Friday, July 20, 2012

2012 Leadville 100 Training Part IV - Trip to Leadville

Saturday night or I guess you would say early Sunday morning at 12:16, I finished the Full Moon 50K and was very pleased with my last big training race as things went pretty well.  After several beers and a restless night camping in my wife's car, I drove the three hours back to Poteau, took a nap and at 4:30, began the 14 hour drive to Leadville. 

Near Leadville the temp dropped from the 90s to near 100 on the Front Range to 57!  Yippee!
 I arrived at around 1:00 Monday afternoon and went straight to the trail.  Specifically, I went to mile 13 (and 87) in the race which goes on the Colorado Trail and then up and over Sugarloaf.  I got my camelbak on and headed off to climb that section of the course with the intent of doing the 20 miles to fish hatchery and back or at least go to the road on the other side of the mtn.  As I got closer to the top however, a storm began to move in.  It started to rain and then it became heavier.  As I got higher on the mtn, I began to have second thoughts and came back down.  I do not want to be a victim to a lightning strike and I am always cautious around storms.

Cold rain began coming down on my first training run.  Glad I turned around because the storm would only get worse.
 When I got back to the car there was a hiker nearby and I gave him a ride back to Leadville Hostel.  He was doing the entire 480 so miles of the Colorado Trail!  He had been at it for a week and a half and planned to take six weeks.  Incredible!  Now that is much tougher than the Leadville 100 in my book.

It turns out I made the right decision in coming down off the mtn because it really got slammed good by a strong storm with lots of lightning and that rain in the mountains is soooo cold.

I drove around to the fish hatchery side of Sugarloaf and by that time, the rain had begun to let up.  It was late afternoon and so I thought I might get to climb some of this side of the mountain before dark.  This is the powerline section and you could hear the powerline buzzing.  This would be good practice for the race.  So I started up the inbound side of Sugarloaf and made it back to where I had abandoned my effort earlier in the day and so I got the full section in after all and was certainly pleased with that.  I did not drive 30 hours to not get some good training runs in.

From Hagerman Pass Road near top of Sugarloaf looking down at Mayqueen.  Can't wait to see that sight on race day!
 Monday night as all nights, I camped in the car and ate stew from a can with some crackers as darkness set in over the mountains.  This was a very economical trip but I kind of enjoyed the simplicity and the spartan nature of it.  The only money I spent was about $200 dollars on gas, $15 or so on tolls, and maybe $10 on coffee.

My bed and breakfast.  In this case dinner which was hearty stew.
 Tuesday morning I enjoyed my usual breakfast of Cheerios and a pop tart and took in the beautiful sunrise in the mountains and the cool air.  At 7:00 am I started my double crossing of Hope Pass just as I would have to do in the race.  I had a little difficulty finding the trailhead to go up Hope which is part of the Continental Divide Trail.  Having finally found it, I did a nice steady climb and it was not too bad although I now remember how tough it is to keep the heart rate down.

Top of Hope Pass!  That wasn't so bad.
 I made it to the top and down the other side.  It's always important to remember that no matter how crappy you feel climbing up Hope in either direction, it is amazing how quickly you feel better when you begin to head down.  Just keep plugging away and get to the top of Hope and it always gets better coming down.  I made my way down the backside of Hope and found the new trail going to Winfield.  It's beautiful new trail.  I didn't quite make it to Winfield but I know I must have been close.  I was worried more storms may move in and I would be caught on top of the mountain.
Panoramic view from Hope looking South toward Winfield.

The climb back up hope is sooo steep especially the first mile or so into the climb after you leave the new Winfield Trail.  Be ready for how steep that sucker is and do not be discouraged because eventually you will get above treeline and it actually gets easier as you get higher and closer to the top.  And of course, once you descend, it feels sooo much better.  Can't wait until I am standing on Hope the second time on race day!

As I came down from Hope heading back to Twin Lakes I saw Lori Enlow from Tahlequah who is also running Leadville.  She appears ready to go as well!  Down to the trailhead once more and then there is a mile or two across the valley and through the river back to Twin Lakes.  I think it is a good idea on race day to run this section as much as possible because you should have some positive energy having just finished the toughest part of the race.

Tuesday evening I did a 90 minute run from Twin Lakes toward the Half Moon/Mt Elbert aid station. (I was going to do more but once again a storm blew in with sleet!)   I forgot how beautiful this section is.  I made it back to the point where two years ago I had gone off course on the outbound and now there is a sign there that points to Twin Lakes Village.  Sure wish that sign had been there two years ago.  I continued on and just enjoyed the trail.  After 50 or so minutes I turned around.  So that left me with about 6 or 7 miles that I would not cover on this trip (not counting the 13 from Leadville to MayQueen). 

This is looking at Hope Pass as you come into Twin Lakes aid station.  Hope is the saddle in the distant mountains!
 Wednesday morning I awoke at nearly the same time.  I had considered doing one or two fourteeners on this last day but decided I could do that on some other trip.  Right now I wanted to focus on the LT100 and if I could get in another double crossing of Hope, then I would really feel about as well prepared as possible.

So I did a repeat of Tuesday.  I met a lot of interesting people including several that were also training for Leadville.  I also met an older married couple that I would guess were in the their 60s.  I visited with them for a bit.  They had been hiking since the middle of June and had been hiking on and off for three and a half years!  They seemed so happy and content to just be out walking with each other.  They asked if I had gotten caught in the storm and I said I was just day hiking it.  They told me they got caught three times in the storms yesterday including the freezing sleet.  They are hardy people for sure.
Crossing the river after my second consecutive double crossing of Hope!
This second double crossing went pretty well.  Although I again did not quite make it to Winfield because I set a six hour time limit, I know that I was very close.  I went back and looked at my splits from two years ago and I made it from Twin Lakes to Winfield in 2:47 and back in 2:43.  So a 3 hour training pace with time spent to sit and snack and visit with folks seemed pretty comfortable.  I may even slow down a little on race day so I can save energy for later in the race.  I am certainly going to slow the descents so I do not blow out my quads as I did two years ago.  That's the plan anyway.
Bring on LT100!  I am ready!
I would like to have stayed and done more training runs on the Leadville course.  I felt like I could have done the Hope double crossing every day but I missed home and missed my family so Wednesday afternoon I started the drive home.

After sleeping in the car at a rest stop in Kansas, I got a nice 11 mile run in the morning through the corn fields of the Great Plains and that was neat but I was also reminded how uncomfortable it is running in the heat.

For all the complaints about the altitude in Leadville, I have determined that I would far rather run the 100 mile race at 10,000 feet than to run it in Oklahoma in August.  It would no doubt be much easier even with Hope Pass.  So I will be grateful that it is so cool rather than complain about the altitude.

I do not know what else I could do to be prepared for Leadville.  I will have logged nine consecutive 100 mile weeks including 125, 147, and 140 the last three weeks before tapering.  I have ran much of the course including two double crossings of Hope.  I had a great 50K tune up training run with a very respectable 4:16 time at a comfortable pace.  It is now just mental and I am prepared to go out and just enjoy running in the mountains.  It is an opportunity not too many people get and I intend to take full advantage of it.  Hopefully my quads will not go out at me at mile 65 but if they do or if something else goes wrong, I think I am more fully prepared to deal with that adversity and be able to overcome it. 

And maybe, just maybe; all the stars will align and everything will go smooth and I will run a great race. 

As for the taper.  I should hit 140 this week.  100 with four weeks to go and then 80, 60 and 30 and then race day!  It cannot get here fast enough!


  1. Sounds like you are ready Tom. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

  2. Sounds like you had a great trip too! Look forward to seeing you again!