Race: Silver Rush 50 Run
Where: Leadville, CO
When: July 12, 2015
Distance: 50 Miles
Elevation Gain (according to my Garmin): 7,616 ft
Overall Time: 10:13:56
If I could sum up the last three weeks in two words, they would be “oof da”. Silver Rush went shockingly well, especially considering my injury scare. Then, during the last week two weeks, I was also able to continue training (including having another two weekends of big miles!).
But let’s start at the beginning.
I arrived in Leadville on Friday evening with Kari and Kendra. Kendra also ran SR50, and Kari was our very excellent crew lady. On Friday, we checked in for the race (easy peasy) at the Leadville Race Headquarters on Harrison Ave. Then we went out for dinner at High Mountain Pies, which has super delicious pizza. I highly recommend. Afterwards, we hit up the Silver Dollar Saloon (note – they only take cash) so that Kendra could get her karaoke on. It was awesome.
On Saturday, I had to get in a 4-6 hour hike. Kendra, Kari and I headed to Mt. Massive. We didn’t make it to the top, but we got about 10 miles in with a little bit of good climbing.
The main event happened on Sunday. The race started at 6am, which meant a 4:30am wake up call. For you non-runners out there, this is one of the best parts of ultrarunning. For many other races that start at 6am, you may have to load a bus by 4am (or earlier!). We rolled into the started area at around 5:30am. It was awesome.
The race starts out by having you run up this steep ski hill called “Dutch Henri Hill”, which is behind us in the below picture. Some people (most people) run up this hill to start off the race with a bang! I had no shame in walking up the hill – heck, I wasn’t even sure I would survive the day, so no point it stacking the cards against me during the first two minutes!
The first 10 miles of the course are fairly runnable until you get near the very top of the first pass. Kendra and I ran together through this section, and we were pretty conservative with our pace. We walked anything uphill and ran at a nice and easy pace. Spoiler alert – I think this was key to me having a strong finish to the race. The time flew right by, and I really didn’t think the climb was that bad. That could have been the fresh legs talking, though.
The miles from 10-13 or so were perfect downhill running miles. They were on a jeep road, and the grade made it easy to just roll down without destroying your quad muscles. The views were also pretty spectacular.
At mile 13.5, you come upon the first aid station (Printer Boy) where you can access your crew. It was so great to see Kari! One of my goals for this race was not to spend too much time at the aid stations since I think that hurt me in my last 50 mile race. I’d say we spent maybe 3 minutes here, and it was probably the most I spent at an aid station all day. I picked up some fuel, went to the bathroom, and asked Kari if she could prep some things for me for the half-way point.
The second big uphill came on fast after leaving the Printer Boy aid station. I also didn’t think this climb was too terrible, but I was still feeling pretty good. Just one step at a time! The top of the climb rewards you with the best view of the whole race, in my opinion. Except maybe the finish line…that’s also a pretty good view (though still a long way off at this point). You come to the top of the pass and get this view of mountains on mountains on mountains.
As a side note – at the mile 18 aid station Coach Aish was coming back through…in first place…in course-record pace. Meaning he was 12 MILES AHEAD OF ME. How’s that for humbling? I didn’t even think I was doing too bad!
Back to reality. Just after you hit the top of the pass, you cruelly drop down a bit just to climb back up until you finally reach the downhill that goes into the halfway point. I remember as I was rolling down this section I noticed how tired everyone coming back up looked. Not a good sign – these were supposedly the strongest ones out there! This section had quite a bit of loose rock and it is pretty steep. But more on that later.
The Stumptown aid station is one of the best parts of the course. It has (by far) the most crowd support. Plus, due to the design of the course you get to run through the crowd twice – you run through the aid station, do a little lollipop section, and then run through the the same area on your way out. Kari was an all-star, per usual. She had a bottle filled up for me, my shoes loosened up so I could just slip them on (I decided to change shoes because I was getting some hot spots), and was her typical smiling self.
At this point I had seen the entire course, so no more surprises, right? There was a bit of climbing out of Stumptown, but then towards the top, the real steep stuff started. I would say this is the toughest climb of the course. The legs are no longer fresh, it’s steeper and rocky, and you are back up near 12,000 ft. I remember towards the top of this climb and going back down the other side, I saw so many people that were struggling. It was hard not to wonder whether they would all make the cutoffs. I hope they did!
I’m feeling like I’m being repetitive here. The course goes up, then it goes down, then it goes up again. You get the picture. I honestly don’t remember the next downhill section. I’m sure it had downhill qualities. And that I went faster than the uphill.
Next, though, was that perfectly runnable downhill section I mentioned earlier. Well, it sucked going back up! It was just uphill enough that I didn’t want to run it. It also felt like it went on FOREVER. For a large portion of it, you could see the singletrack below you were going to run down. But it seriously went on FOREVER. And it was exposed and warm.
Finally, I made it to the top. I was super excited for the 10 miles to the finish. I was really happy with how quickly (relatively) I could still run at this point. The section is very runnable, if you have any legs left. I washappy I went out slowly, because I still felt really good through this section.
However, the downhill stops about four miles from the finish. From there, it was mostly flat and runnable, but it seemed to go on forever. FOREVER. I broke it up into pieces. Run the next tenth of a mile. Run to that tree. It was mentally challenging to keep chugging along when we were so close to the end. I saw a lot of folks, myself included, walking portions of this section.
OMG. The end though. It sucks. Well, I mean the last mile. First, you have to climb back up Dutch Henri Hill, and the end is so close you can hear it. BUT they make you wind around the top of the hill for a good mile before you get to run in to the finish. I had no idea, so when I got to the top of Dutch Henri Hill I was ready to run right back down, but nope! Even after you cross the section on the top of the hill where the folks at the finish line can see you from the bottom, you still do a little mini loop before you come back down. Finally, you roll down the side of the hill and onto the red carpet and the finish line. It’s pretty cool, because everyone sees you run down the hill and into the finish. I was even lucky enough to have three friends waiting there to high five me as I came into the finish. It was pretty awesome.
Below is the elevation profile of the race. The course hits 12,000 ft at four separate times. My average pace for the first half was 12:37 min/miles. The second half was 11:58 min/miles. I was stoked with a negative split (running the second half faster than the first) in a 50, even if the second half was a bit easier!
All in all, it was a pretty amazing day. Especially sitting in the beer tent after with my delicious cider. Upward and onward to the big dance!