The other bookend of our running vacation in the RV was the Leadville 100 Training Camp. Only a week after the hardest race in my life, would I be ready?
On Friday, we made the short drive from Buena Vista up to Leadville. Had lunch and then went over to the LT100 headquarters to check in for camp. Then we drove out to the May Queen campground and setup the RV for the night. For day 1, the route for camp was to run from this campground to Twin Lakes. The course is an out and back route so there are 50 miles. This run would cover about 26 of those miles. We would be skipping the start of the race from downtown Leadville out to May Queen. And then from Twin Lakes over Hope Pass to Winfield. This is a bulk of the route and hits 3 major aid stations on race day so I was excited to run these trails. I have criss-crossed them on various hikes but a nice marked traverse of them was exactly what I was here for.
The camp started off in town with a breakfast and talk at the Mining Hall of Fame Convention Center. I skipped that because I did have a good way to get there that morning because we didn’t have a car. Plus, they were just going to get on a bus and come right back to within a few hundred feet of my RV! So I slept in a bit and then snuck out of the RV and waiting up on the road to meet my fellow campers. Sometime later, 2 school buses full of people showed up. They all got out and it looked like a barrel of ultrarunners exploded all over the campground. People were decked out in various levels of apparel ready to see what Leadville had to offer. As I learned over the weekend, many (if not most) of these folks were from out of state. This was their first time in Leadville and probably running at this elevation. It would be a challenging day for some.
May Queen to Fish Hatchery
Ken and Merilee were there. In fact, they picked me up on the road in their car because I was not quite where they planned to start. So I chatted with them a bit on the 2 minute drive. While this wasn’t going to be a race today, I was ready to run. After a week off from SJS50, my legs were ready to rock some hills today. So when Ken said, “See you at Twin Lakes!” — I was gone. We headed up the road to the trailhead and I was with 2 other guys and 100+ people were following behind us. We entered the campground and some of the campers started hollering and cheering for us. I got a chill for a brief second as I imagined that this was actually August and the race was on. In retrospect, it was some small recognition that my dream of completing this race is one step closer. I am at camp. I am running. I am ready.
We wound up the single track until we hit the Sugarloaf Pass road. No one was near me. The other two guys were out ahead. The peloton was out of sight behind me. I wasn’t pushing hard…like less than a typical Green Mountain day but I was alone. Could it be this easy? Merilee was parked at the turn on Sugarloaf and asked me if I needed anything. She would be present throughout the day doing makeshift aid stations out the back of her SUV at various points between the real aid stations. She had asked me in the car how I thought the day would go. I mentioned I thought I would be up frontish. Glad to see I kept my word as she said I was looking fast turning that bend in 3rd.
The climb of Sugarloaf was over before it started. After spending all that time in Lake City, these hills were just hills. As I descended, another guy came up along me. I had slowed a bit to check my pace. He pulled up next to me and we started talking. He was from NYC. Born in Colorado but moved and now is back to run. He is a coach for The North Face and is involved in their various 50 mile ultras. Said he was shooting for a 20 hour LT100 finish so I figured he would be moving on. However, I knew a bunch from my studies so we had a lot to talk about and share. We came to the powerlines and descended together. I took the lead but he was right with me. We pushed it pretty hard. Harder than I would on race day but it felt good and it was fun to be running with someone. We popped out onto the paved road and ran some pretty quick miles into the Fish Hatchery aid station. A legendary section of the route completed but I went out too hard again.
Distance: 9.98 miles
Avg 24 Race Finish Split: 1:54:00
My Split: 1:38:47
My Avg Pace: 9:53
Fish Hatchery to Halfmoon
From there, the course kind of sucks but will be good for me — road miles! We motored along the paved road out to Halfmoon road. Still doing some good miles and pace. Hitting mid-7s for some of it. It was too fast again for race day but it was good training effort. Merilee was parked again up ahead and pointed us off the road and onto the dirt section out to Halfmoon. Very small rolling hills in this section but we were a good portion into the run and I started feeling odd. I let my partner move on ahead and I took some time to walk, hydrate and eat. I hadn’t really done any of that until this point. Was too wrapped up in the run. My gut was suffering from that. Pretty much just a plain old bonk. Took some time to get it all down and start to reap the benefits of it. So mistake there — should have been on it earlier. Really was the low point of the day here. About 2 hours in and I had no energy. Figured a huge part of that was my 50 mile race a week prior. So was pretty disappointed here but knew that I would return. Got passed by packs of 2 through this section. I counted my place falling. Again, not a race but I wanted to see how I stacked up. Finally, I started bringing it back and was able to stay within reach of some folks and figured I had found my spot. In retrospect while writing this up, I still beat the goal pace by 2 minutes even though I would consider that section that day a total failure.
