Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

Adventures10 Comments

Distance 26.2 miles
Time 5:55:36
Pace 13:38
Rank 108 of 267
Max Elevation 13,188 feet
Elevation Gain 6,693 feet
GPS Analysis Garmin Connect

Previously, I explained the allure of this race and the town. So we got to Leadville and had a good pre-race day. Woke up after a restless sleep and was ready to race. Put down just a mini bagel and some drinks to keep it light going into the race. The weather was warm so I went with the singlet. Got over to the race and parked 100 feet from the start line. Looked over and saw The Roost parked with Tony prepping for the race. Went over and wished him luck. Sprayed myself head to toe with suntan lotion. Decided on the comfy road shoes vs. the trail shoes to keep my feet fresh all day. Ditched the sunglasses because I didn’t want to be fighting the light change in the forest transitions. Found my sister stretching out and ready to go!

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

Kim went up in front of the pack and snapped a few photos. I was back a bit so those photos weren’t great. But here was my odds on favorite for the day taking his start. Go get’em Tony!

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

Gun went off and we headed up 6th Street. I lead Natalee out to the course split so I could spend some time with her. We got to the split. I gave her what advice I had and wished her luck. Next time I see her, she should be coming down Mosquito Pass while I am going up.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

The route quickly went from fire road to rocky trail. The walks began. I was committed to keeping my heart rate aerobic all day so as soon as it crossed the line on the ascent, I went to the walk. This was mostly in line with the other runners around me with the occasional stray that we would pick up a few feet later. Frankly, I would lose ground on the walks. Just not as fast as others. But as soon as we hit the top and had some downhill, I would just pound it and catch all that passed me plus some more. I was making up ground that way. My downhill was ON — if I do say so myself.

Came into Aid Station #1. We would go through this aid station 4 times that day. Put down some watermelon — oh my god it was good. Not usually a fan but I would spend time between aid stations dreaming about my next piece. Moved out!

Had to go around Ball Mountain at this point. Remembered every step of the trail from the 50 last year. Hated it then. Loved it today. Had some great singletrack along the backside of the mountain that I could have run all day long. Finally got to Aid Station #2 (same as #1). Then we had to descend down to meet the half-marathon runners for the start up Mosquito Pass. We had climbed to 12,000+ on Ball Mountain, only to drop back down to 11,000+ as we came into Aid Station #3. This is where I would see Kim and the kids on my return.

As we started up Mosquito Pass, I didn’t have much in me. Heart rate was steady on the high side. Any run would put it over the aerobic line. So I walked it up. When walking you almost have to concentrate harder than running to keep pace. So as I would drift, I would see the minutes go away. I lost my biggest portion of time on this section. Saw Tony fly by me when I was at 10.75 miles in. Kept moving up and crossed paths with Natalee at about 11 miles. She looked like she was having fun. Didn’t need to worry about her. Mile 11 on Mosquito Pass took a toll on me. I slowed and took my first 30 second pause of the day. My heart was pounding hard but the rate was ok. Oxygen debt was in full effect. Kept on the move and topped out at Aid Station #4 on top of Mosquito Pass. Half way done!

Started the descent slow but felt my body recovering quickly so kept picking up the pace. As I said my downhill was on so I let it be on. I started flying downhill and fast as I could. I was passing people every minute. I probably looked a bit out of control but all that practice running down the Boulder Peaks this summer had me ready to go. This trail is nasty with big rocks loose everywhere but I could just see the line and knew where to go. I had this same mental feeling coming down this thing in the 1/2 here 2 years ago. It was what drew me back. Made great time down — until I wiped. About a 1/2 mile to go till the aid station and I caught a rock and went for a roll. I tucked it and only ended up with minor scratches. Got up. Brushed off. Checked for spectators. Moved it on out.

Met up with Kim and the kids at Aid Station #5. They had seen Natalee come through and gave me the update on the leaders. Told them about my fall coming down and Kim said I looked better than a lot of other people who came through with bloody body parts.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

More watermelon! Could have used a bucket of ice too. Check out the arm dirt!

