|Down the home stretch and with a sprained right ankle. |
Not exactly a photogenic moment. Photo by Shad Mika.
The Leadville Marathon starts in downtown Leadville and is a challenging out-and-back course that takes you through the old mining district and to the top of a rocky 13,185-foot mountain pass. Run mostly on dirt roads and technical trails, with a short pavement section in the beginning and end, the course brings about 6,000 feet of vertical gain. The high point is 13,185-foot Mosquito Pass, where you turn around. The entire course is above 10,200 feet. It's truly high-altitude racing and it's a great trainer for the Leadville 100.
When you've been racing for nearly 10 years and then take 20 minutes off a course PR, that's something worth celebrating. And so I'm really happy--mostly because I feel like I'm in good shape and poised for a good Leadville 100 in six weeks. Not bad for a guy who spent Thursday night in the ER and Friday morning in the doctor's office because I couldn't swallow liquids or food due to a likely case of severe strep throat (strep test came back negative but the doctors I saw still thought I had it). When I toed the line on Saturday morning, I already had a few doses of antibiotic in me, it still hurt to swallow liquid and I'd slept a total of about nine hours over two nights. Ideal. Not.
I got to the top of Mosquito Pass in a fairly speedy 2:19--four minutes faster than last year--and then proceeded to shave 18 minutes off of last year's return trip time. So the real story to this year's race wasn't a fast start; it was a strong finish. I ran sections of the course, notably the inbound mining district roads, that in past years have reduced me to a walk/shuffle. Overtaking runners who'd pasted me earlier in the race, I felt super fit, smooth and in control (thanks to MAF) and had a great time, enjoying the entire experience.
Unfortunately, on the return trip, with three miles to go, I turned my right ankle pretty badly. I was hammering a very technical descent into town and taking some chances and a big, nasty rock got me. After about 30 seconds of assessing the situation, I started running again--only my pace was a lot slower because of the pain and limited strength in my ankle. I decided that I'd go very conservatively over the remaining rocky section, in order to protect my ankle, and then try to pick it up when the road smoothed out. Had the ankle turn not happened, I'm confident I'd have finished in about 4:15 or 4:16.
A few things really stand out:
- My ankle notwithstanding, I could have turned around and run the race again after finishing. Seriously. I wasn't sore, fatigued or mentally fried. I felt super fresh after finishing. And that's strange, because last year I was in bad shape after finishing.
- By carrying a Camelback backpack and six gels, I was able to sustain myself without really using the aid stations. The longest I spent at an aid station was maybe 10 seconds, and that was when I slammed a few Cokes. I had everything I needed on me and was able to be self-supporting. This was a great "dress rehearsal" for the 100-miler.
- I didn't take a single e-cap. I think they're overrated.
- My MAF training earlier in the year is clearly paying off. I felt smooth and aerobically efficient yesterday.
- My stomach was great, which surprised me because antibiotics can mess up your digestive system. Maybe the Zantac I took before the race helped? I had also eaten a lot of yogurt to load up my system with probiotics.
- I am clearly in good shape. I run on average 2-2.5 hours a day and am getting in at least 15,000 feet of vertical gain every week, mostly on rocky terrain and at elevation. Maybe that's why the Leadville elevation didn't even phase me yesterday. It's not that I was fast--because I wasn't that fast. It's that I was strong and steady. I felt like I could run forever. That's what you want in ultras!
- I'm lean. My body weight is at about 161 pounds and I'm not carrying much fat at all. That, combined with really good strength, makes for efficient running.
- My hiking was stout. I haven't even hiked this summer and yet, when I went into hiking mode on that big climb up Mosquito Pass (ran the first mile of the pass, hiked the second mile and then ran/hiked the last mile), I was cruising.
- Mentally and spiritually, I'm in a really good place. I had a great time yesterday and enjoyed the entire experience. There was never a single down moment, except when I turned my ankle, and remained positive the whole way. That's in stark contrast to last year, when I didn't enjoy racing at all.
What I wore/carried:
- The North Face "Better than Naked" shorts
- The North Face technical tee-shirt
- The North Face "Flight Series" running hat
- Oakley Half Jacket sunglasses (polarized)
- Mizuno Wave Ascend trail running shoes
- Thorlo super cushioned running socks
- 6 Hammer gels (took 4)
- Camelback backpack with water (70 ounces)
- Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch (didn't wear heart rate monitor)
- Timex Ironman watch
- Pro-Tec knee wrap to keep my right knee happy and stable
Congratulations to everyone who finished the 2013 Leadville Trail Marathon!