Saturday, August 18, 2018

2018 Leadville Silver Rush 50 Miler

I first ran the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Miler two years ago. It my only my second 50 miler, but I was extremely motivated that summer training for my first 100 miler attempt. Silver Rush overall went pretty well despite being fairly slow - I finished it in 13 hours and 20 minutes - 40 minutes shy of the 14 hour overall cutoff time. Overall I felt okay that race, it was more just the mental aspect of it only being my second race of this kind of distance that was tough.

So, when I signed up this year, I knew I really wanted to beat that time. I had multiple 50 milers under my belt by now including a 100K and a 100 miler. I figured, I could easily improve my time... Well that was my thought until I found out that the course, which was previously a "short course" at about 48 miles, had been changed to 50.5 miles. Now, 2-1/2 miles may not sound like much but when you're talking about a trail 50 miler all above 10,000 feet in elevation, 2-1/2 miles is going to add a minimum of 25 minutes - but probably closer to 40+ minutes depending on terrain and elevation... Nevertheless, I was determined to at least give it a try. If I was lucky, maybe I could even beat 13 hours....

Then, in late June I ran the Anchorage Mayor's Marathon. I had a great time, but the next day I could tell I had done something to one of my hip flexor muscles. Going up stairs hurt significantly more than usual. After a couple days though, the pain went away... until the following Friday when I did a hill workout and it popped up again... Hmmm... maybe running a 50 miler in a couple of days wasn't going to be the best idea... But I had already paid for the race and I had my goal 100K in September... I really wanted to do this race... So I decided to go ahead and give it a go. If my hip was really hurting, I would just drop at 25 miles... and I would still get a nice training run in.

So I was set. I was going to go ahead and run the race. The race was on Sunday, July 8th (the one thing I don't like about this race is that it's on a Sunday - that means a late night / rough morning if you don't want to take off work) so I drove up to Leadville on Saturday afternoon, getting into town around 7:30pm. After reading for a little bit until it got dark, I finally decided to head to bed in the back of my Subaru. I set my alarm for 4:40am and attempted to get some sleep...

Home Sweet Home!

After a not-so-great night of sleep, I woke up to my alarm and slowly made my way up and about to get ready for the day. My original plan was to try and find a gas station with coffee, but I did not set my alarm early enough and was worried about time, so I decided to forego that idea, which ended up to be a good idea (well, if "no coffee" can EVER be a good idea!) because this turned into one of those most rushed race mornings I've had. By the time I got to the start and parked, it was about 5:25am. According to the race rules, drop bags needed to be turned in by 5:30...I quickly tried to get ready and then rushed down to the start for packet pick-up, and then dropped my drop bag off. Unfortunately, since I did race morning packet pick-up too, that meant I had to go back to my car, which was a decent 1/3+ mile away up a big hill, so I rushed back up to drop all of that off, and by the time I got back to the start, I literally had about 3 minutes until go time.... Like I said, the most rushed I've been....

Beautiful sunrise as I scrambled to get to the start on time!

Nevertheless, I made it back just in time for the official start of the race. This race starts up an old ski hill which is the worst part of the race....but a good way to thin out the runners before we got onto the narrow trail. I walked up the hill and then settled into a nice slow run for the early miles. The first half of the race was just like it was two years ago so I knew what to expect - the first 11 miles are a gradual uphill - with 1-7 being very mild, making it fairly easy to do a run/walk/jog for a majority of these miles, especially being early on. I brought my trekking poles this year (as opposed to 2016), but since I remembered this as gradual, decided not to get them out until after the first aid station at Mile 7.

Heading up the steel hill at the start!

At the Mile 7 Aid Station, I grabbed a banana, got out my poles and then quickly headed out. I remembered the next 3 miles is where you start to get some more elevation gain, although this really ended up being more like 8-10 that was the rough part as we made our way up to the top of the first major climb Along this section I started to notice my hip was in pain again in the same spot that had been bugging me after Mayor's Marathon... hmm I might be dropping at the halfway point after all…

Miles 10-14 marks the "4 miles of heaven" section (a term I came up with). It is this awesome, gradual downhill that's not too overly technical...(it also becomes the "4 miles of hell" on the return...but we'll get to that later). You run down a dirt road for what will probably be some of your fastest miles of the day before getting to the Mile 14 aid station. I had a piece of PB&J, some coke, and took 1 ibuprofen to help my hip before heading out from this aid station for another mile or so of blissful downhill before the next major climb started.

The awesome downhill 4 mile section!

