Kendall Mountain Run, 9th, 1:50
100 mile races are stupid, and as far as I’m concerned, no one really knows how to prepare for them. It appears there are nearly as many training philosophies as there are racers, running the gamut from programs with limited weekly mileage and a handful of excessive long runs to programs topping 200 miles a week and featuring back-to-back weekend 50-milers. Choosing among these belief systems to seems to be as much a matter of culture, available free time, and outlook as anything data-driven. All of which is to preface my own unsolicited opinions with a disclaimer that I’m no more of an authority than anyone else, and largely do what I find fun.
And what makes up this “fun,” you ask? Broadly speaking, I subscribe to a Lydiardian doctrine in theory, if not always in practice. Its tenets are simple: run a lot, most of it easy, regulating volume and effort to consistently hit hard workouts (but not too many of these!). Since April, this has meant 70-95 miles and 10,000-15,000’of climbing a week, usually with some number of 1.5-3 minute hill repeats one day and a tempo-paced effort another. I’m happy with my consistency, but what I haven’t done are the sort of 8-hour slogfests many 100 mile runners swear by, opting instead for back-to-back 20 milers and 2-5 hour runs in the mountains at a decent intensity, often the day after a race. Whether this is enough will become clear sometime on Saturday, but I’m fit, healthy, and used to running on trashed legs, so I suspect the final outcome at Leadville will depend more on execution, psychology, and luck than anything else.
In keeping with this broad plan, then, I decided my peak weeks of training in late July would be punctuated by two shorter distance mountain races at high altitude. The first of these, The Kendall Mountain Run, has been on my radar for a few years, mostly because it’s an appealingly pure event based on a 1908 barroom bet: start in downtown Silverton (9308′), run to the top of Kendall Mountain (13,066′), and bomb back down as fast as you can. Thanks to this aesthetic simplicity, a spectacular location, and a large prize purse, it’s become one of the most competitive mountain races in Colorado, perhaps this year especially so. Among the contenders were Dakota Jones, Timmy Parr (who I raced in the 2014 Silver Rush 50, and who thoroughly trounced me here), East African marathoners Daniel Haids and Gebrekedian, and the usual stable of dark-horse local runners.
Arriving in Silverton around 7, I jogged a couple of miles before we lined up on main street — just enough to know I wasn’t feeling particularly fresh. At the gun (literally a Colt 45), we shot off the line quickly, holding around 6 mpm pace before the grade kicked up on the slopes of Kendall itself. I had initially planned to keep Timmy in my sights, but quickly realized he was going to easily drop me, and so settled into my own groove instead. It was a surprisingly brutal climb, and one of the only times during the season I had to consciously fight thoughts of stopping. Other than a few moments of power hiking, though, I managed to run almost every step of the ascent until the summit scramble, albeit feeling weak throughout.
The lead five or so runners were coming off this loose, rocky knob as I pushed up it, topping out in 7th place before being summarily passed on the descent by three runners tight on my heels. Somewhat bumbling and slow as I skated back to the jeep road, I mainly focused on not eating shit, picking up the pace as the footing mellowed out. But again, running downhill hard required constant focus, and as my mind wandered into complacency I found myself slowing down. Finally, however, the high volume of my recent training began to pay off, and I reeled in one of the runners who had passed me shortly before hitting the final flat / gentle uphill mile to the finish in the town park. Per Peter’s report from last year’s event, I knew this was likely to be the spot my wheels came off, but while my legs did indeed feel like lead I managed a 6:30 split to cross the line in 1:50:37, in 9th place.
Thanks to the excellent advice of Jonathan Thompson, Kate and I spent the rest of the day eating and swimming in the Animas. If I get the chance to spend next summer out here as well, I’ll certainly be back to Kendall, and give it focused training and a taper.