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

From there it was back up out of this valley to Aid Station #6. That was another time loser. It wasn’t so steep of a grade but I couldn’t get a good cadence going. So I walked more than I should of. I felt like I would use the time to recover and be ready for the final miles. Got back to Aid Station #5 and had to go back around Ball Mountain again.

In the meantime, Natalee finished up 3:57 for the half. She runs one half marathon a year. It is the flat old Indianapolis Mini Marathon — that I paced her on last year. So this was quite an achievement. Leadville is quite a way to start a mountain running habit. Here is Natalee with the marathon winner, Dennis Flanagan, after the race. She was queen of the photo-op this weekend.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

While the festivities were going strong at the finish line, I was up circling Ball Mountain for the 2nd time of the day. The clouds rolled in. The lightening was striking in the distance. And it started to rain. Felt wonderful. I kept the move on and got around Ball in what seemed like a fast time. Then it was over to Aid Station #7. It is all downhill from there. I started pouring out my water bottle to gauge how much I would need till the end. I took a quick stop and dumped all the rocks out of my shoes. It was time for downhill as hard as I could go. My legs felt totally solid. My mind was sharp. My only pain was in my back and it had eased up. So I ran down as hard as I could. Willing to fall if I had to. I was passing people that I had seen hours ago on Mosquito Pass. It was the reason I run that race. The downhill is always so fun. I got back out in to town and made the turn onto 6th Street. I could see the finish about a 1/2 mile down the road. I pumped my fist in the air because I knew it was in the bag. Then ran it in at a good pace to ensure that I would not see 6 hours on the clock.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

As I got close to the finish line, my kids did what they are supposed to do — come out and make me look like the coolest dad. So I was flanked by my 2 girls as I crossed the finish line and got my finisher’s medal from Merilee.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

I was happy to be done running for the day. I could have run further but wasn’t really in the mood. That was a good effort for today. Got some more fluids and found Natalee to catch up on her finish and see if Leadville changed her. She actually seemed like she had a great time so I instantly drew the conclusion that she could have run faster. If you aren’t bloody, crying and overjoyed at the finish — you probably left something on the trail at Leadville. There is always next year! Ha! Great job, Sis.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

One more shot of the Fuller crew — minus the photographer, Kim. Kim is the captain of this team. She allows me to do this stuff. She gets us to the start line. She ensures the cheering team of Sydney and Reagan are at the right aid station at the right time. I couldn’t do this stuff without her.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

Post race, I felt pretty good. Chatted with some finishers including Tony. He ended up 2nd for the day through his own set of challenges. It was great meeting him this weekend. Hope he remembers my name and I can bug him for a run this fall when he moves to Boulder. We left the race and got back to the hotel. I walked to the gas station next door and bought myself a Diet Pepsi. It just settles my stomach after a race. I spent the next two hours lounging in bed with ice on my feet sharing stories with Natalee and Kim about all the stuff we saw that day. With three set of eyes on the course, we had some good stories.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

We ended the evening by going to the awards dinner to get our finisher’s prizes and chat with the other runners. Good time as always. So as promised, the HD video coverage of the 2009 Leadville Trail Marathon as covered by Natalee and Brandon with dueling Flip Video cameras! She has a different version of the video on her site too with more of her commentary.

All in all — how did I do?

Well, first off, I underestimated this course. This marathon course is harder than the 50 mile course I ran on some of the same trails last year. Both went around Ball Mountain so I expected that. What I didn’t expect was the impact of Mosquito Pass right in the middle of the course. Frankly, the ascent flew by but I found myself in oxygen debt on the way up and wasn’t sure how to deal. So I relied on “constant forward motion” and got to the top. Figured I would make it up on the downhill but didn’t make up as much as I thought. This course is the hardest marathon course I have done. Harder than Pikes Peak. Pikes is up then down. You never get to lock in like that here. Plus the Barr Trail is immaculate. This trail is a rocky trail from hell. Runners fight for that little ridge of dirt that gives some small feeling of a flat surface on the trail.


