Monday, June 22, 2015

"If you ain't first.. you're last!" Southpark Trail Marathon and Half Race Report

First off... I just need to say WOW!  I ran the inaugural South Park Marathon & Half on Sunday June 14th... the kickoff race for the season from Human Potential Running Series (HPRS).  Yes, I am a proud ambassador for HPRS, but this first year race reconfirmed to me why I am so proud to represent a great series and community!  The course was awesome, the views amazing, and only outdone by the tremendous support at the aid stations, and the hard work of Race Director Sherpa John Lacroix and crew.

So... how did I fare in the race?  Well.. let's say I wasn't first.... so I must have been...  ayup!

BUT...  my first official DFL didn't crush me, make me mad, or make me not want to run again... nope...   first of all, I gave it all I had, like I always do, and last or not, I came in an hour ahead of cutoff and that is fine by me!  However, what makes HPRS so awesome is they recognize the struggles we all put into a race, and my DFL came with a little ray of sunshine in the form of the balance of the moonshine from the main aid station (thanks all for not drinking so much!), and a certificate to Runners Roost to find some gear or fuel to make me faster next time!   Also, DFL's usually get a free entry to a future HPRS race (provided you paid full entry to the race you DFL'd), so you have no excuse not to get back on the horse!

Off we go!! 

But.. I am digressing from a full race report by telling you the end of the story first... sorry, couldn't help it :-).  However, let me share some shots from the race and some insights....   again, another spoiler... I WILL be back to run this one again next year!

The ONLY feedback for next year that I had was to add another porta-pottie or two at the start...  waited 40 minutes to evacuate my system, but fortunately the race start was moved out to adjust for that delay, as well as having to re-route the course on the fly because the section we were going to cross the river on washed away!  But the re-route worked great.. and from my perspective the run operated flawlessly! 

So.. the race started in historic South Park and we ran a little through town, but within a mile we were on dirt roads through wooded neighborhoods....  about 4.5 miles in we hit the first water only aid station.... good timing for a quick top up, and not long after we left the roads for some fun muddy trail pictured above...  We had about a mile of this really slick, sloppy mud... it didn't take long for me to figure out that if dry land wasn't available, then it was best to go up stream in the water, trying to hit all the rocks.. .other wise it was a sticky, slippery mess!   But this kind of stuff makes trail running fun...

Photo courtesy of David Bennett
The mud gave way to a nice rocky trail.... and the first 7.5 miles of the race was a gradual and steady uphill climb...   This lead to a nice 1 mile downhill into the Horseshoe aid station, which was the turn around for the folks running the Half.  Speaking of which, it was really great to be able to run to that aid station with my friend Lorraine (above) from Palm Desert, CA.  She had won a race entry in my New Years giveaway, so it was great to finally get to run with her! It made that first 8.5 miles go by quickly...

After that aid station, and partaking in some Nutter Butter's, Coke, fruit, and bacon... yes, that's right, BACON... It was time to start making the long climb...     And did I mention how incredibly well stocked HPRS aid stations are? Talk about spoiled... so many choices of wonderfully terrible snacks that I justify because I know I'll be pushing myself up that mountain off in the distance :-)

The next 4 miles or so were on long straightish forest service roads that were a relentless grind up...  I initially tried running/walking, but realized I would be trashed before the steep steep climb and lack of O2...  so I shifted to a power walk... I could see folks ahead of me running, and they weren't pulling away, so I kept at it...   for me 15-16 min per mile walking pace up that grind was the most efficient...

Eventually I hit the last aid station before the last climb around mile 12 or so.   From here the climb got much steeper, with switch backs, snow fields, and snow drifts that the amazing race director Sherpa John and crew had shoveled channels through to keep us from post holing up to our waist!  I also got to see all the smiling faces of the folks coming back down, so I knew I was in for a treat if I could just keep climbing.. and at this point, above 12K ft... it got just a little tougher...    But I was rewarded by this great view looking back towards my Nutter Butter pic from the other direction.. awesome!

This was fun.. had to tiptoe across in order not to break through!
The turn around!!
Finally reached the turn around point around mile 13.8.... and the sun came out!  Up until that point it had been pleasantly overcast, which was perfect for me...   If the sun had been beating down the whole time it would have been rough!  But I appreciated the sun popping out for the 10 minutes while I was getting to and leaving the turn around.... sure felt good to head downhill!!

From here it was just a matter of retracing my steps, and hopefully picking up the pace now that I was headed down... a little tougher at the top as I had to go slow in spots... but I wanted to get moving because it sure looked like a good storm was coming... and I would prefer to get down lower!

I pushed my self on the down, but that can be almost as tiring as climbing and my quads felt it... but, I did managed to catch up to a guy just before hitting the Horseshoe aid station at mile 19...  He had been sick, and was struggling....  but.. in my head I was thinking.. hey... I won't be last!  But alas, he decided to drop at that point, thereby helping me to secure my award winning position :-)

So, I pressed on... for what seemed like a lot longer distance than when I ran out that way... probably because I was all by my lonesome... but that's ok...   I train that way, so I'm used to running solo.  But, it sure felt good to see my family and friends as I approached the finish!

And there is nothing better than running it in with my boys!!

And DONE....    phew, 6 hour and 59 minutes later (the cutoff was 8 hours), I came across the line to be greeted by Sherpa John's smiling face and a jug of Moonshine... YES.

So there you have it.....   and, yes, as Ricky Bobby eventually learned... if you aren't first you aren't necessarily last... you can be 2nd, 3rd.. or even 4th!  But I'm happy with my finish, and I loved this race... and it is what you can expect from each and every HPRS race this season, so come run one with me!!!

Also, check out this incredible video of the race from HPRS and Sherpa John below... it really does a great job of capturing the day!

Happy trails!



  1. that arrow in the snow looks like it's written in blood :)>

    great job Jeff. tough tough course!

  2. Those are some great pictures! I am sorry to have missed this one, it looks like it was a good time.

    1. Thanks! Hopefully we can run this one together next year!

  3. Great race report, and nice photos!


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