Dane Mitchell supplied the following race report!
I made a trek down to Gunnison this past weekend for the Sagebrush 25k. I’ve been wanting to run something a little shorter than 50k and have been itching to take a road trip through the mountains. This race provided a really good excuse to explore a new area and sleep under the stars for a couple of nights, while also taking part in a quality race on some sweet trails.
The weekend weather in Gunnison was cold and windy from the time I arrived on Saturday until Sunday evening when a brief snow shower blew through the area. Temps on Monday morning (Memorial Day) were in the 30’s, but you could tell that it was going to heat up pretty quickly. The race started at around 7a.m. with competitors in both the 25 and 50k beginning together.
The course begins with an immediate climb on a dirt road that leads to singletrack, winding through rocks to the top of a plateau. The trail then levels out to a vista of the high desert surroundings and distant snowcapped mountains. It was around this early section that Tim Parr and myself began to separate from the pack and begin a long two-man race.
The trail is a lot of ups and downs and back and forths. It’s not all that technical, but it’s hard to get much momentum with all of the curves. I felt pretty good for the first 30-45 minutes, climbing and descending steadily, not affected as much as I was expecting from the Gunnison altitude. I led for a stretch of singletrack, but was mainly following Tim, who I knew was local and familiar with the trails.
As we got toward the halfway point, Tim began to pull away on the inclines. I was able to reel him back in on the downhills and flatter sections, but was definitely struggling anytime we started climbing. I’d like to attribute this to the increase in altitude and accumulated fatigue, but, regardless, all I could do was churn on the uphills and let it fly on the downs.
It was starting to get pretty toasty towards the end of the race, with the sun coming out in full force. There’s a couple of last-gasp, steep ups before the final drop towards the finish. The trail comes back through the picturesque rock gardens that you see in the beginning and then descends steeply towards the finish. I had enough juice to kick through this last section, making up some of the gap but still finishing about 30 seconds behind Tim.
Overall, it was a really good effort. The course itself is deceptively challenging and uniquely beautiful when you get the chance to look up. The rolling terrain works you in different ways than the long steady climbs here in Boulder. While the effects of the thin air didn’t allow me to access the speed/turnover that I would have wanted for a shorter race, I was able to gain good racing experience at a higher elevation. It would be a good one to revisit in coming years for comparison value.
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