‘Hey, I’m coming through your area in June. Available for a beer?’
The invite that led me to the top of Mosquito Pass (elevation 13,185 feet) on a Saturday morning. In a tank top and shorts. In 30-something degree weather. (See that lady behind me? She’s wearing a down parka under a blanket. I did not spend too much time at the summit.)
My USMA and Signal Officer Basic Course classmate, Marc, sent me a message a few weeks before. He had run into a mutual friend a few weeks prior – the Army really is a small world – and my name came up. More along the lines of “Oh! You know Norine too!” Well, that lets-meet-up-for-happy-hour turned into a ok-I’ll-run-that-race-too!
Leadville, CO is the highest incorporated city in the US at an elevation of 10,152 feet. The Leadville Trail Race Series includes lung and leg busting running and mountain biking races ranging in distance from 10km to 100miles – to include the famous/infamous Leadville 100 profiled in _Born To Run_. The Leadville Marathon and Heavy Half were on June 14th this year. Marc opted for the full marathon (26.2 miles) and his friend Starr and I registered for the half.
Um….about that. A normal half marathon is just that – half of a full marathon, 13.1 miles. I didn’t realize until after I paid the $100-something race fee that it is actually 1 15-something mile course. At altitude. Uphill to the turnaround at Mosquito Pass.
Since I signed up three weeks before race day, my training consisted of my 2 usual weekday runs plus a semi-long run on the weekend. I threw a 12 miler in there about 2 weeks before the race.
Um….about that. The most miserable 12 miles in recent memory. That training run started at 10am, which was way too late because I got way too hot way to early in the run. I ran along the Cherry Creek Trail, and I stopped to dunk my visor and splash cold water on my body way too many times. At the 8 mile mark, I just wanted to stop but was still reeeely far from home.
The actual race though? Amazing. I can honestly tell you that I enjoyed every stinking second I was out there – and with a finish time of 4:10:39 that’s a lot of seconds to enjoy! It was gorgeous. I had forgotten just how much I loved being out on the trail. The weather was perfect. The course was tough, but the scenery was amazing. The volunteers were great. Aid stations fully stocked and right when you needed them.
My race strategy – that just sounds so funny to me because I never really take races that seriously – was pretty simple: power walk the uphills, haul ass downhill and to just keep moving forward above treeline. And it worked! I felt so good coming back down the mountain that I had enough energy to run the last 3 or so miles to the finish. I even passed a few people (dudes too!).
This one is definitely on the list again for next year.