Race: Bangs Canyon 30k/60k Fatass
Distance: 60 Kilometers
Date: January 9th, 2016
After having a blast running in the New Year at Bangs Canyon in 2015 I knew I would be back to kick of the running and racing season again in 2016 at Bangs. Kevin and Shannon Koch along with Ray Jensen put on a great event that brings out the West Slope running community and hanging out around the fire at the end of the day is one of the season’s highlights every year.
Since I started my last training cycle just over a month ago I decided to run the 60K this year to focus on building up my base rather than working on speed endurance. I also knew that I would likely be the only 60K runner and that the crux of the day would be resisting the urge to stop at the 30k mark while everyone else was kicking back, eating pozole and chilling around the bonfire at the trailhead. Only two people in the history of the race have ever gone back out for the second loop and with the stout CR of 6:44 my goal was simply to run a smart first loop, take care of myself and try and maintain a solid effort for the second half.
I started at the back of the pack on the first loop, settled into a comfortable pace down to the river and soon found myself running behind the 30K leader, just barely keeping Chris Marcinek in sight most of the way. Western Colorado is spectacular in the winter when the snow accentuates the usually subtle greens and red in the landscape, and with very little ice on the course the miles clicked by as I was entranced in the vistas. Running along the river all I could hear was the roar of the Gunnison and the crunch of my feet on the freshly laid ATV tracks in the snow.
Turning up the steep hill to start the Windmill Rd ascent the ATV track continued but quickly deteriorated into 2-3 inches of loose unconsolidated powder. I caught up with Chris as we trudged uphill and shortly thereafter found Marty Wacker power-hiking. Marty had taken the lead early in the race so I checked to make sure he didn’t need any help. He insisted he was fine so I shuffled on by, though later I found out that he didn’t bring any food and was on his way to an award winning bonk.
I managed to run every step of the final climb back to the trailhead across the snowy slickrock and was feeling fresh as I came into the parking lot in 3:22 for my first 30K loop (5th OA in the 30K). My shirt, hat, socks and shoes were soaked with sweat and melting snow so I quickly changed into a fresh set, swapped shoes and vests, washed some babyfood down with a shot of Nuun and headed out for lap two.
Running the loop again in the reverse direction I got to see the other runners that were still braving the snow and ice and we exchanged encouragement and high fives. Once back on Windmill Rd I was alone again and I tried to make hay while the sun was shining but the loose snow kept my pace hovering around 9 min/miles. Back at the river I spent nearly a mile herding cows up the road while they pooped as they ran causing me to dry heave a bit as I dodged their turdstools. Free of the cows I reached the final 7 mile climb, and was surprised to find that as long as the snow conditions were firm I could still run and make better time than power-hiking. I did some calculations and determined I would certainly miss the CR (no surprise there), but was also certain I would make it back before sunset. I added some gels to my regimen of Honey Stinger chews, turned up the tunes and cranked up the never ending hill as the fading light illuminated the snow dusted cliffs and knolls. It was a gorgeous day out on the trail and I stopped more than usual to take photos along the way. With about 2 miles to go I came to a creek crossing that had been frozen in the morning and could now be heard flowing under the thin cover of ice. I considered finding a dry crossing, but with already damp feet just broke through the ice and ran through the shin deep ice water – giving me greater incentive to run every step to the finish. When I crested the final hill and heard the crew cheering back at the fire I picked up my pace and finished strong coming in just over seven and a half hours. I popped into a chair by the fire, high-fived the crew that was still hanging out and got a Coconut Almond Pro bar and Pozole in me. When I was mostly human again Kevin awarded me my official plastic and velcro-strapped golden medallion and a sweet repurposed Soviet Bloc Jersey for taking the 60K win (field of one) and becoming the third official finisher of the 60K to date.
Bangs Canyon and the West Slope running community showed how great this place is again in 2016 and I’m sure I will be back in 2017. Thanks to Kevin for marking the course and for putting on such a great event, for everyone that came out and that brought food, drink and firewood and to Pearl Izumi, Honey Stinger and Nuun for their support this season. Time to recover and then get some solid training in for Antelope Canyon 50 in February (all this snow running should transfer nicely to the sand).
Pearl Izumi Ultra Tights, Pearl Izumi Pro Singlet, Pearl Izumi Thermal Lite Gloves and Long Wool socks, Pearl Izumi Trail N2 V2 and Road N3 shoes
Smith Approach sunglasses
Ultra Adventures Trucker Hat
CEP Compression socks post-race
Favorite Song of the Race: Chrisitine and the Queens – Tilted