Beginners and Beyond


Leadville Trail Marathon (Just the Marathon) RR, pics (Read 96 times)

Will run for scenery.

    On Saturday I "ran" the Leadville Trail Marathon.  My first marathon ever !  Now I'm sure you are all quite able to figure out that this is a foot race about 26 miles in length.  But you are a very, very select group of people !  Around 100% of the people I mention this race to ask if it's that 100 mile race, and if you Google "Leadville Marathon 26.2 running" most of the hits come up with the LT100 running race or one of the mountain bike races.  So thanks for understanding !


    One other frustration is that about 1/6 of the field are LeadMan/LeadWoman competitors.  They run pretty much the whole series of Leadville races, of which the marathon is the second easiest.  The easiest is a 10k, run the day immediately after the 100 mile mountain bike race.  So for most of them, this is "just a training run".


    Anyway, here's a semi-arty shot of packet pickup on Friday.  The saloon is across the main drag from the Leadville Race Series offices/storefront.  There are tons of stories about that old saloon.  I don't remember any of them.



    I spent Friday night in a hotel about half an hour from Leadville.  Although I set my alarm for 5:30, it went off at 4:30 instead (WTF ?).  For the next hour, I laid in bed listening to someone else's alarm going off every five minutes.  Finally I got up, showered, grabbed a coffee and headed back to Leadville.  I decided not to eat any breakfast.  I tapered and carbo-loaded so thoroughly that my muscles had stored up massive amounts of glycogen.  Especially my mid-riff-area muscles.


    I accomplished goal #2 and headed for the starting area.  The forecast had been progressively worsening for the past several days.  Last check was 50% chance of thunderstorms, starting around 11:00 AM.  This is for an all-day event almost entirely above timberline beginning at 8:00.  Like most others I asked, I decided not to carry raingear.  At the start, I met up with my friend B., who was running the Half Marathon.  Her BF is a fast, fast dude so he lined up in the front.  We hung back with the humble folk.  Here's  a bunch of random nervous people milling around and fidgeting.  A few minutes after this shot, we started feeling raindrops...




    The marathon course is an out-and-back to the top of Mosquito Pass (13,185') east of town.  On the way, there's a nice little side loop around Ball Mountain, so we got to pass through one aid station 4 times.  Here's the elevation profile, with aid stations expertly indicated.  For reference, the starting line is around 1/3 of the cruising altitude of commercial aircraft.




    To prepare for the race mentally, I broke the course into sections and gave each one an optimistic description.


    Start to A : Pre-breakfast warmup.  The plan was to just move enough to get the blood flowing and not waste any energy.  My friend B. and I walked together kinda quickly, but chatting comfortably.  Her Garmin beeped at mile 1, which reminded me that I hadn't started my own stopwatch.  So I joked that first mile was pro bono.  Not long after that, the half- and full- marathon courses split, so I picked up the pace a little but not too much.  I really had no clear idea how to choose a goal time for this race, so I took last years pace from the half marathon, applied it to the full distance and rounded down to get 6 hours.  When I reached station A, I knew I was already a little behind that pace.


    A to A : The flat part.  This was the loop around Ball Mountain, completely new to me since the half marathon route skips it. My strategy here was to easily run as much as I could, since there was a nice mix of up and down averaging to zero. Of course I forgot to hit the button on my watch when I got back to station A, so I had no idea how my pace was going.  But the loop was gorgeous and super-fun.  Here's a pic I took about halfway around the loop.  Ball Mountain is out of the picture to the left.  East Ball Mountain is the one in the background.  The route we follow between the two is called "The Ball Sack". The section of trail in this pic was soft, fluffy, luxurious rock-free dirt.  On the return trip, I was very much looking forward to it !




    A to B : The Free Ride.  This was a nice downhill on fairly good dirt/rock roads. I didn't take many pictures all day b/c getting to my camera was pretty time-consuming.  But this section returned us to the mining district just above Leadville.  That area is jam-packed with old-timey mining ruins, huge piles of tailings, bits of strange rusted iron debris, and pools of toxic water : easily America's most picturesque ecological disaster.  Running-wise, I just tried to make the most of the downhill : "Relax every muscle you don't need. Land smooth and soft, don't pound."


    B to C : A power-hike, but short !  There's no getting around the fact that this was a climb, but I just compared it to all the harder climbs I've ever done, which made it seem, well, easier. I was using trekking poles for nearly all of the uphills, but for this section they were worth their weight in gold.  With each step, my legs said "Thank You !" TBH, I was surprised how good I felt during this part. Up near the pass I was aware of the altitude, but not really feeling it all that much.  I was breathing fine, and was actually getting fairly chatty.  My speed limit was a muscle or tendon (?) high up on my left hamstrings near the top of my hip.  There was a soreness beginning to crop up, and I figured I could nurse it along to the top of the pass and then wouldn't need it much for a while.  Just in case it was a muscle cramping, I took (yet) another Gu.


