99 – The Breck Crest Half Marathon
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On today’s show, Dr. Dave and his wife Yoko are talking about the Breck Crest Half Marathon. If you are a runner, you won’t want to miss today’s show!
How We Got Involved
A few months ago, Yoko approached me and asked if I would like to run a half marathon. Since we normally run marathons, I figured that it would be easy and I would have no problem. When she told me it would be in Breckenridge, Colorado, I knew there would be some mountain elevations but I figured it would be no problem so I said yeah, let’s do it!
Why We Got Involved & Why We Are Talking About It to YOU
We love Breckenridge and frequently ski there. A lot of our Breckenridge friends have always encouraged us to come back when the weather is warmer. And so two years ago or so, we did. And it was beautiful! So this race was a great reason to visit again during the summer months.
The town of Breckenridge itself sits 9600 feet above seal level which is almost two miles. When you start ascending the mountains in Breckenridge, obviously it’s even higher. I believe the highest peak in Breckenridge is about 13,000 feet or so. Running on a mountain trail is completely different than training at home or on flat pavement. Locally, at home, we trained at a place called Oregon Ridge Nature Center which actually has some really nice trails with a lot of ups and downs but it is still so much different.
We are talking about this marathon today because, for a long time now, I have been recommending cross training. Doing many different things. We really believe in walking. Walking is great exercise. Running is also great exercise. But when you take your walking or running to a trail, it is a whole different ball game.
The day of the race we started at 7:30am. We quickly noticed that almost all of the other runner were locals of the area which means that they are all acclimated to the altitude and we were not. We got in about a week in advance to prepare for the race and did a decent amount of hiking on some pretty high mountains to get acclimated. See a photo from one of our “easy” hikes below.
When the starting gun went off, we ran a little through the street and directly to the Burro Trail. At this point, I realized that this race was not going to be simple because many of the locals were already well ahead of us. The race was about 13.4 miles whereas a typical half marathon is usually about 13.1 miles. The first half of the race, or about 6.5 miles were all on uphill trails. We did a combination of running and walking up the trails at first.
Dr. Dave: “What difference did you find between walking/running on a trail versus walking/running on the street? What did you have to do differently”
Yoko: “Well, we have to watch our steps because on paved roads you can look back and forth and be ok. But actually I fell [on the trail].”
Dr. Dave: “So we really have to watch our step. There are not only stones, rocks, tree branches, and uneven terrain. It goes from very wide to very narrow where there is basically only a thin single track. All kinds of branches can hit you. There are a million obstacles!”
Yoko: “I watch steps. I am flexible and kinda good at stone hopping over streams but it was a race I probably pushed more than I should have. I almost fell a few times. Something was telling me I needed to slow down a bit. I was lucky because I didn’t get any major injuries.”
The interesting thing is that going up for the first 6.5 miles, I am ok with admitting that I walked. I can walk at a really fast pace. And I can save energy by walking the first half.
The first leg of the Burro Trail had a decent uphill. There were a lot of people but at times it thinned out. Once we made the left, the trail got a little easier. Since the race is in the mountains we had to carry a lot of nutrition with us because the aid stations are pretty far apart. I had a Camelbak backpack for water and also carried electrolyte tablets. I use Endurolytes by Hammer Nutrition and Yoko uses electrolyte tablets by Nuun. You lose a lot of electrolytes during a marathon especially in places like the mountains. Since it’s not as humid you do not sweat nearly as much and you don’t realize how much your body is losing. I also bring food as well. 13.5 miles takes a lot out of you and you have to be eating.
Dr. Dave: “Yoko, share some of the things you brought with you to snack on.”
Yoko: “I brought baby food.”
Dr. Dave: “This is the coolest thing. We usually buy Earth’s Best or other organic baby food. There are basically no additives but it has a good combination of fruits and vegetables in an easy to use pouch. There are tons of different flavors. What else did you bring Yoko?”
Yoko: “I brought…”
Dr. Dave: “Oh, it’s a gel. It costs about $1.50 each at a place like REI or another outdoor running store. Yoko and I are plant based, we are vegan. This is vegan but we also try to eat whole foods as much as possible. Baby food is a whole food. It’s basically fruits and vegetables pureed together. Nothing added to this. It’s really really healthy. We are trying to get away from the gels. What else did you bring there?”
Yoko: “Well it’s not vegan but they give these out at the race. This is actually a very good one if you are not vegan.”
Dr. Dave: “For those not watching on video, this is a honey stinger gel. It is an organic energy gel made mostly from honey. I personally, as a vegan, would not consume this. But if you are not vegan, then this is ok for you. I also made two almond butter and jelly sandwiches on ciabatta bread. I like ciabatta bread because it maintains it’s shape and doesn’t get squished in a backpack. I also brought some dates and mixed nuts and other stuff. Needless to say we bring a lot a food with us.”
We get past the first aid station, which was 4.5 miles uphill, although not extremely horrible. It was a gradual steady incline. After we make a sharp right at about the 5 mile point. At which point we were getting close to the timber line. At some point, that high in the mountains, vegetation will no longer grow. So we had the beautiful expansive view. But way out in the distance I saw this hill that went up, up, up and I saw a whole line of runners. My first thought was there must be another race going on that day because they were way out there. It looked so far away. This trail went up very steep up a mountain side almost to the point where we were at the summit of the mountain. You can see all the snow that’s still there from last winter. I wasn’t really worried about the time. I was going to get up that hill. It was tough as hell. People around me were struggling. By the way, there was a guy that was 76 years old that passed me on that hill. We finally made it up the hill and flattened out at the summit of the mountain. About a quarter of a mile later we made it to aid station number two. At that point we had gone up 12, 533 feet! That’s pretty high. higher than Mt. Fuji!!
The station was so welcoming. They had water available, electrolyte drinks, some of the honey stinger gel (that I would not take). They had some really great volunteers. We hung around and talked to them for a minute or two then we took off.
The rest of the race was downhill. Downhill is not necessarily easy either. There’s a lot of pounding. You have to be looking for the root because it is a trail through the mountain. You have to make sure you follow the signs or you will get lost. You just have to be very careful. Yoko finished the race a bit before I did. I finished too! It was an incredible experience. I am ready to do it again. It was so amazing and exhilarating.
One of my favorite parts of the race was after we had finished and everyone was standing around at the finish line, they announced that 76 year old had finished the race. He finished 15 minutes after I did. Everyone was clapping. We went up to meet him. He was a veterinarian from Lone Tree, Colorado. When I went to shake his hand, he had one of the firmest, strongest handshakes I ever felt. So there were people from all different walks of life.
If you want to do something really cool?! Join us next year, in Colorado for the Breck Crest Half Marathon. It would be such an experience to have our friends, listeners, and followers to do this with us!
I learned a lot from this race. One of the things I learned, is that when you are running a race or doing an ultra distance in the mountains on a trail it pays to walk. Don’t try to run. You will tire so quickly it will take your breath away.
Get out and do something! Try new experiences in your life!
Next episode is 100! It will be very special. It’s not too late. If you have anything to say about how I have inspired you, message me on Facebook.
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