So with the course issue in play, my times were off going in. I actually was hitting my marks through aid station #3 but then blew up trying to get to #4 (Mosquito Pass). I think it was just oxygen debt. My gut was mostly cooperating. Felt a little full all day but I never blew chunks and I nailed the salts at every stop — I think. I did bonk a couple times but the GU wasn’t sitting right so I bailed on it. Probably a bad idea.

I went into the race shooting for 5:30 — maybe closer to 5:15. But came in 5:55. OK. I have some work to do on the uphills. I probably watched my heart rate more than I should have but I really tried to manage it. I wanted to stay aerobic as much as possible so I had gas for the end. And as I mentioned, I had a ton of gas for the downhill at the end. Was pulling sub-7s as I turned on to 6th Street. So I probably conserved a bit too much. You learn as you run races.

It was a good performance. Not perfect. But I wasn’t injured so that counts for something. I left a bit out there but it was that bit that might have cost you a good finish when you bonk in the final 3-5 miles. The one thing that I learned is that I have to get this fueling stuff down cold. I just don’t have it. My body is performing at new levels each year and I have surpassed the “see what happens on race day” stuff. I need to make it science now. That is the next project.

Otherwise, I think my downhill and uphill work should continue as I am doing. Probably could have done a few more long runs in the hills weeks prior. And I regret not making it to 10,000+ feet plus other than Mt. Evans for a run or two this spring. Enough with the what-ifs. They race this thing every year. So I will be back to Leadville — just not sure which race I have in store for next season. Thanks again to Leadville and the whole LT100 crew for putting on a great event!

No Limits!

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

View Natalee’s race report and her video.

View all photos from this event.

  • Wow – lots of great stuff here … I definitely will be digging into the video later this week.

    I love the dirt patch tattoo. And the shot of you coming down the street with the mountain behind you and the kids coming – that is one for framing!

    Nice job. Now recover and get ready for the next Fuller. 🙂

  • glenn


  • jmock

    “Why’d daddy go so slow?” Ouch!

    Good work, enjoyed the video again.

  • Thanks for another great adventure Bro! Many great stories about this one for us to reminisce on in the future! You’ve always introduced me to great outdoor things when I’ve visited you over the past 8 years, so keep’em coming! I’ll have to get you to my Adventure Racing sometime!

  • Luke Ma

    Another epic run!

  • Great report and job at the race. I remember seeing you on the course ahead of me and I must have passed you on the uphill to the aid station on Breece hill. I ended up finishing in 5:51, just ahead of you. Excellent job and great blog!

  • Great write up and nice pictures.

    Well done!

  • Steve Jungbauer

    I thought when you dedicated a race to someone you were suppose to win! Man that looks like a great time Makes me want to get back into running long. Maybe in my old age we can race. Advantage Fuller.

  • I took hundreds of photos of the race. You can see them on my website. I submitted a photo of you and your daughters running after you to the local newspaper, the Herald Democrat. The paper comes out on Thursday. The editor loves children, the picture has a good chance of making the paper.

    You should be a be able at least to see the front page. Marcia often puts my photos on the front page.

    I enjoyed your accounting of the race and your photos.

    Sandi Halversstadt, Photographer

  • Amy

    I’m not sure if you’ll even see this comment since it’s been a year…but heck, what can it hurt?

    I’ve been googling the crap out of the Leadville Marathon, and your blog is pretty much the only thing out there besides the website. I’m running it this year (which is this coming Saturday). I drove to Leadville today and headed up the trail a bit, and I’m officially freaking out. HOLY CRAP. It looks so hot on the jeep trails, completely out in the sun. I came out here from DC, so this elevation thing isn’t entirely my strong point. Nor is climbing a total of 6k feet in a marathon. I have no clue what to tell my family about a finishing time, as they’ll be driving to the finish line to meet me. My best marathon was Boston this year (3:12), but something tells me it isn’t unreasonable to be out there for twice as long.

    Any sage words of advice for a first-time altitude trail runner? Anything you wish you brought with you? Did you use a camelback or a handheld? I’m worried I’ll run out of water with a handheld.

    Alright, sorry…rambling is over. I’ll go back to lamenting with my animal crackers.