On to the third recap of four half marathons this month: Mountain Chile Cha Cha Half Marathon in Pagosa Springs, CO - 7,200 ft elevation.
The boyfriend and I loaded the pups into the car and hit the road on Thursday after to work (22nd) to drive to Alamosa, CO. The pups were going to stay with his folks for the weekend while we enjoyed a tiny mini vacation in Pagosa. Seeing his hometown was great! The next morning we patted the dogs on the head and hopped in the car - Pagosa bound! It is an absolutely beautiful drive through the mountains, and I found several little towns that I would love to move to when I retire (or win the lottery...or actually both, don't think I can afford it without the lottery)!
We stopped at the scenic overlook by Treasure Falls and admired the view from the top. It's stunning out there.
We checked into our falsely advertised hotel, bought some wine, and spent some time at the pool and hot tub that we had all to ourselves after having a mexican dinner in town over looking the San Juan river! Run on sentences are my FAVORITE! Unlike the Mountain Chile Cha Cha Race! (See what I did there?!)
So onto the actual race.
We woke up and head to the parking lot with enough time to get ourselves together, I had time to complain and whimper about how I did NOT want to run the half, that I might see him in 45 min after I was done with the 5k, etc etc...then BOOM, we were off! Uphill almost immediately.....how fun!
I told S to charge on ahead and have a great run and I stayed in the back of the pack and settled in for an extremely long day. I had to start walking pretty early on to try to maintain some level of breathing without hyperventilating. The course goes up, up, up, then finally levels out a little bit, then you get a small downhill, then a fake me out where you get to watch the 5K runners peel off to the finish while a volunteer tells you to head back UP the switchbacks.
So up, up, up I went again...trying to find some kind of groove (I didn't) and trying to enjoy being out with nature. I think I enjoyed this run for MAYBE a mile. Maybe.
I totally misunderstood the stated elevation gain and loss, because I thought the race claimed to have a net change of 2,300ft. Turns out, that's the amount for just the elevation GAIN. Ugh.
That elevation profile does not look like what my Garmin has. If I figure out how to put that on here I will. And you will see. It was harder than it looks.
So around some later point in the race (blurry), the runners split off from the 10k finishers (I had a slight thought of just ending my race there) and head...you guess it, UP. AGAIN. Lord save me.
It was the most difficult of uphills I have encountered since Bear Mountain. I was on my way up the tiny little single track, which provides zero visibility as to if anyone is about to come barreling down from the top. That's about when all the front runners started their way down and I clung to the side of the trail for dear life for fear of plummeting to my death. At least it would have ended the race.
I have pictures somewhere. I'll have to upload them and then you can at least see the beautiful view I had from the top.
After you finally finish going uphill, it levels off briefly before you head on a pretty steadily steep downhill. Then you get to another mildly flat area, then an aid station for the turn around point. Then you get to go exactly where you just can from, so some brutally, unforgiving uphills. I about died for real. My stomach was sore from breathing so hard.
It started raining when I was up on the top of the mountain trying to pick my way back down. I feared that I would get struck by lightning and only one man was behind me in the race so I wouldn't be found right away. Not that it would matter I guess...luckily I didn't see any lightning.
I finally made it to the switchbacks from the beginning of the race, and I was finally running a bit. An older gentleman caught up to me and I was ready to just let him fly by, but he was going to have non of that. He badgered me that I couldn't let an old geezer beat me. Oh but I could. I was totally fine with that. I ran with him down the final switchbacks, and we could hear the music down at the festival. He was hauling ass. It seemed like we were running faster than my normal running speed. It took most of my remaining fibers to keep up with him.
We made it down to the final stretch and S was waiting with the camera ready. I (maybe) have never been so happy to be at the finish line. It was THE hardest half marathon I have ever run. And all I got was some chile pepper beads and socks that I probably won't wear.
And very, very sore legs.
We went to the hot springs that night and I think it really helped my body deal with everything.
So there you have it. Half marathon three of four for August.
I would recommend it. But it is not for the faint of heart.