"Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not."

Pukin’ In The Bushes

I’m writing this post a bit late, but the information is still fresh in my mind so it’s all good.

The topic of the day was my last long training run, which happened on Sunday July 22nd. For those of you counting you will note this is exactly 4 weekends out from Leadville. And, potentially, the start of my last “big week” of training.

Here’s our route, before I get into it:

We (Matt the Aussie and I) decided to run from the start to Twin Lakes. Normally my long run is an out-and-back, but together we shuttled a car out to Twin Lakes so we could run more of the course. More enjoyable, and beneficial to get a sense of how my planned pacing was going to feel.

We started off pretty late. I had dog-sitters coming to let the dog out at 10 and 12, so I didn’t have much choice in the matter, and it took an hour to shuttle the car out anyway.

Finally we got started at 7:41 AM.

* Image may not accurately represent Leadville sunrise.

The route starts off on West 6th St., and heads down the hill on paved road, then after a short zig-zag you’re still headed West, but on a dirt road they call “The Boulevard”. In the morning, it is downhill and pleasant. And for once I made it without having to poop in the woods.

After a while it plummets down a rough steep hill, then you turn right, heading North past some gross houses and junky cars. Why do poor people have so many damned junky cars? Idiots. Clean up your goddamn yard, you’re disgusting. Oh, and of course there’s the chained up dog, and the lawn ornaments. Classic! Thankfully it’s only a short section, then you turn West again, and run a short road segment.

“I’m poor, therefore I must own as much useless shit as possible!”

Now you’re running on flat terrain, and approaching the lake. You have to go along a dirt road for a bit longer, then up a short powerline cutout that is steep, dusty and loose. We just walked it, of course. No one would run it, except maybe the course record-setter. But honestly, even he should walk it.

Then you zig and zag and you’re on the start to the Turquoise Lake trail.

As I mentioned previously, my strategy is to walk briefly every 12 minutes, and get a drink of water. Every other time I eat 100 calories or so. This works out pretty well, slowing down my average pace to something more reasonable for a 24 hour race, and giving the legs a little rest. It’s also tough to not want to race fast early on, and the walk breaks are a nice reminder that you’ve got all day to make up time, so hold your horses, Pony Boy.

Matt seemed fine with adopting my strategy, so that’s what we did.

Turquoise Lake trail I’ve been on a thousand times with the dog, and I’m fuckin’ sick of it. It just drags on forever. It’s actually 10.2 km to the Matchless boat ramp, and another 11+ km to May Queen! In fact, other than Hope Pass, the Turquoise Lake section is the longest pure trail section of the course. It’s never-ending.

But of course we felt great, early on, and were moving pretty quick. The 24-hour Peterson Plan says roughly 1:05 to Matchless, (at 10.2 km) which we did almost exactly. The target to May Queen campground is 2:25 total, at a predicted 21.7 km. We ended up coming into May Queen a bit early, at 2:16 and 20.33 km. So the distance to May Queen is a bit shorter per the Garmin, which is nice, and we ran a bit too fast. That includes a 5 minute toilet stop too. So I think I’ll aim for 1:10 to Matchless and 2:25 to May Queen.

At May Queen I was feeling it a tiny bit, and it was getting kinda hot. We ran by the campground, and saw some teenagers sitting in lawn chair shooting guns (plastic toy pistols) at a target in a tree. Matt was like “What the fuck!” and I had to laugh. America! “Get yer guns, we’re goin’ on vacation!”

Apparently this is a TV show. (Of course it is.)

[Side note: Apparently gun sales have skyrocketed after the Aurora theatre shootings. Christ. Makes sense to me!]

LOL. Is this the perfect image? Red, white and blue! Baseballs! Handguns! God I am in awe of whoever set this shot up. I just want to meet him. Shake his hand.

After May Queen there’s a painful uphill road section, then you hit the first stretch of Colorado Trail. It’s a nice, very runnable but fairly rocky section, which Tona and I have explored before. (I also ran it during the training camp, once at night.) It’s quite long, and many race reports say it feels just endless on the way back. Of course, what section of the course doesn’t? It is longer than you think though, I will agree! It pops you out onto Hagerman Road at the 23.8 km mark, so it’s a roughly 2 mile stretch.

