Friday, August 21, 2015

State Number 12 -- Colorado!

After knocking out state number 11 in states where I have run, I quickly added another to the list when I woke up in Leadville, Colorado and put in a 3-miler!

(Note: At the bottom of this post is a list of the states, countries and continents where I have run)

As many of you know, I'm in Colorado to help crew and pace my friend Noah as he tackles the Leadville 100-mile trail race, which starts at 4 a.m. Saturday morning. My flight from Chicago arrived in Denver at about 7:15 on Thursday night, so the trip over to Leadville was almost entirely in the dark, which made me wait until Friday morning.

Pretty amazing is all I can say! Now I can understand why so many people rave about this state. I took a lot of pictures but there were even more stunning views that I didn't have a chance to shoot. I'll throw out a few photos now, and check on my Facebook page for the rest.

The one thing I was curious about was what it felt like to run at altitude, as Leadville officially sits at 10,152 feet! I have to admit that after I arrived and the first few hours I was here, I felt a little bit out of it, just a foggy feeling where I couldn't put together very many rational thoughts.

I felt better Friday morning, though, and headed out around 8:30 a.m. One thing that was REALLY different was the temperatures -- after running through a Midwest summer, the 50-degree morning felt fantastic! Our rental place sits about 1.5 miles from the main road, so the plan was to run there and back.

It's very wooded and rural here, and I was greeted by three free-range goats who belong to the guy who lives next door. They were actually kind of cool, and when I started running the ran alongside me for first 100 meters or so. That certainly doesn't happen in Bartlett!

The first half-mile or so of the run was downhill so it fooled me a little bit. As I was cruising along at about a 10:35 pace, I was thinking, "hey, this altitude thing isn't so bad!".

Then I made a left on another road and headed uphill. Ouch, seriously. At just around a mile I had to stop and walk for a second, and I was breathing as heavy as I would if I were doing speedwork on the track back home! I realized then that you run as fast as your body will let you, otherwise it can get really painful.

I made it to the turn-around point, having been a bit disappointed with the view, I must admit. Because of the wildfires in the West, there was a smoky haze over the mountains, but of course I took some pictures anyway. But as I turned to go back, I was floored by the beauty of the mountains going the other direction. I ended up stopping at least three times to get a better picture. One thing about finally getting to travel somewhere is that you get to find out that something is REAL, it's not just a photo in a book or a figment of someone's imagination.The peak in the picture tops out at around 14,000 feet. I definitely plan on heading there on Monday once everything has calmed down.

I felt pretty free running down the hill, but the uphill back to our place was brutal. I realized that the altitude bugs me the most going uphill, but that on the flats and downhills I seem to do OK. I finished the run having averaged 10:38 per mile, which is probably about a minute slower per mile than back home. It felt really good to get out and run somewhere that is so totally different than anywhere I'd ever been before.

Once I finished my run, it was time to start getting into crew mode. We headed to Lake County High School in Leadville for a runner briefing and crew Q&A session. The gym was absolutely packed to the rafters! In all, the race of right around 700 participants had people coming in from 47 states and 26 different countries! The gym was lined with the flags of the countries that are being represented, and they included Kenya, Italy, France, Mexico, Canada and Switzerland, among others.

There was definitely an excited buzz in the gym. Like a marathon, this takes such a massive commitment to prepare for that when it is almost here you are about ready to explode! One thing that was obvious is that there were a lot of very fit people there.

One thing you can't really see in this picture is that, at one time, Lake County was a state power in cross country, having won 19 combined boys and girls state championships from the late sixties until the mid nineties. Leadville certainly a great place to train runners.

After the meeting, I jumped in a car with Noah's friend, Michelle, who is running the point on this, and her parents -- oh yeah, and their dog, Emmy, a 6-year-old black lab. We drove to many of the checkpoints along the course to get a feel for the terrain and possible parking situations, which is good to know. The course is an out-and-back, so I bet it will be packed with cars and runners pretty much the entire time we are out there.

These pictures are from Twin Lakes, which represents the "lowest" part of the course at 9,200 feet, and is the checkpoints for miles 39 and 60.

Without a doubt, this is even more exciting than I could have imagined! It's just so insane to be a part of this, and I am looking forward to helping Noah reach his goals. It's going to take a huge effort from all of us to get him across the finish line, but I know that we are going to make that happen.

Between all of the duties as far as crewing goes and being out of cell/internet service for most of the route, I won't be updating this blog as we go along as I planned, but I will offer up an epic recap by Monday.

Please keep all of us in your thoughts while you run or race this weekend, and especially throw some vibes towards this guy! Don't let the goofy pose in the clothes he slept in fool you, he is one of the toughest and most focused dudes I know. It looks like I'm going to go the final few miles with him, and I look forward to crossing the finish line with him sometime on Sunday morning.

Wish us luck!

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