Yesterday we watched the bike race and got some... beta... on the trail conditions and what the course was like. In typical Leadville fashion, a lot of the race took place on old mining roads, which was fine with me, while the aesthetic nature of single track is lost, you do gain wonderful views from the open roads.
Somewhere before the race started, I lost Ryan and Liz and found Ryan and Alaina. Im just that awkward single guy tagging along with various couples. After taking care of some early morning business, Ryan (Case) and I shuffled towards the starting line, which coincidentally was at the base of a steep hill. First one to the top of the hill wins a prize (no, really they do).
|In there somewhere|
I walked up the hill. And the masses swept around me. Then once we hit the single track on top of my hill we started running for real. Maybe I was running too fast, but something didn't feel right. I was off my game, physically. That put me in a bad place mentally almost immediately. With something like 2 miles in, I was already feeling less enthusiastic than I needed to. Just keep grinding along, you'll be good bro.
I think part of this feeling was that the first 10 miles is essentially all uphill. Sometimes the up can be deceiving in that you don't even notice its going up, but your legs feel it. Add that to the fact that you're running at 10,000 feet above sea level, and its easy to get down. I kept running trying to find my rhythm. It wouldn't come. Where was Hagy and Jenny, my faithful crew who always lift my spirits? This race felt like Mohican, compacted into one shorter race, with all the ups and downs I experienced there.
I was feeling particularly discourage as the trail just kept going up and up. Looking back I have to laugh at my thoughts during the first little bit of the race. I was thinking about dropping. That would've been terrible, dropping only 10 miles into the race. Oh, this just isn't your day, blah blah excuses excuses.
Then I heard someone belting out "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, his name is my name too". I immediately knew this was none other than the Ryan Case. I gladly ran with Ryan for the next 10 miles, finally, being able to talk to someone (and finishing the long uphill) my brain and legs came around and I was in slightly a better place. Along the way we went through the Printer Boy aid station, where I saw Gary a friend of a friend whom I had just met, but again, it was super motivating to see a smiling face.
My climbing legs were working really well on the ascent to the high point of the course on Ball Mountain. Run run run hike run hike hike run run run run hike etc. you get the point. The combo of a strong power hike and efficient running cadence really helps me cruise these kinds of sections. In fact I love climbs (10%+) that dictate this sort of effort, rather than 10 mile climbs at 6%.
I was finally starting to feel good, if not a little dehydrated. The aid stations for this route were approximately 6-7 miles apart, which in the mountains can be 2 hours if you're not moving fast enough. My little handheld bottle was not cutting it.
Its too bad I didn't notice this earlier and make an effort to drink more fluids at the aid stations. Because soon the combination of my aggressive fueling strategy and lack of water caught up with me and I was full on nauseated. I had made it down the pass that went over Ball Mountain (mile 21ish) and was heading towards the turn around point when I was forced to go from a run to a jog, or else I was going to lose my cookies. I saw the leaders coming back towards me from the turnaround and tried to give some encouragement and not puke on them.
This continued for way too long. I had gone through the turn around and was heading back up the mountain, feeling terribly sick while still trying to get in calories and water. Since this was an out and back section, I was now seeing a lot of other runners, which actually helped lift my mood a lot. Despite the sick feeling, the constant interaction with others helped me forget about my stomach and just focus on saying hi to people and running the gradual climbs on the mining roads before the steep climb. In fact, it wasn't until mile 28ish that I let out a huge belch and felt like I was given an instant energy boost. I suspect my stomach finally emptied all the fuel I had been forcing down into my intestine where it could be absorbed. I really cranked through this section taking risks on the downhill and generally enjoying myself.
|Some reference points added. My graphic design/computer skills are out of control these days|
I caught two or three more people before reaching the Printer Boy aid station, but noticed that one runner behind me would not be deterred. What the hell, no one gains ground on me late in races like that! I ran really hard after Printer Boy, despite the wicked long climb, and then turned around. This guy was 3 steps behind me. He said "hi" and we started to chat. I immediately realized it was Mike Aish, a former Olympian and 2:12 marathoner. hah. Of course it is. No wonder I can't outrun this guy.
We ran together for a good 10-12 miles. He was super friendly and was giving me encouragement as my stomach had started to sour again. I don't think I took on any fuel for the last 1:30 of the race, which is just a terrible idea. But I didn't want to barf, and have lots of other excuses. Mike and I ran together, and he told me he was just out for fun and had done a 7.5 hour run the day before. I felt like we were crawling along for this last 10 mile stretch, which is a hard section, because although its slightly downhill, the gradient isnt enough to really carry you, and you have to actually run it, which if you're hammered like I was, its torture. I couldn't believe how much I was looking forward to anything that had an incline, I felt so much better going up than down. Somewhere along this way, Mike suggested that I had 4th all wrapped up and he would let me finish ahead of him out of kindness. No way was I going to let this guy, who was clearly the better runner and just keeping me company, let me finish in front of him. I was already planning out my "fall" right before the finish line so that he would be forced to beat me.
|Finish. Where are my sandals?|
Luckily right around then Mike, the course record holder and last year's winner, told me we had 5k left, to which I replied "well get after it!" He sprinted away and put 2 minutes on me in a mile. I realized I was close to the finish, put on my game face and ran the last mile or so to the end. My feet hurt so fricking bad I couldn't wait to rip off my shoes and get my flip flops on.
Overall I was pleased with my performance, but I am sure I lost at least 5 minutes due to the nausea and another 5 due to being a total and complete wuss on the last 10 mile decent. Oh well, always nice to have room for improvement right?