Race Reports: Summer 2016 in Leadville

 July 10: Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Run Race Report

The Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Run is a race not to be taken lightly. Club Secretary Katie raced the 50 for the second time. This trail ultramarathon is part of the Leadville Race Series.

The race started at 6:00 AM. Weather was cool as the sun just started to rise over the Mosquito Range to the east of Leadville. Katie felt great. Her nerves were as calm as they could be before a 50 mile run. The race starts at the bottom of Dutch Henry Hill just below the CMC campus. Dutch Henry Hill is a hill that the Ski Area Operations students make snow for and groom throughout the winter, and is used as a tubing hill by local and visiting families. Silver Rush 50 racers sprint up this steep, loose, and rocky hill and turn west to heading into campus. The racers traverse the campus then head into the mining district to the south and east of Leadville. Nearly 500 runners lined up this year; 383 finished the challenging out-and-back course.

Katie pushed through the difficult rocky course to finish in 203th place and 39th woman. Her time was 12:01:44. It was a hot, dry, and windy day. Katie managed her fluids and caloric intake perfectly. She felt great throughout the race. The challenging rocky descents were tough on her IT bands and ankles, but she pushed through to achieve her simple goal of finishing. As a preparatory event for the upcoming LT100, she was successfully able to put her gear, nutrition and endurance to the test one last time. Everything performed as she had hoped! The only complaint was her post race drive home, saying “My standard transmission was so hard to drive! I couldn’t push my clutch in to start the engine!” Luckily, her friend was able to drive her car for her. Recovery went well and Katie kept on her training schedule for the LT100 in August.

View the full race results.

August 14: Leadville Trail 10K Race Report

Leadville Trail 10K Start

Racers race for position at the start of the Leadville Trail 10K. Click the picture for full results.

Katie and Coach Darren tackled the deceivingly challenging Leadville Trail 10K on August 14th. The race starts at 6th and Harrison streets, which is the traditional starting line for both the 100 mile mountain bike and run. The race had close to 300 runners in it. This out-and-back course heads west on 6th Street. Runners then turn south for a few seconds before descending down the Boulevard for 2.5 miles. Runners then face the daunting task of running back to the finish line which is net uphill. The average elevation for the course is roughly 10,000 feet above sea level.

The thin atmosphere, net downhill, then net uphill race is unique to Leadville. The starting gun goes off at high noon. Temperatures were hot for Leadville in the low 70s, and the sky was clear and blue. Katie ran steady and calm, knowing that her main goal race of the summer was only a week away. Her first 5K was a personal best at 26:52. A strong sprint at the end led her to a 37th overall finish out of 151 women, with a time of 1:01:18.

Coach Darren struggled with the heat and pace but managed to finish strongly in 22nd place out of 244 men with a time of 45:05.

August 20-21: Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run Race Report

4:00 AM is too early for just about anything, unless you are starting the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run. Club Secretary Katie was on the start line with her hydration backpack, Honey Stinger Waffles, and Gu gels galore ready to face the physically and mentally exhausting challenge of the LT100. The weather for the race was as good as it could have been with blue skies and light winds. The course is an out-and-back taking racers to Turquoise Lake, Twin Lakes, Hope Pass and finally the ghost town of Winfield before turning around to come back to Leadville.

This was Katie’s first attempt at a 100 mile race, and she did exceptionally well. With a goal of merely finishing, she started off with a solid pace that would ideally get her back to the finish line at 9:30 AM on Sunday morning. Katie had a great crew of friends and family. Coach Darren was lucky enough to be a part of the crew and also served as a pacer. Each runner is allowed a crew for various check-points/aid stations throughout the race (roughly 10-13 miles apart) that can provide fluids, nutrition, and most importantly support. Once a runner reaches the Winfield Aid Station at mile 50, he or she can be accompanied by a pacer. Unique to this race, the pacer can mule all of the runner’s gear and needs. They are also there for support, wayfinding and general safety on course.

Katie races the 2016 LT100 Mile Run

Katie shows good form in the 2016 LT100 Mile Run. Click the picture for full race results.

One of the toughest sections of the Leadville 100 includes the first ten miles of the course, including The Boulevard. This road is neither steep nor rocky, but the high altitude wreaks havoc on unprepared and excited runners. Veterans know that the runners who go out too fast from the starting line will feel the detrimental effects soon. Katie and Coach Darren have run this road numerous times, so it was easy for her to settle into an appropriate pace while others flew ahead. Unfortunately, it was only around mile 10 or 11 that her IT Bands started to ache. Each downhill, including the famous Powerline descent, was slow and increasingly painful. Fortunately, Leadville is known for being a flat, runnable course. The miles between Powerline and the bottom of Hope Pass are mostly flat single or doubletracks.

Katie got to mile 38 in Twin Lakes near goal time and in fine form. She had approximately 12 miles of steep climbing and descending in front of her. She made it to Winfield at 5:00 PM, nearly 13 hours after she started the race. Her spirits were high but her body was in pain. 50 miles of rough trail can do a lot to a person, and she still had 50 miles to go.

