Monday, September 16, 2013

Lead King Loop Race

Lead King Loop Race

Yesterday I ran the Lead King Loop race, which is a great low key race in Marble, Colorado. After not racing all summer - and living and training at sea level for much of that time - I was excited to do another mountain race before the season ended. The race is spectacular, with a solid climb of 3,000 in 5 miles up to a pass and then a fast rolling descent down into the Lead King basin where you run along the Crystal River for 10 miles before the final small two climbs back to Marble. The photo below shows you the Lead King Basin - I didn't take it, I was busy running ;).
After a quick verbal "go" we were off at a bit after 8:40. The course follows a dirt road around a small lake before starting to climb up a 4x4 jeep road. I was in 8th place at the start of the climb, and although I was hoping to have a good race, within about 20 minutes I knew that I did not have the altitude training I needed. After spending a good part of the summer at sea level, I've only had a few opportunities to get up high since being back in Colorado, and I certainly felt it on the climb. So as I struggled to keep pace, several people passed me during the long climb to ~11,000. Once at the top of the climb, you crest a small pass and drop into the Lead King Basin and the headwaters of the Crystal River. The view is stunning, and fun peaks just begging to be run are all around. At this point, I was about in 20th place, and most people seemed to keep it mellow as we began the long descent back down. I kicked in to a high gear here, now that altitude was no longer an issue, and just bombed down the steep, technical, rocky 4x4 road. Within about 2 miles I had made up 6 places. After about 4 miles and 2,500 of descent, the course follows right along the beautiful Crystal River, passing through the town of Crystal. The next 4 miles along the river proved to be a bit slower, as you had to constantly avoid random water holes by running on the edges of the track. I was still gunning, but starting to slow down a bit and only caught 2 more people. Finally, the last 2.5 miles involve two short but draining climbs up out of the Crystal River and over a small hump before the final descent back into Marble. I could see 10th and 11th place during this point, but didn't have the juice to catch them (altitude again), so I had to be content with rolling in for 12th place with a time of 2:34.

The race is really great, with one of the more beautiful courses I know of in Colorado, a solid mountain climb, and great food and community. Props to the aid station volunteers who got stuff way up there, and to everyone involved. Plus, the event is a fundraiser for the local school, so it is a great cause.  I highly recommend this event!

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