Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Well here I am in Colorado. First thoughts.....I want a Visa! What a truly awesome place. I landed on Saturday evening and after a lengthy wait at customs and then the car rental I finally got to my hotel and managed a reasonable sleep but my body was still on a different time zone.

On Sunday morning I drove to just outside the city to the Red Rocks area and met pacers Anna and Ben(Excellent peeps) for a little 10km jog around a brilliant little trail with a great little ridge route overlooking Denver. The trail was very different to anything in Chamonix. Mostly really smooth packed dirt with the odd section of rocks. Not technical like I am used to so the going was easy and really fun. The air however was very very dry. The heat didn't bother me but I did notice how dry the air was. It was then on up to the small town of Minturn which lies just 30 miles from Leadville. An amazing very scenic drive which included many stop off's for photos. It all kind of looks like Scotland on steroids. Not sheer and steep like Chamonix but imagine Glencoe where the Mountains rise to 14,000ft instead of 3,000ft. Minturn is a great little place. The family I am staying with have been so friendly and super helpful with giving me information about the area and most importantly genuinely lovely people.

On Monday I headed to Leadville for a bit of information on the course. It really is like stepping back in time with old ruined mines all over the place , the place is steeped in History. I went into the Leadville Race Series Store and spoke to a super helpful member of staff who advised me to go and hike the backside of Hope Pass. She told me I wouldn't need a map to find the start of the trail. Anyway after a little while on the main road I took the turn off onto a dirt track that went on for 12 miles , so glad I rented a 4x4. If stops at Winfield , the 50 mile turnaround point of the race. I hunted around looking for a trail to have no luck but then remembered that the runners used to have to run a short section the the dirt track to Winfield after coming down the pass so I drove back along the road for about half a mile and found the start at a little parking area called Sheeps Gulch. First impressions when I started on the trail were not good. I really did feel short on breath and this was only 2800m so I took my pace down from Cham speed to Leadville speed and it got much better. The first 20-30 mins of the hike is actually steeper and rockier than I thought but by no means anything new to me. After you break out the trees it is a very smooth dirt track that takes huge zigzags up and up. I bumped into a women from kentucky(also doing a race recce) who was running down. She mentioned how she had a panic when she left the car but then found it easier further up. She was worried however about how technical the descent through the trees was going to be , I didn't have the heart to say I was looking forward to it! She then pointed to the col and “that's it up there” to my reply of “REALLY”. I was amazed how close it was. Not long after I was at the top. It took me only 1hr 4mins. Now as usual I won't get confident at all as when I do it again it will be after 50 miles and I will also have come up the other side which is longer but not as steep but I was surprised how good I found myself on it. Yeah I could certainly notice my breathing as I neared the top at 3800m but I just took my pace down and kept moving. Never had to stop once on the way up. The view from the top was amazing and I could see nearly all the way back to Leadville 45 miles away. It's far away. The run down went great and took a fairly rapid 28 mins , I wasn't going fast but the trails are so good I could keep a good pace. The very bottom section is slower and will require care under tired legs but it really does not last long at all.

Hope Pass 12,600ft
Leadville 45 miles away , somewhere behind me.
It will be down this then back up this
I then went to Leadville for a coffee and surprise surprise met a fellow Scotsman. Stephen is from Glasgow but has lived here for 8 years. He is going for the Leadman Buckle , finishing the 10km , Marathon , 50 mile , 100 mile and MTB 100 mile! He dropped out of the run last year at 70 miles and gave me some good little tips on some sections of the course. Especially on the return 50 he said don't just think because Hope Pass is out the way that the climbing is over. The powerline section after 70 miles is meant to be a total killer on tired legs and overlooked by many people.

On Tuesday I headed over to Vail just to check out somewhere different. I got the gondola up to 10.500ft and just went a little hike up to just over 11.000ft. Amazing trails here and even though I had only gone for a little hike I couldn't resist getting a little jog on through the trees on probably the best trail I have ever ran. Beautiful packed pine needle trails that are endless. Again my breathing was a little out of synch but nothing major. I sat up there for a couple of hours then went and done the tourist thing wandering Vail.

Vail trails
I left Vail and decided to again drive down to Leadville. This time to check out some other points of the race. I drove first to the Fish Hatch at miles 23.5/76.5. The trail markers were out for the course so I really just stood around looking in both directions trying to get “a feel” for it. After leaving Fish Hatch the trail takes a right turn down a road and this section looks horrendous. It is just a straight road that seems to go on forever. It will not be fun on race day especially if the sun is beating down. No shade at all. I the drove to Twin lakes at miles 39.5/60.5. This is the lowest point of the race at 9.200ft and where the first Hope Pass climb starts. Going 3.400ft in 5.5 miles. Yes I know that is only a Munro but climbing up this altitude after 40 miles will be tough going.

Going to be Hell. Hope Pass is the Col miles away between the
first two telephone cable poles
So I have now had a look at all the main checkpoints except Mayqueen at 13.5/86.5 but think myself Kim and Anna will check it out on Thursday. There are a few more along the course but no crew are allowed to access them. I still have no crew for the outward 50 miles so I will be using drop bags with extra Gels , food and drink powder at the 3 main checkpoints until I get to halfway when Anna will have supplies then Kim then Ben at their checkpoints. Still unsure what to carry in my bag on the outward 50 but I am thinking

Wind Shirt

Arm Warmers




Hat and gloves but could have them in a drop bag at Twin before going up Hope Pass. Depends on forecast. I am going to have to sit down today and really think about it as I will also like a change of clothes but I may do this at halfway so can let Anna take that stuff for me. From Halfway I will also probably pick up a warm mid layer for the evening ahead then have extra mid layers with Kim and Ben. So still all a bit of a logistical mess with regards to kit but meeting pacers again tomorrow and we can finalise things.

Harrison Avenue
This is just outside of town.
So this is it. I don't know if I will be posting again before the race day. Start is 4am on Saturday and I must be finished by 10 am on Sunday. It is going to be so tough but I will try and enjoy most of it and will just give it all I got. The thought of running up Harrison Avenue on Sunday morning is a long way off but it crosses my mind often at just how good a feeling that could be. Thanks to everyone for the constant support and I hope I can stick up a very very positive post here next week.

I can be tracked from here Number 1087.

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