Monday, June 20, 2016

Leadville Mosquito Pass Marathon

Leadville Mosquito Pass Marathon race day. It is always nice getting to wake up at your own house, roll out of bed, and race in your backyard. I leisurely got up, debated which shoes to wear. I decided to go with the Hoka Speedgoats for their knobby grip and stability yet still lightweight. Eventually, I found my way to the start line. I love running this race. Plenty of great views, great people at both the aid stations and the general crowd, and of course there is the incredible competition. Mike Aish was to be my main competition. I won the marathon in 2014 and Mike was 2nd. Last year we switched positions with Mike taking top honors. 2016 would prove to be another solid race.

Picture by Leadville Race Series: At the start.

Josh Colley stood there in the middle of the street with his shotgun held high. He fired the blank, which is still pretty darn loud, and we were off. Both the Heavy Half (HH) and the Marathon runners start together. Both Mike and I ignored their pace; we were more concerned with each other. 3 HH runners shot out in the lead. Finally at mile 1 Mike and I left the road and no longer had to worry about the HH runners we were by ourselves.

Both of us had the same goal. Race up-tempo, pushing it hard and being sure to stay close (or ahead) of our competitor. Just over a mile in we ran up Iron Hill. Here I unexpectantly gained an edge on Mike.  It was not much only 10 yards… was I going too fast, or was he sitting and waiting, or was I just feeling great… whatever it was I spent no time meditating on it instead I focused on the next climb: California Gulch to Breece Hill. I ran up the rough “Burro Road”, as locals call it, a few weeks ago it still had 3-4 feet of snow up at the top.  However today the fluffy white stuff was missing.
Mike and I pushed on up the ever steepening and rocky road. Mike sat, just 2 or 3 yards right behind me. Finally half way up the road Mike slowed and power hiked the steepest and rockiest sections to conserve his energy, meanwhile I kept running. I topped out near the base of Ball Mountain and enjoyed some mountain views as a dropped into the Breece Hill aid station. By this time I had an 80 yard lead over Mike. I still had half a water bottle and decided to forgo the aid.

From here the trail, descends down a steep and rocky double track jeep road. I ran hard trying to maintain while also just trying to not catch a toe on some protruding rock. After a mile of the rough road finally I made it down to Adelaide Park. Here I took some salt tabs as the sun was heating up the day. Through the process I dropped my Honey Stinger Chews. Oh no I need those! I quickly stopped picked up the package and was off again. I only lost 2 seconds, but in a race it feels like an eternity. I quickly popped another 2 or 3 Chews in my mouth. They were amazing.

On a 90 degree corner in the center of Adelaide Park I could see Mike still about 80 yards back and hammering. From here I ran up the road (Lincoln Gulch) to the upper Stumptown aid station. Half way up the road Mike caught me. We were in a dead on race, tied again. At the aid station I dumped water on my head but ran through with no other bestowed luxuries. Mike stopped for a few seconds but soon caught me again. We ran through Stumptown, County Roads 38, and CR 3C, then part of CR 3 to the giant aid station at the base of the climb up Mosquito.  We were both tempoing hoping and trying to drop the other. Neither of us budged. At this point we had merged with the HH runners and were in ever increasing traffic. At the aid I stopped for only a few seconds, dumped more water on my head, and got more liquid in my hand-held, before I was off. Mike had a similar transition and so we were running together again.

Picture by Leadville Race Series: Lincoln Gulch, Near Stump Town Aid Station

I knew I had to start racing going up Mosquito. The road gets sloppy with rocks, rivulets of water, and racers. I put my head down and started racing. Here I was focused. Of course I felt sluggish but who doesn’t? I passed the upper Mosquito Aid and kept pushing determined to run almost anything. Twice I caught myself power hiking over a particular steep section. Each time I willed myself back to running. I had no idea where Mike was, I was only focused on going up. Finally, I topped out at the top of the Mosquito Pass in 1:59:40. I took the need 1.43 seconds to rejoice in breaking 2 hours and then started the decent. Once again I need to stay focused flying downhill at 6 min pace trying to dodge both people going in both directions, and rocks is not the easiest. Good thing… if it was it would be boring. I saw Mike on the way down… I had about a 3-4 minute total lead on him.

