Location: Manitou Springs, Colorado
Trail Type: Pavement/Mountain Single Track
Host: Team Colorado
Atmosphere: Barr Trail takes place on the west side of Colorado Springs, Colorado (Manitou Springs). This is at the base of Pike’s Peak. The weather, while can be unstable the further up the mountain you go, was exceptionally beautiful. Start time was foggy and 55 degrees; completion ended around 81 degrees and sunny. The final mile down the mountain can be toasty, but overall the humidity is very low, the air is crisp, and the weather is overall gorgeous. This can also be a refreshing break from anyone coming in with the heat of July.
Terrain: This is a very wide single track that consists of switchbacks up the mountain side. The race does briefly start on a .75 mile section of pavement that moves directly up at an angle that sets the tone for the course. Upon getting onto the Barr Trail the path does narrow considerably. The first 1.5 miles incline will get your heart racing; it is very steep and is surrounded by large boulders. The terrain consists of very fine gravel and dirt at the base. From mile two to six is primarily dirt, some roots, and plenty of large rocks to scale. This is a steep race. Runners will experience a 3000 foot climb over the duration of six miles. This can become a challenge on the descent as well when covering the same course with gravity also in play. Plenty of tree cover for shade at least 90% of the course. It is worth factoring that the course will top at 10000 foot, so for some elevation could be seen as a struggle.
Logistics/Aid: It is very important to pay attention to the race details leading up to the day of the event. The race director does not mess around about the 3:30:00 cutoff. Once 3:30 hits the course markers are removed, the finish line is torn down, and the area is vacated. This is information that is given to all racers in advance of the day’s activity. If you are familiar with trail and ultra races the aid stations for this course should definitely be noted. Interestingly enough, the aid stations at Barr Trail revolve around wax paper cups, water, and Gatorade with GU gels being at the top aid station. Meaning, this course is on trail, but the setup is very similar to road marathons in regards to aid station. Along those lines, the staff throughout the course act in manner of a road race with limited hands on compared to a standard ultra. This makes sense considering it is only a 12.4 mile distance. With that said, in the event of an emergency, El Paseo County Search & Rescue is available throughout the mountainside for any assistance needed. Finally, a 3:30:00 hard cutoff is just that, a hard cutoff. You will not receive sympathy if you complete the distance after the cutoff. The Barr Trail is a public access trail, so the course is not shut down, reserved, closed, etc…for the race participants.
Bonus Points: Each aid station is ran by a local high school cross country team. There is a vote at the end of the race for the best aid station, and an amount of race day fees are donated to that cross country team. Additionally, another section of proceeds will go to El Paseo County Search & Rescue.
Post Race: It requires about a mile hike down to Soda Springs Park from the start point. If you are in pain, cramping, etc…take the free shuttle down to the park. There you will find your t-shirt to pick up (if qualified), food, massage, drinks, and plenty of freebies from local businesses. Awards are also issued at this location. There is nothing overwhelmingly unique about this experience, but again it directly coincides with your standard awards ceremony after a road race. For those that are interested in the finishers medal, it does not exist at this race, the finishers award is the race shirt that is only given if you finish under the 3:30:00 cutoff.
Beginners Luck: You can complete this race in 3:30:00. If you are an individual that is trying out trail running, and you live in a rather mountainous region, you can achieve this race as your first ever attempt. On the flip side; if you are unfamiliar with trail running, mountains, and you are from a flatter area of the world, there is a strong chance that you will struggle on this race. Like all races, it is possible to complete, humans can do really cool creatures, but for new runners with no mountain experience it could be very difficult.
This is a really fun race. It is a very beautiful location, but the technicality of the trail cannot be overlooked. The downhill can be a challenge for those who have a hard time finding footing when moving quickly, the uphill can be a challenge for those who lack the certain muscles to move up an incline. It is so important to pay attention to the rules before going to this race; if you are past 3:30:00, the course markers will likely be gone and you will likely go off course. Be prepared to bring your own food, electrolyte, salt, etc…do not assume that the aid stations will have everything you need. The post race is enjoyable, but this is a no frills race, and relatively fast due to being only one distance. A lot of this comes from the fact that all proceeds are donated to local high school teams and other programs. The community behind this race is very passionate, it is a rather low key event, and if you train accordingly you will have a great time.