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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Leadville Trail Marathon 2015: Leadman Series Round 1


All of this training and the race is finally here. I decided that I would do this series back in December when I really locked down my training after gaining 10 lb. on my 2 month break from almost no running. By the time I signed up in January, it seemed so far away that it would never happen. Thankfully, I have been consistent with my training all year through the highs and lows (including the broken big toe. Throughout the broken toe times, I was able to focus on my biking and get it to a better place thus far and have been happy. I was even able to squeeze in a surprise 50 miler down at Jemez a few weeks ago as a final training push towards this goal. Before breaking my toe, my goal was to run this race in sub 4:30. I believed this was possible based on my last year's Salida Run through Time time of 4:00 and my Pikes Peak of 5:07 where I dogged it hard on the descent. I knew with solid training and a good race this would be possible. The first "test" race came this year at Salida where I hoped to shave 15 minutes and get a 3:45 as a healthy sign. Unfortunately, that race went well for the first half before ending differently than expected with the bonus miles and quad crippling cramps that forced downhill hiking. A 4:30 at Salida normally would indicate 5+ hours at this race based on statistics but I knew I had an off day that day due to the 12 hour puking episode the day prior. Anyhow, long story short, Leadman is about a path. It's not about winning or losing or place, but more about the personal Journey. This is all story of my journey including the toe and my expectation with the toe issues was honestly to pull a 4:45 at best given the lack of time on feet from expected. The Jemez race was an eye opener to what proper rest and recovery can do and my end result on this race was far more than I could have hoped for on my journey to earn the title Leadman.
(All photos courtesey of unless otherwise noted)
 Now, I am no stranger to earning titles which includes my history in the US Marines where I assuredly earned that title. While most people find one thing they are really really good about or passionate about where they find that their natural talents exist, I have consistently been troubled that I have never had that one thing. I find myself to be one of those jacks of all trades where I am pretty good at most anything I try but never among the top. What I have realized thus far through my Leadman journey is that I do in fact have one thing that I can pinpoint. No it isn't endurance running or technical mountain biking. The one thing that I am really good at is that I try really hard. Kind of like the movie Rudy where he isn't very good at football and is far too small but he tried really hard, I do that with all things in my life. I don't give partial effort on anything and the result is that I come out doing well at most things. You can call it determination or strong focus, but the bottom line is that the one thing I really have going for me is that when I decide to do something, I commit to it.

The journey this year towards Leadman showcases that strong commitment. Only thing is that I am also strongly committed to other things. This is not an excuse but to show that determination. I have a Wife and Son whom I care dearly about and who get some time that would be otherwise training. I also was wrapping a Master of Science in Systems Engineering degree this spring that I ended up with a 4.0 in. Ok. now you get the point. I don't want to sound like I am bragging. Just trying to relay that I give 100%. Being sold on the Maffetone method a little over a year ago, I understand the importance of training smartly and at sustainable paces. I also understand the importance of minimizing cortisol. The way to do this is training at or below Maximum Aerobic Function efforts but also minimizing general life stress. While having a busy life filled with family, school, a job that includes shift work, and taking care of my grandmothers finances, I have figured out how to not be stressed. Basically, I decide to not let stuff stress me out. The one negative consequence is that things on the fringes are definitely effected and thus the reason this kind of training effort is a one time gig. Things like normal honey do chores around the house and hanging out with friends and family members have to be sacrificed. I hang on to the bare minimum of things that include time spent with my family when not training. So here we have it. Low Stress+Adequate Recovery+Consistent training+resting adequately=Recipe for success. I think the biggest strength so far is my flexibility. If I was planning a long run for a certain day and wasn't feeling up to it, I simply didn't do it. Sometimes I just did it the next day. Sometimes I skipped it. Point being that I never dropped off the radar and stayed consistent as displayed by 300+ hours of training from 1 Jan until this race.

