I left Reno as soon as my relief showed up at work and hit the road with a full tank of gas and lots of snack food. My first solo road trip in quite awhile and I was excited. Pat was suppose to be going with me but due to some unforeseen circumstances, he had to stay behind.
I drove non-stop and after about 16 hours I pulled into the parking lot of Safeway in Leadville at 11:30 pm. I found a dark corner, snuggled into my sleeping bag, put the seatback down and slept fitfully for about 4-5 hours. The front seat of a 1991 Toyota Corolla is not the most comfortable place to bivy.
I awoke and made my way to Halfmoon Rd where I set up camp next to Elbert Creek. This is where I camped for 2 weeks prior to my 2002 Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race. No amenities but it's free, my kind of deal.
The next day I set out early to drive to Winfield, the turn-around point of the race. It's at the end of a long dirt road in a gorgeous valley. Everything was so green and lush. I tried to imagine what it would look like on race day. All the crews, runners, pacers. I walked around a bit before heading to Twin Lakes.
I drove through Twin Lakes to the Willis Gulch trailhead. Normally we would cross Lake Creek near TL but right now the river is running way too high so this alternate trailhead offers a bridge crossing. I wanted to just do a short easy run and scout out the beginnings of Hope Pass. I found where we will probably cross the creek and the river is raging. I felt good on this run, the legs not nearly as sluggish as yesterday.
Where we cross, hopefully it will be lower on Aug 22.
The bridge crossing Lake Creek
Saturday started at a reasonable hour with breakfast served to us at the National Mining Museum before we boarded buses to the start of this 26 mile day at Mayqueen campground. There were quite a few experience Leadville runners there and they wore the pink with black striped flagging used for course markings to identify that they had done at least 10 Leadville 100 runs. Very impressive. They were a wealth of information and advice the entire weekend.
The course leaves Mayqueen and immediately gets on the Colorado Trail and goes uphill. I was working way too hard and none too happy with how I felt. Not going to be a good day. Things got better when we got on Hagerman Pass Rd and made the climb over Sugarloaf but even the run down powerline was painfully slow
Sunday dawned beautiful (each day the clouds would threaten and we'd get some scattered rain but nothing serious, typical Colorado weather). I had no idea what to expect. I ate a bit for breakfast before boarding the bus once again for Twin Lakes. We would do the double crossing of Hope to Winfield and back, 21 miles.
Boy does that trail start out steep. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and as I broke out of the trees I could see runners up on the switchbacks near the pass, some of them silhouetted against the darkening sky. The clouds were moving in and the thunder reverberated against the surrounding mountains. Maybe I'd have to use that rain jacket I'd been carrying after-all. It wasn't very cold and as I neared the top I noticed it wasn't very windy either. I must be in the eye of the storm where it's calm. After talking to other runners who had passed over the summit before me, they said it was extremely windy and cold. I guess I just got lucky.
The next day we were free to do what we wanted before the 12 mile night run from Twin Lakes back to treeline on Halfmoon Rd. I chose to sleep in, have a huge breakfast of biscuits and gravy at The Burro, then walk the town, buying a few things for my girls. I met up with Jael, from camp, and we drove out to the bottom of Powerline to hike a few miles up the trail so she could get an idea of what to expect. I have fond (and not so fond) memories of this hike a bike section from the 100 mile bike race.
We headed back to town to listen to a lecture about crewing before grabbing a burger and onion rings at Wild Bill's. I talked Jael into picking me up at treeline this evening so I could leave my car at the finish spot so I wouldn't have to shuttle back to town, pick up my car, then drive right back to my campground since the finish is only a mile from my camp.
We caught the last bus of the weekend to Twin Lakes where it was just getting dark. Finally, about 9:15 we were headed north on the part of the Colorado trail that I was dreading because I had had such a bad run on this section on Saturday. It's amazing what a couple more days at altitude and switching on the headlamps can do for you. It was an amazing run. The group stayed pretty compact for the initial climb but then things got spread out along the rollers. I was surprised at how well I had this section memorized from only running it once. I was having the time of my life, enjoying the quiet, dark, stars, and thin ribbon of trail that my eyes were focused on.
The last 5 miles were run completely solo. I started having this weird time-warp feeling like I'd been running for many hours and I started wondering if anyone would be at the finish. Thankfully, as I rounded the last bend, there was Merilee serving hot chocolate and burritos. The feeling was light as the runners compared stories about the weekend. I know we will be watching out for each other come race day. We had experienced a lot over the 3 days and will be pulling for each other.
I changed into some dry clothes (I was so glad to have my car right there), had some hot chocolate and just a bit of a burrito before driving back up the road the 1 mile to my home away from home. I was able to sleep about 4 hours before waking up, packing up camp quickly and getting on my way back to California. It would be another marathon of driving that would get me home about 9:30pm.
This camp was definitely worth it in boosting my confidence. I have now run almost every mile of the course so there shouldn't be any surprises in that department. Only 3 1/2 weeks to go. Thank you Ken and Merilee and the wonderful volunteers for putting on another wonderful event. See you in August.
Next up: race report for the TRT 50 miler.