Monday, October 4, 2010

The Bacon Strip Races (10 Mile/4 Mile)

The 2010 Bacon Strip Races were held on October 2nd, including both a 4 mile and 10 mile race. The 10 mile race was a benefit for “Beyond the Mirror Studio” Eating disorder awareness and prevention outreach programs, while the 4 mile race was a benefit for the Poudre School District Math Program.

Runner Disposition
This was my longest run since the Georgetown to Idaho Springs half Marathon, where I had suffered a knee injury that has taken some time to recover from. I wasn't sure I was quite ready for this race, although my recent runs, a PR in a 5K race, and good speed and threshold workouts suggested I would be ok. Still, in the days approaching the race, 10 miles seemed like an awfully long way to run! But, that's exactly what I signed up to do, so I was determined to give it my best show.

The 4 and 10 mile Bacon Strip courses are almost entirely on rural dirt roads, although about a quarter mile of each is on fairly recently paved road. The route is square, and there was a remark by one runner afterward that everytime you turn a corner, there was just another hill, called to mind an Escher staircase. and I realized this was exactly what the course seems like when you're running it!

For the 10 mile course, the first two miles of dirt road on the course had been recently oiled, so they were nicely packed and relatively easy to run on. Those first two miles were followed by 6.75 miles of hilly road with a layer of loose dirt on top that made it difficult to find traction. Then, there was a quarter mile of very welcome, smoothly paved road before the route turned again climbed again for a quarter mile, then started a long downhill leading to the finish on dirt again. The surrounding prairie/rangeland was scenic, although this year the usual awesome view of the mountains was obscured clouds and fog.

Both races started together, at 9:00am. The morning was cloudy, a little foggy, and cool (about 48-50 degrees F). There was a slight breeze from the South.

The Race
The start: I started out easier than usual, knowing that I would be running for well over an hour, but I was still surprised to see that my pace was dipping below 7:00 during the first mile. This led me to hold back just a little to try and conserve my energy.

First half: The first half of the course was quite hilly, and climbed a net 200 feet in over rolling terrain, before dropping steadily to the 5 mile mark, where the route turned south.  I Had slowed quite a bit on the steeper/longer uphill climbs in the first half of the race, but I was still meeting my initial goal of averaging under 8:00 pace.

Second half: The next four miles continued over rolling terrain, and I was able to maintain a strong average pace, particularly once I stepped onto the quarter mile of smoothly paved road leading to the 9 mile point in the race, where the route turned back toward the start/finish climbed gradually over a quarter mile, then dropped pretty steadily downhill toward the finish. 

The finish: I was able to make up a lot of time on the downhill leading to the final short uphill stretch at the finish, and maintained that momentum through the finish, where the timer called out 1:16:34 as I crossed the line, much to my surprise. This turned out to be good enough for second place in the male 40-44 division, but it turned out there were only two of us in that division! I'll still take it, though.

This race is "old school" and this is partly by tradition, I think. Only water is served at the aid stations at the 4 mile and 8 mile points in the 10 mile race, or just the 2 mile point in the 4 mile race. Portable toilets are available only at the start/finish area, so if you have to go along the way, you would have to just hold it in, or discretely veer off into the tall grass for some privacy. There is no chip timing, or special timing computer. The times are read off by the timekeeper at the finish line, and recorded by someone else, then correlated with the bib tags to make sure nobody is missed. If you are a stickler for super precision, this may not make you feel very comfortable, but you'll just have to suck it up and tell yourself this race is "old school." Personally, I really enjoyed the old school feel. It made for a fun and low-key event.  

Plus, as you would expect for a raced called "Bacon Strip," bacon was served at the finish, as was coffee and water, although it was so cool, the coffee was gone more quickly than anticipated, I think.

I'll definitely be participating in this race again in the future, and may even include a couple of laps of the bacon strip 10 mile course (a "double bacon") in my training when I get around to marathon training. It's a killer course. Some local runners have said that if you can run the bacon strip you are ready for any half marathon, and if you can run a double-bacon, you're ready for any marathon. There is a little hyperbole in this, but after running the 10 mile race, I'm a believer. 

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