    Here's a pic of me partway up the pass.  It's kind of funny, but you never see those lakes as you head uphill. And coming downhill, you pay so much attention to the road it's easy to miss them altogether !




    And here's me a few short moments later at the top.





    C to B: Let the Games Begin !  Now that I can trust my knees, I really, really like running down mountains.  There's an immediacy to it that is unlike any other kind of running.  Every single step is a deliberate conscious act, or else.  On rocky jeep roads, there's always one track that has been eroded and filled in with loose rock, and often/usually one track where there's still some packed dirt making foot placement easy.  During a race, the good track is where the slow people are.   So there's a constant side-to-side maneuvering, constant trade-off of ease vs. speed, and lots and lots of passing other people at high speed.  I didn't get any good pics of the road conditions, but here's one (looking uphill) I lifted from someone else.  You can see the "good" line on the right, and the loose rock "passing lane" on the left.




    B to A : The Easiest Climb of the Day.  Anybody that's run this marathon will tell you how hard this climb is, but it really is the easiest - it's just the timing of it that hurts. This is what I call the "introspective" part of the race : the pack has thinned out, all the easy energy has been burned, there's no more chit-chat or sight-seeing going on.  Your consciousness becomes a big lazy trout that floats occasionally to the surface of a lake, peers out to see what's going on, then submerges again into the depths.  I've got my trekking poles out again, and I try to channel my imaginary superhero : Hans-Dieter von Winkledorpp, master of excellent Nordic-walking form.  I tell myself to use my core, keep my lower back relaxed, don't slouch, don't slow down.  I passed a couple of people early on, then there's nobody for a quarter mile or so.  I try to reel in that next guy, but he's trying to reel in the couple in front of him.  This drama stretches out in surreal slo-mo until we all reach station A at the same time.


    It's also in this section that the weather starts to look more dicey.  I joke to myself that the forecast called for thunderstorms, but didn't mention anything about lightning.  After the skies grew grey, the temps got refreshingly cool, and scattered raindrops began to fall, my thoughts were interrupted by a huge flash somewhere outside the tiny circle of my awareness.  As the rumble passes I look off in the distance to see where it came from.  Between me and that distant place I see a sparse zigzag line of dots in the many bright unmistakable colors of running clothing.  Thankfully, the cool and the occasional drops continued but the lightning did not.


    A to A : My Favorite Easy Run.  Same loop, opposite direction.  I really have been looking forward to this all day, because of the soft trail, the scenery, and (as I imagined it) the chance to make up some time.  The idea being that I'm free to burn whatever reserves I have left - I won't really need them for the downhill to come.  As it turned out, I didn't have any reserves.  The nice trail cheered me up, there were a few more people to chat with, the end-of-the race optimism began to bubble up, and there were some very sweet downhills.  But even the gentlest and shortest of uphills meant walking.  What seemed like a day of passing other people turned into a game of leapfrog, beginning to recognize people. I had spent the day becomingly progressively less focused on time (I gave up recording splits) but by now I knew two things : I was very definitely not going to hit 6:00, and I had to be careful or I would hit 7:00.  Here's a pic of some of my leapfrog partners.  They were a LeadCouple (LeadMan + LeadWoman), who I first met in the rear of the Safeway searching for the most obscure toilet in town.  They beat me to the toilet, but I beat them to the finish.


    Actually, taking the time and effort spent to get my camera out of my pack and kneel down for this shot felt like a huge sacrifice.  And as they came along, they offered to stop so as not to be in the shot.  But the whole point was to get an awesome running shot, and I think it came out pretty nice !  The third hump from the left is the highest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert.  The central 50% of the horizon is all one huge-ass mountain.  It's the easiest one to remember : Mount Massive.




    A to Finish.  Bombs Away ! By now I'm feeling pretty good about how the day has gone.  I've stuck to my plan, and everything has gone more/less as I hoped.  I won't hit my original A goal, but it's looking pretty certain I'll hit my on-the-fly B goal (under 7:00).  And this section is my biggest strength : downhill.  Although the roads get smoother towards town, there's plenty of dicey, thrilling rough stuff on the way there.  Once again I'm passing people (new people) and I'm starting to get more "good job"s than before.  Except for the one big hump on this section (Iron Hill) I manage to run everything.  Heading down 6th street with the finish line visible several blocks ahead, I spot one last runner to pass.  But then I decide that's kind of a dbag thing to do, so I ease up to just enjoy the ride and let him have his moment.  But right then he switches from a run to a walk, and even the walk doesn't looking all that determined.  So I kick it back up and scream towards the line. And by "scream" here, I'm thinking maybe around 10:00 m/m !  There's a quarter block on 6th street with a hill that no pedestrian has ever detected, maybe one inch of rise, but man could I feel it.  Over that and I'm home free.  Crossed the line to "Crazy Train", trying my very best to hold my fly-catcher shut for the finish line shot. 


