Thursday, November 21, 2013

Harsh 10K - North

Extreme running.  In my opinion there is nothing better than extreme running.  Extreme running can be a variety of things ranges from simple trail running to all-out off trail adventures.  Whatever it is though, it is HARD.  If your heart rate isn't in zone 4 and 5 for at least part of your run - you cannot call your run an extreme run.

There are extremes to extreme running that are just plain fucking crazy.  Take for instance, The Barkley Marathons.  This is a 100 mile race in the woods of Tennessee that consists of a 20 mile loop run five times alternating directions each time. The race has a 60 hour cut-off time which may seem generous until you hear about the course.  The course itself really isn't a course at all.  It is a cross-country trek during which you must find a series of books from which you rip out the page corresponding your race number.  This is to prove you actually did the course.  The Barkley Marathons has almost 60,000 feet of climbing which is more that any other endurance race in the world.  Here is the kicker - only 14 people out of around 1,000 who have started the race has ever finished.  This is only 1 finisher every two years since The Barkley Marathons started in 1986.  Here is a flyover of where the race takes place - good luck seeing the trail.


Okay - The Barkley Marathons is extreme but there are many other types of running that can be considered extreme running.  These include 24 hour - 200 mile team relay races, Hash House Harriers events, trail endurance races, and just plain old fun runs.  I promise to write blogs about relay races and the hash in the future since these events helped drive my passion for extreme running.  But I wanted to start from the beginning talking about my career in extreme running and end with a new event called the Harsh 10K - North.

I started extreme running as a kid racing through the woods as fast as I could.  Nothing was a barrier - logs, briar patches, creeks, and rocks were just obstacles to jump, duck, splash, or push through.  This was just pure fun at its all time best.  No cares - I just ran through the woods clearing the obstacles as they attempted to slow me down.

Finishing a leg of the Colorado Relay
Next came the boy scouts.  Whenever we went camping somewhere, my buddies and I would find the steepest hill around and climb to the top.  We then would race to the bottom but with a catch.  We had to find, climb, and bring down as many dead trees as we could before we reached the bottom.  We were maniacs because the faster you came down the hill the higher you could jump up to grab the dead tree increasing the odds it came down on the first try.  At the bottom we would compare, exaggerate, and argue about out successes coming down the hill.  What did we do next?  Hiked back up the hill and repeated the adventure.

I then took a long hiatus from extreme running - girls, soccer, girls, school, girls, and girls took me away from my extreme running passion.  I found it again in college and it has never left me since.  In college, I joined the hash.  No - not a hash smoking group but the Hash House Harriers or drinkers with a running problem.  The hash would set a trail through the woods to a stash of beer using flour.  Hashing became a part of my life even after college which even included me founding and serving as Grand Master of the Hog Mountain Hash House Harriers in Georgia. I am proud to say that even today after I have been gone from Georgia 6 years, the HMHHH is still running extreme trails through the deepest shiggy and beaver ponds in the Atlanta area.  The HMHHH was famous for running through beaver ponds so much we earned the motto - "our beavers are always wet!".
Hog Mountain where Beavers are ALWAYS Wet! The best and deepest shiggy in the area that prides themselves on trails that are always dog friendly but never stroller friendly. You'll get wet and best of all drink your down down with the Hogs.

After leaving Georgia and the HMHHH behind, extreme running took a new direction for me.  I began to foster my love of trail running.  I often have lost my way and quit running for months or even a year at a time but what always brings me back is a good trail run.  I am BLESSED to have excellent trails right in my backyard but also have some serious trails just a few miles away in the foothills and even more extreme trails in the Rocky Mountains.  No matter what my mood, I can find solace and comfort during a long trail run.  No matter what my pace or fitness level, a good trail offers extreme running conditions that will test my legs and heart.

View from the high point of the Harsh 10K - North
This brings me to the Harsh 10K - North.  First off you should know that I name all my running routes according to their personalities.  This makes it easy for me to remember what the route is and where is goes.  So the Harsh 10K - North got its name just as it sounds:  6.2 very hard miles north of where I live.  The majority of this run occurs in the North Open Space in Louisville, CO.  It starts at my house and ends on a trail just around the corner.  The 6.2 miles between these two points will KICK YOUR ASS.  The run comprises of mostly single track trails that go up and down the northern ridge of Davidson Mesa.  Just brutal in places.  There are also bridges to cross, fences to jump, prairie dog mounds to avoid, rocks to trip on, and steep, steep slopes to climb up and down.  Extreme running at its finest right in my backyard.
Runner's ladder on the Harsh 10K - North trail 
Bridge and Prairie Dog Hill #2 on the Harsh 10K - North trail
Now some of you may be saying that you have harder trails that you run every day but are they literally out your front door?  Yes - I agree that I can head to the mountains and attempt to injure myself on the Mesa Trail as I do once a year on my friend Trevor's birthday just to feel alive.  I can also head to any trail in the Rocky Mountains for a high altitude extreme adventure.  But these runs and any other extreme run adventures involve driving and much more preparation than putting on my shoes and heading out the door for an incredibly challenging Harsh 10K.

