Starting to write a race report is its hardest part and is why I infrequently write them. With a 100 I always write a report, but that doesn’t mean it makes it to the keyboard. While there’s always something to say, the difficulty is deciding how to do it. In the previous reports, I’ve tended to favor blow-by-blow narratives, but I’m not sure that will work for Leadville ’06.
I will not call my 2006 Leadville Trail 100 a smashing success. To do so would imply that everything went according to plan and that I ran strong the whole way. That did not happen. What did happen is [Ha! So I said the hardest part about writing a race report is starting it… well, I was wrong. I started writing thins on August 24th and this was as far as I got until today, nearly four months later!] that I ran the first 60 miles conservatively with the only major problem having been a technical glitch, walked a total of 13 miles in two spells during the final 40 miles, and kicked major ass the other 27 miles of the final 40.
My “pre-race” lasted about 3 months. Although Arlington, Virginia technically remained my residence over the summer, from the end of May on I lived up at 7,100’ elevation in Park City, Utah (higher than Boulder, CO) while I studied for the bar exam. I have no doubt that the altitude acclimation I experienced in Park City helped me a great deal up in the two-mile high rarified air of Leadville. Furthermore, with the bar exam out of the way at the end of July, I was able to spend the two weeks directly preceding the race in Leadville itself. This provided yet another physiological as well as psychological boost. I had a great time these two weeks. I met locals, met ultrarunners and mountain bikers, took up residence at the Leadville Hostel … and Rosie’s Brewpub, explored the trailed, raced a god-awful slow 10k, and hung out with my sister and Emily.
The short term pre-race had the chance to be dicey, but it wasn’t. The night before the race it poured.. and poured… and poured. Leadville would suck in the rain. Fortunately, when I awoke at Oh-too thirty, it was chilly but the Alpine sky was filled from mountaintop to mountaintop with the most brilliant stars you could ever see. After abandoning my sister and Emily (hereafter “crew”) to eat breakfast with the runners up at the hostel, I headed to the start area where I easily rendezvoused with my crew at a predetermined location. With 10 minutes to go I shed my extra closed, did a final gear check, gave the crew some hugs, and headed to the start. I love the 10 minutes before a race – sure I’m nervous, have to pee, as well as tie my shoes about fifteen times, but I also get to mill about a unique cluster of humanity – wishing both friends and strangers the best of luck and reminding them to enjoy the journey.
*Shotgun blast* BANG!
Start (mile 0) to May Queen (mile 13.5) – 13.5 miles
As soon as the gun went off I ended up at the front of the pack heading down the first 3/4 miles of pavement to the first dirt road. Thankfully, I quickly remembered to slow down, which resulted in a mass of people flooded past me. When you pavement you hit “The Boulevard” – a 3-4 mile long, mostly straight, slightly downhill (in this direction) dirt road with good footing. People were flying. Three miles into the race I must have been in 50 or 60th place. I remember commenting to another solid runner that many of these runners were going out far to fast and that we’d see most of them again before the day was through. No matter, I was going to run my own race and I did at this point. Around five miles in you hit the trail around Turquoise Lake. Unlike The Boulevard it is somewhat rooty, windy, single tracks with the occasional quick pitch up or down. Running this section I could hear many runners breathing hard and I couldn’t help thinking “what are these guys doing?!” At mile 7, I hit an unofficial aid station where my crew swapped out my water bottles. I’m pretty sure I said something at this aid station that resulted in my sister telling me a story about it later. Maybe she’ll be so kind as to recount it in the comments. More of the same “fun” single track for the next 6.5 miles to May Queen. I moved up slower here, trying not to get too caught up in catching folks. During this section I joined up with Diana Finkel, a top female runner who looked to be setting a smart pace. We came into May Queen together.
May Queen (mile 13.5) to Fish Hatchery (mile 23.5) – 10 miles
The first mile or two out of May Queen is nasty trail – bad footing, hills, sharp turns, but I made it through unscathed. It was starting to get light here and I enjoyed my first looks of the day at the beautiful coniferous forest that I’d see much more that day. After the nasty trail section there is a long climb up a grated dirt road. Some purest trail runners hate this stuff, but I love it as I could look around at the majestic mountains stretching out their peaks at the still newborn day without fear of catching a toe and face planting. Some runners I’ve been hanging around push the pace up the mountain. I settle into a slow but steady running pace up the mostly gentle incline. Where the road steepened near the summit, I rightly walked.
Over the crest of Sugarloaf Mountain and into a very different pine forest – oh how I love the microclimes of the western mountains. I pay special attention to this section known as “Powerline.” This mountain is the last I’ll have to climb on my way back to Leadville and I want to be familiar with it. In particular, Powerline is famous for false summits. I also make pretty good time down this stretch before taking the last mile or so of road into the Fish Hatchery Aid Station for another meeting with my crew.
Fish Hatchery (mile 23.5) to Halfmoon (mile 30.5) – 7 miles
For those folks that hate the road climb up Hagerman Pass Road, the stretch to Halfmoon is a hell. The first three and a half miles out of FH is a flat, straight road (excepting on 90 degree right hand turn) on pavement through an empty open valley. I will admit that it was a bit mentally taxing. The stretch was made a bit easier by the fact that by the time I was coming of the pavement at the intermediate “Treeline” aid station, there were maybe 8 runners within a minute stretch… if that. I wasn’t interested in racing them, but there were folks to talk with. I think I left my waist pack with my crew at Fish Hatchery and took it back at Treeline.
Coming out of treeline I catch with Bev Anderson-Abbs, an elite female ultrarunner, who does not appear to be as spry as she should be at this point in the race (she would later drop due to hypothermia(?)) and she was already talking about conceding the women’s race. Soon thereafter I caught up with Darcy Africa, yet another top female ultrarunner. She was very encouraging as we put in some miles before coming into Halfmoon together.
Halfmoon (mile 30.5) to Twin Lakes (mile 39.5) – 9 miles
Shortly after Halfmoon I leave Darcy as we take care of a mile of dirt road before hitting single track up the second big climb of the day. This climb is another great stretch, but nothing compared to the trail at the top. Oh, the beauty. Narrow hard-packed single track gently rolling up and down and from side to side through endless aspen groves. This is a trail runner’s paradise. Although I am having an absolute blast running through this little bit of heaven, I try to keep myself from going too hard. Not always successful here, as it would be my best runni
ng of the outbound trek.
That’s all for today. Next time – the drama begins.