Sunday, June 30, 2013

2013 Leadville Trail Marathon Race Report

Yesterday's Leadville Trail Marathon proved to be on of my better races in recent years. In my fourth "career" Leadville Marathon, I finished 12th overall out of 517 runners, with a 4:19 (and didn't get "chicked," not that there's anything wrong with that!), and in the process took 20 minutes off my course PR. It was a wonderful feeling crossing the finish line with my wife and our son there cheering for me. Having them there made it all the better.

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.
Although my ankle is fairly swollen and painful, I'm confident it'll be fine. A doctor at the medical tent checked it out and it appears to be in tact. I can stand on it, which is a good sign. I'll be taking a few days off to get my ankle in a better place and then will resume training with a protective brace. In two or three days, when hopefully the swelling is gone, I'll start some ankle strengthening exercises.

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
With yesterday's result, I feel like I'm in, or very close to, sub-20-hour shape for the Leadville 100. The keys are to 1) get my ankle in good shape and 2) not get further injured.

Congratulations to everyone who finished the 2013 Leadville Trail Marathon!


Related posts:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Leadville Trail Marathon is Upon Us

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I had another very good week, hitting 90 miles, 16,500 feet of vertical and 15.5 hours of running. That's a pretty killer week, regardless of who you are. The week included a 21.4-mile, 7,000-vertical-foot double crossing of Hope Pass on Tuesday and an 18-mile run with a fast finish at Deer Creek Canyon on Sunday. It was one of those really special weeks when things just clicked. I don't think I've run for 15 hours in a single week in maybe three or four years (save race weeks). At the time of this writing, I've put in over 58,000 feet of climbing and 364 miles in the last 28 days. My weight is also down to about 160 even as I'm eating like a horse. I think this is the lowest weight I'll get, and I'm confident I'll put on just a few pounds during my Leadville 100 taper (perfectly normal and OK).

With the benefit of age and experience, I've learned to listen to my body and respond quickly to every ache and pain. I took it easy on Wednesday, as my body needed a day to come back from the Hope Pass run (even as my mind said, "Hey, let's hit it hard again today!"). So I just ran 6 miles locally. A year ago, I wouldn't have practiced such patience and restraint. So now, when I feel "something," I back off and/or hit it hard with ice. Just ask Anne, who sees me icing this and that every night! I do think getting proper sleep and not sitting for eight hours a day have been critical. I feel like I'm recovering between workouts--something I haven't been able to do for a few years now. In my next job, I'm asking for a standing desk. I think sitting for eight hours wreaks havoc on the muscles and soft tissue.

With the Leadville Trail Marathon only days away, my strategy is to taper my mileage/time on my feet after this Wednesday, and hopefully get rested for Saturday's action. The Leadville Marathon is a very challenging race, topping out at 13,200 feet. Some say it's the hardest marathon in the U.S., but of course here in Colorado we also have the grueling Pikes Peak Marathon. My goal on Saturday is to just feel good and have fun the whole way. Miles 17-23 of the Leadville Marathon course have been tough for me the last few years. My hope is that the aerobic efficiency I've developed through Maffetone Method training earlier this year will pay off, but anything can happen at 10,000+ feet, so we'll see.

As those who follow me on Strava may have noticed, I've been training a lot at Deer Creek Canyon. Deer Creek Canyon is fairly close to where we live, meaning I don't have to spend tons of time in the car going to and from my trail runs. My job search has heated up in a big way and right now I'm going to a lot of interviews. So, my "free" time isn't exactly abundant. Deer Creek is the best option for me most days. On rare days when I don't have an interview, I try to venture to places deeper in the mountains. Decalibron continues to be up there on the to-do list, but even higher on the list is a Fish Hatchery-to-Mayqueen-and-back run (about 20 miles). But, as it is, Deer Creek is a great training ground, delivering some very good climbs, plenty of technical trails and decent elevation (7,500 feet). Plus, it's just a lot of fun! I feel an emotional connection to those trails and the entire area.

As the Leadville 100 steadily approaches, I really am at peace and, most important, I'm having fun. I'm putting in some stout training in beautiful places and I believe when race day comes I'll be able to look back on what I've done and feel good about the effort and dedication I put forth (something I haven't been able to do for the past few years). This is a brutal sport that will destroy you and it tends to reward those who work hard. But not always! Even if you've put in tons of training, you can still find yourself broken down on the side of the trail with 20 miles to go in a 100. Hard training doesn't always equal big success; you have to race the right way and show up healthy, too. My approach to training is to continue to be patient and exercise self-control as I put in my daily work and listen to my body. I also need to start "practicing" with Perpetuem, my fuel of choice for Leadville. To date, I'm really not taking in any calories on my runs except for a Hammer gel here and there. I can run for 3+ hours without a single calorie--which I attribute to my MAF training earlier this year. But in 100-milers you need calories. That's where gels and Perpetuem will come into play.

