2013 Silver Rush 50 – race report
For stretches over the last few years, I’ve been a runner in the Rocky Mountains. This past weekend, I really got to feel what it’s like to be a Rocky Mountain Runner. I won’t again go into the remarkable accomplishments of my front range friends but I sure was happy to be in their company for another weekend in the high country. This time around, we were out in Leadville for the Silver Rush 50-miler, a mostly jeep road, out-and-back route just east of town.
I crashed the night before at the Leadville Hostel, which had a quaint homeyness about it, though the all-night chain-saw snoring bunkmate made the experience less than ideal. Up at 3:40am for my 3rd huge meal in the last 10 hours, I was out the door hanging with my runner buddies well before the 6am start.
There is a great post about the race on the Rocky Mountain Runners website with plenty of photos (I’m the emaciated-looking one, which is saying a lot in a group of ultra-runners). It’s worth a quick look if you want to see who’s who and how the course looked, at least through the lens of our ever-growing support crew. I didn’t know until I was out running that so many friends would be there just to spectate but it was a super spirit lifter to see Ryan Smith, Silke Koester, Cassie Scallon, and Kerrie and John Bruxvoort multiple times out on the course, cheering like I was a front-runner (I wasn’t), as well as the RMRers that were out there racing: Ryan Lassen, Matt Wiencek, Neeraj Engineer, and Leila DeGrave.
There’s a good bit of climbing but with my slowly adapting mountain legs, most was runnable:
I didn’t feel great most of the day, partly due to an unsettled stomach, partly due to jitters about my final long run before the LT100, partly due to cumulative fatigue from so much long racing and training over the last few months (15 long runs in 10 weeks). So, I went in without tapering, knowing running on tired legs for 50 mountain miles would be good training. And when the hurt started early on, I kind of expected it and just settled into quiet suffering mode. My brother and sister-in-law did a great job of capturing my essence in the photo comparison below.
Thing is, I did just fine, I think. I never felt great but never felt like finishing was in question. I was able to run all the flats and downs and the majority of the ups. Leaving the aid station at halfway, where Sherpa John was unexpectedly there to provide precision crewing services (he’s racing the VT 100 this weekend), I was at 4:47. John asked if I was shooting for sub-10 hours, and I said I didn’t really know anymore. Going into the race my best guess was 10:45 but I’d be happy with anything under 11 hours, all considered. But, his question stuck in my brain and gave me something to shoot for for the next handful of hours. So I got to it.
The entire return to the finish, I knew it would be close. It meant no walking on the shallower climbs. It meant getting in and out of the remaining aid stations in 1-2 minutes each, tops. And, for the final 5-6 miles of the race, it meant not even stopping to pee since it looked like I might miss 10 hours by just 30-60 seconds. But, with the finish in sight down the final short, steep decent, I gave what I had left and crossed the line in 9:57:24, 121st place out of 403 finishers (449 starters). SR50 Finisher Certificate
It is sometimes hard for me to keep perspective, spending time day after day with some of the top ultra-runners in the country, along with a whole lot of others who are merely very, very good. Our friend Leila, just two weeks after placing 9th at the Western States 100 (the most competitive 100-miler in the U.S.), not only won the Silver Rush 50 (13 minutes ahead of 2nd place) but broke the course record in the process. She was 15th overall, with our male friends finishing in 23rd, 30th, and 50th places. Again this is out of 449 dedicated, experienced, long-distance trail runners. The fastest guys and some of the equally talented girls in our friendly group didn’t run this one so we’d likely have had a few more spots in the top 20, conceivably taking up a the entire women’s podium and a spot or two on the men’s side.
I was well back in 121st place, getting just as much praise from this unique group. It is sweet and humbling and encouraging but as much as I love to run with them and would love to run like them, it isn’t going to happen. Not ever, no matter how many 100-mile training weeks I put in, no matter how dialed in I get my sleep and recovery and diet. No matter how much I WANT to be up at the front, it isn’t going to happen, at least not in the highly competitive Colorado trail racing scene. But, I’m getting better. Being able to run 50 tough miles on tired legs in the thin air of the high mountains in less than 10 hours is something I couldn’t do before. Now, I’m able to do it, feel good enough to hang out afterwards, and be back to running two days later. I have the confidence and fitness to go out and run a marathon – or perhaps a 50k or even a 50-miler – any day of the week. I have not only run endurance but all-around fitness and good health that makes like more satisfying, even a little bit easier. And I do, for the time being, have visible ab muscles, which I think is cool even if Alison doesn’t care. Most importantly, I’ve found myself drawn into a community of like-minded friends, despite our quite diverse backgrounds, goals, and levels of talent.
Big picture, this is exactly what I’ve wanted out of life for quite a long time. I fully realize how fortunate I am to have found a place and lifestyle and people to help me be me. Every day presents another opportunity for adventure, improvement, and camaraderie. With the love, support, and very different interests of Alison, Sagan, Story, and other friends and family, runners and non-runners alike, I’ve found balance. To all of you, a huge thanks now, and more thanks to come. I’ll need all the support I can get: the Leadville 100 is just 32 days away.