Saturday, June 30, Leadville, CO
This race would prove to be by far my most memorable thus far in 2012. Preparations went fairly well leading up to the race. I logged quite a few mountain miles, mainly on Saturday mornings in the foothills. Pino trail, La Luz trail, the connection between the two was my main training ground for what would end up being a serious high altitude battle. When heading into one of these events, on foreign territory, at a distance, elevation or geography that is “unknown” you must maintain as positive and confident as possible. The “downs” come, usually before the “ups” in these races, but the “ups” always do arrive.
The day before I put in a solid morning shift at work and left about 9:00 AM on the 6 hour trek to Leadville. Upon arriving you could sense the distinct feeling that this was a mountain town, built on high altitude adventures. Racers were everywhere, checking in and getting their packets for tomorrows races. I had a late lunch at City On a Hill Cafe, which was very good. Filled my thermos for the following morning, and headed to Safeway for a few provisions. Soon I was set up at a primitive campsite near the Mt. Elbert trailhead, about 10 miles outside of town. I spent the night reading Scott Jurek’s book “eat and run”, which was nice way to pass the time. Camping in my 1995 Land Cruiser, was a breeze, although it did get a bit cold, I was happy with my rest.
After eating and getting dressed I made my way in to town and found ideal parking close to the race start. There was a plethora of energy from all of the competitors. I was surprisingly calm for this being my first real test of long distance racing above 11,000 ft.
My goal was to stay towards the front and see how I felt on the initial climb out of town. Quickly a couple of runners established themselves out front, one of them being a 1/2 marathoner, and the other three being marathoners. My position at the first aid station was 7th, with the 6th place runner right in front of me. He was a better climber and I a better descender, so we were running pretty even. At mile 10, just before the big climb up Mosquito Pass, 13,100 feet, our positions were identical, though now I led by about 50 meters, which I held all the way up Mosquito. I jogged what I could and power hiked most of it. Reaching the summit I grabbed two gels, eating one immediately, filled a water bottle, mixed a EFS drink and was soon bombing down the mountain. I must have been quicker than a few of the runners ahead of me as I passed the 4th and 5th runners, moving into 4th place. I held this position until the bottom of Mosquito, where I was passed by a runner with a killer pace and smooth stride. The rest of the race was me running, virtually, all by myself. I had a few runners within 1/4 to 1/2 mile behind me, but I could only see them sparingly. My goal then was to hold my pace, fight on the uphills and bomb the descents. My Hoka One One Stinson Evo’s held up well, though were a bit heavy on the climbs. As I finished the final trail descent onto 6th street in Leadville, I opened the legs up a bit and came across the line having run the final mile in 6:15. Not bad on trashed legs. About 4 minutes after I finished the 6th place runner, and female winner came in.
Post race thoughts were that of content and excitement for what the future has to hold. This was a tough race. Miles 17-22 were challenging, both mentally and physically, but by staying positive and running a bit scared, I held position and finished with a respectable time. Driving back home I couldnt help but think about the Silver Rush 50, 15 days from that day.