Coach Darren paced her for the next 22 miles. Katie had a difficult time, as expected, on the incredibly steep ascent up to the infamous Hope Pass. Runners cross this saddle twice, and it is the highest point in the race at approximately 12,600 feet above sea level. Many Leadville runners DNF at Winfield, unable to imagine climbing back up the mountain to the Hopeless Aid Station, but Katie pushed herself to the top working the hill with every step.

She felt great at the aid station on the north side of the pass. Her gear, nutrition and pace were all working as hoped. Katie’s race would then become very exciting. Her left knee and IT bands were over-fatigued. The trail back down to Twin Lakes became extremely root-y and rocky. She experienced a stressful fall, but she mustered the will to get back up and continue. Every step was painful and had the potential for another collapse. All of the time cushion she had built up was slowly being taken away. The cutoff time at Twin Lakes was 9:45 PM and it was approaching quickly. After finally reaching the bottom of the steep descent, with a river crossing and handful of miles to go, Darren asked Katie at 9:10 PM what she wanted to do. She had hit a major low during the descent, including several minutes of knowing that she would not make the cutoff at their current pace. Katie said, “I want to do it.” With renewed determination and focus, they pushed forward as fast as possible. Both knew that the cutoff was barely within reach. They discussed what gear was necessary for the next section and did not think or speak again about the possibility of being cut from the race.

Katie approaching the river crossing during the Leadville 100 race.

Katie approaches the river crossing between Twin Lakes and Hope Pass.

Strategy in mind, Darren sprinted ahead to Twin Lakes to prep for Katie’s arrival. Runners who do not cross the electronic chip reader are not allowed to continue the race and time was ticking away quickly. Darren also knew that the crew was set up on the near side of the chip reader, so Katie would absolutely have to pass them by. There was not enough time to relocate the crew nearer to the cut off and be organized for Katie’s arrival. At 9:35 at night, Darren had prepped Katie’s crew for her arrival, but where was Katie? Her watch battery had died much earlier in the day, and it was becoming very dark and cold. She came around the corner running for her life to make it to the aid station, slipping under the cutoff by five minutes. She would live to fight for another aid station, and a new time goal.

The next 12 miles were relatively peaceful for Katie. She was doing much better, and this part of the course was her favorite. Darren told funny stories and made sure they were on pace for success. Katie made it to the Mt Elbert and Treeline Aid Stations with 15 minutes to spare. She was gaining time, momentum, and confidence but still feeling twinges of pain in her knees on each and every descent. With the crew waiting, Darren dropped her off at the Treeline Aid Station around 1:45 AM, and another pacer Shannon took over. There was a perfect full moon illuminating the course. Unlike many racers, Katie still had a clear mind and no stomach issues to speak of. Between Treeline and the Outward Bound Aid Stations, she was even able to jog on the paved road. As she crossed the field to Outward Bound, however, the IT Band pain suddenly became excruciating and debilitating. She had made up another five minutes on the cutoffs and set off towards the return up the Powerline climb, but the pace had slowed significantly. Katie put one foot in front of the other and made it another three miles before the pain and reality of the upcoming climb forced her to make the toughest decision possible in an ultramarathon. She had completed nearly 80 miles, but her body could do no more. She made the tough decision to officially drop at the base of the Powerline hill. Finally able to accept the physical support of her third pacer Mark, they limped slowly back to the road. Her wristband was cut by an official and Katie was loaded into the car of two gracious bystanders.

When asked if she will attempt the Leadville 100 again in 2017, Katie has expressed with absolute certainty her desire to race and finish next year. She says that she is happy with the mileage and schedule she followed in the 9 months before Leadville, and learned a lot about physical and mental strategies for the 100 mile distance. She says she will have to add more strength and mobility training to her 2017 plan.

Katie went farther than she ever had gone before. It was an amazing journey. The Running Club is so proud of her accomplishment and cannot wait to support her next year.

September 3: Lake County High School Citizen Race 5K Race Report

Newcomer Kirk and Coach Darren raced the Citizen Race at the Lake County High School Cross Country Meet. The race took place on the Colorado Mountain College running trails to the south and west of campus. The course repeated the first loop south of campus twice, did a third loop west of campus once, and then finished where the start was on the multi-purpose field. The race started at 12:45 PM. Temperatures were in the upper 60s.

The course is the highest high school cross country race in the nation. It is a challenging course because of the long hill at the beginning and the altitude factor.

Kirk had no problems handling the course. He started off gradually and picked up speed on the downhill descents. He passed Coach Darren at Mile 1 and never looked back. Kirk finished 3rd overall with a time of 20:58. This was Kirk’s first race at altitude, and he did exceptionally well after spending a lot of time at sea level this summer. Coach Darren followed him for a 4th place finish and a time of 21:50.

View the full race results.