Leadville is located at 10,200 feet and the "heavy half" (15.5 miles) climbs up to Mosquito Pass at 13,185 feet. This would be the second year of Leadville for Vegas, Michelle, Alisa, and Rhonda (?? fact check). Last year Vegas had a bad experience with the altitude and came prepared with Diamox. I was taking maybe two doses of 125mg the first day in Leadville. I had bought trail running shoes for the first time two days before at Luke's Locker in Austin, and this would be the first run in them. :)
When the race started, Rhonda jogged right past. Somehow she never looks like she is working. I kept her in sight for maybe the first mile but after that she was gone. At times, I couldn't see Rob or the girls behind me. Somewhere in that first mile on the nice open, easy footing road yet very much an incline, Michelle walked quickly by. I was taking turns walking and jogging already, and we weren't at the hard part. Rob caught up and we took a picture looking back over the mountains. Rob asked if I had given up on "racing" the event since I had been walking. I told him I was going whatever speed I could manage at any given point.
Eventually we reached a part of the road that started going down hill. This was a fantastic section to stretch the legs. Unfortunately, I also needed to make a pit stop. Rob passed at this point and I wouldn't see him again until he was coming down from the pass. Along the way I met a group of girls going the same speed - walking when necessary, jogging when possible. By 'group' I mean we all met each other right then, they didn't come together. One of the girls was from Ashville, NC (yay home state!) who was just visiting Colorado and had learned about the race at 5pm the day before and decided to sign up. She also camped for free out in the park. (side note: I really think camping around here would be awesome! great weather, there is actually water if you're packing in, and trees. but take bug spray). While we did exchange names, we took to calling each other "Hey Ashville" and "Austin, you've got this".
|The Trail keeps going up and up and up|
|Looking back before we get to the "hard" part|
I think the last two miles were done at a 35 min per mile pace. It was getting hard to breathe, footing was a little precarious and our group was nice to move out of the cleaner lines of the trail for the 'real trail runners' who were hurtling themselves down the trail at top speed heading back to the finish line. about a tenth of a mile from the top I saw Rhonda and Michelle heading back down, and they reassured me the top was right around the corner. 20 seconds later Rob told me the same thing. That corner seemed like forever, but finally I reached the top.
I spent almost fifteen minutes at the top. Taking pictures, reapplying sunscreen, and just catching my breath. By the time I left, the group I had been with was way gone.
However, I suddenly felt AWESOME going down. I could breathe again, I wasn't having to climb stairs with every step, I could practically fly. I did have my friend Shannon's voice in my head though, reminding me to be careful and not twist an ankle or break anything by slipping on the rocks. It would turn out later when I looked at my Garmin that my suddenly "speedy" downhill miles were still at 18 min pace, but when compared to 35 minutes, it's a huge improvement. I was really happy to see Vegas and Catharine on the way up, they were sooooo close to the top. Somehow I missed seeing Alisa :( but we were both watching our footing and passed without knowing it.
EVERYONE MADE IT ALL THE WAY TO 13,185 FT!!!!
The last couple of miles into town were straight down hill on level gravel road and it was possible to finally "run". My running pace at the point was 9:30s. I had trashed my glutes going up and in the next two days I would learn how badly I trashed my quads on this downhill. I caught up to and passed Ashville and the BadAss compression socks girl, and several other runners who had passed me earlier in the day. I was having such a great time coming down the hill that I took a wrong turn when I reached town. In all fairness the white chalked line looked like a normal painted "stop" line for cars! Luckily BasAss compression socks started shouting at me and I figured out my mistake and came back to the course. Finish time: 4 hours 46 minutes for my officially slowest half marathon ever (previous: Las Vegas RnR Half walking, gambling and imbibing race in Dec 12 with a time of 3 hours 40 min)
I think I told someone that this event was harder than Ironman. The elevation is definitely a killer, and I recommend more trail running experience, but it was definitely worth it. Soooo happy I came out for this!