Monday, August 6, 2012

Leadville Night Run

On Saturday, I headed up to Brandon's (beautiful) place in Leadville for his annual Leadville night run. I'll be honest; I was scared going into this run because I've been dealing with this bizarre issue in my right heel for the past few weeks. I had to start my taper a week earlier than expected, hoping that some rest, self-therapy and cross-training would allow whatever the problem was to clear up. But, alas, on Saturday my heel was still aching a bit, causing me to really second-guess attending the run. However, not wanting to miss the opportunity to cover a critical section of the course and enjoy some good fellowship in the process, I ventured up to Leadville.

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
This run was a great confidence-booster. I can now enter my taper knowing my foot is okay. In fact, my foot is better since the run--maybe it just needed a little extra bloodflow and movement to heal. At any rate, I'm still amazed that I got to the top of Powerline/Sugarloaf Pass so well. I'm sure those three nights in Keystone (elevation 9,300 feet) the week before played a factor, but I felt a new kind of strength in my legs that I haven't felt maybe ever. I'm positive the long tempo runs have paid off.

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.


  1. Thanks for coming. Knew you would enjoy (most) of it if you made it up. Noticed you were deep asleep by the time I brought the caboose in. See you in 2 weeks.

  2. Dude - are you dissin' my wife's eggplant parm?

  3. Great to meet you in person Wyatt! Sorry to hear about the tummy woes, I wasn't feeling so hot myself. Something about starting a run when I am normally getting ready for bed that really tweaks things.

    I am glad I both spoke with you and experienced first hand Turquoise Lake trail. It sure seems like that will be 14 miles to grind out.

    And you are thinking of Mike Aish who owns the BRC. He actually won the Silver Rush 50 this year, so he could be in the front on 8/18.

  4. Gear meeting you Wyatt. Have a good run at lt100.

  5. Brandon: Thanks again and good luck at Leadville!

    GZ: I didn't know your wife made the eggplant parm but it was delicious--so delicious that I ate way too much of it (along with spaghetti and chicken). What was I thinking eating that much before a long run?

    AJ: Very good to meet you. Yes, the Turquoise Lake trail section sucks. I am dreading that stretch already--both inbound and outbound. I love the entire course from Mayqueen to Winfield and back to Mayqueen. My favorite stretches are the drop into Twin Lakes inbound and from Hopeless to the top of Hope Pass.

    Tim: Thanks for the well-wishes. It was great to finally meet you. I really admire your commitment to the ultrarunning community and to bringing awesome analysis to the sport.

  6. Turn the hate around. LOVE that section. Make it that you know that is the section where you will KILL it while others are DYING. LOVE. NO HATE. Do. There is no try.

    Or sumthin like that.

  7. GZ: I'm going to start calling you Yoda.

    AJ: One correction to what I said...I like the drop into Twin Lakes outbound, not inbound.

  8. GZ: I love it. Mind over matter!

  9. Good luck at Leadville. No expectations is the best way to enjoy a long race like Leadville. Good luck.