2018 has been off to a pretty good start with my goal to hone in more on longer distances. For the most part, I’ve had a few good long runs every month. Like Arches Ultra 50k in Moab, a self-supported 50k on Cherry Creek Trail in the south Denver area, and Desert Rats 50k in Fruita, CO. May brought a gentler run on dirt trails at the Greenland Trail 50k and it turned out to be a pretty good day with a new PR.
Greenland Open Space Trails
Located near Larkspur, Colorado, the Greenland Open Space consists of 3,600 acres of public lands as part of Douglas County programs. The area has great views of the front range of the Rockies with views of Pikes Peak. The trails are mostly old service and ATV roads with double and single track mixed in.
While the area is adjacent to and fully accessible from I-25 on both the north and south sides, rolling hills prevent the sounds of busy traffic from being too overwhelming. There isn’t a ton of tree cover in the park, so be prepared with some sunscreen.
There are approximately 11 miles of maintained trails in the park with approximately 500 feet of elevation gain starting at 6,900′. So, while there is a little climbing, there isn’t anything that wouldn’t make it too much for a day hike.
Greenland Trail Races
Colorado Runner organizes several events throughout the year around the Denver metro. Most are entertaining races for shorter distances, but a few trail runs have been added to their calendar. The Greenland Trail Races consist of 50K, 25K, 8-mile and 4-mile events.
Everything was fairly low-key as you would expect at a trail run at an open space park. However, the 50k event did start quite a bit earlier than the shorter distances. We didn’t have any trouble parking a the trailhead that would later become a little crowded.
Greenland Trail 50k Course
The course for the Greenland Trail Races was a loop on old service roads with double and single track trails mixed in. Most of the surface is small crushed gravel with dirt. The course doesn’t have a ton of gain – one long hill in the mix is the most that you’ll find.
The 50k runners started out the gate first in the morning with 4 loops ahead of us. The 25k event runs the same course with only 2 loops. There wasn’t a ton of traffic on the course as most runners were spread out throughout the day. However, I generally had someone in sight at all times.
There are two aid stations on course – one near the start/finish and one at the far north end of the course. So on each loop, you hit each aid station twice. They weren’t heavily stocked in comparison to other trail runs but had the basic fuel, gels, water, and electrolytes.
The course is mostly exposed with rolling hills. That is what I prefer to give me something to set my sights on as a next goal to run toward. With Pikes Peak in the distance to the South and the Rocky Mountain front to the west, we were never short of good views.
My Day at Greenland Trail 50k
For the most part, I had a great day out on the trail. The weather was perfect for the start with clear skies and cool temperatures at the start line. We had a few scattered clouds come through about two hours in, and I certainly hoped they would stick around. But sure enough they burned off and things warmed up for loop 4.
I took the climbs strong and kept a somewhat consistent pace throughout the race with a good climb for each loop. Even at 7,300+ feet elevation, it wasn’t a bad day. Then on the early part of loop 4, I realized just how far ahead of my goal pace I was. My PR from January’s 50k was 6:12 and I had set out this day to get a 5:30. I was WELL ahead of that with a pace under 10 minutes.
So at mile 24, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t out to race or hurt myself – I have bigger goals this year and this month. So I pulled back the reins and reminded myself to enjoy the day. That last loop I took time to smile, encourage others who were out there with me and took an extra minute at the aid station. See it on Strava.
Finishing at the Greenland Trail 50k
As I crested the final hill to the finish line, we had a long, winding single track that made for a fast finish. Even after taking it easy for the last half of the final loop, I figured I could still beat my goal going into the day of 5:30.
I ended up with a 5:19:43 official finish time and absolutely crushed my beer at the finish. It was much-needed – even if it was a Miller Lite! I love my Nathan Hydration pack and a fueling strategy based on using Tailwind Nutrition with a few Gu energy gels mixed in for a boost every few hours seems to be working well for me.
Looking back, it would have been good to finish that last lap strong to really get a solid PR for my effort. But I don’t regret recognizing the need to pull back the reins and stick to the plan. I still ended up placing 3rd in my age group and really enjoyed the day, finishing with a smile. I love the 50k distance!
I definitely see myself going back to the Greenland Trail 50k next year if my work schedule allows. I want to see what I can do to run a complete race on the course at my best effort. When I don’t have so much on the calendar.
For the rest of May, I continued to knock off races with PRs at different distances. And I bought a house. Not an easy month, but definitely one I can look back on with accomplishment!
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