Ok, so now that I talked your ear off, I haven't started reporting on the race yet. Well. Hold your horses or scroll down or something like that, there is more... So major advice to future Leadmen. When you sign up in January, book your lodging right then. Don't wait for open registration for other races as it becomes increasingly difficult to lock down lodging. I am already staying in Buena Vista for the 100s because I waited too long. I was able to snag this cool house for the Marathon though and I highly recommend the house and the owners. We stayed at 1010 Harrison Ave just a few blocks up from the start in a dog friendly house that was advertized to sleep 7. I found this house on for a decent price and it was perfect for our fam. I brought my wife, son, parents in Law, and my Bro in Law and his GF who were running the Marathon and Heavy Half as well. We all fit with beds to spare.
We drove up thursday night and arrived a bit late after my son puking 3 times on the drive up from windy roads and then without realizing fed him a kids energy bar as part of his dinner that had him up and crazy half of the night. Friday was filled with a big family breakfast and then a walk downtown to pick up race packets. By afternoon, we put down Eli and the runners plus the wife's dad went for some up high scouting of the course. We parked at Aid station B and went up from there. I slow jogged up feeling the soreness from last minute speedwork on Wednesday where I had to prove to myself that I can still run 8 miles in under an hour (even after biking home from work). Worried about my soreness, I kept the effort at an easy jog up the soggy trail. I ended up turning around at about 12,900' at about 2.5 mi up from the car and then raced back down with my dog Baz to meet the others about half mile above the car and hiked to the finish. The amount of shoveling was apparent and the race crew did a lot of work to get this thing ready. Imagine running on wet, muddy, softballs though.  The run refreshed my legs. That evening we went to Tennessee Pass Cafe for happy hour and some appetizers where the food was spectacular. We went home and had Moma's famous Lasagna at my request for dinner.

Race Morning

Finally!!! It is here and Finally I am done babbling about pre-race this and that but this race does mark a large milestone in this Leadman journey. Waking up race morning with a much better night's sleep, I began the pre-race routine. Coffee... Check. Two poops... Check. Pop tarts.... Check. Two hard boiled eggs... Check. Gatorade, check. Coconut water... Check.  The weather was nice enough that I went sans Jacket. I carried one 24 oz water bottle with GU rocktane and a small pouch for snacks and TP. I carried a couple gels and a couple honey stinger chews. I rocked my normal faded Strava Leadville 100 2013 hat (which I did not run) and my Jemez shirt and mountain biking gloves since I seem to trip a lot. For shoes, I went with my Altra Olympus 1.5s as I am still babying that broken big toe. Pre-race weather was gorgeous. We did the obligatory family photos pre-race and I did a 10 min warmup up the avenue and back on top of the 5 minute walk down to the race from the house. I was ready and psyched. Just before the race, I ran into fellow Leadman, Marvin Sandoval, who got 3rd place overall last year on his third time becoming a leadman. It was a privilege to get to talk with a guy like this who has proven he has what it takes in the past. I also ran into another Leadman from New York. We talked for a bit and exchanged numbers. He and another prospect were going to do a training ride up St. Kevins the next day and said I could join. They recognized Active Duty and Vets which was cool and then played the National Anthem and then Thunderstruck by AC DC. I liked Thunderstruck but I was a little peeved they cut into the end of the Anthem with it. Then, shortly after Ken Choubler's famous words, we were off at the sound of the shot gun.

The Race

Start to Aid Station A (6.1 Mi)