Hagerman Road is very flat and runnable, so we made good time. I kept thinking we were moving too fast, but I felt strong on the hills and we did a fair amount of running. It was hot, and sunny. We met up with some folks on horseback, which is super cool. Man, horses are just so darn cool.

I’m not even gonna put a funny picture because horses are too high class for low-brow humour like mine.

We kept running, and walking. Jog a short section, walk a longer section. Not pushing too hard. Eventually we got to the top of the Powerline, which took us 3:30 at the 28.5 km mark. I didn’t have any predicted splits for this point.

Powerline takes it’s sweet-ass time getting back down… it’s not a continuous descent, but rather a painful series of downs and ups. Of course, it’s infinitely worse on the return trip… Eventually we got to the bottom, hitting the road at 34.66 km in 4:08, and started towards Fish Hatchery, the second major aid station on the course, after May Queen.

Fish Hatchery is supposed to be at 37.8 km and 4:22, according to my plan. We arrived right on time, but at a measured 36.5 km. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I guess Powerline crossing took us longer than anticipated, as we’d lost our 10 minute lead. Just goes to show, there isn’t a whole lot of breathing room if you want to make that 24 or 25 hour cutoff.

We refilled our packs thanks to Matt’s stashed water jug, and were back on our merry way.

We were approaching the marathon mark, and facing a brutal section: the dreaded “highway”. Smack dab in the middle of the course is a long (roughly 8 km) stretch of pavement. It’s very flat, so you can see exactly how little progress you are making. Plus it was cooking hot, and we were running into a big headwind. It was slow going. I love hot monotonous road running though, it’s the ultimate dystopian scenario! So I put my head down and just pushed through, trying to maintain our target pace.

That’s me and Tona. Just picture it. End of civilization, and I’ve never been happier.

Finally we hit Halfmoon road, a little dirt road that takes you to the Mt. Elbert and Massive trailheads. Luckily we weren’t going that far, although once upon a time the course did go that way. Matt was a bit tired at this point, after our hard push through the wind, and so we walked a bit of a section here, to recoup.

Now, in the training camp, they’d diverted us around this section. I wondered why? I thought it was because they’d said the gate was shut, because of calving elk. But that made no sense. When we got there, I realized why: We had to jump a chicken-wire fence, and then wade across a super deep, ice cold stream. Damn! River crossing!?

What I felt like crossing the stream…

… What I looked like crossing the stream.

I took my shoes and socks off, but Matt just strolled on through. I’ll admit, it was pretty refreshing, although I was glad to have mostly dry feet. Then again, in this heat and dry environment, nothing stays wet for long. We also chatted very briefly with some people sitting in lawn chairs, apparently waiting for their runner coming from Twin Lakes.

After the little stream crossing we were at “Treeline”, which is a crew-only aid station. Our target for Treeline was 45.5 km in 5:15. We ended up arriving at 43.7 km in 5:22. Not bad, but we’d definitely lost our lead.

Treeline was really tough too. Running into the wind was really hard going, and the sun was blazing down. Matt was starting to feel pretty bad, and so we were doing a bit more walking than planned. Still moving pretty well, but the sun was blazing down, and it wasn’t getting any easier.

Treeline just goes on forever. Eventually it turns into a forest road, but it’s still just a dirt road. Smooth and enjoyable, but not forest trail, so still very sunny and hot. We just kept pluggin’ away. I think the “Half Pipe” aid station is at the corner where you turn off the Pipeline section, and so that would put it at the 45.8 km mark, which we crossed in 5:35. My pacing plan has it at 49.1 km in 5:40, but I suspect they’ve moved that station since the plan was written. It’s a redundant station anyway, that I won’t stop at, having just met my crew, so it’s irrelevant.

