"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Monday, July 8, 2013

Leadville Trail Marathon Race Report

I'm a little nervous.  Its been awhile since I've run a race.  Like 6 months.  I haven't raced since Yankee Springs in January.  Now I'm standing on the starting line for the Leadville Trail Marathon, advertised to have 6,300 feet of gain over the 26 mile out and back course that is run entirely at over 10,000 feet above sea level.

Since I've been in Colorado I've had the opportunity to run with a bunch of great people, and most of them also signed up for the marathon.  We camped out in Leadville the night prior to the race after hanging around the cool little mountain town all day.

Then some guy fires off a shotgun and the stampede begins.  I'm a little amazed how hard everyone is running from the get-go.  Its faster than I'm used to.  And all uphill, errr maybe up mountain is more appropriate?  Soon I'm gasping for air.
A wee bit more climbing than I'm used to

I get a glimpse of the trail ahead.  More switch backs and more climbing.  Hmmm.  I'll slow down a touch I think.  I'm still gasping for air.  Damnit.

The first aid station is at about 4 miles into the race.  If you can't tell by looking at the elevation profile, its quite a climb up to that point.  I got some water and a gel and was on my way.  I think at this point I had settled into 25-30th place and was just trying to keep moving at a reasonable pace.  I typically try to move through aid stations as quickly as possible, and I continued this.  After cresting the Ball Mountain aid station and running quickly down the old mining roads, I started feeling a little better.  A combination of some downhill and scaling back the pace a little bit seemed to be paying dividends.  I occasionally looked around, and was greeted with gorgeous views of mountains and bright blue sky.

Survival mode

Coming through the aid station at the bottom of Mosquito pass, I really started feeling better.  Which is strange as you are still running at 10,000 feet above sea level.  I had passed a few more people, including some fellow retching and making awful noises in the bushes.  The climb up Mosquito starts off actually fairly gradual, and after a good amount of downhill to reach this point, I decided to run as much as I could.  

Since the race was an out and back, and the turn around point is at the top of this climb, the trail became rather crowded, as we had rejoined with the half marathoners who were both going up and going down the pass, depending on how far along they were.  Luckily we are on mining roads, and very rarely was there not enough room to maneuver around people.  It was kind of nice to have so much mental stimulation during the climb, which could be quite brutal.  I ran, then hiked, then ran, then hiked, alternating on shallow and steep grades and using my breathing as a guide as to when to settle into a pow-hike.  I actually really enjoyed this section as I felt I had a good grinding gear.

I passed several more marathoners, and had the pleasure of seeing the leaders come blitzing down the pass.  Then a marathoner passed me; he was running the whole damn climb, I couldn't help but admire his consistent climbing cadence.  

At the top of the pass I quickly filled my bottle (2:18), stepped on the timing mat, and when I was told that I was somewhere around 11th or 12th place, I decided to let it all go on the descent from Mosquito and see what happened from there.  

I'm a fairly good downhill runner, especially when I'm in the mood to take some chances.  I took some chances. This was evident as I passed 3-4 other marathoners on the descent.  Including the guy who had climbed so well up to the top of the pass.    Actually I still don't know how I didn't trip or fly off the edge of the mountain on this descent, but thankfully it all worked out.  The descent seemed to shake something loose in my GI track, and I was eagerly anticipating a port-a-potty stop at the aid station at the bottom of Mosquito.  Unfortunately I saw two children who were cheering on family go running into the bathrooms right as I ran up.  Crap (pun intended), I'm not waiting around for that.  I started to run up the deusche grade mining road to the top of Ball mountain and after a while my need for a reststop reseeded.  This is lucky as there is nothing but shrubbery and rocks above treeline.    

At this point, I've run enough races to know that the return trip was going to be interesting.  I'd been running at threshold for almost 3 hours, something I don't practice often.  

I kept eating and must have been feeling ok, because I kept reeling people in.  I would jog with them for a brief moment, chat and recover, then take off to catch the next person.

I kept up that routine for the rest of the race, except as I got towards the finish I tried to make my passes rather emphatic, especially on the downhills.  Trying to take care of myself until the very end of the race, I took an S!cap at about mile 21, as I noticed I was very satly, but had not yet started cramping.  

Speaking of downhill, for me, the last downhill was a sufferfest.  It was technical as there was plenty of loose rocks and washed out ruts on the mining road, slightly rolling, and lasted 3-4 miles.  I was putting everything I had into the first couple miles, but as I couldn't see anyone in the distance I let up on the pace for a tad and almost tripped over some rocks.  OK, lets finish this out strong I decided.  So I hammered my legs into oblivion running downhill at sub 6:30 pace.  I ignored my screaming feet as I had reached that point where you don't care about pain and just want it to be over.  

As I crossed the finish line, I was told I had finished 6th overall (500ish starters?) in a time of 4:05.  I was very pleased, I had been thinking anything under 4:30 would be very good, and hadn't dreamed of running 4:05 in a race with 6,000 feet of gain.  I didn't care as much about the overall placing as running a time that I was satisfied with.

Our whole group finished strong, and had a big grin (grimace?) on their face when they finished.  It was a great social environment with all the finishers being extremely friendly and congratulatory.  The race gave out coffee mugs as the finishers award, which I like (I think some ppl were disappointed and wanted a medal)  We hung around for the rest of the day and I rehydrated with Michelob Ultra (blech). 


Liz and I both collecting our gold mining pans as age-group awards
 (we're the goofballs still in our running shorts)

Final thoughts:  While the trail race is a little expensive, it was well worth the $.  There were tons of goodies, plenty of food and beer, and a super enthusiastic environment.  While I don't usually like races with 1,000s of people, I do see the allure of larger events which really have a great environment.

Gear:  Scott T2 Kinabalu, The North Face Better than Naked shorts, Ultraspire Quantum belt, Ultimate Direction 20oz quickdraw water bottle.  
Food:  I don't remember?  Like 10 gels, and two bottles of sports drink?  No solid food.

1 comment:

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