Race: Elk Meadow Winter Trail Race
Location: Evergreen, Colorado
Skirt Sports Go the Distance Tight (Stargaze print)
Old Navy Go Dry Funnelneck shirt
Brooks LSD Thermal Vest
Brooks Cascadia Trail shoes
Skirt Sports Technical Trucker
Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest
It has been almost 3 months since my last trail race, and I’ve really missed it! After my 50-miler, I needed a break. I feel like I’ve finally recovered, and it is nice to feel like I’m back in the groove. 🙂
The Elk Meadow Winter Trail Race is produced by the same group that does the Fear The Deer Half Marathon. I had no previous experience with them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The communication leading up to the race was great, including detailed trail conditions and lots of reminders. A couple of details changed in the weeks/months leading up to the race. They initially advertised a beanie, but instead decided to give out a race shirt. The start time also changed. I didn’t mind the changes, although I do love a good beanie, since I have a million race shirts. 😉
Packet pickup was smooth and easy. It was hosted at Boone Mountain Sports, and they offered a generous discount to race-goers. The pre-race emails mentioned that the first 15 full cars could get premium parking spaces, so we all crammed into Joy’s SUV and made sure to arrive nice and early.
The weather was clear and cool. My phone said it was 15 degrees (with a “feels like” temp of 5) when we started. Luckily this race starts with an uphill climb, so that helps you to warm up quickly. 😉
When it was time for the race to start, we were given a few brief instructions. There were no aid stations on the course, but there were photographers along the way. They explained that the first 3 miles would be uphill, and that they’d be pulling you off of the course if you couldn’t finish them in 50 minutes. I’m honestly not sure how they would’ve pulled you off of the course, since the trails were open to the public as well as racers. I’m guessing that you could’ve just taken off your bib and kept going. They also mentioned that there was a 2.5 hour cutoff for finishing, but it sounded to me like it wouldn’t really be enforced if you made the 3-mile cutoff.
The race started like most trail races. It was basically single-file, and the pace was really comfortable. We had no problem getting to the 3-mile cutoff with plenty of time. The conditions, however, might’ve been tough if you weren’t used to running in snow/at altitude or didn’t have the proper gear. The trail climbs gradually over the first 3 miles, and then gets much more steep.
The course was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. The views were amazing, and it seemed extra magical with the snow everywhere. I’d run these trails before (during the Bergen Peak Half Marathon), but in reverse. It was fun to see them from a different angle and in such different conditions. I remembered the trails as being a bit rocky, but also covered in pine needles. I’d twisted my ankle pretty badly during the Bergen Peak Half, so I was extra cautious this time. The snow made it so it was very hard to tell if you were going to land on a rock or on a soft surface. Everyone in my group was wearing traction (I use Kahtoola MICROspikes), but the snow was soft enough in many areas that we didn’t need them. As always happens with spikes, we gathered some pretty impressive snowballs on the bottoms of our feet, but that’s still way better than slipping on ice.
We nearly missed several of the turns along the course. Luckily there were a few volunteers who pointed us in the right direction. It seems like they removed the signs before we reached them… or maybe we just didn’t look in the right place. Either way, we definitely weren’t the only ones who struggled. We were told that the early leaders took at least 2 wrong turns during the race (one that gave extra miles and another that shaved some off), and we ultimately took one wrong turn at the end that shortened the course. This was acknowledged in a Facebook post from the race directors, and they took full responsibility. Mistakes happen, and sometimes it is hard to know where to put signs, especially in the snow. I trust that they’ll do a better job with that the next time.
All in all, I really enjoyed this race. The short course wasn’t a deal breaker for me, and the trails were gorgeous. I would happily run this race again or run another race put on by the same people. I understand that sometimes mistakes happen, but they’ve been really responsive and open with communication, and that’s what matters the most.
For anyone interested, here’s a short video from the course 🙂
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