Around Mile 16 you start climbing again up to the Mile 18 Aid Station. At this aid station, I had a few more snacks before heading out. My hip was still bugging me a bit, but the ibuprofin definitely kicked in after a couple mles and it felt a lot better... nevertheless, I was still really considering dropping. I wasn't all that prepared to be doing a 50 miler today anyways... I should drop I kept telling myself... Meanwhile, while contemplating whether or not to drop, there's a little more uphill followed by some downhill, and then one final uphill push to the next high point at Mile 21 before descending down to the turnaround point at 24.5. This section from 18 to 21 is mostly all above treeline, and being above treeline (when the weather is nice) is one of my favorite things about summer in Colorado, so it's basically the best part of the course! After taking way too many pictures, I started the big descent down... normally for a big descent, I'll put my camera away so I can make up some time...but the wildflowers were absolutely stunning this year, so of course I had to stop a couple more times for pictures along the way...

As I kept heading down to the Mile 25 aid station / turn around, I kept debating if I should drop or not. My hip was hurting... dropping would probably be the smart thing to do... but the ibuprofen was helping and I was going to have to figure out how to get a ride back if quit... What to do, what to do?

As I made it into the aid station, I quickly grabbed my drop bag to get my second garmin, headphones, and some food before heading out (and completely forgetting AGAIN to put on sunscreen...I would regret that the next day!). For the time being, I had decided not to drop... I decided I at least wanted to get an ultra distance in today, so I would for sure at least make it to the next aid station... So I headed back out and started making my way back up, up and more up.

After about a mile heading back out, the course diverted so as not to be a "true" out-and-back. This was the major change from when I ran this two years ago. We continued up a jeep road for a bit longer until getting almost to the next aid station which confused me. We shouldn't be to that aid station until closer to 31 miles... but right before getting there, they diverted us another direction to head back out for another loop. This loop though ended up being my absolute favorite part of the course. You went up for a bit more and then had this beautiful mile of single track. Best mile of the entire course - I loved it! I stopped for too many pictures (as always), before we then got back onto another section we had been on before and looping it back around towards the aid station. About a mile out from this aid station it started raining... and boy did it get really cold, really fast. I picked up my pace a bit before heading into the aid station.

The amazing section of single track - best part of the entire course, by far!

As I ran into the aid station, one of the volunteers was checking to see if everyone had rain gear and recommending we put it on. Seeing as how cold I had gotten, stopping to put my jacket on was no problem for me. I quickly put the jacket on, had some food, and then headed out. We had several miles of downhill - so with that and the rain, I really picked up my pace. Between the rain, and picking up my pace, I really didn't have a chance to think about dropping at the previous aid station... and the more I was able to pick up my pace, the better I felt, and so I started to lean towards not dropping… it looked like I might be finishing this race afterall…

I kept at it - heading back down, down and more down before we got to a road that cut over to our next big climb up to the mile 37 aid station. I headed up on this, deciding to take another ibuprofen. My hip was still doing okay but I could feel the ibuprofen wearing off, so I had one more as I kept heading up - making it into the next aid station where I took off my rain jacket (it was still sparadically sprinkling but not enough to keep it on), got some more food and coke, and grabbed my headphones before heading out onto the four miles of hell section....

The four miles of hell are the return of the mornings four miles of heaven. They're not that bad if you were say to just go and do this 4 miles on fresh legs...but 37+ miles in when it's your last big climb of the day makes them horrible. Add to the fact that it's a dirt road that looks the same the entire time you're on it makes it feel seriously never ending. Thankfully, since I've done this race before, I was prepared for it, so I put on my music, got out my trekking poles, and set out for a nice long uphill walk... I used to not listen to music in races, but I've found in ultra's, it can really help when the going gets tough...and I also tend to find it amusing how sometimes a song will come on that fits perfectly with the course... Sure enough just as I start this grueling, never ending climb, Toby Mac's "Keep Walking" song comes on... the lyrics talk about having nothing left and to just lift your head and keep moving on... which is what I did forever and ever and ever... until FINALLY making it to the start of the downhill!

As I started my final descent, another perfect song came on - I'm Born to Run by American Authors (I'm born to run, down rocky cliffs - right as I start running downhill... I loved it). This put quite the pep to my step as I picked up my pace again and made my way to the Mile 43 aid station. As I rolled into this aid station I was feeling great. I quickly had some snacks and asked someone what time it was... about 4:30pm... this really surprised me... this meant, if I could run the last 7 miles in an hour and half I could run this race in sub-12:00.... what?!? The 7 miles were mostly downhill, so I thought I might have a chance...but still, this is the last 7 miles of a 50 mile ultra.... you never really know how fast you're going to move... Either way though, I was leaving with the motivation to at least give it a shot! What did I have to lose?!

