This past week I was pretty whipped. The altitude grabbed hold of me Monday, which I thought it might, and had me tied me down, energy wise, like a petty crook. I still ran each day, sometimes twice, but it wasn’t always easy to get the legs turning over. Once going however, particularly uphill, they generally fell in line. Then after each run, once home again, the legs whined like children until I fed them with long, deep breaths and a comfortable seat, combat position to a war on fatigue. This past week I’ve also slept a lot, on average at least eight hours per night; sometimes nine. In civilian life six to seven hours of sleep per night is customary and for the most part seems to keep the body and mind happy. Sleeping for eight hours or more per night at home often makes me feel tired, ironically. I don’t think that is the case here, in Vail, because at altitude I think the body definitely needs more rest when acclimatizing. Plus, when running like animal, which is something I’ve definitely been doing here thus far, and am proud of it, the fatigue border shifts even more.
Yesterday’s morning came as a nice surprise when I felt recharged and actually looking forward to a long day, high up on the trails. A quick drive from Vail delivered me to Twin Lakes, just outside of Leadville. I parked the car and moments later was running on the Leadville course, bound for Winfield, sight of the 50 mile aid station and turn around point. The priority for the day was simple: be out on the feet for several hours, enjoy the surroundings and tack on a few bonus miles if I was still up for it after the double pass over Hope and return to the car. I was pleased in my casual effort to Winfield and back, never pushing it and hiking a lot, especially on the return trip up the backside of Hope. I was a bit surprised to realize that when I returned back to the car at Twin Lakes my watch read 4:09, which is a respectable time, I think, even if I were intent on some sort of steady effort/pace. I didn’t think too much of it, switched up my hip pack bottles to a handheld and, again, ran away from Twin Lakes tacking on 8.5 bonus miles. When I returned to Vail yesterday afternoon I looked at a training log on my computer from last year and realized I had done the same run, from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back, two weeks out from the race in a time of 4:46. I don’t remember pushing it then either, as I had also only been in Colorado for one week by that point as well. Still, all things being equal as they were, 4:46 versus 4:09 is a considerable difference. Not even taking into consideration the miles I had on my legs from the preceding weeks leading up to yesterday, unlike last year. By the way, in the very remote chance that anyone runs from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back during the race in 4:09 or less (it won’t be me) that person is going to win handily. Or blow up. Also, there were TONS of runners out on the course, doing the same run. It is very cool that people from this area, and so many other areas within driving distance, have permanent access to such incredible running terrain (save for the winter months).
Speaking of miles on the legs, this is where I am, week wise since Old Dominion, at the precipice of a taper before Leadville: 6.5 miles (OD recovery), 33 (OD recovery), 80, 101, 105, 101, 118, 110. That equals five weeks in a row of running 100 miles or more, something I’ve yet to string together until now. Since last Saturday, I’ve run 148 miles at altitude, hence the ‘animal’ reference. I admit, when in places such as this, coupled with more free time than is usual, what else would I be doing? I’m healthy- healthier than I’ve been since this time last year. I’m lean- leaner than I’ve been in a long time. I feel strong and ready for a hard push at Leadville. If ever I felt the capacity for a true physical and mental demonstration of shear ability and grit, in terms of my own ability, now is the time.