At the sound of the gun, we were off. Leadman has officially started. People began to sprint up the avenue like a bunch of banshees. I quickly settled into a pace that kept my heartrate in check between 165 and 170. People were literally skyrocketing by. After a mile or two after splitting off the heavy half course a ways, the road quickly steepened and most people reduced to a hike. I was able to continue my jog without going into the red on my heartrate and the passing began. Running a marathon, strategy is very different than a 50 mile as I would never run on grades as such on a 50. From my Pikes Peak marathon past, I was very comfortable running at this steep grade. From there, there was a steeper downhill section that I noted we would have to re-climb coming back. Passing the water only Aid station, I think with the downhill, I had a sub seven minute mile but still keeping the HR in check to 165 range. Some folks passed me here going even faster but I didn't want to destroy the legs in the first 5 miles. After the short downhill, it was back up. We went on the road for a short second and then onto another dirt road. It was a gradual but steady grade and most were switching between running and walking. I felt comfortable continuing to run up this maintaining 163-165 HR. Keeping the steady run, I was steadily passing folks but not worried about going too fast. After a while, the hill steepened even more and I eventually had to run/walk combo to maintain heartrate range. We climbed up, up and up to over 12K just in front of Ball mtn. Right around here, I busted into my first pack of honey stinger chews. Apparently, the single track section that traditionally goes behind was too snowy/muddy still so we had an altered course. After reaching over 12K, we began to descend pretty fast down to aid station A at around 6.1 miles.

Aid A to Aid B

I had the aid station top off my bottle with electrolyte drink and began the bomber descent. Pretty sure I had my fastest mile of the day through this section and after a quick couple miles downhill and being passed by one or two, we began a steady climb up the next road where we took a right. Many ahead hiked this climb and my steady running enabled me to catch up to a few getting into Aid A 1/2. I topped off my bottle again here. Just after the aid, I was all alone so I took  a quick pee. Through here, I started passing several half marathon folks. Around the corner we started the road that climbed to the top of mosquito pass. After this quick turn, the lead female passed me here and she was looking strong. I was feeling the heat and just kind of cruised into the Aid station B.

Aid B to Aid B

I think I caught the family off guard as they did not see me coming or have all my stuff ready. I snagged a fresh bottle of GU Rocktane from them and continued on. I kept a jog up the road as water was running down. I was able to run most of the section to the Aid but with 10 hard miles under my belt, I had to walk more than the training run the day prior which was expected. I felt like I could run all of this but I feared burning out on the return up Ball mtn later on in the heat would be the result so I played it smart. Shortly after the aid, the lead half marathoners came a blazing down the trail. Passing the un-announced alpine aid station at around 12k, the half marathon pack was becoming hot and heavy. This got worse and worse and is my main frustration with this race. This should be run like Pikes Peak where the half is on different day than the full. It was a full pain traffic Jam to try and pass folks up on mosquito pass as half marathoners were coming up and down in full force with the faster Marathoners weaving in and out of them haphazardly. It's amazing that more people didn't get hurt in this gaggle but I made quick work up to the top of the pass even passing a few marathoners. At the top, several halfers were taking pictures of the view. I just did an about face and headed back down. Immediately, I began to experience heavy calf cramping. I had been taking S-CAPS hourly was still in bad shape. I immediately slammed an extra SCAP and kept trucking while I dodged and weaved halfers having collisions with a couple trying to control speed. I tried to warn as much as possible but there isn't a lot of room for the varied speeds of traffic up there. I had to stop once to stretch the calf and one marathoner passed me. I had fun crossing paths with other fellow Leadmen and leadwomen and cheering them on. By the time I reached the unannounced alpine aid, I went for a refill on electrolyte and while they were filling my bottle, I keeled over from a calf cramp. The med staff tried to pull me aside. I ripped my bottle from them and jetted. I didn't have time for that. I made it my goal in the next couple short miles back to aid B to finish this whole bottle. I also managed to snag some watermelon on the way out. I'm thankful for the med staff watching out for us out there but I knew I would turn out fine once I got back in balance. I made good time on the way down but not as good as I think I could of. I held back to not bring the cramps back but still was cruising at sub 8 min pace. Coming back into Aid B several other runners cheered me on saying "GO LEADMAN" and just before it, I ran into Cre, my Bro-In-Law who was also doing the Marathon. He was on the way up cruising and smiling. I gave him a big hug almost plowing him over. Shortly after, I was back at aid B. I swapped bottles with my wife, gave my son a five, took half a honey stinger gel, and grabbed another pack of honey stinger chews and I was off to finish the race.


