North Fork 50 Race Recap!

As many of you know, my sweet friend Corrie wanted to run her first ultra-marathon to celebrate her 30th birthday.  She chose the North Fork 50, we trained together, traveled to Denver with a group of friends, and had an amazing race experience!

I woke up around 4am to have some coffee and my good luck race breakfast…banana bread.

We left the hotel at 5am, drove a little under an hour, and arrived at the race for 6am packet pickup.  This left us with plenty of time for packing gear and potty stops before the 7am start.

Ladies: here’s one of the many reasons to run trails… NO LINE for the women’s restroom!!!

This start line rocked because you didn’t have to use porta potties, but….

Start temps were in the upper 40’s and peaked in the upper 70’s….WITH NO HUMIDITY!!!

The start and finish area were right beside the North Fork of the South Platte River and Pine Lake!

The start line was super chill.  The race director made sure we understood the course markings, warned us about mountain bikes, and said “ready, set, go.”

And, we’re off….

The course had 3 big climbs.  The first started immediately and lasted for about 3 miles of upness.  (Not a word, but it works for me.)  The next big climbs were around mile 15 and mile 25.

**Note: Nashville is around 550ft above sea level, so this was a huge jump in altitude for us!

The course is mostly single track trails in the Pine National Forest, although you do run a few Jeep roads and share the trails with mountain bikers.  Here’s our motley crew enjoying some downhill!

The 50k course let’s you visit your drop bag twice (because of a loop on the course) at miles 14 and 24.  We were having way too much fun at mile 24!

The terrain seemed to range from pine forests to desert-esque with beautiful rock formations.  The sun was intense!  I re-applied sunscreen at the aid stations and still got a little pink.


I carried 2 handhelds and drank Cocogo (discount code: JENCHOOSESJOY) and the sports drink on the course.  I made myself drink more than I usually would because of the high altitude.

Aid station food…another reason why trail running rocks!

  • Pretzels, chips, goldfish
  • Watermelon
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches….I ate my weight in pb&j’s!
  • Gu
  • Gummy bears, candy bars
  • Oatmeal cream pies and Fig Newtons
  • Salt tabs
  • Sodas.


I have struggled with pretty severe altitude sickness my whole life. I started taking Diamox on Wednesday and flew out to Denver on Thursday. I felt nauseous on Friday, but never got sick. I felt great for the rest of the trip!  My side effects: appetite suppressant, tingly toes and fingers, and super thirsty (but that may have just been the altitude).

The Finish!!

As I typed in an earlier post, my main goal was to run with Corrie for her first 50k.  We stuck together the whole race and she crushed it with a finish time of 7:16!!!  Finishing with her is my favorite memory from the whole trip!

Our group had 3 first time ultra-marathoners…congrats to Corrie, Bob, and Alicia!!!!

The finish line is right in front of a huge pavilion where they’re grilling out and serving lunch.  The finishers and spectators get to eat in the shade while cheering on the finishers…genius!

The Finisher Award…super cool!

Finish line pose with my gorgeous friends!

The Platte River was freezing…the perfect post-race ice bath!  The current was pretty strong, too.  I was afraid to let go of my rock.

I love my Ultra Dirtbag family!!!

The stinkiest post-race trunk EVER!!

I loved this race, so I made a little list of Reasons to Run the North Fork 50:

  • You get to park at the starting line
  • Indoor bathrooms with no line for the ladies room
  • Race morning bib pickup
  • Well marked course…none of us got lost!
  • Beautiful scenery. Wild flowers. Rock formations. Water. Snow capped mountains
  • Well stocked aid stations that were never more than 6 miles apart.
  • The friendliest volunteers…seriously!  These folks were so kind and helpful!
  • Pottery finisher medal
  • The post-race lunch even included veggie burgers!
  • Cheap flights to Denver
  • It’s a very runnable course and makes a great first ultra.
  • Cold river at finish equals ice bath
  • Easy drive in/out for spectators at aid stations
  • Last 4 miles are downhill
  • No humidity!!! Ok maybe this one is a little selfish. When I run in Nashville, I’m soaked. I finished North Fork and was dry.

Big thanks and congrats to Alicia for finishing her first ultra and for sharing her race photos with me for this post!

