Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Leadville Marathon Preview

The 2007 Leadville Marathon was just my second Colorado trail race after moving here from New York City in October 2006. At the time, I was pretty excited to get across the finish line of the high-altitude lung buster (topping out at 13,200') in 4:16, which was good for sixth on that day. It also turned out to be my last race before a debilitating back injury that had me on the sidelines from late July '07 to April '08 - almost nine months with nary a step run.

The fitness rebuilding process was a reasonably fast one, and by the fall of last year I found myself in decent racing shape, with perhaps my best run coming at Steamboat - my first ever 50 miler - where I finished 10 minutes back on Ryan Burch for third. Since Steamboat I've been able to build my fitness to new levels. After a really solid winter of base training and a spring of high miles focused on running ultra-distance events, I'm really excited to springboard to the second half of the year, with a focus on faster, shorter races.

So the trip to Leadville this weekend will bring me full circle to where I was two years ago. Not only was the marathon my last meaningful race before injury, but I was also just a month away from toeing the line for my first 100. While I did start the Leadville 100, my body was severely compromised and I ended up dropping at the Fish Hatchery, just 25 miles into the race. Those were the last miles I ran before the spring of '08. Now, with the 100-mile distance checked off the list just three weeks ago, and my body back in shape, I'm excited to see how much faster I can run this course than in '07. I am fully confident that I am fitter and faster than I was two years ago, but the question I want answered is by how much?

The Goals

1. Beat my 4:16 and sixth-place finish from '07
2. Break 4 hours
3. Finish top three
4. Break 3:45
5. Win
6. Set course record (Paul DeWitt, 3:39)

In setting goals, I like to reach. I'm a believer that if you set tough goals, you'll train and race harder to meet them. I'm reasonably confident I can take down the first three goals, although #3 is somewhat out of my hands depending, as it does, on who shows up, but 4-6 are definitely stretch goals. Hopefully I'll be able to meet one of them and come away from the race with a grade of at least 66 percent.

The Competition

The organizers of the Leadville biking and running races do a great job putting on their events - an excellent job in fact; however, they come up short on their use of modern technologies. An increasing number of races are putting entrant lists up before their events start, but Leadville continues to resist (or not bother). As such, it took a bit of internet sleuthing to figure out who may or may not be running.

Here's what I know: Duncan Callahan (Leadville 100 winner '08, Fruita 25 winner '09) has the event listed on his blog-based racing schedule; Bryan Dayton (Mount Evans Ascent winner '09, 4th '08) is looking to take down the course record, according to a news release announcing the Vasque trail running team; Corey Hanson (four-time winner of the Horsetooth Trail Half and local speedster) will be there kicking off his quest for Leadman'dom; Anton Krupicka is in town and in training for the Leadville 100 next month, making it not beyond the realms of possibility that he'll run. Other speedsters may or may not show up; however, the prize money on offer at the Barr Trail Mountain Race is the biggest pull for trail runners this weekend.

If all four of those guys show up at the start line on Saturday, which I hope they do, my hopes of finishing top three will quickly become a stretch goal, but certainly still within the realms of possibility, while my goal of winning would become a long shot. So we'll see.

Regardless of the competition, I'm excited to be injury free and in good shape right now. The biggest race for me out there on Saturday will be against the clock and my trail-running neophyte of a ghost from two years ago. Bring It On.


  1. Nick - a most good post!

    Yes - it drives me a bit batty how some races have actually heard of things like the web and use it while others remain incredibly indignant about doing anything. Results on race day? Getting the results right? You should just be happy we only charged 55 dollars for this event and we put out a few cups of Gatorade. They all could take a lesson from BTMR which at 15 bucks is a great race, gives five race splits, awesome prizes, etc!

    Sorry I won't see you at BTMR or Mosquito Pass (say hi to the Rev. Dyer gravestone for me). Live it large and dig when it hurts at 2/3rds into the race!

  2. No Parr on the Barr list. Anywhere that Duncan races, there's a chance Parr will show up too.

    Good luck!

  3. Anton's blog - you've got some competition. That CR sounds pretty stiff, think he can take it down?

  4. GZ - Leadville tends to do okay with getting results up promptly and accurately (and with splits), but they could do themselves a huge favor by dragging their website into the 21st century. They're already one of the biggest 100s in the country, but they could be so much better just by spending some cash on having a usable website. I think it would be well worth the investment, if they can't find somebody to volunteer the time.

    Couldn't agree more about learning from BTMR and other races by the same management. Probably the most frustrating thing about ultras and trail races in general is the strange inattention they give to details such as getting reults online, having awards ready for the day of race, etc. Splits would be great, and they all seem to ask aid stations to take down times as runners come through, but few actually put splits up with their results.

    I understand that most people who put these things on are largely volunteers, but still, if you're gonna do it, you may as well do it right.

  5. Justin - Couldn't find evidence that Parr is going to be there, but the thought crossed my mind. It says on his website that he's running Cheyenne Canon at the end of the month, so maybe a little too close for comfort. Leadville Marathon is a pretty tough course with some serious downhill punishment through the second half - long recovery, if raced hard.

    Thanks for the heads up on Anton. That certainly makes things a little more competitive. He was two minutes off the course record in '06; I would be surprised if he doesn't take it down this time around. Should be fun.