For me, it doesn't get any better than Leadville. It's beautiful and brutal all at once. The Leadville races challenge you in every imaginable way and coax you back with it's alluring beauty and natural wonder. In other words, she's a sneaky, painful bitch!
Jo and I got to town a couple days before the race, which is ill advised for those that want to acclimate to the extreme altitude before an endurance event.
On Friday, we toured some of the sites that accompany the Leadville 100. I did this so I could get my mind right for the race the following month. It's like revisiting the scene of a crime.
I want to share some of the sites from the LT100 course.
Turquoise Lake in the day. For most runners, we only see this via our headlamps early in the morning and again on the way to the finish of the 100 miler at mile 7 and 93.
Twin Lakes is the low point of the 100 course and we pass through here right before climbing Hope Pass at mile 40 and again at mile 60.
Hope Pass is the low point in the center of the picture.
Our favorite Bar in Leadville, the Silver Dollar Saloon!
On Saturday, we went out to the mountain bike race to cheer on the riders. They ride the same course we run on Sunday. It's also a great opportunity to go to all the aid stations and preview the course. The bike race is amazing to watch and the energy is intoxicating. Its a very cool event!
We hung out with Ken Chlouber before the mountain bike race on Saturday. He's the famous originator of the Leadville 100 and is well known for his quote "You're stronger than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can".
Me, Jo and Rob with Ken Chlouber.
From the top of Dutch Henry Hill as the riders begin! We run up this same hill tomorrow.
Storming the hill!
Rider taking the hill at Printer Boy.
After seeing the course and aid stations we went back to the finish line and watched the riders come in. A new course record was set with a time of 3:43:28. That's an amazing time considering the terrain and altitude. It was awesome to watch!
This little fellow was waiting for his dad to come in. I love his mountain bike and custom Batman shirt!
Enough screwing around. I came here to run!
My good friend Rob Goeckermann joined me for the 50 miler. Rob was a running buddy from my neighborhood until he moved his family to Wisconsin. I was stoked to be running and spending time with him.
Our race began at 6:00 AM. It was dark and 45 degrees when we showed up at the start line. We were both excited and a little nervous.
Getting ready to tackle the hill!
We're OFF!!! Up Dutch Henry Hill!
I'm generally much faster than Rob. After we took off, I noticed him trying to pass me up the hill. This simply won't do! I had planned to go VERY easy up the hill, but kicked it into another gear to shake Rob off my ass.
Me and Rob tackling the hill. Looks like the guy in front us is going camping? Thats a lot of shit to pack in a 50 mile race.
We have a few flat miles after Dutch Henry Hill, then a LONG grinding climb to 12,000 feet, over our first mountain pass. This is followed by a 3.5 mile downhill run, back into the valley and to our first aid station at Printer Boy.
I break this race into 4 (almost) equal sections. Printer Boy represents 1/4, Stump Town is 1/2, Back to Printer Boy, then onto the finish. My plan is to keep those splits under 2:30 so I can have a sub 10 hour finish.
I came into Printer Boy just over 2:30. Not a great start.
Without time to acclimate, my lungs were burning and my heart rate was through the roof! This is NOT the same race I remember from last year.
Coming into Printer Boy for aid.
Rob all smiles after 13.5 miles through the Rocky Mountains.
After Printer Boy, we make a 1 mile descent then begin a long climb to our next mountain pass. This is followed by a very steep descent down to Stump Town, which is the 25 mile mark and the turn around for this out-and-back course.
The first thing I saw coming into Stump Town. Optimistic observation!
It was here, at the 25 mile mark that Jo told me Rob has been on my heels all day. I figured I would be adding distance between us as the day went on, but evidently I have underestimated my big buddy. I began to hatch a plan to set things back into their natural order.
I'm supposed to be taking this race easy because I'm running the Vermont 100 next weekend. I can't afford to burn myself out here today.
So far I'm on a perfect 2:30 split, coming into Stump Town in 5 hours. I have no time in the bank for a sub 10 hour finish.
Getting fuel at the turnaround.
Heading back up the mountain. Leadville Bound!
As I was leaving the aid station, I heard somebody say "Hey Kelly!". I looked up and there was ROB!!! The dude was right on my ass!
Rob hiking the hill to the aid station at Stump Town.
After leaving Stump Town, I was on a mission to get back to Leadville as fast as possible. I clambered back up the pass and bombed down the back side of the mountain headed to Printer Boy.
I rolled into the aid station and confirmed I was still making my perfect 2:30 splits. I'm now 7:30 into the race and need to make up time to meet my goal.
Coming back into Printer Boy at mile 37
My only hope for a decent finish is to run the uphill as I head over the final pass. After that, I'll have 5 miles of steep technical downhill and another 5 miles of flat trail to the finish.
I ran the uphill until my breathing and heart rate got too high, then settled into a brisk hike while my body settled down. Then ran again, repeating this process all the way to the summit, passing a lot of people in the process.
Once I reached the summit, I took a few deep breaths, pointed my toes down the mountain and ran as hard as I could. My running was bordering on out of control, but I was having a blast. I came to an aid station that marked 7 miles left to the finish and flew right passed it without stopping.
Once I hit the flat, I slowed to a steady, manageable pace and ran all the way to the finish. I stopped 5 times along the way to check on injured runners and offer whatever aid I could. Once they were all set, I headed back down the trail to the finish.
Pretty soon, I could hear the familiar sounds of the finish line. I ran along the top of Dutch Henry Hill and ran downhill to the finish line and across the red carpet.
I finished in 9:48:11, completing that last section in 2:18. This was almost 20 minutes faster than my split from earlier that morning over the same trail and 42 minutes faster than it took me last year to cover the same section.
Finishing the Leadville 50!
Pretty damn pleased.
Relaxing after a tough run. Notice the storm in the background. The remaining runners are going to suffer.
Rob had a goal of finishing in under 11 hours. Based on where he was all day, I was pretty confident that he would make it. As I continued to celebrate with beers and mingle with other runners, I kept a watchful eye on the clock and the display that showed incoming runners.
As time ticked away, I began to get a little nervous, but I had faith in Rob.
Somehow, Jo caught a glimpse of Rob on the hillside right before he crossed the remote timing mat. Then his name appeared on the display, alerting us that he was on his way down the hill to the finish.
Rob crossing the finish in 10:52:05!
It was a moving experience and I was so happy for Rob. He's a tough guy and Leadville is a tough race. He had a plan and executed it well. I couldn't be prouder of any of my friends.
We relaxed together, enjoyed some beer and BBQ and shared stories with other runners. A truly fantastic scene.
The young man in the picture below had just finished running this 50 miler. I saw him on the course and was amazed that he was running at all, let alone, in front of so many adults. I'm amazed by this kid and I hope he goes on to become one of the great ultra runners of our time. While so many kids are too lazy to go outside, this kid is knocking off 50 mile runs at altitude. A true inspiration.
Once again, I really enjoyed my time in Leadville and I look forward to coming back in August to tackle the 100 miler. Running the 50 is a great way to regain perspective and get my bearings for the big race.
I'll be heading to the VT100 next week, feeling good and ready for fun!