Photo taken by Randall Levensaler

Friday, July 25, 2014

Leadville Silver Rush 50 and 4 Pass Loop-FKT!

Well, where to start!  The past 30 days have been a crazy ride for me. I guess it really all starts with my Western States 100 (WS100) attempt.

In a nutshell, I had no idea I would be toeing the line at WS100 until 5 weeks prior. That being said...the odds were not in my favor to have the race I imagined, but heck, it was worth a shot. I dropped at Michigan Bluff (56 miles) due to poor nutrition (not nearly enough) and because my mental game had been lost.

Of course, the next morning I was angry with myself for dropping. I was already searching for another race to fill the void. I was fit, hungry, and wanted to see the hard work pay off.

What do you know, the Leadville Silver Rush 50 mile was coming up! It was a) in Colorado b) two weeks away c) and at high elevation. After speaking with my coach, if I could focus on recovery for two weeks, I could "suit up" and run the event as a "B" race. The main goal was to work on nutrition (consume 250-300 calories per hour) since that was my big struggle at WS100.

What do you know...if you actually feed your body correctly, you race great! I ran in 3rd for the majority of the race and then passed the 2nd place female after coming off the third climb. I had gotten a second wind and with the iron quads I had developed from all the downhill running (in prep for WS100), I took off.  I felt fresh...unbelievably fresh.

With 5 miles to go, I had caught the girl sitting in 1st. I was still feeling surprisingly great and decided to do a surge (thank you speed workouts). I pushed for approximately 2.5 miles and then decided to look over my shoulder. She was no where in sight. I cruised into the finish to nab my first 50 mile win. This was my third time toeing the line at a 50, so I was quite excited by the outcome and for figuring out my fueling!
Silver Rush 50 mile almost tripping.

Riding this endorphin high, I decided to spend more time in the high backcountry. What better place to enjoy some solo time adventuring than at the 4 Pass Loop in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO. For those of you who don't know, the 4 Pass Loop is approximately 26-28 miles long with about 7,500 feet of vertical gain (depending on what GPS you use).

It was only 10 days since the Silver Rush 50, but my body was feeling decent. My goal race is the CCC (100k in Chamonix, France on August 29th) and I knew running this loop would create a strong training block.

I arrived at the West Maroon trail head parking lot around 6:30am on Weds. 23rd. The air was cooler than expected which made me pull on "arm panties"...(is that what they are called now?). Not wanting to waste time I grabbed my Ultimate Direction SJ pack and lucky PepsiCo trucker hat. Phantograph-Fall in Love was thumping on my ipod...I was ready.

My intention was to have an enjoyable run in the high country, but in the back of my mind I knew the current women's FKT was set by Darcy Piceu at approximately 7:15 (according to Peter Bakwin and his convo with Darcy Piceu). I decided that if things were going well, I would aim to go under 7:15...but if not, it would still be a great training run and beautiful day in the mountains.
The start. Snapped this at the sign next to parking lot.

Well, I wasn't even to Crater Lake and my legs already felt kind of blah. Not the best way to begin a 26-28 mile run, but don't always feel great at the start of a race either.

Crater Lake Split - I went counter clockwise.

I reached the top of Buckskin Pass at 1:21:04. I hiked way more than I was expecting, but kept a good clip. I spent a few minutes vista gawking (how can you not!), and actually debated whether or not this run was a good idea. Quick note: There is still a big snow block at the top of the pass forcing you to traverse west in order to get around and above it.
Buckskin Pass
View from Buckskin Pass looking West.

3 minutes later I was started down the pass towards Snowmass Lake :) Although I felt lousy on the climb, I felt great on the descent. One of my favorite parts of the run are the rolling shaded trails below Snowmass Lake.

I reached Trail Rider Pass at 2:53:19. In my mind, I was now half way done (which really isn't true). I snapped a few photos and was on my way. Note: The immediate descent off of TR Pass is quite steep and loose. After a quarter mile or so, there is a great stream to replenish your water supply. I probably wasted a good 5 minutes trying to get my Aquamira tabs out of the packaging...
Trail Rider Pass
Mountain Selfie on TR Pass :)
Now onto what I would consider the crux of this loop...Frigid Air Pass. After you finish a long descent, you have a "never ending" approach to the pass. The upside, you have the opportunity to view beautiful flowers for miles :) After you climb past the waterfall, you reach Fravert Basin. This section is open to the sky, and climbs at a grade that is not steep enough to hike, but not flat enough to race on (unless you are Sage, Rickey or Anton).

I reached FA Pass at 4:54:56. Note: Sage, Rickey, and Anton were already back in the parking lot enjoying a beer at this point when they did their FKT attempts. Mind=blown.
Frigid Air Pass

Well, the worst part is over. With an upbeat attitude, I took off towards West Maroon is only about 1-2 miles away. I was rolling pretty good until the terrain began to climb. My legs were sick of ascending. I reached WM Pass at 5:37:12...feeling tired.
West Maroon Pass

I only had 7 miles to go (all downhill), and realized it was possible to go under 7:15. I aimed to run aggressive in the sections that I could. Note: There are many technical sections from the top of the pass all the way back to the parking lot. Not the fastest 7 miles one would hope for.

With about 5 miles to go, I ran out of water. I only filled up once...which was probably a mistake. I was now at a lower elevation and could feel the heat soaking into my skin. My mouth was dry...I fantasized over the gallon jug I had waiting for me at my car (even though it would be warm). 3 miles from the parking lot I ran into other runners who had started an hour before I did. To my surprise, they were locals from Glenwood that I knew! I told them I was trying to finish under 7 hours, but was dying from lack of H2O. The kind and generous people that they are, were quick to offer some of their water. I had to respectfully declined because I knew I could not call my attempt: "solo unsupported" if I had taken it.

Finally, the gravel path that parallels Maroon Lake was in sight. I had made it. I finished at the parking lot with a time of 7:05:53.
Finish. Same sign at parking lot as start.

I was so happy to be finished, and to have squeaked under 7:15. It was a tough day for me in my current shape, but I'm sure with more recovery after the 50, I could go sub 7 hours easily. I'm hoping my FKT attempt will inspire other females to chase/set times on Peter Bakwin's FKT site .

Now for a little rest and recovery :)

If anyone has questions about my 4 Pass Loop FKT, please feel free to email me at :
Screen Shot of my route from