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Leadville, USA: 3 days of doing it (running)

June 12, 2013

The last few days have been a whirlwind, a full-on immersion Colorado experience bordering on the existential.  I know I won’t be able to capture it in words or even pictures and that sucks since I’m sure the smells wouldn’t be the way to go.  But I’ll give this a shot and, should I expectedly fall short on the attempt, I strongly recommend you take a look at a proper, beautiful blog post over at super-couple Silke and Ryan’s Dirtproof website.

On Friday morning I headed out to Leadville with Ryan Lassen and Alberto Rossi, where we started the weekend with a run-hike summit of Mt. Elbert, topping out at 14,433′.  It is the tallest mountain in Colorado, second in the lower 48 only to Mt. Whitney, and my first ever “14er”.  Not a bad way to start the weekend, with two super cool mountain runners, sunny cool weather, and the knowledge we were just getting started.

Mt. Elbert summit approach

Ryan in the lead, we’re smiling because this is completely staged – we were able to run for about 10 seconds at a time given the altitude and grade but we figured we’d look better than being hunched over gasping for air. Credit: Alberto Rossi

Three amigos at the top of Colorado, it took us about 2 hours to cover the 4.5 mile climb.  Back down in about half the time.  Credit: Alberto Rossi

Three amigos at the top of Colorado, it took us about 2 hours to cover the 4.5 mile climb. Back down in about half the time. Credit: Alberto Rossi

Back to the Twin Lakes campground for a perfect afternoon nap while more of the crew showed up.  I chose to sleep in the back of the van for the weekend, which was way better than it sounds.  We got up in time to get ourselves ready for Run #2 up in and over the town of Leadville, a 7-9pm social 10-miler along the Leadville Marathon course.  I’ll be running that race at the end of the month so it was nice to see what I have to look forward to.  We followed up the run with a much appreciated home-cooked dinner hosted by recent Leadville transplant, the incredibly hospitable and talented Leila DeGrave.

Day two, more of the same.  16 miles with the whole group, 11 of us all together, testing our lungs and legs at 10,000′.

Lotta runners running Credit: Silke Koester

Lotta runners running
Credit: Silke Koester

It doesn’t happen often running with this group but there were a very few stretches where I got to take the lead, or at least not run from the very back of the pack.  That’s ok – all of these friends are remarkable in many ways but without exception are phenomenal runners.  Many regularly contend for top spots in competitive races around the country and beyond.  So, when I am feeling strong enough to run in front of anyone, however briefly, I go for it.

I'm enormous!  And super fast!  Somehow I sneaked in front of Alberto and Silke but that never lasts long.  Credit: Ryan Smith

I’m enormous! And super fast! Somehow I sneaked in front of Alberto and Silke but that never lasts long. Credit: Ryan Smith

Three runs and 36 mountain miles into the weekend without a shower, we took a dip in Twin Lakes.  Best guess was the water was in the low 40s, which is just about the temperature where one’s balls try to escape through the spinal cord.  But, it did feel good to be marginally cleaner, at least with less visible filth.  Back to the campground for change of clothes and downtime (because, you know, this sorta life is pretty stressful).

Run hard, drink hard, sit hard.  Telling stories and fables.   Credit: Alberto Rossi

Run hard, drink hard, sit hard. Telling stories and fables.
Credit: Alberto Rossi

It really wasn’t all running, which is good, since I rarely get dropped as quickly just standing on a beach.

The whole crew, minus Neeraj, plus one of the countless (ok, 4) dogs on the trip.

The whole crew, minus Neeraj, plus some of the countless (ok, 4) dogs on the trip. Credit: Alberto Rossi

Back to the van for another remarkably solid night of sleep, then back up in the morning for – wait for it – another run!  We were a smaller group since some of the folks had to return to something approaching real life.  Those who remained got in about 14 miles on the Colorado Trail.

Much of the running above about 11,000' was fairly exposed but plenty of our days were spent winding through Aspens and pines.  Beautiful, serene, the kind of scene that almost helps you forget how bad you smell.

Much of the running above about 11,000′ was fairly exposed but plenty of our days were spent winding through Aspens and pines. Beautiful, serene, the kind of scene that almost helps you forget how bad you smell. Credit: Ryan Smith

Returning home Sunday afternoon, I actually pulled over at a scenic spot along Highway 70 and slept in the van (again) for about 90 minutes.  Mostly, I was just beat and wanted to be safe.  But partly I just didn’t want the weekend to be completely over.  In 3 days I got to run about 50 miles with ~24,000′ of elevation change, all at high altitude, with friends I admire, in perfect weather, with great food.  That’s hard to beat.

After taking Monday off from running, I was eager to test a little more yesterday (Tuesday).  A little too eager, given the high Boulder temps near 100 degrees.  Nonetheless, I headed out and got in 5 mostly solo hours over 18 hilly miles, hitting a couple of the iconic Boulder peaks (Flagstaff and Green, each from base to peak) along with some road and creek path mixed in.  Along the way, at the tail end of the creek path route with some friends, I was introduced to adventure sports legend, Ian Adamson, who seemed unhappy with my shoes and offered me some unsolicited but surely accurate running advice.  Very cool.   Shortly after, I met Paul Hooge as I climbed Flagstaff and we hung out to the summit, back to the base, then back up the frontside of Green, where he dropped me.  But, a huge thanks to Paul for twice letting me use his Steripen to refill my water bottle from some streams, thereby allowing me to continue while diminishing my chances of a giardia-packed gut.

Alrighty.  Time to get back at it.  The Leadville 100 is just nine weeks out, which means less than two months of real training left.  Races June 22 (60k in TX), June 29 (Leadville Marathon), and July 14 (Leadville Silver Rush 50-miler) should be good tests but it’ll be the days in between that will make the difference.

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6 Comments
  1. You missed your kid’s birthday while raving about all those speedy runners!

    • Nah, believe me there is no missing Sagan’s birthday. Just finished up a Happy Birthday chat via FaceTime but had a blow-out birthday party here before the family went to TX, where he is having a lengthy series of Bday celebrations across central Texas. Of course, I’d love to be with the family but I know they are all having fun and it gives me some time to plow through work and cleaning between runs.

      Also, Olga, the biggest of congratulations on your fantastic day at the SD100. Once again you’ve proven to be one of the most consistent top performers in the sport and you do it with a great attitude and perspective on life and running. Any chance you’ll be out at the Kap’t Karl’s run on 6/22 so I can give you a big sweaty hug?

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