Sunday, August 29, 2010

Race Report: Haulin' Aspen Half Marathon

A few weeks ago, but seemingly months ago, I headed to Bend, OR with my home girl Angie for a little running and a whole lotta shopping and relaxing.  The pseudo-destination was a trail marathon put on by Fresh Air Sports, 99% on dirt trails through the high-desert manzanita brush, old growth forests, and refreshing creek beds.  The real destination was a girls-only weekend far away from reality.

Date: August 8, 2010
Time: I don't even know!  Or care!  Somewhere north of 3 hours.

Pre-race routine:
We headed over to Bend on the morning before the event (about a 2.5 hour drive), and then spent about 6 hours shopping and hanging out in downtown.  Cute boots, yummy meals, coffee stops, and tons of laughter filled our day.  In the evening we checked out beach cruiser bikes from our hotel (The Oxford, awesome place and highly recommended!), cruised around the neighborhoods, ate more yummy food, and got caught in a weird classic car show in the middle of town.  We topped off the day with a soak in the jacuzzi and indulging in reality television.  It might not sound like it, but it was the perfect day.
Race morning:
We went down to the hotel restaurant and consumed enough food for like six people.  No joke.  Clearly we weren't all that nervous about the run.  And there was no reason to be.  We had already decided that we weren't out there to race.  Or even to really run all that much.
Once at the race site, we did the typical routine of standing in porta-potty lines and trying to stay warm.  The full marathon start went off and then we mosied on over to the start line.  When the horn sounded, we sauntered on over the trail and took off at like a 15 minute mile.  Nice and easy.
The race:
Dust!  Elevation!  I was so out of breath in the first few miles that I was wondering if we should maybe switch to the 7-mile course.  I'm glad that we didn't, because it was a beautiful trail that I never would have seen otherwise.  And we had twice the time to catch up on months of back-logged girl talk.  I think we probably walked about half the course, often forgetting that we were in a race and not out on a leisurely Sunday hike.  Fun!

Too much time has gone by, so I'm having a tough time recalling all of the details.  The majority was single-track with moderate climbs and some tricky descents.  A few miles were uphill on an old fire road.  And I managed to find every single hidden rock and root on the path.  I should seriously consider investing in a mouth guard, face mask, and padding for trail running.

As is common with a trail race, the aid stations were spaced pretty far apart.  But they were well stocked and the volunteers were awesome.  The trail was very well marked, but it would be nice to have a few more mile markers along the way.  Overall, I have no real complaints.
The finish:
Sweet after party!  My limited experience with trail marathons is that they are low-key, no frills, and more about the experience of running instead of the glory of the finish line.  Almost to the point of being a let down when you're done.  Haulin' Aspen strikes a nice balance between that and the sensory overload of road races.  There was good looking food (I'm sure it tasted good too, but we weren't hungry yet), tasty beer, music, and an ice-cold creek for rinsing off in.  Since this is a point-to-point race, you need to take a shuttle back to the starting line to retrieve your car.  The shuttle vans were running regularly and we didn't have to wait at all to catch a ride.  I think they have the logistics nailed down now.
Yeah, I would do this one again.  In fact, I think we already set a date to be there again next year.  Can't wait!

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