So I put away my trekking poles (shouldn't need them with the last 7 being mostly downhill) and headed out running as much as I could - all of the downhills and most of the flats, and walking the uphills. In general, I was surprised at how good I still felt for being 45+ miles in... so I made sure to embrace and just do what I could to keep the pace moving. In general, I only got passed by one person the entire 7 miles back - the rest of the time was spent passing other people. It was awesome! With about a mile or so to go, you turn and go around the back side of the finish line doing this curvy single track section that's miserable because you can hear the finish line... but overall I still felt okay so I kept moving as fast as I could. When I started the section I had about 15 minutes to spare to make it under 12 hours.... just keep moving I told myself. Finally I made it to the top of the hill, went around to this really steep descent to get to the finish line and ran as fast as I could, finishing 50+ miles in 11:54:28! Not only had I beat my time from two years ago, but I ran sub-12 (beating my time by an hour and 25 minutes) AND the course was 2-1/2 miles longer! I was pretty stoked!!! To add fuel to the fire, the race founders Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin were at the finish line so I got a picture with them!

The famous Leadville red carpet finish line!

Smiling a little too much (that's how happy I was about sub-12) with race founders Ken Chlouber & Merilee Maupin!

Race: Leadville Silver Rush 50 Miler
Date: July 8, 2018
Distance: 50 Miles (the race maps say 50.5)
Weather: 50's-60's. 
Elevation Gain: 7641'
Official Time: 11:54:28
Average Pace: 14:18 per mile
Overall Place: 207 of 478 (top half, what?)
Gender Place: 43 of 143 (top third!)
Age Group (F30-39): 17 of 51
Miles 1-10: 12:04, 11:07, 9:45, 12:04, 13:12, 12:33, 13:30, 16:27, 14:10, 16:59
Miles 11-20: 18:38, 9:14, 10:16, 9:59, 14:23, 13:40, 15:04, 20:42, 19:39, 17:05
Miles 21-30: 19:37, 14:20, 11:47, 11:49, 22:23, 14:45, 16:10, 19:09, 19:29, 13:36
Miles 31-40: 17:13, 12:20, 9:21, 12;19, 13:23, 19:54, 15:28, 16:42, 18:56, 15:23
Miles 41-50: 10:33, 11:01, 14:00, 9:57, 12:18, 9:57, 10:06, 13:19,11:58, 14:45, 11:20

Course Map

Elevation Profile

So overall, this was obviously a great race for me... Finishing in sub-12:00 also left me hopeful that someday I could maybe do Leadville 100 (the 30 hour cutoff is what intimidates me most). It's just funny, I literally thought about dropping for the entire first half of this race, and then ended up having an amazing race overall. I've never had that much energy at the end of a 50 miler... it was similar to finishing Antelope Canyon 55K earlier this year - but this was way longer!  I don't know if it's that I'm just getting better at running ultras, getting better at fueling, or just having great days....  but in general I'm extremely happy with how my last several ultra's have gone! I definitely hope I'm able to keep this up in my coming ultra's this fall.... My hip did end up in a lot of pain the following days, so I decided to take the remainder of July off to let it heal up so I can hopefully have a great race at Crested Butte 105K in September!

1. Trekking poles - I just started bringing trekking poles on my last couple hard runs (this one and Grand Canyon in May) and they really do make a positive difference in races with a lot climbing! I will definitely be bringing them to Crested Butte in September!
2. Ibuprofin - let me preface but saying I do not recommend / condone using ibuprofen in endurance events... I know there's a lot of controversy surrounding this and it can be dangerous. However, it has worked for me in the past and worked for me today to keep my hip pain at bay. That being said, I only took one at a time (2 throughout the entire 12 hour day) and never take more than the recommended dosage. I also make sure I'm hydrating a lot when I take it.
3. Fueling - I actually didn't feel like I fueled that much in this race which is interesting... but I felt good throughout - I think I'm finding the balance of "enough" but not "too much."

1. Camping before the race: I've done this a couple times, but it's kind of stressful... I think I've decided I'd rather just get a hotel room before any "big" races.... too stressful otherwise!
2. Forgetting to apply sunscreen: I'm so mad at myself for this - I forgot beforehand and when I got to my drop bag... I got SO burned. I don't even usually burn... so I must be better about this in future races!

Food for thought... what would my time be if I didn't stop for 5 million pictures...? But then, where's the fun in that? ;)

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...