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leadville halfBeth (aka ShutUpAndRun) invited me to run the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon this weekend.  With over 3700 feet of elevation gain, who wouldn’t want to run that?  Here’s a photo of the organizers scooping the snow off the trail in preparation for the race.  They spent 6 hours per day for 6 days digging this four foot wide, two mile path to the summit.  They broke 6 shovels.  There seriously is a part of me that wanted to run this half marathon.  As much as I appreciate the invite, I instead chose to run local this weekend.  This will give me time to attend yet another graduation party.  I also planned to sneak in Jurassic World but my family couldn’t wait and we saw that Thursday night.  Epic Dinosaur movie – well done.

I don’t intend to race this 10K hard, but I am looking to get in a strong workout.  Occasionally I treat these races as premiere events, like the Bolder Boulder a few weeks ago.  Others I simply consider to be a good workout opportunity knowing that, by running with a group of people, I’ll run harder.  So I’m not looking to PR but hope to run about a 7:30 pace.  I run closer to an 8 minute pace in workouts alone.  Sometimes in these no-stress events, I find that I run quite strong after loosening up the first one or two miles.  I do hope to find some part of this run where I fall into race mode.  Running two or three miles at an uber elevated pace would be ideal.  Maybe the first two miles slow, the next three miles under 7, then cool down with an 8 minute mile.  That’s my plan as I warm up.

My concerns are that one, the Cottonwood pollen has been killing my breathing lately – literally choking me.  And two, I couldn’t find an elevation chart for this course.  Elevation charts are fairly critical for establishing pre-race plans in Colorado.  Altitude can make the smallest slopes feel like mountains.  But I can wing that by surging on down slopes when I notice them.  While I’m not familiar with running on these streets, I don’t expect any major hills.  This is very likely a faster course than the Bolder Boulder.  I run into Ashlee – of Shoes & Brews.  Colin and her are running the 10K.  She tells me this is about as hilly as the Bolder Boulder, mostly in the first half.  Although it will finish downhill so nothing like climbing up Folsom in the BB.  So maybe I’ll run the first half slow.  I guess I really don’t have a race plan.

I warmup well enough so that I don’t go out too slowly.  This works as I go out a bit faster than expected with a 7:03 first mile.  At least it isn’t under 7 minutes.  The hills increase from here and I keep a steady pace, possibly slowing down a bit.  In fact, I do run slower as the second mile comes in at 7:12.  This feels comfortable and I hope to just keep this pace the rest of the course.  I’m running strong but well enough under my aerobic threshold.  I surge into a short downhill at 2.5 miles, near MacIntosh Lake, but start to cough hard from the Cottonwood.  This is exactly when I start to cough during my workouts.  It nearly stops me for a minute but I recover and take some water at an aid station.  I’m bummed because it slows me down as I am gaining momentum.  I complete the third mile in 7:28.  A good workout pace.

Into the fourth mile I start to race another runner.  I learn later that his name is PJ (40 year old Patrick Schrodt).  Although I might have him confused with 44 year old Bill Depaemelaere.  These young guys all look the same to me.  I catch him and we switch taking leads the rest of the race.  My fourth mile is almost identical to the third, at 7:32.  This is also a high point for the course and it’s mostly downhill from here. Just as I begin to unwind, I have to stop to retie my right shoe.  Dammit!   I lose a half minute for this.  I ordered some new shoes earlier this week online but they don’t arrive until Monday.  They will have speed laces, so I won’t run into this issue again.

I keep PJ in my sites and am close behind him.  Despite the shoe lace issue I run the fifth mile faster in 7:09.  I feel good, aided by the down slope.  I keep this pace for the final mile rather than cool down since it feels good.  I slow down marginally as we near the Longmont High School stadium because I don’t care to put on a kick.  Still, I pass PJ during this slow down.  He passes me back once we are on the track.  The course finishes with a quarter mile lap around the track.  PJ puts on a bit of a kick and finishes 30 meters ahead of me.  I’m content running behind another guy, but pass him with a kick of my own the last 100 meters.  I think I decided to kick past him because he looks my age with a gray crew cut.  And because I am barely breathing hard.  He had passed me the first half mile and it felt good to catch him.  I learn afterward his name is Paul Colvin and is 45 years old.

Sunrise StampedeI run my sixth mile in 6:58, the fastest pace of the entire run.  Surprising but then it is downhill vs uphill for the first mile.  I cross the finish line in 45:32 for 2nd place in my age group, which is about what I was hoping to run.  I run into Jill, one of my teammates from the Snowmass Trail Relay, at the finish.  She ran the two mile course with her daughter.  Her husband is still out running the 10K.  This photo captures PJ in the middle, and another guy, 43 yr old James Vardas, whom we passed back and forth throughout the run.  I think he’s the guy PJ kicked in with at the end.  The race results suggest I confused PJ with Bill.  This race was tougher than I anticipated.  Hot with no clouds, hilly, and strong competition.  Good way to start the morning.  Next is a graduation party for Ken Farmer’s son, Ben.  I expect good eats and beer.