Fighting the Good Fight

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough couple of weeks for me.  Work is busy busy busy (read in: stressful) and I have some personal shenanigans at play.  So, Saturday’s Brain Booster 5K was the perfect opportunity to get out on a beautiful day and do what I love for those that I love.

I ran this race last year, which is set at the U.S. Air Force Academy base just north of Colorado Springs.  It’s a juxtaposed race: breathtaking scenery and incredible views on a grueling 5K course with steep hills and sandy trail terrain.  In other words, definitely my cup of tea.

I was initially drawn to this race because of its main cause – it supports brain tumor research, which is very near and dear to my heart.  The race began six years ago after the death of 14-year old Rachael who was fighting brain cancer.  She started the Rachael’s Ribbons of Hope Foundation throughout her battle and the foundation lives on to commemorate her spirit as well as fight the good fight.

Not only did my Dad have a debilitating brain tumor removed in 2004, but my best friend’s cousin, Marissa, passed away at the ripe age of 18 of brain cancer.  I revere those that have combated brain tumors, their family and friends affected by the disease, and will do all that I can to keep them in my heart and head.

Heather let me borrow Marissa's wings for the day!

Heather let me borrow Marissa’s wings for the day!

I didn’t really have any goals toeing the race on Saturday morning.  With as challenging as the course is, my main thought was to at least get a course PR.

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

I set off at a sub-7:00/mile pace, but I knew that wouldn’t last since there are numerous ascents as well as a nasty section of sandy trail (I’ll get to that later).  I figured I’d race the sections I could and fight the rest.  There’s a nasty hill within the first half mile (I’m guessing a 10% grade for about 800 yards) and two other ladies and myself were in a close pack together.

The two other women set a great pace after the hill, and while I kept them in my sights for the rest of the race, I never caught them.  I took a peek behind me at the two mile turn and saw that there weren’t any other female competitors in sight (let alone anyone), which put me at ease because mile two is NASTY.  The last mile is on this sandy trail that seriously tries to eat your feet.  With lungs and legs burning I was more than happy to get back on asphalt at mile three and finish with a seven second course PR.

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

Photo: Tim Bergsten, Pikes Peak Sports

I ended up finishing 3rd female, 10th overall, 1st in my age group.  Not too shabby – I really just enjoyed the race, the views and the experience.  I’ll always come back to this race.

After the race I headed up I-25 and decided to take a lap around the Greenland Open Space trails.  This is the course for Colorado Runner’s Greenland Trail Races, which consist of a 50K, 25K and 8 mile.  The trails at Greenland are fantastic, and were in great early Spring shape with a couple of soft spots, but mostly firm terrain.  I took the race course route loop, which is about 8.5 miles, and enjoyed the exposed views of Larkspur and Colorado Springs.

Looking East, I think!

Looking East, I think!

Incredible views

Incredible views

Look at those clouds!

Look at those clouds!

Trio of horses on the trail

Trio of horses on the trail

Can you see Pikes Peak?!

Pikes Peak in the distance, playing with the clouds

Trailhead - such a cool spot!

Trailhead – such a cool spot!

Speedy single track

Speedy single track

All and all, a great escape and wonderful day.  Happy to be healthy and injury-free and get back on the trails as they thaw out from the snow.

Up next: a couple of races in Minny over the 4/27 weekend when I’m back in town for my cousin’s wedding.  Hoping the sea level air is good to me and I can pull out a race PR.

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