WARNING: THIS IS A RATHER LENGTHY, BUT ENTERTAINING (AT LEAST I THINK SO!) ACCOUNT OF MY LEADVILLE MARATHON RACE REPORT. OKAY, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. NOW READ IT AND ENJOY!
Today, July 11th marks my journey to becoming a Leadman. Leadman is a series of races in Leadville, Colorado at an elevation of 10,200 feet. The official series includes:
July 11: marathon
July 25: 50 mile mountain bike
July 26: 50 mile run (this is optional and not part of Leadman but I am doing it because it poses a significant challenge!)
August 15: 100 mile mountain bike
August 16: 10k run
August 22-23: 100 mile run
Yeah, a bit nuts but that's me!
Anyway, the marathon was today and my goals were to have fun, test out my Achilles (have been having problems with that for almost two years) and just race smart. It was great because my wife was also running it as well as a good friend of mine.
I spent Thursday afternoon and Friday in Minneapolis doing a few presentations for USA Triathlon. Not the ideal scenario before a marathon at over 10,000 feet! But, I try to minimize the time as much as possible with only being gone from Colorado about 22 hours. Yes, a very quick trip!
I got home Friday night, prepped for the early morning drive up to Leadville and hit the sack around 9:30am. Didn't sleep that good which is normal for me before any race. Woke up at 4:15am. My wife didn't appreciate that because we agreed to wake up at 4:30am. My body was up so couldn't really do much about that.
I will provide my nutrition info at the end of the blog so stay tuned...
We arrived in Leadville around 6:45am and checked in. I took my wife and friend through a good neuromuscular and dynamic warm-up and we checked the weather and our clothing. It was 51 degrees up there so we shed our long sleeve tops and ran in the short sleeves. Keep in mind that we were to summit a "small" pass (more on that later) so we needed to be ready for any type of weather. You go that high in the Colorado mountains in the summer and you don't know what Mother Nature will throw your way.
Okay, so I looked at the course profile and have been up to Leadville for previous races but never this marathon. I knew we started running uphill but were we in for a HUGE surprise!
8:00am rolled around and the race director fired his shotgun in the air (typical race start in Leadville!). I could see where we were running and there was nothing but up. No worries, that's how my runs start at home so I thought I was adequately prepared. HA! Little did I know that this "up" lasted for just over 3 miles. The first 3/4 of it or so were on pavement then we hit dirt road and then it was jeep road with nice (read: big and sharp) rocks littered on the trail. Actually, that was pretty typical most of the run.
I tried not to go into oxygen debt too much at the start but the course forced my hand. I was in the top 30 after the first few miles and was feeling pretty good. Achilles didn't bother me too much, at least not more than normal!
I am a sucker for beautiful mountains and landscapes and this course did not disappoint. My only regret was that I couldn't take my eyes off of the trail for too long for fear that I would incur a serious ankle sprain due to the loose rocks. I managed to get a few "Kodak moments" with my eyes. I highly recommend spending some time up in Leadville. They have endless trails and beautiful lakes, mountains and great people. Anyway, back to the race.
I was feeling pretty good the first 10 miles. Had to sprinkle a little powerhiking in with running because the trail would turn vertical at a bat of an eye but all in all, legs were feeling okay.
And then, as I was descending into the London Mine area, I saw it. The climb up Mosquito Pass, all 13, 185 feet of it! "Wow!" was my first thought. Okay, I summited Hope Pass during the 100 mile run so I knew what a lack of oxygen (lower partial pressure to be technically correct) meant and I knew how to deal with it. I filled up my water bottle at the last aid station and off I went to the summit. It took me an hour to travel about 3 miles in which I ascended roughly 3,000 feet. Wow, that was a shocker but not really the challenge. The main challenge was coming down. After thanking the volunteers at the top for being out there, I turned around and began my descent. I don't know if you have ever had anyone throw rocks at your quads while you were walking on loose shards of glass but that's about the closest analogy I can think of to describe the way my quads felt.
One thing to note...I like running downhill and even though I know the eccentric action will haunt me later, I prefer to pick runners off descending...much easier sometimes than catching them on the uphills (sometimes!).
