I recently ran the North Fork 50K in Pine, Colorado which included 33 miles across beautiful trail coupled with ~3,800 feet of elevation gain. This was my first trail race and am still amazed at how organized it was. Now that may sound weird to start the article with how well organized the event was but my experience with Spartan Ultras just simply have not been the same. This isn’t to say that “I hate Spartan Ultras” but I am opening my eyes to new options where the focus is on performance versus suffering. We’ll cover more about this later but let’s dive into the race itself.
This race was put together by the Bear Chase Race Series and this was one of their four races of the year (2022). I didn’t know what to expect as I’m only familiar with Spartan and Hyrox events but man did this company kill it. Multiple email notifications around expectations, location, aid stations, and course description really helped me get my mind right for this event. I was going at this alone as I wanted to put myself out there with something new. On race day, we couldn’t have asked for better weather as it was roughly 45 degrees at 6:30 AM and I believe we got to a high of 70 degrees or something like that. Clouds came through during the day which helped block the sun from beating us up. I brought my GoPro with and you can see the footage in my race breakdown here. Running through the mountains of Pine brought epic views of vibrant green covered peaks to snow capped 14ers. In a sense, the race was almost therapeutic being out in nature during perfect conditions.
The reason why I signed up for this race was because I needed a redemption from my ultra OCR attempt over in Montana back in May. I made it 18 miles with 4,500 feet of elevation gain then called it a day. The rain was something I wasn’t prepared for and made it close to impossible for me to complete many obstacles. I’ve gotten to a point in my fitness journey or whatever you want to call it to know when to dissolve the ego. My focus has shifted from “I have to do this” to “Let’s see what our true potential is.” I eluted to this earlier but my focus has shifted from mental suffering to true performance testing so I wanted to see how I would perform in an ultra endurance event without obstacles. I came into the race with an achy achilles so started off slow and let my body tell me when to throttle up or down. I ended up finishing in 7 hours and 34 minutes which I was happy with. Full disclosure, I was just happy to finish as my confidence was diminished still from Montana plus the achilles didn’t help. What did help were the aid stations…
I’ve never done a race where they had REAL aid stations. They were mentioned in the email notifications but I ignored them as I was so used to a picnic table with water jugs (and sometimes a volunteer). I got to the first one at mile 13 and they had watermelon, oranges, pickle juice, water, ice, you name it. At that time, I was getting hot some the sun and told myself that this is where it’s going to start getting tough but that aid station revived me. A volunteer scooped ice and poured it into my camelbak so everything was cold when I drank it. No more warm electrolytes? Yes please! I also took a few shots of pickle juice to help with my calf that was tightening up and it was a game changer. I was told that there was an aid station every 5 miles after that. MIND BLOWN. “What have I been doing this whole time?” kept going through my head. I get it, different companies provide different experiences and this was an amazing experience. Each aid station provided the same nutrition and hydration options so I got into a rhythm of taking a shot of pickle juice, eat a couple pieces of watermelon, then take another shot of pickle juice and go. It was great.
This is definitely one race I’ll do again but I’m leaning towards giving the 50 miler a try next year. With the aid stations and beautiful scenery you’re running through it’s hard to not want to give it another go. I could still be hyped as the race was just a couple of days ago but I can see running 50K or 50 mile trails being my thing for running then doing half marathons (beast) for my OCR side. Too soon to tell but there’s definitely something to doing a race that’s well organized with real aid stations. It truly does make a difference.
What’s next? I’m headed to Utah next month for the Spartan Beast then two weeks later I’ll be doing the Pikes Peak Ultra in Colorado Springs.