Monday, July 20, 2015

Audi Power of Four 50K Trail Run (A Cautionary Tale)

I'll get right down to it and not belabor the point. If you have thought of coming to Aspen to run in a race my advice is to skip this one altogether. Save yourself some money and do the Four Pass Loop which is a crap-ton more enjoyable. Or come up and run the Backcountry Marathon which is an awesome course. But this one, this one I can not recommend.

Here is the deal as I see it... The Power of Four Skimo race is the foundation of the Power of Four race series in Aspen which takes you across all of the ski mountains. They followed that up with the Mountain Bike race which really I think was an afterthought of sorts. They followed that up with a recklessly put together trail run with a route that I described simply as "unnecessary."

Anyone can make up a hard race and I do enjoy tough races but there has to be at least some element to enjoy at one part or another, or at least some interesting feature as part of the course. All out "hard" from beginning to end is just not fun. Whoever thought of this race does not understand runner psychology at all. The first race sign on the course was just past the Aspen Mountain summit. It had some pithy running saying and then it said "45KM To Go." A 5K sign would have been a lot more inspiring I think than that one considering you had just climbed 3200 feet in that first 5K. Yes, 3200 feet.

And it wasn't just hard climbing, there were a lot of downhill grades, especially the straight line down Aspen Highlands that I did not like and have heard others complain about as well. It was wet grass and mud so it was even a dicier proposition to run down.

To be fair let me throw this out there... I came into this event tired. I planned it that way. I wanted a long run that was fun to add to training volume and miles. Sure I expected a hard day but I wanted it to be fun at the same time. Or at least mildly entertaining... This was not.

Someone described the course as doing Hope Pass Double 2x followed by doing Powerline/Sugarloaf on top of that 2x as well. Over 12K of Climb in 32.2 miles is just excessive with most of the terrain not even being runnable.

Thanks to the support people who were out there for being there but what they were given to offer at the aid stations was less than paltry. Some aid stations even ran out of water but let me put that into context for you. 90 some runners on a cool and rainy day and they ran out of water in places... it would have been a complete shit-show if it were in the 80's and completely sunny.

The course marking was okay for the most part but there were sections which were very frustrating. Long segments without even a confidence marker to let you know you were on the right path. Once on Snowmass Mountain the course marking became severely lacking. I had one guy bomb down through an open meadow as he was lost for and hour or so and he happened to see me. Young strong guy too, and we ran a bit together but when he saw the trail was going up again he said he had had enough and proceeded to bail down one of the ski runs.

And the trails... ugh... Dear Race Director... there is a difference between a trail, what is real single track, and a rut. Really a lot of the "trails" between Buttermilk and Snowmass are just that... they are not really trails as much as narrow trenches about 10" wide where water just drains through. Tough to run on/in when dry, much more so when they are just greasy mud. And there is a reason I say go and do the Four Pass Loop instead, because there you can see things... this race has you running, hiking, climbing, etc, with your head down all the time that you don't see a thing, and the nature of the course offers no interesting vistas. I had a hard day out there but also at the same time I was bored out of my skull.

The scene at the finish line was as equally underwhelming as the rest of this race experience. Their timing system was fouled up and when I finished they had to ask me (even though I had a bib number on) who I was, what wave I started in etc. No food, no after race party like atmosphere... just blah... 

As a runner I just expect more from a race especially given race fees these days. As a local to the Aspen area, I am downright appalled and embarrassed for what was put on this weekend to pass as a race.

There are so many great races in this state to pick and choose but this is not one of them.


  1. Ditto. An ultra with nothing but potato chip crumbs and gel. the wildflowers in some areas were absolutely beautiful, and the fellow runners were great. The last aid station didn't even have anyone there, so I am not sure how they were going to enforce a cut-off time.

    1. And I forgot to add many other things such as all of the trees that were down on the Congo Trail that could (should) have been cleared. The thing about that which irks me the most is that the Aspen Backcountry Marathon people did the best they could to clear the trails (yes I helped) but nothing was done for the runners in this race. What is even more infuriating is I would bet all the cash in my pocket that those same trees on the Congo Trail WILL be cleared out before the PO4 MTB in a couple of weeks.

  2. I agree about the aid stations, not much there. I really fell apart at the end doing all of the tedious switchbacks just to make the miles - let me go up and then down, not around and around.

  3. To be honest, I was't expecting the usual ultra fare at any of the aid stations. See below.
    Aid Stations: Each Aid Station will have water, Red Bull, Clif Bars, Clif Shot Gel, Coke, candy and other snacks to keep you fueled.
    I must have missed the Red Bull, candy and other snacks that were promised but did sneak a few potato chips.
    I wonder if the leading sponsor, AUDI, will become aware of many of the races shortcomings and make improvements.
    Agree that the course seemed to become more poorly marked later in the race.
    I got a sense that many people were doing double and triple duty and may have been overwhelmed, something that the sponsors need to address.
    Sorry to say I loved the course and I live 300 ft above sea level.

  4. Fantastic write-up! This particular info made me stop as well as think about it. I agree with a lot of the info you've compiled. I'll need to read this again. Audi Greensboro NC