Monday, July 27, 2009
Rocky Mountain Revelation
Sunday July 26th marked the 2nd annual Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Run in Leadville, CO. Rachel, Xavier, and I had driven up to Silverthorne on Thursday to spend some time in the mountains while staying at a great cabin that belongs to my brother in law's aunt and uncle.
The alarm went off Sunday morning sharp at 3:55 am and I dragged myself downstairs to drink some coffee and have a peanut butter bagel for breakfast. At 4:30 am Rachel and I were on the road to Leadville (the X man staying behind with Ann and Ray) and not 15 minutes into the drive the rain started to fall. Throughout the drive the rain became progressively harder and was pouring pretty good when we arrived at the starting line. Rachel waited for a few minutes and then left me there at 5:30 so I huddled under the tent with a few other runners until everyone started piling in.
At the start of the race (roughly 10,200 feet above sea level), all the runners were under the tent about 20 feet from the line until over the loud-speaker came 5-4-3-2-1 and we all scrambled to the line to be a bit frightened by the man firing a huge shotgun just after the anouncer finished (this is Leadville of course). All 170 or so of us started our dash/hike up dutch henry hill which has no trail and is basically just scree at a 20% gradient for about 100 -150 yards. I filtered somewhere in the middle of the front group only to be quickly dropped into about 30th-ish place once the race really got under way.
The first 2 miles are rolling with flatish sections and it lulled me into a false sense of security because the next 8 miles are uphill to just over 12,000 feet. Through this stretch I grouped up with Harsha from Team Crud, Jennifer, and one other runner (sorry, I forgot your name!). This was actually a great time for me and I chatted to keep myself from pushing too hard; come to find out Harsha had been at Sageburner too. Here I recieved the best possible, most simple line of advice I've ever recieved. As we were running Harsha turned and said, "you know, in these things, you really have to run your own race." It resonated, and about a mile later, I let the three of them pull out ahead as I mixed in more walking than they had.
When I reached the first aid station at mile 7ish I ran straight through with the plan to skip ever aid station until the turnaround at Stumptown as I had a 70 oz bladder in my pack that also stores 2 20 oz bottles on the sides. This plan worked to perfection as I had just the right amount of water to get there. Near the top of this first big climb the pitch is very steep and rocky, so I took my time and popped out on top feeling good. From here was a 3-4 mile downhill to Printer Boy aid station that I went through at 2:26 flat for 21st place. Continuing on there is another long section of downhill on really fun singletrack. The bottom of the hill marks "Oro City" where gold was first discovered in Colorado.
Climbing out of Oro city is tough, steep, and long. I ran into Nate from Texas who was having a rough time, and not carrying any liquids at all. We talked and ran for a while together but he told me to go on and he ended up dropping later on (it was a tough day). I was starting to feel the altitude a bit when we got above treeline and I came into the 3rd aid station alone, continuing to the last summit on the way out (or so I thought). As it turns out this is a false summit as you come off, descend about 500-600 and then get shot right back over at 12,500 feet. The descent to Stumptown (the turnaround) is seriously steep and hard to run at least until it flattens out about 2 miles from the base. Here I had a hard time running into the aid station and was passed by a few people.
When I came in I was at 4:24 for 22nd place but was quickly passed a few times on the uphill back out. I had grabbed an orange slice and filled my bottles so I went to work on the hill but struggled to hold any sort of "hiking" pace and logged a couple miles in the 20 minute range. After reaching the summit I had my first "holy shit" moment as I contemplated the 22 miles I had left. Not one to sit and ponder, I kept going, putting one foot in front of the other. I had a long descent back down to Oro City but my quads were already starting to pound in pain so I couldn't push as hard as I would have liked to. On the climb back to Printer Boy I had to walk pretty much the whole way and was passed yet again. Halfway up the climb there was a huge crack of thunder that had me worried (if you've ever been in the Colorado high country during a storm you know). Immediatly it started pouring, sometimes so hard you could only see about 15 feet in front of you, and then it turned to pea-sized hail which hurt like hell.
I jumped into the P.B. aid station for the second time at 6:36 for 25th place. It was hailing and windy, so windy it took a volunteer on each post to keep the tent upright. I put on a long sleeve and gloves, grabbed a pb&j square, topped off my bottles and jumped out into the middle of the fury to keep going as best I could. At the start of the final climb I was caught by John from Georgia and two others, and at this time I was beat. I felt like someone had beat me up, and then put my quads through a meat grinder; I was seriously doubting my ability to run the last 10 miles. However, as fate would have it, the cold wind and rain numbed my legs and I started to feel ok as I turned onto the downhill 10 miles to the finish.
I decided in my mind that I wouldn't let anyone pass me on the run into the finish and I could hold my spot in the top 30. I pushed it and was running around 9 minute miles, but by the time I reached the aid station I realized I had a shot to break 9 hours if I hustled (though my math was a bit off in my state of mind!). I held my 9 minute pace until I say the girl who passed me just before it started hailing; it was the first time I got the "hunter" feeling. All day I had been passed, only catching people at aid stations just to be caught again. I was going to give it everything I had. For me, I put the hammer down and started running my ass off, right around 7:50 miles and I quickly caught the first target, but I kept pushing. I was not going to give in until I passed out or hit the finish line. Less than a mile from the finish I caught Jennifer (and her funny friends who were out encouraging her) and then John from Georgia about a quarter mile from the line. I pushed hard over the final climb and ran hard through the line crossing at 9:14:22 for 24th place overall just 26 seconds from the 2 guys ahead of me and placing in my age group (if only the race had been just a bit longer!).
I was elated, a bit teary eyed, but mostly cold! I was congradulated by everyone including Harsha and his family, and went to find my fleece which had been sitting out in the rain. I had beat my goal of 10 hours, but also beat my wife and son to the finish line. They arrived 40 minutes later and I was shivering, purple lipped, and sort of coherent. I quickley shed my wet clothes, put a parka on, grabbed my bratwurst and we headed back to our cabin. My first 50 miler! I'm still sort of taking it in, but I can't wait to do it again!
A look back at my training leading up to Silver Rush:
6/8 - 6/14 : 52 miles
6/15 - 6/21 : 60 miles
6/22 - 6/28 : 45 miles
6/29 - 7/5 : 61 miles
7/6 - 7/12 : 40 miles
7/13 - 7/19 : 35 miles
7/20 - 7/25 : 10 miles