I don’t know how you can have a better weekend than the one we just had. What a blast.
It all started out innocently enough on Friday afternoon when we were packing up the rest of our stuff to go camping in Leadville before the race. I somehow forgot to think about how long a marathon really is. If you didn’t know, it’s far, especially in Leadville. Between getting married and a generally busy spring, the long runs haven’t been happening much. In fact, the last time I saw more than 18 miles was at the Colorado Marathon on May 6. Don’t let this fool you though, as under trained as I felt, it was going to be a good race!
We had a group campsite for the weekend with a bunch of our Runner’s Roost teammates so a late arrival Friday meant we still got to see everyone and have the required pre trail race beers before going to bed. The race started at 8 the next morning so we had to grab my packet and get to the start before then. As always, things were a breeze and we had plenty of time to chit the chat with a ton of people at the race start. I mean a ton; Joe B, Scott, Jeremy, the whole Roost Crew and more. CC always laughs because she says I know people everywhere we go. A lot of times, someone will start talking to me and I’ll get this blank stare on my face as I scroll back through my brain and find where I know them from. I feel like an idiot but it happens way more often than I’d like to admit! It is fun knowing a ton of people at these races though!
Just after 8, they shoot the shotgun and we have a long 4 mile climb up Ball Mountain. I start out at a reasonable pace from what I can tell and after a mile and half, the marathoners split from the halfers and we make our way up the unrelenting and loose climb to Ball aid station 1. You get no chance to warm up for this climb. It’s on from the gun. I can tell immediately that I am going to lose ground on most of the guys on the climbs but I was able to keep it fairly close. My lack of power hiking and general hill climbing was going to make it tough. My only chance was the downhills and I planned on taking advantage of them!
I ran the race with one 20 oz handheld and a few gels and made sure to eat more often than usual. The climb around Ball is tough and you reach 12,200+ feet before dropping to the first aid station again before descending even further to the base of Mosquito Pass. We had a good group between Bryan, Matt, Swaney and myself and were talking a fair amount, just enjoying the run. I had another gel and was ready to do work. Before the climb though, I got to see Court at the aid station! She was there with all my stuff laid out and taking a bunch of awesome pictures. Milan and the kids were there as well. Fun to see them, even if I didn’t stop to take advantage of Courtney’s hard work with the food. She did get a high five out of me though!
I ran through my third straight aid station here and hit the climb as best I could. I had been yo-yoing with the same group of guys from the start . . . lose ground on the climbs and make it up on the descents. I was determined not to lose much on this climb and it went well for a good 2 miles or so. Only problem, it’s a 3 mile long stretch! Let me tell you about Mosquito too. It starts out reasonable enough, with plenty of room to run and not many rocks to navigate. It tricks you. It’s an evil hill. Ok, it’s an evil mountain. It gets steeper and the rocks get more prevalent and it doesn’t stop and only gets steeper.
It was fun on this stretch though since you could see all the half marathoners and other marathoners as well. I eventually make it to the top, all 13,135′ of it, and have to take my first stop at the aid station. I get my bottle refilled and down a gel really fast and grab a few pretzels for the decent. After a few minutes and probably 6 marathoners passing me, it was time to roll. This was the part I had looked forward too. I had mentally told myself it’s only a half and everything after that would be easy. I wanted to FLY down the pass. I put my upper body forward and just let my legs go and hope they’d keep up. The rocky sections were hard to navigate with all the uphill runners in the good line so I just had to do what I love best, not care and go as fast as possible on the technical side! I loved it and thought I was going to die a few times but I did the decent about as fast as possible and made up a bunch of places again and by the time I got back to Courtney, I had somehow managed to get back into 6th place. I had started to feel some pain on my right heel but ignored it for now, nothing I could do about it.
Unfortunately the hill back up to Ball was not as easy or short as I remembered. So lying to myself that after the 1/2 turn around would be a breeze didn’t work so well. I managed to make it to the aid station at Ball and only lose one place but after stopping for more water and some food and a gel, I slowly left for the 3 mile loop around the mountain. It was killer. It was more ascent to the top and I was feeling a little nauseous and hoped the food and water I just consumed would kick in soon. I felt like my stomach was holding onto the water I was ingesting and not absorbing it so I kept taking more salt and gels with sodium. Leila passed me at this point and told me we’re almost done with the climb and I was able to get my hands off my knees and moving from the side of the trail again. Luckily by the time we reach the high point my head isn’t spinning anymore and I’m running again. The climb back up to the aid station wasn’t even that bad, just hot! Another quick stop and some Sprite and I’m on my way down, 4 miles to go.
I managed to run every bit of this but could feel my heel even more since I could move pretty well through this section. It was steep but not as rocky so you could just let your legs go and let gravity do it’s thing. With about a mile to go, we’re back on the wide dirt road and I feel like I can catch the guy in front of me so I gun it. It’s a just two turns and the straightaway to the finish! Longest finish ever though as it’s a good 3/4 of a mile and you can see it the whole time. I knew I had to keep pushing if my move past the other guy was going to take. Just run. RUN.
Finally make it to the red carpet and everyone is cheering loud and the halfers are finishing as well. They put up a ribbon for everyone to break at the line and I think there were three of us at the same time. Pretty cool! I see a few of the other guys and tell them congrats and move to the side to let CC come to me. After grabbing a watermelon slice and a vitamin water, I lay down on the road and can’t move. I feel nauseous again and need to just let my body come down a bit. I finally take off my shoe and look at the damage to my heel. It was bad. The whole heel just ripped away, no blister or anything, just a solid rip. Never had that happen. It wasn’t anything to do with my shoes and my Point6 socks were the only thing that made it possible to keep going. That fast descent on Mosquito was just so brutal and randomly having to break hard to avoid people just left my feet in bad shape. I heard a lot of other people had problems with blisters from this section or knee and ankle problems as well.
We hung around for quite a while at the finish to see other friends cross. The finish lines at the races in Leadville are like a party and everyone is having fun. The announcer was great as well; definitely kept the interest up. We were debating heading back home after the race instead of camping but after all the fun we had at the finish line, we decided to hang out a bit. Awards weren’t until 5 pm so CC suggested I head over to the Leadville Hostel and use their showers like I did after Silver Rush 50 last year. Best idea ever! Their water is really hot and you get your own soap so for $3, you can’t beat it. An extra buck gets you a towel even. I clean off and we head back to the campsite to hang out a bit before CC, Liz and I head back to awards.
We see a bunch of people that we knew again and had a fun time just relaxing and talking while awards were given out. Saw Alex, Marco and Carlos (they were in charge of the beer), Leila, Andrea, and the rest of the Roost Crew but somehow missed Brad and Lisa. I ended up getting 3rd in my age group and got a pretty cool award for it. I know if I trained better, I’d be able to handle this race next year without the problems I had. Definitely looking forward to it!
We headed back to the site and everyone was back and we cooked dinner. And by we I mean Liz and her brother Fred. It was awesome! We were all pretty beat so everyone was in bed as soon as the sun went down. Great weekend overall and a blast to share it all with our Roost Team!
17th overall, 3rd Age Group
6,333′ of climb!
*Lifetime fitness bought the series a few years back and have done a fantastic job. The shirts are pretty amazing as well! Definitely give some of these races a go!