Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 (Golden Gate Dirty 30)

What: Golden Gate Dirty 30 50K (and 12-miler)
Where: Golden Gate Canyon State Park | Black Hawk, CO
When: Saturday, May 30
Vertical Gain: 7,250 ft. 
Elevation/Altitude: 7,750-9,500 ft.  
Start: 6 a.m. (9-10 hour finishers) and 7 a.m. with three waves (5-6 hour estimated finishers/elites, 6-7 then 7-8. If you thought you'd finish between 9-10 hours - if only I knew what I was in for - you could have participated in the early 6 a.m. start
Field size: 462 (only 135 women) 
Finishers: 387 (113 women)
DNS (Did Not Start): 40
DNF (Did Not Finish): 35 
Placement: 10:16.12 | 371 Overall/104 Female Overall (almost last place, ha!)


I love Colorado. 

Back in 2009, I left my beloved sports gig in Chicago, gave my boyfriend an ultimatum (lucky for me he came with) and accepted a position/moved everything to a state I had never been to besides my interview. I had expressed to my brother that I was ready to move. That upon arrival in the Windy City, I knew my time limit was only two years. My brother having been on the road, traveling to every major city in the U.S. and the person that started us on this career path sent me a list of cities he thought best suited my interests. Denver was on that list of five cities and the one I immediately chose to target. 

Let's just say, it was love at first sight driving west on I-70 into my new home. Ever since Casey and I left Denver in 2011 to pursue life on the road, we always said we'd move back. To us, there is no question that Colorado is HOME. We purchased our first place in the mountains in January 2015, but we still live primarily on the road and will be living in hotels for the majority of this year like we have for the past four years. 

So, in late March when we saw our next event wasn't for another few weeks. We negotiated with our current company to let us return to our home in Colorado for the duration of those nearly three weeks. It's a win-win. We get to go home. They save on the hotel budget. 

Immediately, I began to scour Ultra Signup for any local races I may be able to fit in during the trip and stumbled across the Dirty 30. Having not run much since Zion and entertaining my mom and Casey's brother, Andy, in CO during our return trip to Winter Park - I thought it would be a "fun" way to spend my last day covering 32 miles in Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Black Hawk, CO. Making up for all the lost time running and playing tour guide (which I also love to do, so please come visit us!) and a place (GGCSP) that I had never been to. 

On May 9, just three weeks prior to race day, I pulled the trigger and registered. 

7,250 ft of climbing? That should be fun!

Running between 7,500 ft-9,700 ft? I should be acclimated by then. 

Ultrasignup has me finishing around 7:45, that seems about right. 

Sure, Case. I'll be done around 3 p.m. We'll enjoy the post-race party, I'll soak in the stream, have a few brewskis and be at our hotel in Stapleton in plenty of time before the Blackhawks game starts at 6 p.m. 
(I'm glad he puts up with me)

Riding in a vehicle for three days post race, crossing through three time zones, and eight states...
I should be fine. 

This is NOT a race to sign up for 3-weeks out.
Not a race to go out and "wing it."
Not a race you sign up for because oh gee, it sounds like fun!
Rainbows and butterflies are not permitted on this course. 

All jokes aside, I DID have FUN and I'm still glad I did this race. It was brutal. It destroyed me. It chewed me up, spit me out, and only sick, sadistic, runners would understand wanting to do it all over again. But, next time I hope for a MUCH BETTER outcome...here's why...


We spent all day Friday doing laundry, cleaning our place, organizing and preparing for our departure not just for the race but for Colorado in general. We went to bed not long after 10 p.m. but neither one of us could sleep. With a 3:30 a.m. alarm set, we tossed and turned with barely a wink of sleep and it was time to go. Side note: we saw another red fox on the drive up 119 with lunch in his/her mouth. The wildlife in this state is one of MANY reasons why I love it so much.

Due to the lack of parking at Golden Gate Canyon, fiery RD Megan Finnesy, requires everyone to ride a shuttle bus to the start/finish from Gilpin County Fairgrounds unless you're one of the first 50 cars with three 50Kers in each car (not spectators) and then you get to park near the start/finish area. Totally fair. She even uses a website, RickyRides, for runners to car pool together. Very cool. Unfortunately, I didn't see a single runner from the Winter Park area in need of a ride or giving a ride, so we were set for an early morning to get to the fairgrounds and shuttle bus on time. 

As always, I'm a huge fan of race day packet pick up, and also needed to take care of that once I arrived. Megan runs a tight ship (which is a good thing and why it's so organized) and mentioned on the website that all runners needed to be at the fairgrounds no later than 5:20 a.m. to catch the bus and the last bus would be departing around 5:45 a.m. 

I made it for all of the above and then some. Case dropped me off because spectators weren't allowed on the buses until later (understandable), so while he ventured out to breakfast, a hair cut and to do some shopping, I rode the bus for about a 15-minute ride to the start/finish area. I picked up my packet near the red barn, shoved the race tech tee we were awarded into my pack, pinned my bib and sat and waited. And waited. 

