I arrived at about 5:00 p.m., with a case of Dale's Pal Ale in hand (which I handed to our gracious hosts), and quickly got to work setting up my camp in Brandon's "backyard." Any time I get the opportunity to camp out, especially in a place like Leadville, I'm happy. So, with the capable assistance of Scott W., I set up my tent and got my stuff all situated, before heading up to the cabin to hang out and enjoy a delicious pre-run meal of spaghetti, grilled chicken and eggplant parmesan (which I'd later regret...).
At about 7:30, Brandon convened all of us--about 35 in all--in his driveway for some pre-run instruction, and then we all got into vehicles and were driven to the Fish Hatchery. The hatchery is at mile 76.5 of the course. The planned route for the evening would take us from the hatchery over Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass (elevation 11,100 feet) via a 1,500-foot climb, and then down the pass and the Colorado Trail to the Mayqueen camping area. We would then take the trail along Turquoise Lake and eventually connect with the Boulevard, before meeting back at Brandon's house.
The run started promptly at 8:00 p.m. From the first step (in my Hoka One One Stinson Evos, no less), I knew this was going to be a good run for me. My foot quickly loosened up, allowing me to run with confidence. My legs felt fresh and ready for what was ahead.
Remarkably (for me, at least), I ran up the Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass climb with Nick Clark and a guy whose name escapes me (updated: former 2004 and 2008 Olympic middle-distance runner Michael Aish, who is a 2:13 marathoner!)--he owns (or maybe operates?) the Boulder Running Company store off Arapahoe Road. I'm sure they weren't going at maximum effort, but the fact that I could keep up with these two very capable runners all the way to the top of the pass, even holding a conversation, really struck me as amazing. I haven't run a lot of big climbs this summer, but I have done well with my long tempo runs, so as I ran up Powerline/Sugarloaf with Nick and the other dude all I was thinking was, "Well, maybe this is from those hard tempos?"
So, there we were at the top of Sugarloaf (about 5.5 miles into the run), refueling and waiting for the rest of the group (I'm sure there were others who could have gotten to the top quickly, too, but instead chose a more leisurely effort). I was thrilled that I got to the top so effortlessly, and by effortlessly I mean I wasn't ever out of breath. I could hold a conversation the whole time. And I had barely broken a sweat. This was a great confidence booster since Powerline/Sugarloaf has been such a mental challenge for me in the past two 100s.
Once all of us were at the top, we resumed our run. Boosted by a Hammer Gel, I took off down Sugarloaf Pass, trying to keep good turnover despite pitch-black conditions. Scott blew past me just before the Colorado Trail entrance. Once on the Colorado Trail, Nick took the lead and I settled in behind him, paying close attention to how he moved and handled the fairly technical terrain. Here I was running behind a trail running master and a heavy favorite for the win--a cool opportunity to learn from one of the best.
About ten miles into our run we came upon George and Footfeathers (Tim Long), who had graciously agreed to set up a makeshift aid station on the back of GZ's SUV. I had a few chips and partook in a shot of Dale's Pale Ale. The rest of the crew filtered in and then, after a few minutes of fellowship, we took off for Mayqueen.
I have to be honest--I hate the section of the course from Mayqueen to the finish. It's boring and it seems to take forever. So I didn't particularly enjoy the last 11.5 miles of the run nearly as much as the first 10. I slowed my pace a bit but still stayed fairly close to the lead group. There's nothing exciting at all to report on those final 11.5 miles, except that I hated the thought of having to do it again in two weeks!
Unfortunately, some post-run stomach issues prevented me from really enjoying the festivities afterward. While everyone was inside enjoying delicious soup, I was in my tent on the verge of throwing up. All I got down was some water and orange slices. Maybe I ate too much before the run? I got next to no sleep that night and drove home with the assistance of a big Starbucks coffee purchased in Frisco.
Stats on the run:
- 3 hours, 32 minutes
- 21.5 miles
- 2,400 feet of climbing
I really have no expectations for Leadville, except to (try to) run a smart race starting with the first step. I'll be entering Mayqueen in 1:55-2:00 (last year 1:48--waaaaay to fast) and will look to get to Winfield in around 9 hours (once again). The real race begins at Winfield, but not until the Fish Hatchery inbound do things really get interesting. I'm not worried about Hope Pass; it kicks everyone's butt, especially the steep backside.
Thanks to Brandon and his family for hosting Saturday's run. It was great to get to Leadville and spend time with friends who I don't get to see nearly enough.