Aid B to Finish

There was the short downhill out of Aid B and then the gradual climb back to A1/2. I cruised by a couple half marathoners here and I think a couple of marathoners too but was a bit frustrated with the heat. I managed to run but it was by no means fast. After that climb, there was the nice downhill and then the big climb back up to Aid A. On the downhill, one runner caught up and passed by pretty strong. Once on the climb, it was getting hot, I was altering between speed walking and running. The guy who had passed me caught another guy. I kept them in my sights and focused on running more than they did and made steady progress catching and passing both of them. I ended up passing one more guy just before aid A. Getting to Aid A, I took one final bottle of electrolyte and a handful of watermelon and began the descent. Two guys passed me right off as I am not as good at down as I am up. I saw our high point earlier off the shoulder of Ball mtn. and was dreading this late race final climb. Much to my surprise, this alternate course does not require you to re-climb all of the way up. I had wondered because the turnaround at mosquito was more like 13.9 or 14 miles instead of 13.1. I stayed strong through the descent with a few guys in front up in my sights. Once we got a ways down, one guys very annoying girlfriend began to cheer him. Since she wasn't as fast, she chased him down the trail cheering him on. "You effing go baby." It was so so annoying. She proceeded to follow up the last small climb before the final descent to town and I had to hear her over and over. It's one thing to cheer on loved ones but to run along and shout a mile up the road to them in between other racers is quite annoying. Eventually, we dropped her and got into the final descent. I passed one other marathoner at the water only aid in this climb and only hiked the final bit to the top before turning on my game face for the finish. I came down the pavement at a hard pace kicking it in and cheering on other half marathoners. I crossed the finish line in 4:25:something and was very happy with my time. Just as I crossed, they announced Marshall Urlich. He was doing the heavy half and was right in front of me. It was fun to talk to him for a couple of minutes after the race. I had met him at Pikes Peak Marathon last year just as I was reading his book. What an inspiration and a privilege to be running with that bad ass dude. The race staff had notified me that I was the first Leadman to finish. I couldn't believe it. I figured with a time like that I was somewhere around 3rd or 4th. The winner had broken the course record this year and finished almost an hour faster than me. Within 3 minutes of my finish, I think at least 3 other Leadmen came in. Within 10 minutes there were 6 and 20 minutes 12 or 13. That is awesome. This means the win is still anyone's bid for the year. We have no Dave Mackeys or Travis Maceys this year crushing everyone so the competition will be fun and close all summer. Not that any of us are in it for place but still fun. After settling in, I got to meet other finishers while we sipped beer in the shade. My time was good enough for 19th overall and I think 10th in my age group so 9 of the top 18 were my age haha.

Post race

After having 2 beers, I went back to the house with my wife and showered and re-hydrated a bit. We put our son down for a nap and left him there with his Moma (grandma) while we walked back to cheer on Cre and Mary. I got the pre-race meal and we had more drinks and watched Mary finish the heavy half. It was so great to see her coming in smiling. The race had one other problem and that was that they ran out of beer at the beer garden before everyone finished. This is unacceptable for a mountain race! I ran back to the house to grab a few beers for when Cre finished and got back just in time to jog in the final yards with him. He did so awesome! We cracked our own beers and enjoyed all of our accomplishments before walking back to the house to get cleaned up and eventually have Moma's famous homemade ice cream. The next day I went for the test ride up St. Kevins and found out just how steep it is. It seemed really hard on marathon legs but was a great time getting to know a couple of fellow Leadmen a bit better. It was also awesome getting to ride with David who has rode the Leadville 100 multiple times and was very familiar with the course. It kept me from pulling out the map over and over figuring out where to go. The ride did wonders for shaking out my legs. I can't wait until my next round in a few weeks with the Silver Rush 50s. For now it's time to get back to work! Training never stops for Leadmen. Here are some more pics from athlinks. I will try and get more from my wife later.
Until next time...

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