Thursday, May 16, 2013

Leadville Training Trip Wrap-up: A little bit of hope and Winfield

Today was my final day to run out here Leadville before the big day in August, and it was a good one. I woke up feeling good. I was excited about the chance to access the climb to Hope Pass from the Twin Lakes area. The weather wasn't looking very cooperative, so I got moving earlier than I planned. I slurped down some "Super 8 Elixir" (nice call, Ginger, for coming up with that), grabbed a peanut butter bagel, and hopped in my sweet rental car and headed out. I was greeted by a nice view at Twin Lakes.

 On the way to the trailhead, I ran into a cool couple from Breckenridge and chatted them up looking for beta on the trail. They were out for a mountain bike ride but were happy to help out. They said that I'd likely get shut down by snow very quickly on this side because so much of it is north facing. They suggested I drive up towards Winfield and access the trail at Sheep Gulch. The idea being that the south facing side of the pass would have melted more. Armed with some new directions and a new plan, I happily said thanks and got moving. The weather was looking a little ominous.

The road to Winfield isn't exactly friendly. It was slow going in the rental. The last thing I wanted to do was get stranded because I broke the Chevy Cruze. I was really wishing I was in the Tacoma (aka: YD's mobile dog house). I arrived at the Sheep Gulch trailhead, looked at the clouds, and decided to get moving quickly. I was pretty stoked to be finally getting this crucial part of the course under my feet. My main goals for this trip were just to see how things were laid out and see how the altitude would feel. But, I was also really wanting to get a sense of how this crucial section would compare to the hills at home. I started power hiking up the climb, and was pleasantly surprised. It sucks. But it doesn't suck as bad as I thought it would. I am certain that it will feel a whole lot different with 50 miles on my legs, but the most important bit of knowledge was this: I live in a great training ground for the climb at Hope. It's similar to how it feels going up the Profile Trail at Grandfather. The gradient is similar and it's similar in techyness (that's an industry term. ha ha). I thought going up: I can do this. If I'm patient on my way to Hope, eat well, and hydrate I'll be OK. It was a huge confidence builder, especially since I still have months to train.

I made it just shy of halfway to the summit before the snow turned me back. Just over a mile in this is what I was dealing with:

I post-holed up to knees through a few sections before it finally just wasn't going to let up. Oh, and it was snowing. Just a little bit, but snowing. I decided that it was silly to keep going. I was slipping and didn't want to risk getting injured up there. I was a LONG way from any kind of help. It was as exposed as I've felt in quite some time, so I headed back down. I knew I could still get some decent miles in by taking the trail  all the way back to Winfield and then running the road back to the trailhead. Check out this view from the decent.

Amazing, eh? I got back down to the trail junction that goes to Winfield and enjoyed that section. It's rolling but mostly uphill to Winfield.

The clouds were looking worse and worse, and thunder was rumbling a little too close for comfort, so I kept moving and tried to push it down to the old town and the road. I was very happy to see Winfield when I got there.

It was starting to rain and getting cold. No worries though. I knew the car was just a couple of downhill miles away. I also know I will be a whole lot happier to see that place in August. It'll mean I'm halfway done.

All in all, it was a great week out here. I logged some decent miles, and I felt great doing it. I was able to figure out a lot about running out here, and I think I'll be able to put together a solid pacing plan based on what I did this week. This trip really helped me know for sure that I can have a great race. I'll need lots of help from my pacers and crew, but I feel good about it. Now, I'm all packed up and ready to head down to Denver in the morning to catch a flight home. I enjoyed the trip, but I am ready to be home! 

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