As Yiannis Kouros says, only through patience and solid training can you truly "conquer endurance."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quality Long Run in Leadville

Yesterday I completed what was for me a fairly long run on a critical section of the Leadville 100 course. I ran a Hope Pass double-crossing and felt quite good except for a few stretches here and there.

After a brief night's sleep, Scott W. and I hit the road in Parker at about 4:45AM and got to Twin Lakes at 7:30 (Twin Lakes is the mile 40/60 aid station). The weather was cool and crisp, with thunderstorms forecasted for later in the day. For most of the day, though, we enjoyed abundant sunshine. Because the river at Twin Lakes is raging and dangerous and we weren't in the mood to die or at the very least risk death, we parked in a small lot just up the road from the little village area and ran a short, rolling single-track connector that quickly got us on the Hope Pass trail.

To my own exhilaration, I ran most of the way up the front side Hope (a ~3,400-foot climb), cresting the 12,600-foot pass in a little over an hour. There were just a few patches of snow and ice, including a nice little snow field at the top, but nothing bad at all. It was cold and windy at the top of the pass, but none of that bothered me because the views are always so spectacular. Then I ran pretty well down the steep back side of Hope and into the abandoned mining town of Winfield, a popular camping spot. I took the new Sheep Gulch Trail (which opened just prior to last year's race) from near the base of Hope Pass into Winfield, making it all the way to the parking lot where the 50-mile aid station is situated. I got there in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Standing there in Winfield, elevation 10,400 feet, was a bit of an emotional experience for me--it's where I dropped last year with a knee injury.

After some brief self-reflection in Winfield, I started the return trip, getting back on the Sheep Gulch Trail via the uphill dirt road. I noted that the Sheep Gulch Trail is considerably easier on the return trip than on the outbound, bringing way more downhill running. Only later (as in last night) would I find out that this year's Leadville 100 will see yet another change to this critical part of the course. Instead of running the entire 3.1-mile Sheep Gulch Trail both ways (6.2 miles total, not including the short road segment into/out of Winfield), we'll run part of it and then take a more direct route into/out of Winfield via a new jeep road. This change will get the course closer to 100 miles. Rumor has it that last year's course was about 102 miles.

The climb up the back side of Hope was, as always, hideous. It's steep and rocky and feels never-ending. There was one mile that took me 30 minutes to complete and I was giving it near 100 percent of my effort. I might use trekking poles on the back side during this year's race. On climbs like that, trekking poles could be beneficial in that your arms help power your movement. Trekking poles aside, as I was trudging up the mountain, it hit me that I need to do some training on the Manitou Incline (1 mile, 2,000 feet of climbing, and a heart attack waiting to happen for out-of-shape people attempting it) in order to properly prepare for this physically and mentally difficult section. The key to the back side of Hope Pass is to stay positive, keep it all in perspective, and take it one step at a time--never getting ahead of yourself. Almost no one runs the back side of Hope Pass.

Adding insult to injury was the fact that it felt like someone had my lungs in a vice grip as I trudged up the mountain. My chest was tightening with every step. It was here that I ran into Footfeathers (aka Tim Long), a very capable endurance athlete who is gunning for Leadman, and Stephen, one of his athletes. We chatted for a few minutes and then were on our ways. Footfeathers provide me with some encouragement, reassuring me that the back side of Hope Pass kicks everyone's ass. And it does!

Finally, I crested the 12,600-foot pass a little after noon and began making my way back down. I met back up with Scott at the Hopeless aid station area, where he'd been hanging out for a little while (he didn't go all the way to Winfield and ran a shorter route than I did). At Hopeless, I refueled with a gel and then we conservatively made our way down the pass, hooking back up with the trail that took us to the car. During the descent, for some crazy reason I developed this major craving for a Coca-Cola--a craving I'd indulge at Twin Lakes General Store.

