in Running Through Deployment wasn’t the longest of my races, but it’s one of my favorites. I’ve always enjoyed trail running, and this race brought a lot of the same challenges (difficult footing, single-track trails, hills) that have historically drawn me to the trails. Not every race brings a runner’s high for me. Instead, some races bring pain, injury and frustration. The Summer Roundup 12K was one of the races I’m proudest of running since my husband deployed, and it’s one I’m looking forward to running again next year.
The Summer Roundup 12K is one of three race courses presented annually by the Triple Crown of Running in Colorado Springs. To learn more about Triple Crown or about the Summer Roundup, visit their website.