LooseCrew-JeffO: Vasque Golden Leaf 2008


Ramblings of an adventurous guy living in Denver and playing in the mountains.
For my trail adventures, visit my Trail Bum blog

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Vasque Golden Leaf 2008

This year, the Vasque Golden Leaf fell on the weekend that the aspen were at their highest shades of brilliance. It is an amazing display of glowing fluorescence.
The logistics of getting myself from Denver to Aspen and then to the startline, and get a night of sleep, all in a handful of hours is not easy, but everything worked out perfectly. This is due to the friends I had in town.
I typically camp in the back of my CR-V, but it's hard finding a place around ski resorts because local law enforcement likes to scare off the hordes of transients (like me) who "camp out". My friends were juggling a dozen people in three hotel rooms, with some opting-in and some bailing-out, and new ones opting-in, and more opting-out. So I told Diane I would be "swing" in case someone bailed an she would be left holding the bag for someone's share of a room. So as I was an hour out, Diane called and told me I had a place to stay.
The hide-away bed ended up not having room for two, so I camped on the floor - which is my preferred mode of sleeping anyways.
We carpooled to the start in three vehicles.

This race has a unique, simple, set of complications that require some strategy. The race starts a couple thousand feet higher than it finishes, but there are some significant climbs during the race, most notably the start. To help spread out the pack, it starts by going up, up, up a wide road that meanders up a ski slope.

I used to say I "suck uphill". While it's undoubtedly my weakest point, I no longer "suck". I am now able to hold my own in an average way. People who are excellent will still blow by me, but I likewise will pass others.
This race attracts hundreds of short-distance runners who are WAY better on the uphills than me. So the big problem is that these uphill antelopes crowd ahead of me on the wide uphills, and then get in the way on the singletrack downhills. So my strategy was to run a few miles before the race to get thoroughly warmed up first, then allow myself to bust my lungs, drool, spit - whatever it takes to keep as many behind me as possible at the start.
It worked, but not perfectly, of course. Even though I was dosed with Albuterol and Astelin, my lungs drifted into asthma a few times, but I was able to control it.
Being used to 50-mile distance, I had plenty of reserve, so getting tired wasn't a consideration. Getting my slow-twitch body to perform a fast-twitch race was the issue.

I opted not to bring any bottle. I brought three gels, but really didn't need any. I did force one down, but really, this race is too fast and short to worry about water or food.
I wore my new Pearl Izumi's. The upper is hardly even "designed". It's just some flimsy mesh. The sole is a slab of variable density foam. There's a good instep cushion, and with so little material, it's amazing how much motion-control they get out of it. There isn't much traction, but that is rarely an issue, and proper technique usually negates the need for substantial grip. I don't think I'd want to wear it at the Leadville 100, or the San Juan Solstice 50, but this shoe was perfect for the Vasque Golden Leaf.

One runner afterwards commented to me that it is ironic that we're surrounded by so much incredible scenery, but we have to keep our eyes riveted to the trail to keep from wiping-out. Indeed, there were more wipe-outs and face-plants in this event than I can ever remember. Twice, the guy in front of me wiped out (two different guys).
About four miles from the finish, I called out, "On your left!" and started to pass a woman. There was short oak shrub on each side of the trail and my little space suddenly evaporated, leaving me running through the oaks down a very steep and turning trail. What a miracle I didn't bite it.
A few miles from the end, I was coming up behind a blond woman who ran with her hand on the side of her face. I thought, "Geez! What is it about blonds that they have to be on the phone all the time?! Even during a race!" She kept pulling her hand away and looking, so I assumed she had bad signal strength. But as I got closer, I notices it was just a black shirt in her hand, and she had a gash in her cheekbone. I told her how frickin' tough she was, doing a face-plant and still staying ahead of me. She totally killed those last few miles and was barely in site when she crossed the finish.

I missed my goal of 1:50 by a wide margin. Final...
86th out of 586
22nd in my division

The post-race is best! There's gourmet soups, sandwiches, pasta salad, drinks, cookies... And a fantastic raffle where it's hard to be present and not win something - there's so many items to give away. This time I won a pair of Chaco flops. Just what I was shopping for, too! I just have SO MANY shoes that I wasn't willing to buy them. Now my conscience is clear, and my post-race feet will feel better than ever.

Today, I'm in my home-away-from-home Leadville, posting from the Provin' Grounds coffee shop. Just chillin' and wishin' I'd brought my mtn bike.


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