So, on the day, I completed 21.4 miles in 4:59:55, climbed just south of 7,000 feet and descended the same amount of feet--all between 9,200 and 12,600 feet. I took in three Hammer gels and drank about 24 ounces of water. Yesterday also marked a seven-day stretch in which I ran 101 miles and climbed 19,000 feet. Pretty freaking solid. Except for the back side of Hope and a short section on the Sheep Gulch Trail outbound in which I was a little low on calories, I felt exceptionally good all day and capably navigated the climbs and descents. This was a true double-crossing because I ran all the way to Winfield and back. Then again, we didn't start at Twin Lakes but I think that was for good reason, given the dangers of crossing the river. So maybe it wasn't a true double in the truest sense of the word.

I fully intend to return and do another Hope Pass double crossing in the next week or two. I'm getting close to nailing down a job, so it's important to get to Hope again before I'm happily back to work.

I posted three videos from yesterday's adventure to my Facebook page. At some point, I'll try to get the videos on here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Motivation is Sky High

Another super solid Leadville 100 training week is in the books. For the week of June 10-16, my totals were 92 miles, 14 hours and 6 minutes, and 14,200 feet of vertical, mostly at Deer Creek Canyon (disclaimer: the vertical numbers are according to Strava). The vertical was a little lower than I'd have liked as a result of having no other choice (due to kid duty) but to run on my treadmill on Saturday and basically stray no further than Deer Creek Canyon all week. All in all, I'm happy with how things went this week. For the coming week, if all works out, I may get to 20K of vertical and will head to higher ground, including a Hope Pass double crossing on Tuesday (more on that below) and maybe a go with Decalibron.

Unfortunately, our family was been exposed to the "puke virus," so I'm really hoping we all dodge that bullet! As my wife would attest, I get neurotic when it comes to the puke virus. If I puke during an ultra, it's no big deal. But if I've been exposed to the puke virus, then I get really worried and worked up.

As far as training, I couldn't be happier with where I am. I'm in really good physical shape (knock on wood) and, mentally, I'm 100% there. I seem to be recovering quite well between workouts. Maybe it's because I'm not sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, but my muscles feel more limber. Psychologically, training doesn't feel like work to me; I enjoy every step of it and I love to climb and descend. My motivation is as good as it gets. It's gotten to the point that I can now run fast (for me) down rocky descents and not really think twice about it. I used to get worried on rocky descents but now it's no big deal. As they say, repetition is the mother of excellence. And when I'm coming up on a steep climb, there's no dread in me; I'm all in. Bring it on!

I think everything goes back to my MAF training earlier this year. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I just can't say enough good things about the Maffetone Method as a base-building program. When I run now, I feel efficient and smooth and I can go much further than before without needing any calories. Even as I'm breathing hard on steep climbs, I rarely get "out of breath." And I think that's because I'm pretty aerobically efficient right now. I feel like I can run 8:00-8:30 pace forever. In ultras, what more could you ask for?

This week, I'm heading to higher ground, including a double-crossing of Hope Pass with Scott W., who is pacing me at Leadville with AJ. After what went down at Leadville last year, it's going to be nice to get back to Hope Pass and have a positive experience there. That said, anytime you're doing two crossings of a 12,600-foot mountain pass, with 21 miles and 6,000+ feet of climbing (and 6,000+ feet of descent) involved, you'd better be ready. I doubt I'll go into the run physically "fresh," but mentally I'll be ready for lots of fun and hard work. It's going to be a great day and I plan to relish every second of it.

As far as my work/unemployment status, it would potentially appear that I may be close to securing a job. We'll see. I don't want to get ahead of myself or engage in speculation, but I have a good lead with a great organization. In terms of what that means for Leadville training, my plan is to train hard as hell for now and then go into maintenance mode once I'm back to work. Maintenance mode means 10,000+ feet of vertical every week.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lots of Vertical (For Me), Freelance Writing and Maybe Even Coaching

I just wrapped up one of my better weeks in a long time. For the week of June 2-9, I hit 92 miles, 14 hours and 14,400 feet of vertical. Obviously the mileage, total time and vertical are super solid. Where I think I fell short was in the long run. My longest run of the week came on Sunday, when I ran 19 miles and climbed 4,100 feet in a little over three hours at Deer Creek Canyon. I need to start working in some longer runs of 4-6 hours. I think runs beyond six hours can be problematic in terms of recovery.