Anyway, as we worked our way through the forest roads and towards the eventual nice single-track trail of Mt. Elbert, ol’ Matt was getting rougher and rougher. Lots of walking, hands on knees, and just overall feeling like crap. We got to the big stream right before the trail started (finally!) and he just laid his head in it, trying to cool off. Was pretty funny, but at the time it was a bit worrisome. We had a long way to go, and heat stroke ain’t no joke. At least we had water! He filled his bottle from the stream, and we continued our slog.

We were finally on the nice Mt. Elbert trail section. It weaves it’s way through Aspen trees (I think?) and grassy terrain, all beautiful single-track, hard-packed trail. Wonderful, but still all uphill. (It’s all uphill from the start of Pipeline, basically.)

Mediocre photo of some dude running on a section of Mt. Elbert trail.

Matt was still struggling, although being out of the heat had to have helped. We reached the Mt. Elbert aid station (at least, what I think is the Mt. Elbert aid station) at 55.22 km in 7:03, versus our goal of 57 km in 6:50. So we still were doing pretty well.

We kept going for a ways, and were finally heading downhill, when Matt pulled over and… puked his guts out. Ugh! I distinctly remember checking my watch: the 57 km mark, in 7:23. Puke Time. Rough going. He dry heaved a bit, puked up a lot of Perpetuem-looking water, and then we just sat and chilled for a bit. We’d found a cliff-bar on Powerline, so he ate that, tried to get some more fluids in him. Fact of the matter is, puking happens to lots of people on the trail, and if you’ve experienced it, you’re probably (maybe?) better off for it. So I just laughed, and relaxed, while he composed himself. Finally, we got up, and were back in action. Which is really what it’s all about: feeling like crap, and just continuing to run through it.

Of course, after puking he felt a thousand times better, so we made great progress. He had puked at, coincidentally (or not?) the very peak of the Mt. Elbert section, so it was mostly all downhill from here to Twin Lakes.

We made great time, although truth be told my legs didn’t feel all that great on the downhills. I guess that could come from having done a double Hope Pass ascent the day before, but I was a bit surprised at how not enjoyable the downhills were. Oh well.

We rocked into Twin Lakes feeling good at 61.2 km in 8:04. 30 minutes behind our schedule (and 2.4 km short) but all things considered, not doing too badly. Overall, still well within acceptable margin for a targeted 25 hour “Peterson Plan” finish, especially considering the puking and the relatively relaxed day. It started pouring rain just as we got into the car. I looked up at Hope Pass, and it was just an impenetrable wall of dark gray water. I pray that on race day we don’t have to run in that, although given that it’s rained nearly every single afternoon, like clockwork, I won’t be surprised if we do. (We’ll also be crossing Hope at 1:25 PM and 5 PM, arguably the worst times possible, weather-wise?)

My legs in general, felt great. Muscles weren’t tired at all. My right Patellar Ligament was (still is) sore (right on the front of the patella, which is good.) My left ankle was hurting too, perhaps from rolling it on Mt. Hope the previous day, but those issues don’t concern me too much. I’ll be over them after a taper, I suspect. If all goes well on race day, at least the first half of the race should feel very doable, and I’ll be in Winfield just under the 11 hour mark, right on schedule! Of course, the first 50 miles are just a warmup, really. The next half of the race, where the real race begins, is a whole lot of unknowns. I have a pace plan laid out, but will it matter? I doubt it. You do the best you can, at that point, unlike the first half of the race, it’s very highly unlikely you’ll be in a situation where you need to make an effort to slow down! Hopefully that pace plan will be there to simply confirm: “You’re doing great, keep at it, and you’ll make it.”


After this run though, I feel a lot more confident. Now the question is… how and when to taper?

Mitch out.


  1. Rob

    The race doc will tell you in the pre-meeting ‘I found out that you can puke your guts out for 12 hours and still be fine!’

  2. Duncan

    A bit of a rambling post, this one. Keep it up dude, you’re a weapon.

  3. jason

    Good stuff Mitch, really enjoying reading all about your epic mission to conquer the mighty Leadville. Keep updating your blog, please!

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