Alpine lake on the climb up to Mt. Massive
It's that time of year when I find myself playing in the mountains of Colorado. Will this really be my 4th running of the Leadville 100? Seems just yesterday that I was limping across the finish line on 6th Street just barely making the 30-hour time limit. Yet that was 2009, and I've been back here twice since.
It is true that each year I participate in the race, I notice things evolving. There are more runners, more sponsors, more of a "commercialized feel", etc. But...there will still always be something magical about this race that brings me back. Part of it is the race itself and running along the beautiful single track along the course, but another big part of it is just the the opportunity to come to some of my favorite mountains in the U.S. and play for two weeks. I always end up going up and down some mountains both before and after the race. It's in those solitary moments where I find myself sitting on a rock half-way up a ridgeline hike, or alongside an alpine lake in the woods, that I can finally exhale a little and ease my mind.
I love mountains...plain and simple. I love how they are made, I love their enormity, I love how they make me feel, and I love climbing them. When I come to Colorado, I always go back home feeling content and fulfilled. Hopefully, a day will come when I can call the mountains my home.
As far as the race, things in town here are hectic. I've never seen so many runners waiting to start. I estimate upwards of 1000 people. While it is true that last year I didn't really have a goal to finish sub-25, I somehow managed it regardless. What this means for this year is that I truly have a carefree attitude about the entire event. I have no internal drive to make a specific time goal. I've got the big buckle. And as nice as it would be to have two, that thought just hasn't even entered my mind.
The next 10-12 months are going to be incredibly stressful for me. I have loads of thesis writing to finish up. I will likely disappear from the ultra scene for a while after a few more races back home in the next few months. This means that Leadville is truly my last realistic chance to play in one of my favorite environments before I have to buckle down. It is even more poignant this year as this will be the first year in 5 years that I won't be able to enjoy my second favorite environment...Antarctica. I am homebound this Winter...and while the thought of finally being home for Christmas with my favorite person, and not being away for two months, is wonderful, there is a part of me that will miss the field work on the ice.
So what this all means for the race is that I've committed myself to absorbing as much as I possibly can out of my short time here. I will run the race tomorrow with no time goal, and no strict race strategy other than to breathe in the beautiful mountain air and enjoy each and every single mile of all 100. I am in fairly good shape since Vol State, and have been playing on some 14ers this past week to acclimate, so I'm not worried about a melt-down. I will hopefully play for a few days after the race and climb some more 14ers, and then head home to what will be a 10-month chair-bound session of writing.
Here's to a fun-filled race that undoubtedly imprint more wonderful memories. And...here's to my time in Colorado and all of the beautiful mountains I'll be able to play on.
LIVE TRACKING LINK FOR RACE:
Here are some pics from the week.
View from near the Mount Massive Summit
View from Mount Massive Summit
View from La Plata Summit
View from La Plata Summit
La Plata summit photo (A new 14er for me)
Alpine meadow coming down from La Plata
Highest point....in Kansas?
(Yes I drove to Colorado this year)
And for a little running motivation:
2009 finish: 29:13
2011 finish: 25:36
2012 finish: 24:17