|Number of Runners||141|
After my finish at the Ascent, I decided that I had enough miles under my belt to run my first race in Leadville. To me, Leadville symbolizes lots of great things to do in Colorado. But first and foremost, I think of running when I think of Leadville. The famous Leadville Trail 100 race (yes, you run 100 miles) occurs there in August. Its still a “ultimate” goal for me but I would really love to run that race. Hoping I can do it in a few years. However, I want to know I can finish that one if I start it so I decided to take my first baby step towards that goal by running the 2nd Annual Leadville Heavy Half Marathon. Its a 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles) but there are about 2 more miles added on just for fun. Guess that’s why its HEAVY.
So we headed up the night before to help get some extra sleep and a tiny bit of acclimation. I live at 5000′ but Leadville sits at 10,430′ — making it the highest city in the US. My pit crew and I arrived at our cabin south of Leadville in Twin Lakes for the night. Too bad they didn’t let anyone sleep. Too busy playing in the dark in the cabin all night!
Race time! Small races are great because its more intimate. The mayor of Leadville got us started with a shotgun blast. I am right there in my orange shirt and white hat under the banner. All the marathon and 1/2 marathoners start at the same point and split about 1 miles up the road.
The route takes you about 1.0 mile up and out east of town on a paved road. Then it turns to dirt from there on out. Its a easy to moderate 4WD road at this point. The elevation is instantly a factor. I am not breathing normally. The first 3 miles of any run or hike after coming to elevation sucks. Its like breathing through a straw. I try and be steady and keep breathing through my nose and out my mouth but your lungs are just wondering where the hell the oxygen went. After a couple of miles uphill, we hit an aid station and then quickly drop down into a valley. It was awesome. Flying down the hill into the old mining district on some single track was a blast. The race was on!
Oh, back up hill again. I forgot. My stomach hurt at this point and I spotted a single potty on the route so I ducked in and did my business. Will I ever get to race without a port-o-potty stop? At this point, a small lead pack was noticeably out in front. After that it was scattered. Around me we were in run-walk-run mode. You muster up enough energy to run up the not so steep parts and then walk the steep stuff. I was holding a decent pace so I was happy. Its such an odd relief when everyone you see on the course is walking. No pressure.
Now, the summit is in sight. At this point, I think the summit was 2.5 or 3 miles up. That doesn’t seem so far but it was the LONGEST 3 miles EVAR to the top of that ridge.
The switchbacks just kept coming. Elevation was gaining much quicker now but the distance was taking its sweet time. Just around this point, the leader came bounding down the hill. Holy shit. It looked so good. Us all walking and this dude comes flying down the hill. You just had to stand there and stare. I want to be like you. Soon…
Finally, after a handful of switchbacks, I reached the top of Mosquito Pass. Here is the sign marking the point and the turnaround. Its all downhill from here — literally!
I wanted to enjoy the moment for just a sec so I got some grub at the aid station and pulled out my camera. One of the aid workers shot this picture of me. He was “interested” that I brought a camera with me on my runs. I explained that its super light weight and it helps me remember and share the story of these runs with others.
Before heading down, I took one more shot so you could see where I came from and where I had to go. You can see the city of Leadville down in the valley, just above the runner in the black shirt. Somewhere down there on 6th street is my family. Must run!
Frankly, from that point until I got back to the mining district was the most fun run I think I can remember. Just bounding down the hill at full speed. Nearly crashing about 3 times. Flying by a few people. I felt like some downhill master (but I am not). It felt so good to just run again…seemingly fast since gravity was going to throw me down if I didn’t watch myself. I felt all kinds of new issues in my shoes. My toes were hitting the front of my toebox. I was thinking I was going to loose a nail but the sounds of NIN and Korn were keeping me moving. Finally, I got back to one of the early aid stations and took a minute to eat before gearing up for the final push back to town.
One last shot of the mining area before heading out.
As I came back in to town, I turned on to 6th street and saw the finish line in the distance. A race worker was reading numbers into a CB right there and radioing them back to the finish where the announcer could call you out as you came in from far away. I could now see my family standing right by the finish line cheering me on as they saw me and heard my name. I waved to Sydney and got her to meet me in the street and we crossed line together!
Overall, I finished 75th of 141. I was pleased with the time but I see where I could have improved. These trail races at elevation are a whole new beast. Training really really makes a difference. I haven’t really been seriously training for these types of events but I needed to understand them first. That’s my way of doing things I guess. The best part was being with other runners who aren’t necessarily speed freaks but love the mountains and the challenge. At the banquet that night, lots of folks were talking about the upcoming LT100. All I could think was — soon, very soon — must train.
Ok, nerds. You knew you were going to get my GPS updates, right? You know you want them. I promised only for really good runs now. No more training graphs. Elevation looks like…a mountain.
A final map of the route. The full marathon just tacks on another 10 miles. Probably do that one next year.
Well, no more mountain races planned for 2007. But I am kinda addicted. The whole running uphill thing sucks but the downhill and the finish are awesome!