It's incredible how far my climbing has come in the past few weeks. Climbs on rocky trails in Colorado are almost never easy, but with practice they become more physically and mentally manageable. Some days you're on, and some days you're in a bad way. For example, on Friday I ventured down to Colorado Springs to run the Barr Trail--the trail that takes you all the way to the summit of Pikes Peak. My plan was to at least get to Barr Camp and then hammer it back to my car, for a total of about 14 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. Well, I struggled from the start, particularly in the "W's." The W's involve a lot of switchbacks. If you run the W's too aggressively, you'll be cooked in no time and eventually find yourself in oxygen debt. I ran the W's too hard and paid for it mid-way to Barr Camp when I was out of gas. The lesson here is that successful climbing is about patience and experience.

A few days later I seemed to regroup quite well, nailing those 19 miles and 4,100 feet of climbing at Deer Creek Canyon. I ran every step and hit every climb I could find.

There are two major needs with my training over the next seven weeks:
  1. More high-altitude running--preferably above 10,000 feet. Most of my trail runs up until now have been in the 7,000-8,000-foot range--still pretty good but I need to get higher. Next week I may do the Hope Pass double crossing.
  2. Longer runs of 4-6 hours. I've done quite a few runs of 3-4 hours and my daily consistency is awesome, but I need to get out for some really long jaunts. It would be ideal if these really long jaunts were also at high altitude.
In short, my training right now is exactly where I want it to be, which I credit to my commitment to the Maffetone Method earlier this year. I'm getting in super shape and I'm feeling good. My weight is down to a lean 162-163, even as I'm eating quite well. Honestly, there's not much fat on my body right now. I need to keep progressing over the next seven weeks and make sure I don't go stale or get injured. Some planned recovery days/weeks will be critical. I will probably take the week after the Leadville Trail Marathon on June 29 pretty easy and then hit it hard for the last three weeks of July.


The job search is what it is. I have a lot of applications out and last week I interviewed with an organization that really interests me on many levels. We'll see how things go. I think searching for a job is just a really long, tedious process that requires a ton of patience and faith.

In the meantime, I've decided to do some contract/freelance writing work, particularly work that involves grant-writing and PR. I've helped raise almost $50 million over my career through grants and proposals. Writing would appear to be a strength of mine. I've also done some cool stuff with PR and media relations. So, I'm creating an LLC and building out a website with the hopes of developing a successful business focusing on grant-writing and PR/communications. If you have writing needs, let me know!

Additionally, I continue to consider starting a coaching business for ultrarunners and those aspiring to get into the sport. For years, people have been e-mailing me with questions about training, races, shoes, diet, etc. Obviously, there are folks out there who think I know what I'm doing (yeah, kind of scary). Plus, with the growth of the sport (almost every hundred-miler is selling out early), I see a big demand for good coaches.

I love helping ultrarunners and I would really enjoy working with athletes on a more formal basis. My running resume is pretty solid, and over the years I've learned a lot through personal successes and failures. I've done a lot of things right, and I've also done a lot of things wrong. That's what you want in a coach--someone who's learned through trial and error and has developed various approaches that can work for athletes of all abilities and experience levels.

Anyway, if I start a coaching business, I would use a very customized, personalized and holistic approach, meaning my athletes would benefit from:
  • FLEXIBILITY: A flexible training program that aligns with the athlete's lifestyle and helps him/her achieve personal goals. It's critical that a training program take into account how the athlete is feeling and progressing and what other life demands and pressures (family, job, etc.) he/she may be facing. It's equally important for a training program to allow the athlete to have fun with running.
  • PERSONAL CONTACT: Lots of contact via phone, e-mail and (ideally) in-person meetings/runs. The goal of the check-ins would be to assess and discuss progress, make training program tweaks, address questions and concerns, etc. I do not believe in training programs that are built out way in advance and don't involve regular check-ins, adjustments and listening to the mind, body and spirit. And I'm even more suspect of cookie-cutter programs like those offered in popular running magazines.
  • MOTIVATION: Tons of motivation and, when necessary, constructive feedback. I love to motivate and inspire runners, mostly because I have a deep passion for running. But I won't be a Pollyanna; I'll expect and demand 100% commitment from my athletes and I will let them know when I think they're not giving it their all. That said, during training there are times when you simply have to take your foot off the gas pedal, like when you have a sudden family or work commitment (e.g., sick child, deadlines at the office, illness, etc.).
  • HEALTHY EATING: What you eat can profoundly influence your development as a runner. As someone who's lost nearly 60 pounds and kept it all off for over a decade, I can help runners achieve their optimal body weight and eat the right foods.
  • WORK/LIFE BALANCE: I totally understand what it's like to run high mileage and have big goals while also fulfilling your responsibilities as a full-time employee, spouse, parent and homeowner. Balancing it all, while also getting proper sleep, can be very difficult. I can help runners find the right balance.
I think my focus would be ultrarunners and creating programs that help them successfully train for and complete races from 50K-24 hours. I've never really nailed the marathon so I wouldn't be too comfortable helping athletes run a fast PR at the 26.2-mile distance, though I could certainly help athletes finish their first marathon or maybe even qualify for Boston. I think my expertise is mostly with ultra distances, especially hundred-milers.

