The inaugural Aspen Backcountry Marathon is a great addition to the list of Colorado mountain races. The race has about 15 miles of single track, a few miles of pavement, and the remainder is on dirt roads. The starting elevation in downtown is 7,949 ft and a max elevation of 10,148 ft. Total gain is 3,806 ft and total descent is 3,737 ft. The majority of the course is in the mountains across the valley offing great view of Aspen.
The race began at Wagner Park in Downtown Aspen at 6:00 am. After a quick run through town, I enjoyed the 2+mile/1,000 ft climb up Smuggler Mountain. The next few miles I moved through a series of single-track trails followed by a downhill that took everyone past a ghost town.
The next three miles was the longest and tallest climb of the race up 1,500 ft to the high point of the race. It offered some excellent views of dense aspens, flowered covered meadows, and jagged peaks across the valley. In this section of the race, I recognized I was running too fast. I remembered that besides running the Hardrock 100, this was my first long run since early June. At mile 11, I decided to slow my pace and treat this as a training race.
At the bottom I crossed the Roaring Fork River and refueled at the Stein Park aid station at mile 17. From there I had long uphill on a paved bike trail into some neighborhoods and then back down a hill along Maroon Creek till the 19.75 mile Tiehack aid station.
Leaving the aid station, I was tortured with longest hottest 2 miles of the race. I was also cramping in my legs as I was going on the uphill loop through Buttermilk Ski area. Before returning back to Tiehack (mile 21.75), I made sure I finished my Heed. I refueled, tossed my empty GU Roctanes in the trash, and I was on my way.
Below is looking at back at the first sections of the race from the Buttermilk loop
The next few miles was an exposed section through the Marolt Open Space that eventually arrived in the main part of town and the last aid station. Again I refilled my water bottle with Heed to begin the last climb up the Little Cloud trail.
Below is looking up the Little Cloud switch-backs
Little Cloud was fine at first with many switchbacks but it then got steep. By the time I reached the top my legs started to cramp again. I kept pushing along trying to walk out the cramps and finally in town I was able to run the half-mile. I finished in 5:32 in 74th place.
In conclusion, this was a beautiful race that was put together flawlessly with wonderful volunteers. I would highly recommend this for anyone wishing to enjoy a great trail marathon.