Back at the aid at the base of Mosquito I got more liquids both for drinking and pouring on my head, and then I was out. I finished off my Honey Stinger Chews ran through Stumptown and over to Adelaide Park. From here, the hardest part of the race (in my opinion) the climb back up to Breece Hill, lays waiting to catch anyone who dares venture up the road. Why is it so hard? Other than the steepness, and rocks you have to remember runners are at 20 miles, with direct sun, dehydrated, and delusional, and without bystanders. I pushed it up the climb trying to stay focused. The Breece Hill Aid beckons like a lighthouse for lost souls. As happy as I was to arrive I wasted no time, replenished, and quickly left. At this point I realized I was on track for a fast time and started pushing the pace. I cruised downhill and to the finish line in 3:33:39. Mike came in a solid 2nd in 3:40.

Picture by Leadville Race Series: Enjoying a win!  

Wow! It was an awesome race. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mount Evans Ascent

The Mount Evans Ascent: Now here was a race I’ve wanted to run for a while, but for some reason never got into it. Don’t know why not. It is one of the few races to run up to and over 14,000 feet. The others being the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon and the Hardrock 100. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out if there are any others but those are the only races I could think of. In the US that is.

The race starts at about 10,500 feet and runs 14.6 miles on the paved road all the way up to the parking lot at 14,130 feet just below the summit. I slept near the start in my trusty 4Runner.  I had no worries of parking or trying to get to the race in time. I woke up leisurely at about 6:00, rolled out of bed and got my bib. I was feeling ready… and hopefully fast. After a short warm up I toed the line and we were off. I wanted an honest race and took out the race at a good clip, but one I thought was doable and controlled. The first mile was a 6:20 followed by a 7:00 flat mile. I held the lead and knew I was gaining over most of the field but speedster Matt Daniels was on my heels. Near mile 3 he made his move around me. He dropped the hammer, which I managed to jump over but could not reciprocate. He was gaining on me but I knew to wait and be patient, hoping my patience was the right move.

Mile 6 total was about 42:50. It was hard to tell, but I figured Matt’s advantage over me was slowly decreasing. We were now at 12,000 + feet and I was starting to feel in my groove.  I picked up the pace determined to regain the 75 yard lead he had. I would run him down. I took incremental measurements to be sure I was gaining on him. At first they were minor, almost imperceptible, but soon it was obvious: I was making up ground.

Mile 7 came and I was at about 50 minutes. Matt was close now… only 20 yards in front. I found my own tool bag with hammers and started dropping them. It was time to race! Within the next minute I caught Matt who was going through a low point. I pushed on. The next mile near 13,000 feet at the lake is mostly flat, even downhill. I knew my lead was growing but I was also not comfortable with the lead. I wanted an honest race. I hit mile 10 in almost exactly 70 minutes. About 1 minute in front of Matt. Pretty good, but I needed to keep racing.

I felt the last 4 miles and 1000 feet… oh so this is what altitude feels like. It felt great… in a weird-sort-of- painful, but full-of-hard-work sort of way. I finished and won in 1:46:28, about 1 minute up on Matt. I finished and other than the pounding headache felt great. I did not feel too beat up from the road but knew getting back down to 12,000 feet or lower certainly help with the elephant that was squeezing my head. I jumped in a car with Matt, Phil (4th place), and Phil’s fiancĂ© and we descended enough to make the elephant leave. Results are here:

Overall a great race. I tried out the new Hoka Tracer. It is by far the lightest shoe I’ve worn in years. It provides a snug fit yet does not compromise on comfort or cushion. This road shoe was perfect for the race, or other road, track, even smooth trail race. The Tracer is designed with minimal tread to maximize running on road or smooth surface terrain. I would highly recommend this shoe for workouts, races, and 2 hour runs or less. It delivered. Next up is the Leadville Mosquito Pass Marathon. I’ll be wearing the SpeedGoats there. They have a little more tread and support for the rocky uneven conditions there.