Monday, July 27, 2015

Going Back to Leadville, Plus Other Ramblings

Shortly after DNF'ing at the Bighorn 100 on June 20, I decided to return to that race in 2016 and "get revenge." Well, things have changed--in large part because I want to do what I love.

One thing I love is the thought of finally getting into the Western States Endurance Run. So, what does that have to do with the fact that I have registered for the Javelina Jundred on October 31? Javelina seems like a really well-organized, "fun" hundred-miler. Even better: It's a 2016 Western States qualifier. With my Bighorn DNF, as of now I have no qualifier for the 2016 Western States. I really don't want to have to start over in terms of entering the Western States lottery. Plus, I really want to finish a hundred this year. Also, I love the thought of running a hundred that's a bit on the fast side (though my understanding is that Javelina is hardly a "flat" course, and heat can also be a factor). All of that makes Javelina a perfect option for me.

After taking it pretty easy for the past five weeks, my training is starting to ramp back up. I've also incorporated weight training to help address a critical weakness that I've noticed with age--deteriorating strength. As we age, we lose muscle. This is especially true of athletes over the age of 40.

But first things first. I have the Pikes Peak Marathon in three weeks! The goal for Pikes will be a fun day in the mountains. Having never run that race (though I have gotten to the Pikes summit twice), I really don't know what to expect on race day. I think the smart approach will be to respect the mountain and go out at a relaxed pace. From what I have read and heard from a few friends like my buddy, Mike Wilkinson, you can really ruin your race if you go out too hard and run "the W's" aggressively. So, I'll be employing a conservative approach and mostly just trying to enjoy the day on an iconic 14'er. That said, it would be great to finish in under six hourss. A friend I spoke with told me I'm capable of much more but, having never raced Pikes, I'm going to temper expectations.

With my son at the 2014 Leadville 100. This photo says it all.
Another thing I love is Leadville! With the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run fast-approaching, my thoughts have turned to that race and the whole "Leadville experience." I didn't enter this year's race because I thought some time away would do me some good. So, for the first time in six years, I won't be lining up on Sixth Street at 4:00 on race morning, but I will be up there to volunteer and pace my good friend, Matt Curtis, over Hope Pass. I guess you could say that, for me, this is a year of giving, not getting, at Leadville.

While I think the year off from Leadville will do me some good, I'm definitely feeling some regret about not being up there to race. I think there are some amazing hundreds out there--Bighorn included--but I have come to see that I'm a "Leadville guy" and those races reflect who I am, what I think is important in life, and what I like to do with my race schedule. The Leadville 100 has made me suffer over the years and it's brought me to my knees on a few occasions, but I've also had some great moments up there. For some reason, I can't stop loving it.

There is something about Leadville and that whole experience that really connects with me. I think it starts with family. My son was two years-old when I ran Leadville for the first time. He and my wife, along with either my parents or my brother and sister-in-law, have been on that course every year I've run Leadville. Given all of the memories that have been made up there over the past five years, it's hard for me to just "walk away" from Leadville and find new races. I do want to run new races and experience different events (like Javelina this October), but I've come to realize that every August I need to be in Leadville running 100 miles, with my family theere with me, because it's really what I'm searching for in life. And it's kind of part of my identity. People are all the time asking me about Leadville, maybe because I love talking about it!

How I feel about Leadville really comes down to how I dress. Every weekend, I can be found in any one of my Leadville race shirts. During the winter, I often wear my race jackets. And I can frequently be seen in my Leadville/Strava hat from 2013. All of that is because I'm proud of Leadville and what I've done up there!

Christopher McDougall was right when he said in his book that Leadville has a lot of "holy shit" power. I mentioned this in a recent interview with a Runner's World writer who's working on a story about the Leadville Race Series and Lifetime Fitness' ownership of it. I also mentioned to the writer that, while it's true ownership has changed hands, the Leadville 100 (and, I would argue, the entire race series) is fundamentally the same as it was when Ken and Merilee were in charge (they're still very involved and the race team, headed by Josh Colley, is based in Leadville). It still has a ton of "holy shit" power and it has an energy and vibe that you won't find at many other hundreds. The town itself is a big part of the whole experience. What Ken says at the pre-race briefing about "digging deep" and "you are better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can" really goes to the heart of the Leadville Race Series--those words have a great deal of meaning to me and they have helped me put one foot in front of the other when things turned south.

So, I would say over that the past month or so I have come to peace with the fact that Leadville is just who I am. It makes me a better person and I feel a great void when I look at my calendar and the Leadville 100 isn't on it. I regret not running in this year's race, though I do think the time off has done, and will continue to do, me some good. So, provided the lottery gods allow it, it'll be the Leadville 100 for me from here on out. And 2016 will also feature the Leadville Trail Marathon, another awesome race. And if I get into Western States next year, well, I may take on the big double in 2016!

Now, go run!