Join the Conversation

  • http://sasrubel.blogspot.com Steff @ Run Steff Run

    Congrats Jen! What a fantastic race!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!

  • Meghan

    what an amazing experience!! Sounds like so much fun!! If I were ever to run an ultra, this would probably be it! Congrats to you and your friends!!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      I highly recommend this race for a first ultra!!

  • gina

    Just amazing! Did your hubs run the ultra as well? I wish my hubs would run with me but says the Marines Corps ran him all he ever wants to run! LOL Congrats to you, your hubs and friends. Awesome job. @gbena

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Jason’s been dealing with a foot injury, so he ran the first 14 miles to the bag drop and then waited on us to loop back around to him. I love that he runs with me!!!

  • Ruth C

    I’ve never had the nerve to run with a running group but you’re making me really see what a great community it can be. It seems as though it added a whole other element to the race. I’ll be training for Boston during the winter here this year so maybe I’ll take the plunge and join a running group. Thanks for the inspiration! Also, huge congrats to you and Corrie and all of your friends – you’re all amazing!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      I trained alone when I first started running. Finding run groups was a godsend! The miles really do fly by and I’ve made some incredible friends.

  • http://idonteatthat.wordpress.com Jamie

    Congrats on a great race! Seems like such a great time and what a perfect way to celebrate a friends birthday! Hope you have a great day : )

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thanks so much!!!

  • Sarah @SarahRuns26

    Congrats on the race! It looks like fun!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you!! We had a blast!

  • http://gretchruns.com Gretchen | Gretchruns

    Great job and what a gorgeous race! I love doing trail races and running on trails, but an ultra would be so intense. You’re a great friend to do that for her birthday! Can’t wait to hear what challenge you’ll be tackling next :)

  • http://ultrafootpath.blogspot.com Melissa

    Congrats to you and all your team mates on an awesome race!! You guys make it look so easy :) Thanks so much for sharing the experience! Gets me jazzed for my mid training 20 km race this Saturday!!

  • Cheryl K

    Congrats! You make it look easy and fun!

  • http://thefreckledrunner.wordpress.com The Freckled Runner

    Congrats! You look so good at mile 24! Looks like a beautiful course and that is such an AWESOME finishers award!! I would love to run a 50k one day. It’s on the bucket list.

  • http://gravatar.com/amahoney81 AmandaM

    That was so fun to read! Thank you and WONDERFUL job to your whole crew.

  • http://milesandblessings.com/ milesandblessings

    This whole experience is AWESOME!!!!! The picture of you and your friend crossing the finish line is what running is all about!!! It looks like it was a beautiful race too and a great day! When my husband did his Ultra he got a mug just like your bowl….it is awesome :)!!!! Great job and congrats!

  • Rachel Denler

    So glad you loved it Jen! And you and your friends looked so beautiful post race- like you barely broke a sweat! I have lived in Denver 14 years and never tire of the beauty here… I’ve incorporated elevation training (since I live at 5280- that’s about 7500 or 8000 ft elevation for me) for my current marathon training for Chicago because I know that it will be an advantage for sure when I get to the race at sea level (or close to)!

    I am still thirsty all the time! I drink so much water every day… I feel like an elephant! I just might run this race next year… I’m thinking 2016 will be my first ultra! I’d love to see you back!


    THANK YOU JEN I love reading your blogs about the races I am so proud of you! I would love to try a trail ultra some day My knee doc says soft surface is the way for me and I LUV the Cross Country Course I trained for one of the NYC marathons on it What was the cap on this ultra The trails look pretty good.!How did it compare to the trails in Percy Warner?

  • http://www.minutespermile.com mary @ minutes per mile

    congrats! those climbs look intense. go girl.

  • http://pacewithgraceblog.com/ Angie @ Pace with Grace Blog

    Looks like such an amazing experience and love the finishing photo with you and your friend celebrating her birthday! What a way to ring in your 30th year! Awesome :-)

  • A different Jen

    Congrats, and thanks for sharing your experience. Reminds me how much I love (shorter!) trail running.