Distance: 6.74 miles
Avg 24 Race Finish Split: 1:17:00
My Split: 1:15:50
My Avg Pace: 11:15
Halfmoon to Twin Lakes
I was excited about this section of the run because we would be getting on the Colorado Trail and I had been on that before here while hiking Mount Elbert! Some familiar stuff. However, lots of rolling hills to get there. Sort of like the Boulder Mesa trail of Leadville. I ran the flats slowly, pushed a bit more on the descents, and focused on powerhiking the climbs. Stayed around a group of the same guys through all of this. They would often get ahead on the ups but I would come right back on the downs. Once the trail turned to more downs than ups, I started gapping them. I knew that at some point Twin Lakes would appear then there would be a nice drop down to town. The lakes finally appeared but the trail seemed to wind around forever before really getting us down. No one was around me again. I was running pretty solid again at this point as if the Halfmoon bonk never happened. I was totally in my groove. This seems to be my pattern post-bonk. Finally, I popped out and saw the other folks sitting at the aid station with a grill cooking food and a big cooler of ice cold soda and beer. I had completed the run.
Distance: 8.67 miles
Avg 24 Race Finish Split: 1:54:00
My Split: 1:48:04
My Avg Pace: 12:27
It was a great day to run. Never really got hot. Partly cloudy out. Really enjoyed being on the trails with other people with similar goals and various abilities. Much better than a boring solo run where I would have had to keep looking at maps. The trail was lightly marked and was still easy to follow. So how did I do?
Distance: 25.39 miles
Avg 24 Race Finish Split: 5:07:00
My Split: 4:42:41
My Avg Pace: 11:07
Well, of course, anything that would have been greater than the goal split would have been bad news. That would have meant I had poor odds at the goal. So I beat it by about 25 minutes. That’s on a fresh but 50 mile race recovering body. Plus, I didn’t have to run the 2 hours from the start to May Queen, but those should be slow miles too. So I am pretty encouraged. If I do the reverse math and see what finishing time plays out for running at 5:07 for this section, it shows the 20:00 – 20:59 group. Hot damn. Lots more factors and strategy and needing to reserve on race day but I think this shows that the course record is safe for another year.
Other thoughts? I wore my hydration pack this time. Probably helped but I just plain forgot to drink. When I did, it was good and cold and I was able to consume a bunch. It didn’t really bother me other than the fact that it would have been nice to be in my normal uniform for more comfort. I definitely see needing to swap in and out of the pack on race day. Will give me a different feel over different portions. Possibly using the pack for more climbing sections and just a bottle on the descents. This portion of the course was very runnable for me.
Now that the running was done, I stripped off my shoes and relaxed with a Coors Light, a Powerade and a sandwich. Life was good. Runners were not exactly pouring in either. I checked the sheet and I had finished in 12th on the day. All the spots lost on that Halfmoon section really. A few more came in but then my phone rang and it was JV. He and Homie were driving by Twin Lakes in 5 minutes and could give me a ride. This is much much better than waiting and hour until they could fill a school bus for the ride to Leadville. So I went out, found the guys, and we drove back to Leadville. Hadn’t seen JV in a week or more so we had some catching up to do. Big talk about WS100 but it was still early in the day. They dropped me in Leadville at the pool. Kim came pulling up in the RV after successfully driving it out of May Queen into town. I grabbed a cold Mountain Dew out of the RV fridge and it was time for a swim. It was a great day. More running to come in the morning!
Goal pace times based on the Buckler pattern from over here.
I went 25.39 miles with an elevation gain of 2,933 feet in 04:42:41, which is an average pace of 11:07. Heart rate average was 153. View my GPS data on Garmin Connect.