Leadville: Weeks 5 and 6

Silver Rush 50 Start Line, photo courtesy of Leadville Race Series (source: Facebook)

Silver Rush 50 Start Line, photo courtesy of Leadville Race Series (source: Facebook)

The first 2 weeks in July were all about getting ready for the Silver Rush 50, a grueling trail run with over 7,000 ft. of vertical gain and 4 climbs that reach 12,000 ft. elevation, and after 5 consecutive weeks of running an average of 100K per week, I felt my body was ready for its longest run in almost 4 years.

Week 5: 4 running days, 50 miles, 11:06 hours, and 5,464 ft. of climbing

Week 6: 3 running days, 65 miles, 15:10 hours, and 8,953 ft. of vertical

Since the Silver Rush 50 was mid-July, the challenge was to continue to do long runs the first week of July while recovering from the high-mileage month of June, so I decided to do some hill-repeats on Powerline and short trail runs by Turquoise Lake before attempting my first solo 26 mile run from May Queen to Twin Lakes. The week of the race, however, I was a bit worried about some pain on my shin, likely from all the hard downhill pounding, so I took an extra rest day and iced my leg, hoping it would be fine come race day. For me, not running is difficult, but I passed the time studying the course, planning race splits, and preparing my drop bag.

Being a morning person, I was up by 3 AM to have my cafe con leche, do my morning yoga routine, visualize the course, and get ready for the 6 AM start. But once we gathered at the start line, I was genuinely surprised by how I felt — in the fleeting moments before the race, I was at home, I was in community, and I was truly excited to run and to see so many other runners preparing for our shared adventure ahead, standing facing South while the National Anthem played, looking up Dutch Henry Hill, and waiting for the rifle blast to announce the start of the race.

Before the race, when my friends asked me if I had a goal, I simply said that I wanted to finish, but in my heart my goal was to finish under 12 hours, and I knew that if I made it to the last 12,000 ft. climb in about 9 hrs 30 min, then I should be able to run the last 10 miles downhill to the finish. That last climb was tougher than I expected, I was losing my appetite and feeling fatigued, and I was a bit behind schedule, but I was still drinking fluids and my legs were still responding, so I started to run, and didn’t stop until the finish, except for a brief pause at the last aid station that welcomed me with encouraging cheers.

Those last 10 miles were some of the best running I’ve done in years, swift, strong, determined, and almost effortless as I passed runners who were walking the last few miles after a long day. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 11:54, many hours behind the winner, but if you saw me smile at the finish, you would’ve thought I won the race. After finishing, I was tired, happy, and profoundly grateful for all the support from the aid station volunteers and my Leadville Family who was crewing for me all day long. Gels, bars, and sports drinks may have nourished my body during the race, but that day the encouragement they gave me nourished something equally important — my running spirit.

32 days until the Leadville Trail 100M.

15. July 2014 by Nico
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