It's just a question of whether anyone would even hire me! If you're interested, e-mail me.


A final note. As previously stated, the Maffetone Method has transformed the way I train. You can learn more about MAF at Dr. Maffetone's website, but I also encourage you to check out this podcast interview Dr. Maffetone did with Endurance Planet (note: it's available for free on iTunes). It's incredibly educational, helpful and engaging. Highly, highly recommended.

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Not About the Mileage... It's About the Vertical

With my current unemployment, I've used my "free" time to look for jobs and run mountains. Most importantly, I've found some extra time to spend with my son and wife. I'm taking my son to school every morning and picking him early. By me cleaning up the house and mowing the lawn during the week, my wife and I can now mostly relax on the weekends and not have to worry about vacuuming, dusting, etc. While I'd rather have a job, certainly I'm trying to make the most of this period in my life.

But, to be honest, not having a place to go in the mornings (Monday-Friday) has taken a toll on my sense of self-worth even as I keep telling myself this is temporary and not a reflection on the quality person and communications expert I am. It's a hard world for the unemployed and it's incredibly sad to me that, every day, people (or, in my case, my position) get discarded for sometimes no good reason. Be that as it may, I am a person who wants and needs to work and contribute for my family's benefit. If anything, this whole experience has made me an even more compassionate, caring person who strives to see the unique abilities and gifts of everyone. We are all part of the human family, and when I am finally back to work I'll lead with my heart and soul because the world needs more of that.


For the first time really ever, I'm now tracking my vertical gain and am placing a greater emphasis on climbing than mileage. That's a huge change in my thought process. I've always been a mileage guy, but I've come to believe that the difference between the haves and the have-nots at races like the Leadville 100 is who spent the most time in the mountains running trails. Right now, my average week is 80-83 miles, 13 hours and 12,000 feet of climbing. Until I'm back to work, I'll be putting in 12,000-18,000 feet of vertical, and how ever many miles and hours that may entail, every week--probably up to 14-17 hours and 85-100+ miles. I may get crazy and make a run at 25,000+ feet in a single week. That's a lot of vertical, unless you're this guy. If things continue, I think it is entirely possible that when I line up for the Leadville 100 I'll be in the best shape of my life.

From the trail at Roxborough State Park.
The good news is that I'm seeing big improvement in my ability to run up mountain trails. Mostly, I'm noticing that I'm far more aerobically efficient on climbs than ever before. Even as I may be breathing hard on a climb, I'm finding that I'm not running out of oxygen. On Sunday, for example, I covered a little more than 17 miles at Mt. Falcon, gaining 3,600 feet along the way, and I ran every step of the way except for a 20-foot section of the steep, rocky Two Dog Trail. It was much the same earlier in the week when I ran at Roxborough State Park and up and back down 9,700-foot Bergen Peak.

I'm also noticing some significant mental gains from increased mountain running. Mental focus and maturity are huge components of running up mountain trails. I find that, when I'm fatiguing, I shorten my stride and speed up my cadence even more, all while focusing on the moment. These are "tricks" I've only recently learned and continue to refine.

View from the summit of Bergen Peak, elev. 9,700 feet, last week.
At this point, I have to say I think the MAF work I did earlier this year has paid off big time. My aerobic efficiency is super good and my weight is down to about 163. However, my speed has really taken a hit. That brings me to my next point....

With Leadville being 10 weeks away and a super solid aerobic base in place, now's the time to start incorporating some tempo runs. Tomorrow I'm going on my first tempo run since my Phoenix Marathon training, and it'll be about 4-5 miles in length, not including my warm-up and cool-down. Every week I'll add some distance to my tempos. My target heart rate will be around 155-160. The tempo runs will really help me improve my speed and strength.

My next race is the Leadville Trail Marathon on June 29. At this point, I think it's fair to say I'm getting in good shape, and so the LT Marathon could go well for me. However, I really need to start getting as high as possible. Between now and the marathon later this month, I have a few big runs on my mind, like DECALIBRON (if the 14'ers ever clear), the Leadville 100 course, Grays and Torreys, and Pikes Peaks.