This race draws elite athletes ($1,000 1st place cash prize) and insanely athletic and admirable mountain goats local talent. For example, while I was waiting I watched elite ultra runner and new(ish) Boulder resident Timothy Olson hang out in line to pick up his packet while Kerrie Bruxvoort was sitting next to me. No big deal. #Fangirl 

I met fellow Oiselle teammate and super sweetie, Alison, just before the race began (spoiler alert: she killed it) and we both agreed that the only downside was the waiting. We both woke up around 3:15-3:30 a.m. to travel to the race and then you're required to wait for about 1-1.5 hours until the race begins after the last shuttle. 

As mentioned, the race went off in three waves. I thought I was being honest in starting in the last wave of the 7 a.m. start for the 7-8 hour finishers. Little did I know, my ass belonged in the 6 a.m. start with the 9-10+ hour finishers (now I know). 

It wasn't long that I lost Ali on the climbs as she had dutifully trained for this race and it showed. She did amazing, whereas I questioned my sanity and my stupidity many, many, times. 

It was so nice meeting you, Ali! Thank you for your company and your photo! 


This is a mountain race. Repeat: this is a MOUNTAIN race. Vert. exceeds 7,200 ft. and altitude never dips below 7,500 ft. and tops at about 9,500 ft. Sure, we just bought a home in the mountains at about 8,500-8,700 ft. but I've barely spent any time there. And, I sure as hell haven't spent a lot of time running there especially leading up to the race. I think we spent more time away from WP, then in town, showing our guests the best Colorado has to offer.

Anyway, what I am saying is that the majority of folks that run this race are Coloradans. Folks living full-time in the state who are used to the elevation or can at least attempt to train on this type of terrain. I hope to be one of those residents in 2016 so I can drastically improve my time in the future and can actually train for this specific race. 


And because I'm a fan of lists and have already written far too much, here are some highlights (and lowlights) from the Dirty 30: 

-Waves: Appreciated and I apologize that I was clearly in the wrong one. The waves really helped to funnel out the runners into the single track and prevent a clogged course. Everyone was spaced out and there were plenty of times where I was running by myself (probably because I was nearly the last one). 

-Course Descriptions: Megan has a very detailed course description on the website which is not only great for preparation but for training or revisiting the trails too. 

-Trails used: Buffalo, Snowshoe Hare, Mule Deer, Raccoon, Elk, Coyote, Black Bear, Mountain Lion (Lion's Loop) and Burro. 

-Aspen Groves: Gorgeous (end of Burro trail too). The few sections that were easily runnable (for the majority) were a dream. On these sections and even while scrambling, I was overly drunk on my love for this state. I repeated in my head multiples time, "This is HOME" (maybe not full-time yet but in regards to our condo) and counted my blessings while virtually pinching myself repeatedly.  

-Creek Crossings: Eleven with the majority having dry options (small bridges or logs) to cross. These crossings were beautiful. I love the sound and pretty much everything about a creek/river/stream. We lucked out and had an absolutely gorgeous, blue-bird Colorado day, and I stopped a few times to scoop up water, pour some over my arms and neck to cool off and for a quick boost. 

-Course Markings: 50K route was marked with pink ribbons and a few hilarious signs thrown in. Where there wasn't a marking there was a course marshal. There was even a contest for the course marshals so all of them were dressed up, cheerful and had some sort of schtick to get runners smiling. There was a woman in an eagle mascot costume who had to be sweating bullets, this dude dressed for his remote pool party, a guy playing a banjo and more. These people are awesome on so many levels. 

Are you that 1?

-Scrambling: There is scrambling on the course, where you're trying to keep the pink ribbons in sight but you're literally having to use every body part to climb over rocks to stay on course. I think scrambling in races, running, hiking or in general is a lot of fun but it definitely adds to your post-race soreness.

I don't normally take photos of myself, but when I do...
it's on top of a mountain.

-Aid Stations + Volunteers: Top notch. Food. Fruit. Water. Tailwind. Smiling faces. They had it all. I even had two volunteers help me with my contacts at aid 4 (mile 24.4). For Zion and for this race my contacts get cloudy and blurry towards the end. This is a problem because I have incredibly poor eyesight (-7.5 to -8 in both eyes). Therefore, when my contacts are cloudy I literally can't see and that creates a problem when you're on a rocky course and you need to watch every step so you can: A. Run and B. Run without twisting an ankle or taking a nose dive. 

-Tony: I love ultra running and trail running because it brings me back to my roots on why I love to run - to make new friends, discover new places and be outside for long periods of time without worrying what my watch says. Casey got to witness his first ultra at the Dirty 30 and he immediately had positive comments and reactions as to how night and day the trail running community is to the road running community. Both are awesome, but in very different ways. I feel like trail/ultra running is more of a group effort, "we're in this together" mentality, we're here to make new friends, enjoy Mother Nature, put on a sustainable/leave no trace/no frills event with a kind of hippie vibe versus road running which at times can be ultra competitive and overly done with expos, big blow up arches, sponsors, etc. Which, don't get me wrong, can also be exciting. I don't identify myself as a road runner, a trail runner or an ultra runner. I'm just an average girl who likes to spend a lot of time outside on my own two legs.

