Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Elevation

My wife and I just returned from vacation/adventures in Leadville, Colorado (10152 ft) and surrounds – what a blast! Leadville is the ...ahem, highest incorporated city in the US and site of the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race and Trail Run. (Huge congrats to David Snipes for his completion of the run!) Leadville is also a great base camp for trail running, hiking, road/mountain biking adventures in the area with quick access to a great number of the fourteeners.

While we biked the start of the Leadville course around Turquoise Lake, and had several biking adventures, I’ll cut to the chase and get to the trail running races.

Saturday, August 27th Bergen Peak Trail Run

I woke up on Saturday morning to the sound of my quads and calves arguing…

Quads: Wake up! We’ve got to get to the Bergen Peak Trail Run!
Calves: ZZZZzzz….oh man, are you serious? We just did Mt Elbert (14,440 feet) yesterday, are you nuts?
Quads: I’ll go make coffee, you sit here and get psyched.
Calves: Yeesh, I’m hurting. Alright, feet let’s find my Inov-8 Roclite 285’s, woah I forgot how red they are…that’ll wake you up.
Quads: I’m back, let’s go!
Calves: I’ll sleep in the car on the way.

I eventually convinced my legs to get in the car and we drove to the appropriately named Evergreen, CO for the Bergen Peak Trail Run (10.4 mi). It was a low-key mountain running race that drew people from Boulder, Denver, and a couple from a place I just read about in Trail Runner Mag.

The fine gravel trail followed a meadow up to the base of the mountain and we ran the switchbacks up from 7220’ to 9708’, on what an east-coaster would describe as not very technical trail. Luckily, this terrain continued on the backside of the mountain, which I bombed. Having just read about Killian Jornet’s musical performance at Western States 100, I gave it a shot while downhilling. I can happily report that smiling and singing “Street where you live” from the 1956 Broadway musical My Fair Lady is a great way to approach gravity shredding. If you sing something from Andrew Lloyd Weber, however, expect to fall flat on your face.

The race was a blast, and I ended up finishing 8th overall 1:26:37/1st age group.

To check out a video of the start, get an idea of the terrain, and watch an interview where I describe the trail, check out http://www.applecorecafe.com/ and click on Evergreen, and check out the video in the top left.

Sunday, August 28th XTERRA Snow Mountain 20K
5:00a alarm sounds

Calves: You’ve got to be kidding me.
Quads: I promise we’ll take it easy today.

My quads are lying. We headed over to the Winter Park area to Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies for the inaugural XTERRA Snow Mountain Ranch 20k. At 8800 ft, the Ranch is the largest Nordic center in CO, with 5200 acres to play on. The race was on the rolling hill trails and tractor roads, and in contrast to Evergreen, the course was essentially desert meadow with sweeping mountain vistas.

Every time I start a race, I hear Mark Lorenzoni’s voice in my head - “START VERY EASY, STAY DISCIPLINED.” Thanks to his three years of committed coaching before I started ultrarunning, I hear him shouting this for the first few tempting steps.

The first 1.5 miles I took it very easy, loosened up and kept the leaders in sight as I thought the course could end up being pretty quick and the field was pretty small. The leaders were not pulling away considerably, so I made a move and went for it. I took the lead after the 1.5 mi mark and just tried to stay on course and keep it steady for the first half of the race. I heard footsteps behind me at several points, but followed a lesson from my 3000m racing days (link) – never, ever look back. I threw the hammer down on the second half and fed my pace with some downhills, just relaxing and enjoying the terrain. I finished 1st overall at 1:33, and ended putting on a 3 min lead on second place who upon finishing exclaimed “You are from sea level!?”

Which sounds astonishingly like…“You are from Cville!?”

Luckily the affirmative answer covered my confusion. Thanks to it being an inaugural race, my time is the current the course record. Not too bad for a boy from sea level/Cville.

Huge thanks to Wild Bill and Cathy at the Leadville Hostel and Inn for being awesome hosts!

-Mike