2023 Silver Rush 50 Recap
I thought I "got" ultrarunning. I've done a few 50k races and runs (which are ultras).
But after this race, the Silver Rush 50, I realize I'd only scratched the surface. Or, rather, understood in words what I have now felt, and (ironically) that feeling is difficult to put back into words. This is my attempt to do so. People ask questions, and my answers don't seem to sum up what I'm truly trying to say. Here goes!
I follow the ultra/trail-running scene closely, so I know my experience is only one of many. I don't have anything all that special to say and that hasn't already been said, but perhaps you'll hear it for the first time.
Most of you who follow me haven't run an ultramarathon. I know that because a lot of you are friends and family :) and have been asking lots of really good questions! I hope I can answer them and give you a taste of what this experience is like beyond what I've been telling you already: "It was awesome" starts to fall flat after the 3rd time.
So, here we go. Let's get into the good, the gruesome, and the joyous parts of the training for and running of a 50-mile ultramarathon in Leadville, Colorado.
Part 1 of ?
This post, Part 1 of who knows how many, is focused on the pre-race morning, some preparations, and everything else up to the start gun.
* I'm working on a dictionary supplement to this blog series for some of the terms and abbreviations which may be unknown to people outside of the trail running scene. In the meantime, use your imagination. Or Google. Or both? Best to not rely on either too heavily.
The Race Morning & Preparation
My alarm goes off. I think I want to sleep just a tiny bit longer... wait, it’s race day.
IT'S RACE DAY!
As expected, I hardly slept the night before race day, so I had gobs of time to pack and prepare everything. As someone who can get a little antsy, the packing and prep had a calming effect.
Nice to know, so what did I pack?
Here’s what I had waiting for me thanks to Insomnia Cody (much obliged, ol' pal):
Clothes I’ll wear for the race
Fancy running snackies for during the race
Extra layers I’ll wear at the start line
Drop bag for the halfway point.
Inside the drop bag is a pair of backup shoes, a first-aid sort of kit, an extra shirt, extra water, extra fuel, extra extra extra. I packed so much more than I’ll need, knowing it’s…well, extra.
I'm fine with the extra, though, it’s my first 50-mile race and I’m not sure what to expect. Therefore, I expected everything imaginable. Get an annoying hangnail somehow? I’ve got two types of nail clippers. Sprain an ankle and shred some skin on gnarly rocks? I’ve got Coban wrap, 2 Ace bandages, triple antibiotic ointment, KT tape, and scissors. Feeling crappy from altitude? Hangover Alka-Seltzer. It’s orange-flavored and loaded with caffeine.
Oh, and extra Body Glide (chafing is a no-no) and sunscreen, which I would not categorize as “extra,” per se.
All this stuff is in a see-through backpack covered in a bunch of orange ribbons, a Colorado flag bandana thingy, and my name/race bib number. It is easily identifiable and I am definitely prepared. Or, I could say again, “extra.”
Why would you need backup shoes?
Thanks for asking! I've been trending toward minimalist footwear for a few years now. I was a little nervous about how I would handle 50 miles, so I wanted to have a little something-something just in case.
Tell me more about your shoes!
You can skip ahead if that headline didn't pop into your head. I won't be offended.
I have some barefoot shoes that I run in and wear for casual/everyday purposes, but my training for this race has primarily been in the Altra Superior 5. It's a low stack height (not a lot between the foot and the ground), zero-drop shoe (back and front of the shoe are the same height from the ground) with a spaciously square forefoot/toe box. I've run in a lot of shoes from many brands, and these allow me to have the best form and fun on the trails. It's not a bad road shoe, either, once it's been worn down a little.
A few months before the Silver Rush 50, Altra released the Superior 6, an update to the aforementioned 5. The only noticeable difference was more grip, so I decided I'd race in that shoe.
My backup shoe was the Altra Mont Blanc BOA. I did my last Colorado 50k (the 2022 Dirty 30) in the standard Altra Mont Blanc and it was fine, but who wouldn't want to try some BOA-laced shoes? These have about 10 millimeters more foam than the Superior line, a Vibram Megagrip outsole (aka very nice, durable tread), and the namesake BOA lacing. BOA makes clicky, spinny dials that wind a thin wire to tighten your shoes. I think they started out in snowboarding boots, but however they got to running shoes, I like them.