    Results : I finished in 6:45, 257/371 men, 310/489 overall.  Very, very happy with that. I really feel like I've progressed from the back of the pack to the back of the middle of the pack !

    Stupid feet!

    Stupid elbow!

      Nice report! 

      How was it altitude wise (I.e., did you go out early to acclimate?) 


      (I know the difference between all the Leadville races too. You sure picked a good place for your first marathon!). 

        Nice report!

        How was it altitude wise (I.e., did you go out early to acclimate?)


        (I know the difference between all the Leadville races too. You sure picked a good place for your first marathon!)

        Will run for scenery.

          Nice report! 

          How was it altitude wise (I.e., did you go out early to acclimate?) 


          (I know the difference between all the Leadville races too. You sure picked a good place for your first marathon!). 


          Well it's kinda strange about the altitude.  Last year I spent all spring and summer getting as high as I could Wink, and for my big race (Pike's Peak Ascent, HM) I bonked really, really bad.  This year I've gotten better as a runner (training at 6500' or so) but haven't gotten up into the mountains nearly at all.  I did one hike up Pike's Peak, and I did a short hike and overnight camp at 12,000' two days before the race.  So in theory I should have been less acclimated.  But somehow it didn't work that way.  The one clear way I can see to improve on this run would be to put in more miles. I am nowhere near being able to run a full marathon; my longest LR is 10 miles. If I had more base miles under my belt, I think much of that second loop would have been runnable, and I wouldn't have been quite as cautious in the early stages.

          Stupid feet!

          Stupid elbow!

            Congrats jjs!


            Great report, and those pics are amazing.  I can't even fathom how one would function at such high elevation.  Out here 4000' counts as a big mountain.

              If you hit your "A" goal frequently, then you aren't really challenging yourself.  In five years of running, I've only hit it a couple of times.  Still, you did hit your "B" goal and that's always a nice feeling.  Nice race on one hell of a tough course.

              Short term goal: 17:59 5K

              Mid term goal:  2:54:59 marathon

              Long term goal: To say I've been a runner half my life.  (I started running at age 45).


              Skirt Runner

                Nice job!!!! Congrats. Now THAT is a I will try not to complain about races with 400 ft elevation gains anymore!

                PRs:   5K- 28:16 (5/5/13)      10K- 1:00:13 (10/27/13)    4M- 41:43 (9/7/13)   15K- 1:34:25  (8/17/13)    10M- 1:56:30 (4/6/14)     HM- 2:20:16 (4/13/14)     Full- 5:55:33 (11/1/15)


                I started a blog about running :) Check it out if you care to

                YAYpril - B-Plus

                  Congratulations! Great report. Your alter ego made me laugh. Smile

                  Little Blue

                    Holy cow, that's a tough course.  We spent a week in Leadville a few years ago, and I can't imagine.  I had issues with the altitude just walking around.  Of course I live at 400', not 6000'.


                    Congrats on beating your B goal and not getting struck by lightening.  I really enjoyed your writing.Smile


                      Congratulations! That definitely looks like a beautiful course. Thanks for sharing the RR and pictures.


                        Nice RR.  Great pics!  Congrats to you.  You are a very good writer too.




                        Trail Monster

                          Congrats! Someday I will get out there for this race!

                          2013 races:

                          3/17 Shamrock Marathon

                          4/20 North Coast 24 Hour

                          7/27 Burning RIver 100M

                          8/24 Baker 50M

                          10/5 Oil Creek (distance to be determined)


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                          Altra Zero Drop

                          Bad Ass

                            Great job and congratulations!  The course looks gorgeous and I've heard the race is really nice.  Thanks for sharing.



                            "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."

                            It's always fucking hot in Miami!


                            Smaller By The Day

                              It sounds like a tough choice for a first marathon, but the view looks amazing.  Your RR is so descriptive, and humorous that I'm going to have to have my wife read it.  Congratulations on the accomplishment, and thank you for the well written RR and great pictures.


                              Weight 100 pounds lost

                              5K 31:02 Sept. 2012 / 23:36 Sept. 2013 (Same Course)

                              10K 48:59 April 2013

                              HM 2:03:56 Nov. 2012 / 1:46:50 March 2013

                              MARATHON 3:57:33 Nov. 2013


                                Great report, Jeff!  I'd been looking forward to this RR and am not one bit disappointed.  It sounds like you handled yourself like a pro out there.  Personally, I think you must be a bit touched to pick this as your first marathon, but I guess when you live at the base of Pikes Peak, you can't help but have grand visions.  Congratulations to you!  I know we're going to see a lot more neat reports from you as you keep growing as a runner and adventurer.


                                "We do not become the people who this world needs simply by turning our backs on anyone we don’t like, trust, or deem healthy enough to be in our presence. "  ---- Shasta Nelson