*Part you skip to get to the race report:
After a nearly two year hiatus I’ve been strong armed into writing some form of race report for the Leadville Marathon (blasted social media!)
To say that my season has been a hodgepodge of aperiodic and random events would be the understatement of the century. I think this lies in the fact that I lost out on both the Western States lottery (completely expected), and the Leadville 1oo lottery (a bit of a shocker as this was my second application). After wallowing around for few weeks, I opted to sign-up for the Never Summer 100k in order to preserve my lottery chances for Western States next year. This left me with approx. one month less to prep for the year’s main event, and scrambling a bit to line up some “B” races.
First, I moved up from the Colfax half to the full marathon. I had hoped to PR the half, so again, I had to rearrange my expectations. After a PR at the 10-miler during the Cherry Creek Sneak, things proceeded to go downhill rapidly. Stomach flu stopped me in my tracks causing me to miss Greenland 50k, as well as any true training around that time frame. Colfax fell apart pretty early as well, with my stomaching going south around the half mark. Needing a few weekends at altitude, I signed up for the LT Marathon, and then the Mueller Marathon…but I digress…
*The actual race report:
I start by saying that for all of the flack they receive, the race series did a fantastic job with organization, packet pick-up, and ease of access to the start/finish. The maps and directions for parking made life really easy. As for the send-off, milling around at the start line was enough to know that this was going to be a very different kind of run. No one around seemed to take themselves too seriously at all, and it was more of a carnival like atmosphere than I would have anticipated for the suffering to come.
The climb out of town and into the mining district was a casual affair (and I was relieved), with most folks just dropping in and waving to the many friends/family that lined the streets on the way out of town. The marathon and half marathon course split pretty soon thereafter, with many of the half marathoners calling out “Good Luck!” to those of us headed out for the full. There was a small amount of climbing for the next mile, and than a sweet, buff, downhill coast that lead to paved road. Descending down the road with relative ease should have been fun, but all I could focus on was how much we would probably pay for the cruiser downhill.
The next two miles were a slogging climb. The terrain was a mix of jeep road, with deep ruts and rocks from snow/water run-off. Finding a line was tough as the pack was jumbled together, and at times it was difficult to see 3-5′ ahead. This became a theme at various points throughout the race. In no way am I a superstar (I’m firmly mid-pack at best), but efficiency suffers when you are worried about tripping because you are not able to see the best line, or if you are unable to take a line because there are already 3 people using it concurrently.
Eventually the climb leveled off above tree line and led to a beautiful alpine meadow with 360 degree views of snow capped mountains, and then transitioned to rolling single track down to a fully-stocked aid station. After stuffing my face with potato chips (which of course the photog immortalized), there was another BIG descent down a moderately techy patch to wide open jeep road. Coming through to the road it was incredible to see the sheer amount of crowd support, which really lifted the spirits as the temps started to heat up!
*Tiny Ant People
After another quick aid station stop, the road rolled along for several miles leading up to the climb of Mosquito Peak. Looking up to the horizon one could see exactly where we were headed, and it was nothing short of disheartening. As the vertical aspect increased, the terrain below transitioned from muddy, to icy, to rocky, and back to muddy again. This was also a point where course congestion again became a problem. The climb up Mosquito became very narrow, with many of the half-marathoners having already summited and now attempting to crash back down. The snow was piled heavily on the right, with no real space for passing on the ascending/descending path. Add to this a very warm day+altitude, and I became acutely nauseas. I remember at one point passing the med-check and one of the docs running over to check on me; after a quick word (primarily me saying I only wanted to finish the climb so I could head back down to lower altitude), I was able to drop in and keep putting one foot in front of the other towards the top.
Despite the frequent promises of “You’re almost there” (the most hated of encouraging words?) it felt like the rest of the climb was the entire race. At the summit Ken Choublier (creator of Leadville100) was taking photos with eager runners, but following a quick panorama I rushed down the mountain in the hopes my stomach would level off.