  • http://montrealrunnermom.wordpress.com Jennifer Florence

    sounds like so much fun! :)

  • Sara Henshaw

    So Awesome to hear about this experience! Makes me want to jump on the ultra bandwagon. How long did you train for this and did you train for the altitudes? Also, do you prefer your hand helds over a camelback….i havent decided which I prefer! Last question, I promise, what was your post-race indulgence!? Way to go!!

  • paria@momontherunsanity.com

    Looks like a beautiful course and so fun! Congrats to all of you!

  • http://mostlyhealthyliving.wordpress.com/ mostlyhealthyliving

    Congrats! Love your post-race photos. It doesn’t even look like any of you broke a sweat! :)

  • http://www.dixieruns.com Maddie @ Dixie Runs

    Wow, sounds like PERFECT weather! What a beautiful day to run 31 miles :) Those aid stations are amazing….. PB&J during a race sounds delicious! I love that photo of you two finishing together. What a great accomplishment that you guys can share and remember forever!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      It was such a fun experience!!!

  • http://www.runningnreading.com Running ‘N’ Reading

    I love that trail races start off like this…ready, set, go! They always feel so much more relaxed and laid back to me than road races do. I’m so glad y’all had such a fantastic experience and that you didn’t feel any altitude sickness; that is AWESOME news!! Congratulations to you all!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      It was such a fun experience…thank you!!!

  • http://www.suzyhastheruns.com suzysuzyheather

    Ultrarunners are the best people ever. They’re just so welcoming and chill and they have the best stories, the most humbling life experiences and just all around great people. I’m glad you had such a good time!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you so much!!

  • thisrunnersrecipes

    Beautiful scenery! Sounds like you had an amazing time and I’m glad you were able to avoid getting sick from the altitude.

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Me too!!!

  • http://www.runningourlives.com Katie

    What a fabulously awesome way to celebrate turning 30! I loved your race recap, I’m starting to think more and more about an ultra.

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      It’s such a rewarding experience!!!

  • http://www.organicrunnermom.com Sandra Laflamme

    Looks like such an awesome adventure! I’ve yet to run a full 50K. Longest was a 29 + mile trail race last summer but still itching to do one. This looked like a blast and how awesome to run it with a first timer!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      You’re SO close to a 50k!!!

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  • http://charissarunning.wordpress.com charissarunning

    Congrats on a great race – you did awesome!! Looks like you had a blast too :)

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      Thanks so much!!!

  • http://shesgoingthedistance.com she’s going the distance

    you’re a beast! Love the recap

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy


  • http://cupcakesandmiles.wordpress.com cupcakesandmiles

    Wow! You make it sound like so much fun! No line at the bathroom, gummy bears and candy at the aid stations, and pottery for the finishers!! One day… 😉

    Congrats on another finish!

    • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

      It really is a lot of fun!!

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  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    If you love trail running, you should definitely consider an ultra. Just slow your pace, and do longer duration training runs. My next races are a trail stage race and the NYC marathon!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    Have an awesome race!!!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    We really did have a lot of fun!!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    I love the longer distance races. They’re a lot more laid back and fun!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    Thanks so much!!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    Thank you SO much!!!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    I loved Denver and could totally live there. It’s gorgeous and the people were so nice! I really think north fork is a great first ultra. I also read that they’re moving the race up three weeks next year so it won’t be as hot. You are going to rock Chicago!!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    I think the cutoff was around 8pm. I remember them saying they had to close the course after sunset. That’s a very generous 50k cutoff! The trail is a lot more runnable than the pwp trails…very few roots and rocks. The biggest difference is the big climbs. You go up for miles at a time.

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    Thank you so much!! It was definitely a new experience to have climbs last for miles at a time!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    She had such an awesome race!!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    Lol!!! Thank you!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    We had a blast!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    We were all coming off of spring marathons, so our trail training for north fork was only 6 weeks long. We didn’t get a chance to train at altitude, but we did joke that our humidity was simulating that “hard to breathe” feeling. I prefer handhelds. I’m running r2r2r next year in the Grand Canyon. It’s self supported so I’ll have to use a camelback for that one. Post race: desserts!! I had a slice of chocolate cake race night and a butterscotch bread pudding the following night!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    It was and thank you!!!

  • http://jenchoosesjoy.com jenchoosesjoy

    Compared to the how we sweat in the south after a run, we were relatively dry! However, were wet SO dirty!