Thursday, August 1, 2013

Silver Rush 2013

This was somewhat of a last minute decision this year.  I had already signed up for the North Fork 50 miler 2 weeks before this, and 2 weeks after, I was registered for the Gran Mesa Ultra 50 miler.  Three 50 milers, each two weeks apart was going to be a stretch for my running abilities.  Additionally, it was going to be a stretch for the family.  So much of the summer was already revolving around my races.

As luck would have it, my wife got offered a house just a few miles outside of Leadville.  I noted that this was a good “free” weekend for us to get a way and casually mentioned that I could slip off for “a few hours” to do a little race.  Then everything fell into place.  The mom of one of Brenda’s previous students was apparently also doing the race, so her and her husband could just share the house with us.  Then, a couple of Brenda’s former student’s decided that they and their mom would come stay with us also and they would do a triathlon and decathlon that day.  It worked out perfectly.  We wound up with 12 people in this house, two running the Silver Rush, and three doing the triathlon/decathlon, and Brenda and the girls would have lots of company so I didn’t feel like I was deserting them.

Susan was going to run the Silver Rush, her first 50 miler, because she was turning 50 and she had not pre-conceived goals, other than to finish.  I was coming back after having had an awesome race as part of the Silver King double, the previous year.  Though I was doing much more running this year and had a bit more ultra experience under my belt, I was very skeptical as to whether I could do any better.

The start was absolutely beautiful!  The national anthem was sung as gorgeous clouds over the collegiate peaks to the west were illuminated by the rising sun.  Wait a second!  Clouds? At sunrise? In Colorado?  Though beautiful, that was not a good sign.  The forecast called for 60% chance of thunderstorms that afternoon.  The hourly forecast (if it held true) should allow me to get back over the high, exposed passes in time.

Susan’s husband, Steve, was extremely helpful driving and taking our extra stuff before the start.  Knowing the course definitely helps.  I started out at a nice moderate pace.  I overheard a gal talking near me, saying that she had finished in 8:55 the previous year.  “Hey, wait.  Don’t I know you?”  Turns out it was Katarin, whom I had run with for the last 13 miles last year and just edged her out at the end.  This year, we wound up running almost the whole race together until the last 7 miles.  Every time I would pass her, she would catch me while I was guzzling down a can of Coke at an aid station.

There were quite a number of other runners that I knew or that recognized me.  Mitch Dulleck, a fellow Colfax ambassador was going for his first 50 miller, but apparently didn’t finish.  Parks Williams, from Colorado Springs, came in first in his age group, 70+!!  It took me well into my second year of racing to be able to beat this guy and he’s in his 70’s!  It was great seeing familiar faces and chatting with various runners along the course.  Ultra runners are the nicest, most welcoming athletes you will ever encounter.

On the slight downhill out of Printer Boy, I was so engrossed in talking with a fellow runner that I managed to trip.  I took a pretty nice roll, but didn’t complete it, ending up flat on my back.  I jumped back up and continued talking with barely a pause, but I ended up with some minor scrapes on my knee, elbow, and back.

I was feeling pretty good and stayed pretty much on or close to schedule most of the way.  Going over the last high pass before dropping down into the Stumptown aid/turn-a-round, there were the most incredible fields of Columbine I have ever seen.  Thousands of flowers carpeted the mountainside.  I wish I had a camera and the time to really appreciate them.

The drop down to Stumptown seems to take forever.  It’s not completely downhill, and it winds around so much.  Every time you think your close, you turn away and wind your way back around.  This is where I had my best aid station experience ever.  All race volunteers are awesome for just being out there, but the folks at Leadville really have their act together.  As I pulled into the station, a teenager was standing there holding my drop bag.  I munched on a wrap and guzzled a Coke while he pulled everything out that I requested – S-Caps, gels, etc.  He filled my bottles and even sprayed me down with sunscreen while I kept on eating and drinking.  Personal concierge service!  Who would have thought?

I headed out of Stumptown only a few minutes behind schedule, up the hill, and into the heat of a summer sun in Colorado.  I was able to enjoy the Columbine fields more on the way up as I was going much slower.  At the top, it was clear that I would make it safely over the high passes without getting struck by lightning, but the view of the stormy clouds on the surrounding mountains was awesome and scary.  I felt bad for the slower runners who might get hit with some pretty rough weather.

Coming down off of the high passes, I took a scary misstep, stumbling for about 15 feet with my face uncomfortably close to the trail.  Luckily, I managed to move my feet fast enough to keep from eating dirt, but that definitely woke me up!  I was getting a bit tired and slowing on the uphill after the Printer Boy aid station.  I got a brief relief from the heat when a storm cell moved through.  The hail and rain felt so good on my skin.  I kept on going, reveling in the coolness as other runners stopped to don rain jackets.

The last 10 miles is almost all downhill.  I was feeling better and passed a number of runners.  Unfortunately, by this time, my Garmin died and I was estimating mileage by my other watch and memory of the terrain.  I figured I had 2 miles to go and it was going to be tough as the course was gently rolling at this point and the long miles and hot sun had taken their toll.  My 8:30 goal was gone, but I was sure I could at least beat last year’s time.  That was until I ran into a guy walking his dog.  He informed me that I actually had 3 ¼ miles to go.  Hearing that extra mile and a quarter just crushed me.  It was a combination of slow running, jogging and some walking, from here on out.  I managed to pass two more runners, which gave me a brief lift, but not enough.  I crossed the line in 8:57, 2 minutes slower than the previous year when I had done the bike race too.  That was a bit deflating, but under 9 hours for this race is still a pretty good time.

The best part was that my wife, girls, and a few of our friends were at the finish line.  I was actually able to run across the finish with the girls!  That was great.

I wound up sticking around the finish because I wanted to be there for our friend Susan.  After frying in the hot sun in nothing but my running shorts, the clouds finally moved in.  By the time Susan crossed the line, I was wearing a fleece top and shivering uncontrollably under an umbrella.  The finish area had turned into a swamp from the heavy, steady rain.  Susan ran the last few miles through the rain.  Unlike the typical Colorado thunderstorms, that evening, it poured for 4 hours straight!  I can’t imagine what some of those late finishers had to endure.  I also realized what a gamble I had been taking running so light (hand held bottles, no shirt or jacket), and how fortunate I was.  The brief hail and rain I got was pleasant and refreshing.  The 4 hours of steady downpour would have resulted in my hypothermic body laying by the side of the trail.

Garmin Connect (partial)

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