So, I finally get to the bottom of Mosquito Pass and I celebrated my 16 mile journey (in my head, I kept running!). And then it happened. As Emeril says, "BAM" there was another decent climb. Somehow, I didn't remember it being that vertical when I was descending it. I tried with all my might to run where I could and powerhike the rest. I stopped at each aid station to get some "goodies" and didn't really experience a lull the entire time (read: the caffeine helped but stay tuned for info on that!). I made it to the location where I had to run around Ball Mountain again and the hills (up and down) were extremely unforgiving on the legs. With each step my post-race muscle soreness factor would increase by 10-fold. I knew it but kept running. I just wanted to get to the finish line!
You see, I did have a starting goal. Primary goal was to go under 4:45:00. Secondary goal was to go under 4:30:00.
After a gnarly descent from the back side of Ball Mountain, it was time to make one of the last significant climbs, powerhiking (if I can call it that). It was a tough climb at about 21 miles into it. I did manage to survive it and then it happened...Bob found "The Zone". Yep, that infamous Performance Zone. I'm pretty good at putting myself there but this race with the intense hills detracted my attention often and thus I couldn't get in the right frame of mine. I believe it was the last 3 miles that were plagued with intense rocks-big and sharp-with a steep grade that shifted my mental focus on nothing but the ground.
So there I was...in "The Zone" and I must say that I was feel like a locomotive without brakes! I attacked the last 3 or so miles of the course with the visual memory of what was in store for me but I accepted the challenge. Off I went like a cheetah chasing a gazelle. I saw one runner in front of me about 100 yards...pick. Next runner was a few steps in front of him...pick. I was a runner on a mission. About 1.5 miles from the finish, I saw two runners ahead of me, probably a good 800 and 1200 meters away. My next goal...yep, you guessed it...pick and pick. The second one was tough. I used everything I had to pass and remain in front of him. Definitely at threshold going downhill. See, most people relax on the downhills. Not me. It's that darn competitiveness I have built into me. Can't help it. I see someone in front of me late in a race and I do everything in my power to get in front of them. That's the way I roll!
Here's the finish line about 1/2 mile downhill on asphalt. My legs feel like they are not attached to my body any longer and my breathing is so labored I could hardly hear my head about ready to explode. This was probably one of the toughest parts of the race for me. I could taste the finish line. Heck, I could visually see it (and that is usually never a good thing!). But I had to muster enough energy to hold off the runner I just passed and still try to hit my time goal.
The race director announced my name as I crossed the finish line with the small crowd cheering. Evidently, as someone told me after I finished, I was running pretty darn fast coming down that street to the finish line and they were all shocked. That's just "The Zone". As I look down at my watch I realized that I did achieve my primary goal of going under 4:45:00. My official time was 4:43:11, good enough for 20th overall and 9th in my age-group. While I didn't make my secondary goal of a sub 4:30:00, I realized that was okay. I mean, I do have to compete in a 50-miler in two weeks and have a 30 mile training run in 3 days. Time to recover the body now.
My friend finished and my wife did great, finishing in 5:31:41, good for 79th overall and 4th in her age-group. I am extremely proud of her for I was the one who roped her into this marathon and I know that this was the toughest terrain she has ever run.
On the way home, we stopped at a river to take a 6 minute ice bath and I decided to just go ahead and take a full bath. Ah, that felt good but my wife looked at me like I was crazy. Actually, she knows I am, she just accepts it now!
As far as nutrition, continuing on my journey of improving metabolic efficiency, I was pleasantly surprised with what my body accomplished today on the following totals:
These are per hour:
25 grams of carbohydrate
4 grams of protein
5 grams of fat
494 milligrams of sodium
My nutrition consisted of 19 ounces of water , SaltStick electrolyte capsules, roughly 14 ounces of Coke, about 15 M&M's, 1/2 of a First Endurance EFS bar.
It was nice to justify that my improved metabolic efficiency works in a race setting where heart rate and intensity are high.
Breakfast consisted of plain yogurt, whey protein powder, blueberries, olive oil and peanut butter at 4:30am. I drank 20 ounces of water on the drive to Leadville and had 1/2 of a First Endurance EFS bar about 1 hour before the start. Nothing else.
Am I defying sports nutrition research? Good question. What I can say is that with my improved metabolic efficiency and ability to oxidize fats at higher intensities, I do not feel as hungry during training and racing and require fewer calories and carbohydrates. Just something to leave you with to ponder...
Thanks for reading my "novel"! Now it's time for bed. Surprisingly, I am a bit tired now. :-)