Dinner in a beautiful spot! Threw down a pad and sleeping bag in my bivy sack...didn't bother setting up the tent.
Leadville Gym. We had our race packet pick-up and carbo loading dinner here Thursday. Friday morning was the mandatory medical check and final briefing for all runners.
Here's a photo of my pacers Dale and Ron walking down towards Ron and Norma's trailer at the Leadville RV Park. Wednesday nights rain storm left a dusting of snow on the peaks surrounding the city. This view is westward towards Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.
My trusty two-man tent once again proved warm and snug for me. I'd hate to actually try and cram two people into this tent. I spent Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights in the tent. (Saturday night was spent out on the course).
Barbara Gahbauer, myself, and Matt Watts happily awaiting the 4 AM shotgun blast signifying the start. I am wearing the hat which I had forgotten to take along to the starting line. Dale volunteered to run back to the Leadville RV Court and retrieve it for me before the race start. It was an omen...the first in a long line of things I was to leave behind during the race. But Dale was resigned to being my "bitch" for the day and saved my bacon several more times by retrieving my forgotten items.
After finishing last year just minutes after the gun, Barbara showed real grit and determination by coming back this year and finishing with plenty of time to spare. Though Matt and I would find ourselves at the halfway point within a few minutes of each other, he would go on to reach the finish line more than an hour ahead of me...another of his classic strong finishes. Picture courtesy of Dale Perry.
Still feisty and feeling very good at Tree Line. I had reached May Queen (13.5 miles) about ten minutes slower than I had hoped. That was due to being caught in a "conga line" of runners that were running just a bit slower than my desired pace. Turned out to be a good thing; because of the slower start I felt strong all the way up the Colorado Trail, Hagerman Road, Sugar Loaf Mountain and down into the Fish Hatchery. Photo by Dale Perry.
And those are all the pictures I have. The weather this year was perfect, which is very unusual. High temps in the mid-seventies during the day were moderated by a light, cool breeze and some intermittent clouds. The new course around the Halfmoon II aid station seemed easy. Part of it was me feeling strong. Part of it was the great weather. And part of it was leapfrogging, running with, and having fun with Karla. We were in good spirits. She too, was feeling feisty and that young whippersnapper actually had the audacity to push this old geezer off the trail at one point!
I felt great through mile forty, cruised on through the Twin Lakes aid station where Dale joined me for the short run on down to the parking lot. Norma and Ron were in the usual spot with a picnic table, chairs and canopy...nice! So I pulled up a chair and started in on a delicious hamburger and a Pepsi. But suddenly it became clear that I had only one of my two water bottles...I had filled them both at the aid station and left one there...must have set it down while grabbing some snacks and a cup of soup. Dale to the rescue once again! While I rested and stuffed my face, he ran back uphill to the aid station and retrieved my bottle.
Things went well as I left Twin Lakes. Cruised through the fields, several pond/streams, and the main river crossing. The cold water was less than knee depth and felt wonderful. But then began the long grind up the north side of Hope Pass (12,600 ft.). My legs got weaker as my breathing became more labored. My pace slowed considerably and I lost valuable time on that climb. I hoped to make up some time coming down the south side of Hope, but was frustrated by the steepness, rocks, poor footing, and by having to constantly pull over to let inbound runners pass on the narrow single track. Reaching the bottom, I ran/walked the Winfield Road to the turnaround which I reached in just under twelve and a half hours. Still felt good at that point and told Dale I was good to continue on alone over Hope as we had planned. He would meet me in Twin Lakes and begin pacing. In spite of the heavy traffic and dust, the run back down Winfield Road went well.
The return trip up the shorter-but steeper south side of Hope Pass was a nightmare for me. It was a horribly slow, grinding climb with constant panting/hyperventilating stops (leaning against trees and rocks); necessary to let my heart rate and respiration drop back below the red-line. I was moving at a crawl (when I was moving) and getting passed by everyone. Nearing the top, I thought I had lost so much time on the climb that I believed my chances of finishing had slipped away from me. Feeling totally wiped out, I reached the top and began the descent towards the Hopeless aid station. Somehow I kicked a rock with one foot, stumbled over it with the other foot, lost my balance and fell off the trail, twisting, rolling, and scraping my knee in the process... and experienced a rush of adrenaline and joy when I realized my only injury was a minor knee scrape...it could have been much worse! At Hopeless, I spent about ten minutes resting, eating and drinking. And then, almost miraculously, I changed from a slow moving zombie back to an energetic ultra runner, charging on down the trail. I ended up running strongly 95% of the way back down into Twin Lakes, making back all of the time lost on the climbs up Hope Pass.