Routines & Things
So there you have it, all the stuff required to have some fun in the mountains. Now for what it takes to get ready to have fun in the mountains. First things first, coffee.
Not only does coffee have caffeine, which is very effective for waking me up, but it also has caffeine, which is very effective for the all-important pre-race emptying. You know what I mean. As a self-proclaimed coffee snob (code for “being addicted to coffee but in a hobbyist way so it’s acceptable”), making myself a V60 pour-over with beans uniquely selected for this trip was a delightful ritual. I make Alex and myself coffee every day, so it’s a welcome dose of normalcy.
I was joined in the kitchen by one of the members of our small, AirBnb-sharing squad. The following day, he would be racing the Silver Rush 50 MTB, a mountain bike race on the same course as the run. I offered to make him some coffee, and he accepted. Making someone else a cup of coffee fits right in with my routine and it’s always fun to share good coffee. After finishing our delicious brew (Stonecreek Coffee Co.'s SL28, for interested parties), the aforementioned emptying (bless), and a brief warm-up, my coffee partner and I walked from the Airbnb to the start line.
If you're curious, my warm-up involved a little MET (muscle energy technique) to help my hips/low back get some symmetry, some foam rolling for the hips, high hammies, and calves, and band walking to fire up the glutes.
Our AirBnb was a half-mile from the start line, perfect for a little more warming up. We left at 5:20 am and I got in one of the long porta-potty lines (you can never be too empty) around 5:35 am. The race started at 6, and I figured this timing was perfect since I had done a little body prep already. I’d pee, drop my bag off, and catch up with a friend from Colorado who was also racing today.
The line was going slower than expected, but I stayed calm until the announcer decreed that we had 3 minutes to drop our bags off, and I was not 3 minutes from being at the front of the line… Desperate, I asked the group behind me if they’d save my spot (expecting they wouldn’t, and no hard feelings), and then rushed towards the tents hoping to drop my bag off in time.
It was pretty crowded as I got closer to the race start line and I couldn’t see where I was supposed to go. Just as I was about to start worrying, Barbara and Derk found me and directed me to the drop area. After ditching my bag, I quickly got back to my spot in the potty line, which was generously saved for me (thank you, you kind souls), and happened to be next up for a chance to void my fears and excess fluid. Lighter (physically and emotionally), I made my way over to the start line area and found my good friend Cameron Matthews. I know Cam from when I worked at Runners Roost, specifically the Lone Tree, CO store. Cam is a regular run-clubber and was one of that wonderful group that made me feel so welcomed and included when I was barely a runner and had just started working at Runners Roost. It was great to see him and hear a little about his training for the Leadville 100 run—he did the training camp a few weeks ago, and said he was feeling pretty okay. He’s done the Silver Rush 50 run before, so I asked him the question burning a hole in my shoes, “Should I race to the top?”
A cool race-inside-the-race at the Silver Rush 50 is from the start line to the top of Dutch Henri tubing hill. It’s something like a tenth of a mile at 20-30% incline (this is where you do a thing with your arm trying to visualize that, whatever you’re doing is accurate as long as it looks too steep to run). At the top of the hill is a race volunteer with a coin in either hand. The coins signify a guaranteed entry to the Leadville 100 run: one for the first male and female to the top.
So, why was this question burning so? Do I want to do the legendary Leadville 100?
I admit that I don’t REALLY want to do it. At least, not as badly as other runners might. Someday, maybe. I REALLY do like racing uphill though, and that was enough for me to consider it.
Back to Cam. He fully encouraged me to race to the top. I could take it easy, sure, and that might make the first few miles easier. Or I could participate in this fun aspect of the race, and maybe feel a little less good for a while, but perhaps it would be worth it in the end.
Easy choice! Why not fully embrace this race? Interestingly, there was plenty of room at the front of the start line (I think we know why---reference the incline visualization for a reminder). So I settled in what might be called a second row, just behind/between 2 other guys who looked very fast. Looks matter, no matter what else I say.
The National Anthem played, and race founder Ken Chlouber walked out with a gun that he would fire to start the 2023 Silver Rush 50 Run. The countdown began... BAM!
Next post coming soon!