Tsali Frosty Foot 50k
My passion for running was reignited this fall & early winter spending time playing on the vast network of trails in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s no secret Boulder is home to some stellar trails and I have enjoyed every moment exploring them. I am blessed to have this goldmine of scenery, vertical and varied terrain in my backyard. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend my sister in-law, Kate, mentioned she was doing a 30k trail race in preparation for her March marathon and they would also be having a 50k. I was entertaining the idea of doing a 50k the same weekend in Texas and figured it would be more fun to bounce down to North Carolina and spend the race weekend with family than holing up solo for a race in Texas. The Blue Ridge Mountains provided an incredible backdrop for this race and the greater Asheville area is an amazing playground for outdoor enthusiasts. My main goal for the race was to enjoy the day and finish in good form. My last trail race a few years ago was marred with going off course four times and running into two tree limbs!
The travel from Denver to Asheville was seamless and my sister in-law was generous enough to offer airport transportation so I could forgo a rental car for the weekend. It was great to see my brother (Brian), nephews (Jack & Graham) and niece (Chloe) as we enjoyed catching up over a tasty meal and red wine. The 50k was set for Saturday and 30k for Sunday so the plan was for me, Kate & Graham to drive up to Bryson City Friday afternoon. Brian Jack & Chloe would meet up with us Saturday after my race as Jack had a basketball game early Saturday afternoon. I was able to hit up daily Mass at my nephews’ school with Kate before doing a light shake out run at her Y since it was storming outside. While I prefer running outdoors, it was good to simply get the blood flowing a bit with some stretching post the easy run. We got to our hotel, completed packet pick-up, met up with Kate’s friend Lyn who was also running the 30k and then enjoyed a good meal (with more red wine). We made a plan to leave our hotel race morning by 7:40am to get me to the start line in good order with an 8:30am start.
I awoke race morning feeling calm and ready to embrace what the day would bring. Unlike triathlons which typically start at 6:45 or 7am, I was able to enjoy a “leisurely” pre-race breakie of coffee, Skratch electrolyte drink, banana, peanut butter sandwich and Max Muscle Sports Nutrition ProBCAAs. We left the hotel as planned but somehow missed the turn off for the park which got me to the start line about 10 minutes before the horn would sound. The scene was super chill compared to the nervous energy found at most triathlons. I got my chip, made my way to the start line and we were off for our 50k! (note the yellow Rock Tape was an experiment to see if it would provide my knees and IT bands more stability during the race – seemed to work well)
I ran the first nine miles or so with a lead group of about five guys. The pace was comfortable and conversational. It was great to chat a bit and meet some of the local athletes in the early stages. About 11 or 12 miles Scott Williams, winner the previous two years & La Sportiva athlete, and I went off the front and continued to press a decent, but comfortable pace. He ran up alongside me and said, “So you’re the guy from Colorado.” We traded positions along the buffed out single track while maintaining a fluid rhythm. My legs and lungs felt good as we twisted our way through the hilly Tsali Recreational Area. The trails were in good shape given all the rain that had been falling. As the humidity continued to rise I was focusing on my fueling and hydration. I carried one flask of EFS Liquid Shot, a 20 ounce bottle of Skratch and Salt Stick caps to get me through the day. Scott was periodically giving me feedback on where we stood relative to his effort last year and we were running faster. Shortly after the 16 mile aid station I was able to get a small gap on Scott and continued to push myself. The scenery was gorgeous and at times I felt like I was running through a rain forest with the heavy, humid air and lush, green azalea trees providing a spectacular canopy. At about the 27 mile mark I caught a glimpse of Scott as we ran through some switchbacks and noted he was not far behind me. The final 10k was pretty rough for me as my glutes and hip flexors jammed up on the downhills and I used a lot of positive self-talk to get my bum to the finish. I was able to maintain my lead crossing the line in 3:31 while setting a course record which I was informed by the race director shortly after finishing. Scott was a slight 1:30 behind me besting his previous runs on this course.
FootRx of Asheville put on an excellent and fun event. The aid stations were effectively placed and the volunteers very enthusiastic and helpful. The entire race weekend was full of laughs and good times. I enjoyed meeting the other athletes, supporting Kate & Lyn during their 30k races, hanging with family and getting to watch Jack play indoor soccer Sunday afternoon. The experience reminded me how blessed I am to have the gift of family, friends and good health. A big thanks to Scott for keeping things honest and SkinStrong for keeping me comfy and sans blisters and chafing – Slik came through big on this day! Trail running is definitely on my radar for the future, but I surmise it is time to shave the beard!
Keep it smooth,