It’s a grind grind. It’s a grind. It’s a grind grind. ~ Soul Coughing
Since I already started at the end (see above), I suppose I’ll just say that I am particularly excited about this finish. And REALLY proud of Bob, who finished his first ultra in 10:54:18. Way to go Bob!
In May, my chances of starting (much less finishing) this event seemed dim. I felt like hammered crap and just couldn’t get anything going that made me confident that I’d be able to pull this thing off. After a few weeks rest, and then a month and a half or so of fairly dedicated training, I managed to make it happen. Words really don’t do justice to what I was feeling during the event and particularly upon finishing.
Bob and I headed up to Leadville on Saturday to pick up our race packs then settled into a fairly annoying camp site out by Turquoise Lake. The first couple of sites we tried were full so we ended up at the Boat Ramp (in retrospect, I don’t think this was the Tabor Boat Ramp from the 100 but I am not sure). I have definitely spent worse nights in camp but this was up there. Generators running all day (with no one in the vicinity of the trailer to which power was being fed), dogs barking, some dude with what sounded to be a wicked case of TB hacking all night, etc. etc. etc. We did get in a short run on the 100 route lakeside, which was pretty and the sunset was gorgeous over the lake but I would probably not recommend camping here if you need to get up at 4:30 to go run a race.
The alarm went off at 4:30 and we high-tailed it out of there to get to the event and get ready. It was brisk at the start, probably around 40 degrees and we changed clothes, ate some food, packed our drop bags and got ready to get our run on in the parking lot at the start. There were about 150 starters (wow, 148 other people as stupid as us, go figure) and we all congregated at the start/finish below the college to await the shotgun blast signaling the start of the race. If you are familiar with Leadville, on the South side, there is a parctice ski hill and our first challenge was to run up this loose, rocky beast. The “winner” of this short race was presented with a silver coin and man, some people really wanted that friggin’ coin. Bob and I were content to remain coinless, however, and walked this first pitch. I was not saddened not have “won” this portion of the race.
We settled into a steady pace early on, shed our jackets a few miles in, and worked our way toward the first check point at about 7 miles. At some point in the first 8 miles or so I developed a whopping headache but neglected to bring any Vitamin I so just dealt with it. I knew I had some at the turn and so I just tried to ignore it (though at times, it blurred my vision a little) and kept on running. Bob and I stayed together, chatting with other competitors as the route climbed gently up to around 12, 200 feet (~9.5 miles in). At this point, the course reverses itself on a steady, well-maintained dirt road and descends for about 3.5 miles. I pulled away on this section, turning over at an 8 to 9-minute pace and feeling very fresh. I could feel my quads getting a little toasty toward the bottom of this drop but then we reached a paved section that was a gradual climb up to the second aid station about 13.5 miles in.
I went light this year, and with the stations spaced at 7, 7, 5 and 7(ish) miles apart, only carried two bottles, some special Stu-food (avocado wraps), an a couple of gels/Clif Blocks. I relied on the aid stations for water, Coke, bananas, watermelon, chips, etc. and this seemed to be a decent plan all-around. After the second aid station, the course dropped for another mile or so then rolled for a bit until we reached the second major climb of the day on loose, rocky terrain back up to 11,800 or so through a bunch of mines (some active). It was a gorgeous day and being up above tree-line treated us to amazing views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. I power-hiked most of the climbs and ran when the terrain dipped or flattened out. This seemed to be a good strategy and I felt fresh at the third aid station (about 18 miles in).
I was definitely starting to feel the day’s efforts at this point but knew that I still had a lot of running left to do so I tried to keep my heartrate as low as possible (failing, mostly) and to keep a reasonable, sustainable pace. The course then featured some steep climbs and descents over the next few miles (during which the race leader came FLYING by me). Apparently, he reached the turn around in 3:15 and was there before they had even set up! He passed me at about 2:48 and was seriously moving. Amazing. The second place guy was about 25 minutes back at this point and he passed me on the gnarly descent (for me) down to the turn. This hill was a bitch: rocky, VERY steep, off camber. Just really difficult terrain going either direction.
The course mellowed out a bit after the rocky bit and (thankfully) there was an extra, unmanned aid station about half way down. I had grabbed some blue PowerAde at the last station that did not appeal to me (they were changing up the water and it was taking too long). So I dumped that junk, filled back up with water and was on my way. The rest of the route to the turn was fairly mellow downhill with some flats so I just cruised. I had turned off my GPS accidentally at some point so wasn’t quite sure how much farther I had to go before the turn around but was soon there. Swapped shoes, threw on a new shirt and some sunscreen and was just getting ready to head back when Bob showed up. Rockin’! He was about 10 minutes back. That rules.
So back to the start I headed and I still felt reasonably well. I had made it to the turn at just under 5 hours and given how I felt at the time, was very confident that I could finish and might be able to turn a sub-10, which would just be spectacular. I power-hiked the climb back out of the turn (it was starting to get pretty warm at this point) and eventually hooked up with a guy named Chris Fisher from Golden who runs trail marathons. We were pretty well matched up and just startetd powering through the climbs and setting a decent pace on the descents as we worked our way back to the start/finish. We stayed together through the next two aid stations and about half of the big, evil climb back out (miles 31-36) until I really hit the wall with about a mile and a half or two miles left in that final, major climb. So Chris headed up the road (eventually finishing in 10:02!) and I just pretty much suffered. My back was killing me, I had a giant hot-spot/blister on my right heel, I was really feeling pretty whooped).
Once we made it to the downhill section, I was just in survival mode and ran/walked down to the final aid station. I got caught by quite a few people on this section (bummer) but felt that I could still manage a sub-11 finish, which would be pretty proud. I grabbed some food, refilled the bottles and headed on down the road for the last 7 miles of the event. I tried to really push myself but was thoroughly hammered at this point and eventually caught a few people, got caught by two or three. Run for a bit, walk for a bit. That was the plan and it seemed to work pretty well for me. I got to the final, very short but steep climb and then ran the remaining half mile or so into the finish and was thoroughly psyched!
I had no idea where Bob was at this point and went to the car to change out of my grubby clothes and then, about a half an hour later, heard his name called. Awesome. He finished up strong and then we kicked it for awhile – eating, talking with other racers, etc. We had to get the truck jumped because the little fridge I left on killed the battery but were able to find someone who could help out quickly, then were on our way back home.
Lindsay met us in Frisco where we were lectured on the benefits of stretching for several minutes by some goofball at the gas station then made it back to my place relatively quickly where Bob grabbed his car and jetted home.
Overall, I think I did things fairly well before and during the race. I do wish I had carried some Ibuprofen during the event and somehow managed to get some serious chaffing in my upper thigh area. I think I forgot to use Glide at the turn-around which, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a bad thing to forget. The only other biggie is the blister on my right, outer heel which really isn’t that big of a deal. I am definitely sore today but am getting around A LOT better than after the 100 last year. My feet aren’t nearly as beaten up, for sure.
One other interesting development was that I drank about 2 bottles of water between every aid station and was peeing quite a lot until about 9 miles in. After that, nada. I didn’t pee again until I got home at about 7:30 so that was a bit disconcerting. Everything is working again now and I am not sure what to do differently. I was drinking like normal, really… just was sweating most of it out, I guess. Rach confirmed this when I got home by noting that Austrians had set up operations and had formed a salt mining union in the vicinity of my lower, right eyelid. I was also being followed by a rather large herd of deer.
So that’s it for the 2008 Silver Rush. I beat all my goals, finished in the top third overall, and am very, very happy that I decided to give it a shot.