Time for the final long run of the training season. And there is no better place to do it. At night, on course, with a group! So I offered up my house as a basecamp of sorts for the run. We would slightly modify the finish — instead of going into town, we would end up at my place for food, drink, and chatter.
Had about a dozen folks on the roster and they all showed up! Everyone arrived at Team Shart HQ around 7:30 PM. Lots of introductions. We then piled into two cars and made the short 4 mile drive over to the Leadville Fish Hatchery for the start. Got started just after 8 PM in the setting sun. Plenty of light but that would change within the hour. Nice easy running over to the start of the Powerline climb to get the lungs warmed up. Then it was time for the crux of the run. Unlike this same run one year ago, I intended on running every step of the Powerline and subsequent journey up Sugarloaf Pass this year.
As people moved to the hike, I went by and kept on my pace. Felt absolutely great on that climb. Breathing hard but not at a PR effort level. Brooks was out in front but I ended up coming around him as he was re-outfitting. Ended up hitting the top of the climb at exactly 5.00 miles in in 56 minutes without ever coming off running pace. Stopped there and waited as the other 11 runners came in 1×1 to regroup for the decent. Nice and dark now and we could see the campfires down at May Queen a few thousand feet below us.
We moved on out down the descent and I wasn’t happy with the line Brooks was taking and my lack of HR. So I pushed around him and found myself blazing down the trail feeling very confident on the night time descent on very solid and rested legs. We regrouped again as we hit Hagerman Pass Road. A car was coming up the pass and I could only imagine how freaky it looked having all these headlamps coming at you.
We dropped down onto the Colorado Trail. I followed Pat through this section. Just zoned out watching every footstep he placed in front of me. Ran a nice pace through there and we quickly arrived at the Timberline trailhead. The miles were just melting away so far. Things were actually getting warm at this point so I joined Brooks as part of Team Shirtless. 10:30 or so at night under a sky full of stars as we headed down the road into May Queen. I immediately dropped into the first outhouse for a well deserved break. Then came out and filled my bottle. Leila commented that I was running strong and I replied that after so many months of feeling beat down it was nice to feel strong tonight. We continued down the road to the lake. Lots of campers were standing near the road watching the parade of headlamps. Always fun to freak people out like that a bit.
Hit the Turquoise Lake trail behind Brooks who was leading the pack. Felt pretty strong still but was getting a little tired. I hadn’t been fueling well and the late night effort was staring to make me think about bed and a warm shower. Probably could have used an iPod about there. Brooks was motoring good and gapped me. I could see his light in the distance. Two runners were behind me and then a gap to the rest. A bit later, I found Brooks waiting up on us as he was getting freaked out being all alone up front in the big bad woods. We moved forward together and popped out at Tabor Boat Ramp in no time. Waited for the group to sync up again there.
The bad part about stopping was that you get cold in the probably low 50s temps at that point. So I said it was fun but I had hot food waiting! So I led out of Tabor on the maze of trails around the south side of the lake. I have run that path so many times I can do it with my eyes closed. Every turn, every tree, every curve. I know all the shortest lines. Brooks rode on my shoulder as I guided him through the finer points of the curves. In no time, we popped out at the dam and softly jogged over to the mini-powerline descent. Chris came up next to me and commented on his gut not working with him. I sort of felt like something was brewing for me too. Nice quick descent and we were down on the fireroad for the last few miles back home.
Those flat miles through there were not being kind to me. My gut decided that was enough for tonight but I pushed on through it. We were dusted out by two screaming car fulls of folks. Cough cough. Thanks. We got to the turnoff for the Boulevard and I held up to make sure all 11 runners made it through. At this point, I felt like my run was done and I was more interested in getting everyone back to the house for a celebration. So I pulled up the rear, walking and hiking with folks. We were a bit alone back there but quickly made our way up to the train tracks and the shortcut to my neighborhood. I found the entire crew standing there wondering if that was the turn. Guess nobody really wanted to go to town! I just ran through the group and said, “I am going home!”. Felt great to be near the finish. We wound through the neighborhood and the suddenly my house was straight in front of us all lit up and looking pretty inviting. My wife and mother-in-law were inside prepping for our arrival. They saw the stream of lights coming up the road and knew we had all made it back.
My mother-in-law isn’t very close to the sport so it was fun to share the evening with her and show her a little about what we do here. She still didn’t quite get the fact that we drove 4 miles away and then ran 20+ miles back home. And the fact that we did it at night. And the fact that is wasn’t on a paved surface. And the fact that nobody was nervous about mountain lions, bears, or anything else that creeps in the night. OK, maybe we are an odd bunch but you know what? These are my people.
Everyone came in and had some warm soup, beer, soda, chips, rolls, and whatever else they could find. We hung out for a good hour or so trading stories from the night and talking about all things running. Good times. You don’t get to do that after a race because everyone is so trashed. Then it was time to call it a night and everyone loaded up for the long drive home. Except for me…and Brooks. It was nice to just get to crash with my family.
All in all a pretty successful run. The group size was manageable. We didn’t lose anybody. And the weather delivered. I wish all my new and old friends the best of luck. In two weeks, we run that same route except that we will have 80 miles on our feet before we get started and we won’t detour into my neighborhood. 6th and Harrison is the destination!
Thanks to my wife, Kim, and mother-in-law, Charlee, for cooking, staying up late, and putting up with the madness!
I went 20.98 miles with an elevation gain of 2,413 feet in 03:26:45, which is an average pace of 09:51. Heart rate average was 146. View my GPS data on Garmin Connect.