Running in the High Country
As 2013 is coming to an end, I am planning my running adventures for the New Year, but before looking forward, I am taking a look back at what I learned in 2013. As often is the case, nothing turned out according to plan, but what did turn out was probably exactly what I needed to truly experience, for the first time, running in the High Country.
At the beginning of the year, I wanted to post monthly updates of my running, if only to help me keep track of mileage, races, and travels. But my work as a chef and mixologist made that very difficult. Instead, I tracked my mileage on an old-fashioned pen and paper running log, and took as many photos as I could, so that I wouldn’t forget what I saw.
June found me in Leadville, Colorado, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where I was running above 10,000 ft. training for the Leadville Marathon. The last time I was running at that altitude was when I ran the Inca Trail Marathon in Peru three years ago, but my lungs definitely welcomed the familiar mountain air, as my legs slowly became accustomed to the new terrain.
After a very challenging marathon which summited Mosquito Pass at 13,000 ft. elevation, I headed to Tahoe to recover and begin training for July’s Tahoe Rim Trail 50K, a race I had done before, but which would humble me with heat exhaustion and dehydration that I’ve seldom experienced in a race. The only thing stronger that day was my stubbornness.
The plan for August was to drive back to Colorado, run a stage of the Transrockies over Hope Pass, and continue to train on the Leadville course where I would pace my runner to the finish line. Unfortunately, my runner dropped before I was able to pace him, so the big finale that I was training for, pacing at Leadville, didn’t happen.
But in retrospect, being in Leadville, was not just about pacing at a race. It was about truly experiencing life in the High Country. Those days, everything was simpler. We met at City on a Hill for our morning coffee, we went for a run in the mountains, and picked up groceries at the local Safeway. At night, we played card games, watched cooking shows or movies on cable television, and made frequent visits to the local Whiskey bar, Two Guns Distillery.
If we cooked at home, our meals were mostly salads, pasta, grilled cheese sandwiches and soup, fruit, and cereal. But we also enjoyed day trips to nearby towns, and going out to dinner. So one day at a time, Leadville life got under my skin, and I grew to admire and appreciate the history of a town and its people who gave birth to the Leadville Race Series.
So 2013 didn’t turn out like I had planned, but I discovered how much I enjoyed living and running in the High Country. When it was time to go home, I even felt a bit of sadness that summer was over, so as a souvenir, I picked up a Leadville sticker at the Safeway and put it in the back of my car, right next to the Keep Tahoe Blue one. And during the entire drive back to California, I kept seeing Hope Pass in the rearview mirror, covered in snow, waiting for me to return next year.