Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Leadville Trail 103-Mile Run? (parallel trail, my #@s!)

Went out to Leadville Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  On Tuesday, I ran the first 23 miles of the course out to Fish Hatchery, and then jogged back into town, which ended up being about 31 miles and 5-plus hours.  Felt strong through most of it.  I had some foot pain on the outside of my right foot after 20 miles, but it only bothered me in the latter road sections.  Considering I ran a 50k, I can't complain.

Camped on the Winfield Road near the Sheep Gulch trailhead on Tuesday night, and then went out for a double Hope Pass trip on Wednesday morning.  Felt super strong doing the backside, making it up to the top in 62 minutes without getting my HR above 145.  Then struggled a bit on the return trip on the front side.  My HR wasn't that high, but I felt exhausted from the previous trip up the pass and the previous day's efforts.  Better get used to it, I suppose!

On the way out of Winfield, I noticed a trail sign that pointed to Winfield.  I had been out here a few weeks ago, and I bumped into the folks that were working on this trail. Last year, I heard about a "parallel trail" that was supposed to be put together for this year's race, and I assumed that this must be it.  After all, there aren't any other trails around here that connect the Sheep Gulch Trailhead to Winfield.

Even just a few weeks ago, the trail was definitely not finished, with entire sections being semi-rugged forest without any grooming.  Now it's done.  According to the people I spoke with, the purpose of the trail was so that folks walking on the Continental Divide trail wouldn't have to take the Winfield Road.  The guys and gals working on the trail didn't know anything about the LT 100.

I figured I'd give it a gander, now that it was finished.  I ran on it for a mile or so, and it was benign enough.  Then it started to climb a bit. Ok.  Nothing too serious, but enough to push me to a walk after the previous two days' efforts.  But if I didn't run it on relatively fresh legs, I won't be running it on race day.  And then it kept climbing.  After two miles or so, I noticed Winfield way the frick down the hill to the left, but the trail kept going up and off to the right.  At this point I was starting to get annoyed.  I was nearly out of water and I was getting farther away from where I was supposed to be going.

For your information, here are what parallel lines look like:



So, if we are using these lines as our standard, that's not what's going on with this trail. The trail is coterminus with the Winfield Road, but it ain't parallel.  On this trail, you wind around in the forest, you go back up the side of the hill, you go to the right and farther away from Winfield, and then you go nearly a mile past Winfield, and then you go back to Winfield on a rocky dirt road that goes past the Winfield sematary (which, I must admit, was kind of neat).  Once I got back to Winfield, I jogged back to my camp site. 15-minute miles on the trail immediately turned into sub 9-minute miles as soon as I got back on the road.
By my math, this side trail adds 1.3 miles to the trip out to Winfield each way, with nearly 800 ft of extra elevation gain in total.  It's not crazy technical, but it's got some tricky rocky sections, for sure. If this is, in fact, where we are going to be running in August, I would expect it to add 25 minutes or so to the leaders' times, and more for everyone else, proportionate to how much slower you are than the leaders.  It was kind of pain to run into Winfield, and based on the elevation profile, it would probably be worse going back. Perhaps not worthy of a complaint if you're getting ready for Hardrock right now, but if you have time goals at Leadville, this trail will force you to readjust them, period.

Anyway, happy training. Just thought I'd pass along. Please share if you have any additional information on whether this trail is where we're going to be running in August. If I had a vote, I'd definitely pick the dusty road over this little trail, but that's just me.

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