Sheep Mountain: From DFL to ADFL (Almost DFL)
CAUTION: MOST OF THIS WAS WRITTEN SLEEP DEPRIVED AND I AM ALSO PART CAVEMAN (I.E. MY GRAMMAR IS NOT ON PAR WITH MY RUNNING) BE WARNED!
As any good story goes no kidding there I was, once again in July I ventured off the beaten path to this small town of FairPlay, Colorado to run the Sheep Mountain 50 which is a Human Potential Race Series (HPRS) event (http://humanpotentialrunning.com). The Sheep Mountain Race is arguably one of their better races and you could make a case for one of the better 50 milers. Well I have only run this one and I have run it twice but it truly is a marvel and wonder to be part of and hard to see it being replicated elsewhere. The Race Director (RD) Sherpa John Paul Lacroix is quite a thinker on and off the trail and comes up with some lavish assortments of fun for you to enjoy like vertical switchbacks. Here is how he describes sheep mountain:
"The Course starts and finishes at the Town of FairPlay
Beach. It is a lollipop-type loop consisting of 30% Roads, 48% Forest Service/ATV roads, and 22% Singletrack Trail. The course both climbs and descends approximately 9,420 feet.The Sheep Mountain 50-Mile Course is a classic HPRS Offering with no shortage of ups and downs, and ample sections for runners to make time up on."
In the first year of Sheep Mountain I finished DFL but the three of us that finished together decided we would let Jerry get the DFL prize, a bottle of liquor. This would come into play later with my run in 2016. It was my first ultra outside of any street race or trail half marathon. It was my first real challenge in running and my reality check to get me focused towards the Leadville 100. The first year of Sheep Mountain it was approximately 52 miles long with almost the same elements of 2016 (9420 feet elevation gain up and down) except for a dead drive right up round hill then dancing around the top. The weather in 2015 was perfect minus a 30 minute hail storm at the end. In all 66 people signed up for the 2015 race, 56 showed up to run it and 45 finished the race giving it a respectable 80% finish rate. However the cutoff was pushed to the right 1 hour, 16 hours total, due to the difficulty, technicality, and pure toughness of this brutal course. Looking back it seems like I suffered some of the same issues last year that I did this year. Especially with respect to my back locking up and getting sore like I was doing a hula hoop competition for 24 hours straight while balancing on a balance beam with one leg. After I sat back and looked at it I realized when you are hiking, running, and climbing all over this loose rock your core is gonna pay the price and thus your back hurts. So this year I knew it was coming just not sure when it would impact me. My biggest takeaway and the greatest thing, in my mind, from the inaugural year was the fact that it felt like the race was a small group of friends all coming together to tough it out on this hard course. The aid stations were lively, the camaraderie among the runners was unique, and the overall event feeling was a huge sense of accomplishment. It truly is what brought me back. I met some great people here including John, my two eventual pacers for Leadville 100 Becki and Steve, and so many others. So when I sat down this year and planned my running schedule this was on my must do list. From top to bottom the race is a unforgettable and rewarding experience.
My race wasn't about where I placed or how fast I went. I just wanted to put a better performance in than I did in 2015. That I think I did. I think from the start to the end I had a decent plan and tried to stick with it. When I hit a wall I knew what I needed to do to overcome it. When you watch the video you will see a lot of beautiful scenery and my highs and some lows. But what I always come back with is some whitty comment about making it happen, not quitting, pushing thru, or whatever. You inside have to believe in yourself first. If you can do that then all things are possible. I owe a lot of thanks to our Race Director Sherpa John for allowing me to become a better runner. Now who is this guy? Why have we heard so much but so little about him. Well........
Sherpa John Paul Lacroix is famous for many things besides building this awesome race. He comes from the Northeast and is a devoted Patriots fan with a flair for speaking to runners like they need to be sometimes. He is very close and personal with people and shares with them his passions that revolve around HPRS and his races. Just look at the picture above and this is the essence of Sherpa John. A tireless worker who after working to set up the race, run the race, deal with numerous issues, pick up and pack after the race he went and ran up and down Sheep Mountain one more time. Not only is he motivated but he is dedicated and for that well appreciate him. So when I asked him about the Sheep Mountain 50 miler he replied you mean the "beautifully difficult" one. Yes well said it is beautiful and difficult all wrapped up in one! But we know it is more than just one race so I asked him about HPRS and running and he replied, "HPRS.... it's all about getting back to the root traditions of our sport. We focus on the community as a whole.. while providing runners with challenging turned meaningful experiences in the mountains." He truly gets the core foundations of trail running and his efforts to share among all us novice runners is appreciated.
So with that I hope you do not get bored and go straight to the video. I hope you read thru this. Because if you did you will now know I didn't finish last. Even when I slowed down and walked and let what I thought was the last three runners pass me. Sherpa John in true form rewarded some hard workers who got to the last aid station a little late by allowing them to continue and you know what, they all made the cutoff and deserved their chance. It is small things like this that will bring me back to this suckfest to push myself harder and get a little better, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Thanks John.
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