I will say I feel more "at home" in the trail running scene, but I will never abandon the roads either. I appreciate any surface that allows me to explore new places. With all that said, and going completely off topic, I met a wonderful, older gentleman named Tony who just recently married in Virginia, celebrated on his honeymoon, and ended the month with a finale at Dirty 30. We stuck together for a long time and continually pushed each other. He even gave me some of his water when I started to run low between aid stations. We finally split towards the end of the race and I was so excited to read the results that he finished.

For awhile, Tony and I thought for sure we weren't going to make the cut off. I had plenty of time to contemplate my first DNF, what it would be like and what I would tell my friends/family. But to our surprise, we barely made it with just 15 minutes to spare. I told Case I wanted to wait for him to finish, but we had to catch the last bus or we were going to be stranded. Tony, if you're reading this - thanks for being a super human. Thanks for sharing your water, for your push, your company and renewing any and all faith in humanity. You rock, congrats again, and I hope you and your wife kick some ass next week at the Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass! 

Chipmunks: Were everywhere on this course. I loved seeing their cute faces scurry by. 

Windy Peak: Such a b*tch. Sorry for the profanity, but I think I could reference probably every curse word when describing this course. Imagine climbing for 20-something miles only for the grand daddy of them all to come at mile 29.5 with a 1,100-1,200 ft. ascent. Woof. Plus, once you descended you're rewarded with a small climb which feels much bigger than it really is just to make sure your legs are really dead if they weren't feeling like concrete yet. 

The top of Windy Peak.
-Post-Race: I had been dreaming of the post-race shenanigans. The free beer filling my Dirty 30 pint glass from Boulder Beer while soaking my legs in the cold stream. Unfortunately, I finished too late for that and the post-race meal which is my own fault and only creates an even greater urge to do this race all over again so I can partake in the festivities and mingle with and admire some of Colorado's top trail runners. Not only did I miss out on the post-race, but I didn't have a single celebratory brewski, I made Casey worry where the hell I was (no cell service) and I made us late to watch the Blackhawks game. #Fail 

My guy. xo


I know my overemphasis on the vert, the altitude and the tough course may make it sound like I didn't have a good time but that couldn't be further from the truth. I had a BLAST. In fact, it makes me want to settle down in our new humble abode even more so and go on a race registration binge involving any and all Colorado mountain ultras. This place is an adult playground, which is why it's like paradise to me and many others, and I cannot wait to spend more time on my new hometown trails and adventure with new runner friends like Ali, Courtney, Rebekah, Bret, Lindsay, Logan, Laura and more! 

I even said to Casey last night as we laid in our hotel near Atlanta, GA - despite being more sore than any race I've ever done - it's a good pain and I'm already dreaming of being back on those trails and basking in those views. It's a Rocky Mountain runner high that you can't quite describe...

Unless you're maybe John Denver. 


What I would do different for next time: 

-I will not run this race again until I'm residing in Colorado full-time, training on these trails and this type of rocky terrain and acclimated or at least more exposed to the altitude.

-Sunscreen: I will reapply mid-race. Ouch.

-Camping: For the optimal experience, I'd like to camp or secure a campsite nearby next time with a group of friends and/or carpool with other 50Kers to minimize the bus option. Casey informed me there was a long line of people waiting for sometimes an hour or more to get on the bus back to the fairgrounds. Hey, sometimes being slow pays off. 

-Trekking Poles: use them. I would probably incorporate trekking poles for a second shot at this race. I saw multiple runners with them and they seemed to make the ascents look effortless. Either that, or I just need to build a bigger booty and a lot more muscle. 

-Train: I already mentioned this, but I'd love to head back to Golden Gate Canyon and specifically train on these trails a couple times prior to the race. Getting the lay of the land and putting in some serious climbing work on Windy Peak would help exponentially for future attempts (I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious). 


Because I talked too much about my experience, and not enough about the race itself, here are links to more Dirty 30 race reports for some inside tips:

2015 - Wonderun & Wandern || Alison Furton || Dirty 30 Race Recap
2015 - Veggie Runner Girl || Race Recap: Dirty 30 50K
2015 - Strangely Alive || Dirty 30 Race Report
2015 - A dirty wake-up || Dirty 30 Race Report - Andrew Skurka
2014 - Silke Koester
2014 - Jacob Wyatt 
2014 - Laurie Nakauchi
2013 - Chris Vargo

*As always, a special thanks to my love Casey for waking up before the sun. For attending my races. For killing an obscene amount of hours waiting for me and for still loving me after I made us late to watch the Blackhawks. Your loyalty in love and life are more appreciated than I could ever express or put into words. Same goes for my family and friends for your endless support, sweet text messages/phone calls. Thank you Megan for a great race and a HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers, many from the Rocky Mountain Runners, for dedicating your day to others. You were all so amazing! And thank you to anyone that is reading this endless recap and made it to this point. Ha! Cheers! ;)


For the #gearheads: 

-Shorts: Oiselle Distance Shorts
-Extra Layer/Rain Shell: Oiselle Flyer Jacket 
-Tank: Oiselle team singlet 
-Shades: promo shades found at a festival. True story. 

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