Back at Twin Lakes, it was just beginning to get dark. I was well ahead of the cutoffs so was able to once again sit down and enjoy a burger and drink with Norma before proceeding on up to the aid station. Dale helped me hurry through the aid station. Though my feet were wet from the water crossings, they felt good. Rather than waste time changing socks and shoes for another pair that maybe wouldn't feel so comfortable, I elected to continue on with my old Montrail Hardrocks. I did empty the gravel which had accumulated under my heels. The shoes, however, I ended up wearing all the way to the finish.
As we headed on out of the aid station, I obsessed about the climb up out of Twin Lakes. After the Hope Pass fiasco, I couldn't help but think that this next climb would be a death march. Dale kept reassuring me and led the way at a moderate pace I could handle. Before I knew it, we were at the top and once again running the downhills as the trail sloped down towards Halfmoon II. Despite my earlier worries, we cruised into the Halfmoon II aid station (mile 69.5) way ahead of the cutoff. Psychologically, this was a real boost, because now, barring an unexpected disaster, a finish was in the bag!
Shortly after leaving the aid station, we approached a figure in the dark coming towards us. Turned out not to be a lost soul but Scott Weber, who was out from California to coach five of his runners who were running the race. It was good to see the Coach. Scott and Theresa Daus Weber and the ultra runs they put on around Chatfield Reservoir was where my introduction to ultra running took place. Good memories of running with Roy Langston, surviving the "Alferd Packer".....aah, those were the days!
Anyway, Dale and I cruised through the crowds at Tree Line and ran/walked our way into the Fish Hatchery (mile 76.5) passing more runners than passed us. Ron was waiting to take over the pacing duties from Dale. He would take me up over Sugarloaf Mountain on into May Queen. I guess I was starting to get a little punch-drunk, because I wasted a bit of time fumbling around with my gear in the aid station. Changed to clean socks, traded out flashlights, kept checking and rechecking to make sure I had my gloves, hat, ear-band, long sleeve shirt, jacket, etc. Grabbed some salt tabs, HEED (sports drink powder) packets, and gel. Made sure I was getting all I wanted/needed to eat here at the aid station....Ramon, soup, PB&J sandwich, a few potato chips, a cookie). Ron made sure he got the pacer bib and walkie-talkie from Dale and we headed on out the paved road for the dreaded climb up the Powerline.
Though Hope Pass is physically the most difficult part of the course, the climb back up the Powerline and Sugarloaf Mountain can seem more difficult because of its position in the race. At about mile eighty, in the middle of a cold mountain night, this steep climb seems almost insurmountable. As I had feared, my pace slowed as my respiration and heart rate increased. Ron kept up a one-sided conversation to help keep my mind off the climb. Once in a while I would gasp out a reply in one word bursts. He did manage to keep me moving, albeit slowly up the mountain. And this was a considerable improvement over my miserable progress up Hope Pass earlier in the race. So with this to hearten me, we slogged on up to where the trail dropped on down the other side on rough jeep roads. The tricky, rocky stretches we walked. When the road cleared a bit, I would take off running. It felt great to be able to run, and I enjoyed challenging myself to see how long I could keep up a fast pace. We managed to pass most, if not all, of the people who had passed us on the way up the Powerline. We continued this on down Hagerman road until we hit the Colorado Trail. Here Ron took over the lead and guided me down a rocky, sometimes hard to see trail. Well, hard to see for my tired eyes. I did my best to stay with him, and before long we were coming into May Queen at mile 86.5.
At May Queen, Dale took over again from Ron for this last 13.5 mile stretch. The run back around Turquoise Lake went well. We would walk the uphills (and most of the flats) and run the downhills. The fun and the challenge was reeling in and passing other runners in front of us. It became a routine of running just enough to get immediately behind a runner/pacer combo, walk a bit behind them to catch my breath, and then making a push to pass them decisively. Time passed quickly until we reached the Boulevard. This long uphill gravel road seemed to take forever. It's a slight uphill grade into the rising sun with temps starting to get warm. Dale encouraged me to try and run sections in order to try and get a personal record at this race. I, however was having none of that. Exhausted, happy to be once again completing the race, I couldn't care less about a PR. So we hiked it on up and in to the finish where I stopped to caress the finishing tape before crossing it and accepting my medal from RD Merilee O'Neil. Final time for my third finish at Leadville: 28:39:07