This year's state course presents some bonus viewing challenges that last year's did not. Read on.
The state course layout is the same as last year, but some of the viewing logistics have changed. Let's start with an overview of the course from a map provided by the Cheyenne Mountain High School meet management (more mapping available at this link).
Unfortunately, this summer's rains have altered a couple of important things about viewing the state meet. Many of you will recall the bridge across the creek at the southeast corner of the Norris Penrose Event Center property. You appreciated the convenient access to the Bear Creek Regional Park side of the course it provided. This is the current state of that bridge:
The damage was done courtesy of the late summer flooding. The upshot of the washout is that the only access to the Bear Creek Park side of the course from the Norris Penrose Event Center side of the course is the same trail where runners cross the creek during races. Figure that this crossover route will only be open a few minutes between races and perhaps a few minutes between the time that the competitors cross out onto the Bear Creek Regional Park portion of the course and then come back onto Norris Penrose Event Center portion of the course.
For most people, this will mean staying on one side or the other of the creek for the entirety of a race. If, however, you trust your timing and speed, you might be able to catch the racers once or twice on the Bear Creek Regional Park side of the course and then scoot back across the creek crossing for the finish. A new bridge is in place across the creek at the site of the creek crossing but the specifics of its availability for spectator use are not yet clear. Access to the bridge is via the same trail that serves as the state meet course, so availability of the bridge for spectator crossing must necessarily be limited by course availability.
Another complicating factor for race viewing is that the large expanse of the park in the center of the trail system (see where "Bear Creek Park" is written in green in the map above) is grown up in denser and deeper vegetation than last year. Of greater concern is the fact that stagnant water stands three to eight inches deep down the middle of almost the entire west-to-east length of this central area. That adds abundantly to the adventure factor of cutting across the center between mile 1.9 or mile 2.0 and any point in "The Bridges" section of the course. Following the purple trail all the way to the main crossroads seems the most prudent option, even though the crowds there tend to be massive and you probably won't have front-row viewing once you get back there.
There is a bootleg trail (see photos, below) that cuts across from mile 1.9 to the purple trail designated as a "Spectator Area" in the event management map shown above. If you are fast and agile, you can probably see runners at mile 1.9 (at the base of "Drop In", the steep downhill portion of the course) and then again at the trail crossroads just before the runners return to the Norris Penrose property. If you're really fast and really agile, you might be able to get to the runners in "The Bridges" section and avoid the crowds at the crossroads. Bear in mind, however, that this will involve using a bootleg trail (definitely rough, and probably simultaneously being used by other people disinclined to move as fast as you will be moving) for about a fourth of the distance back to the crossroads, then using the primary park trail (in purple) in the map shown above.
top end of bootleg trail to "Drop In"
bottom end of bootleg trail to "Drop In"
The "Drop In" section, steeper than the west Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel approach on I-70
Or, you could take a little greater risk and try to catch runners at mile two, then bolt down the purple trail (again, beware of other pedestrians using the trail at more subdued rates of travel) in hopes of catching runners before the creek crossing. Any attempt to see the runners beyond mile two and then again at any later point in the race is bound to meet with failure.
So, your viewing options come down to the following:
1. Stay on the Norris Penrose side of the course and catch the runners at the start and finish.
2A. Stay on the Bear Creek Regional Park side of the course and catch the runners three times at the crossroads, twice before mile one and once just before the runners return to the Norris Penrose side of the course.
2B. Stay on the Bear Creek Regional Park side of the course, catch the runners at the crossroads, at mile 1.9 or mile 2.0, then again at or near the crossroads
3. Start on the Bear Creek Regional Park side of the course, catch the runners at the crossroads, again as far away as Little Willis, then cut back across the creek (we'll assume that option will be open to spectators who make the crossing in timely fashion).
As a reminder, there is no realistic option this year for viewing the start close up (you can see much of the start, however, from roughly the one mile point of the course, but that would likely preclude seeing the runners as they exit onto the Bear Creek Regional Park property), and then getting across to catch the runners anywhere between mile one and the top of Little Willis. The bridge that made that possible last year is washed out.
Options 2B and 3 should be contemplated only by reasonably fit and agile people. It's not an easy trip to get from mile 1.9 or 2.0 back to the crossroads before the runners do.
Choose your option wisely and enjoy as much of the race as you can. If you're not especially mobile, a pair of binoculars is definitely in order. As always, try to ensure that your enthusiasm for watching the state meet is not interfering with others' opportunity to do the same!