South Boulder Homestretch Harsh 10K - North
Harsh 10K - North Finish Line

I ran the Harsh 10K yesterday and began thinking about how much I loved the course.  This is great but I just wasn't satisfied because I couldn't share this fun and challenging course with others.  Sure - there are lots of people who walk and run the trails in the North Open Space but have any of them put together a 10K course as challenging as the Harsh 10K.  Maybe they have and chances are I will probably never know.  Well tonight I went for a night run to clear my mind in the10 degree weather and snow from today.  Even though we had roughly 3-4 inches of new snow I could still see the single tracks of the North Open Space.  I quickly found myself running the easy sections of the Harsh 10K before angling off to come home with just a 4 mile run.  An idea grew in my head during this run that cannot be ignored.  Why not make a race out of the Harsh 10K - North route?

Harsh 10K - North Route
A race on a trail such as the Harsh 10K - North route would be an incredible challenge.  As we all know every runner has their own abilities and pace.  This is especially true when it comes to single track trail running.  A mass start for racing the Harsh 10K would leave no doubt as to who the winner is going to be within the first 1/2 mile.  This is no fun for anyone.  But what if we used a non-traditional start that would increase the competition and pressure on all runners - this would even the playing field and make the Harsh 10K - North a SERIOUS lung busting and leg crushing event.
Harsh 10K - North Run Profile
Cameron - what are you talking about?  A non-traditional start?  What does that even mean?  Well, I will tell you my idea and when I am going to test it out.  In most large races, runners are seeded based on their respective running paces.  In order to be seeded at the front of the race you have to submit a certified time from a race of similar distance.  This ensures that you are with runners of similar ability at the start of the race.  While this approach may work well at major running events, the Harsh 10K - North is really not designed for seeding since is really is just a backyard extreme trail fun run.

So during my run tonight, I brainstormed a way to make a real extreme race out of the Harsh 10K - North and I came up with a brilliant idea that has been used before during equalizer challenges.  A reverse-seeded time trial start!  What this means is that the slowest runners start first and the fastest runners start last.  All the other runners start at a pre-determined time interval in-between the fast and slow runners based on their running ability.  If this system works (and it should work), the staggered time trial start will create a collision at the finish line with a mad dash consisting of the slow, fast, and middle pace runners.  A reverse-seeded race isn't judged on time but about who crosses the finish line first.  Talk about an exciting race that increases pressure on all runners to go all out for the glory of finishing first.  Even a walker could win the race if we handicap the fastest runners with the correct time.
A better view of the Prairie Dog Hill #2 climb
So when will the first Harsh 10K - North extreme race occur?  I have decided that the first race will occur on January 1, 2014 at noon.  What a perfect way to start off the new year - racing with friends on a very challenging 10K course in our backyard.  Of course we will have a party afterwards to celebrate all the finishers and compare, exaggerate, and argue about the results, who falsified their start time, and when we passed each other on the course.

I also decided that there should be two versions of this race - a winter and a summer race.  This will allow runners to test their will in potentially extreme cold and hot weather.  The summer version will occur sometime in July or maybe August so it is guaranteed to be hot.

Sometimes the Harsh 10K - North can be flooded
How do you enter the Harsh 10K - North?  Well, all  you have to do is show up to the race start with a previous and recent 5K or 10K result to assist us in seeding your start time.  Simple!  No fees, no t-shirts, just running.

How do runners find out about the Harsh 10K - North?  I have started a Facebook page for the race which will allow us an avenue to find and recruit runners.  I am also going to have to start running with the meet-up group here in Louisville that I discussed in my blog Southern Fried Chicken.  This is going to push me out of my comfort zone and meet people.  I will also have to develop flyers to hand out at the schools, gym, and any other place I can find.  Even if I can only get 2 or 3 new runners to try the Harsh 10K - North on January 1, 2014 - my quest to share this extreme running adventure will be a success.

I am going to part with this blog with a video I found on youtube that really captures the feel and energy of extreme running.  I hope you will watch it and get excited about your next run and how you can make it extreme.

No comments:

Post a Comment