The descent was SLOW due to the above stated conditions. Anytime I tried to push I nearly flattened someone in front of me, and going around was impossible due to those making the ascent. I settled into a shuffle-hike and made my way down to the flats again. The heat remained problematic for me, and by this point I was grabbing handfuls of snow to put in my hat, down my shirt, etc.
The return to Ball was even keel. I was able to take some electrolytes, drink some water, and eat a fair amount of watermelon. One of the most impressive moments of the day was when we hit the second turnoff for the half and Mike Aish (2nd place marathon+2 time Olympian) had driven his car to the intersection to cheer runners on. I yelled out to ask about his day and he said something to the effect of being “too old” to win and that he would see me at the finish line party. The moment was a nice pick-me-up before the last big climb of the day.
The techy but nice down we smashed early in the day returned with all of its venom on the trip back PbVille. The trail was windy with some shade (I saw quite a few runners camped out under the spotty tree cover trying to get breathing and heart rate back under control). During the climb I dropped in with a few runners from Denver, and the chatter re: neighborhoods, upcoming events, etc. was a welcome diversion from the task at hand.
After what felt like a never-ending climb (in reality only a mile of ~600′ up), we were able to hit the last aid station before the big descent down. My stomach complained one last time prior to the free-fall, and I found myself once more in a congo line. It was during this point that I saw about three people just WIPE OUT. It was a welcome reminder to slow down and focus on my foot placement.
The last part of the race is somewhat of a blur. There was some hiking back up once more with the rest of the living dead, before a final run down into town. Finishing all I could think about was drinking a gallon of water and cranking the AC.
Overall, this was an incredible adventure. During the event I had serious misgivings about ever completing the LT100; however, given the gift of time I am more determined than ever to line up for the big dance. At the least, I will definitely be back for the marathon. The volunteers were incredible, the course was obvious, and the views breathtaking!!!
By the Numbers:
|1||10:41 /mi||8:27 /mi||270 ft||182 spm|
|2||13:35 /mi||9:23 /mi||425 ft||152 spm|
|3||10:03 /mi||9:51 /mi||-150 ft||170 spm|
|4||14:10 /mi||10:13 /mi||341 ft||144 spm|
|5||19:08 /mi||10:59 /mi||696 ft||118 spm|
|6||11:18 /mi||10:14 /mi||-23 ft||162 spm|
|7||9:50 /mi||13:01 /mi||-564 ft||170 spm|
|8||10:09 /mi||10:36 /mi||-190 ft||168 spm|
|9||13:25 /mi||10:35 /mi||226 ft||148 spm|
|10||9:31 /mi||9:25 /mi||-82 ft||176 spm|
|11||14:46 /mi||11:11 /mi||315 ft||138 spm|
|12||19:33 /mi||12:09 /mi||581 ft||116 spm|
|13||24:36 /mi||13:04 /mi||817 ft||98 spm|
|14||19:12 /mi||14:47 /mi||157 ft||122 spm|
|15||13:54 /mi||17:34 /mi||-653 ft||154 spm|
|16||12:34 /mi||16:26 /mi||-686 ft||160 spm|
|17||10:48 /mi||12:40 /mi||-367 ft||164 spm|
|18||12:32 /mi||12:47 /mi||-125 ft||146 spm|
|19||12:58 /mi||12:15 /mi||-20 ft||148 spm|
|20||10:46 /mi||11:17 /mi||-180 ft||166 spm|
|21||19:57 /mi||12:27 /mi||568 ft||112 spm|
|22||12:37 /mi||12:40 /mi||-341 ft||162 spm|
|23||9:14 /mi||11:31 /mi||-499 ft||178 spm|
|24||16:52 /mi||12:51 /mi||272 ft||128 spm|
|25||9:59 /mi||11:42 /mi||-417 ft||178 spm|
|26||8:25 /mi||9:44 /mi||-305 ft||184 spm|
|0.1||8:16 /mi||9:22 /mi||-33 ft||182 spm|