Matt Kempton and I summited the first little peak in the Leadville Heavy Half then ran a downhill past some historic old mines at what is the most enjoyable part of the course. At mile four we started the arduous three plus mile slog of a walk run up Mosquito Pass at 13,200ft. We had first and second nailed down with third out of sight, at least a minute in arrears. Matt is my friend, training partner and Runners Roost Mountain Ultra Team teammate. We know we’re about equal on the trails, it would be a tossup who would win. So, in such a position, with an hour thirty left of racing, do you flog each other trying to hack out a 30 second advantage over one another to take the win?
Here’s what we came up with. We’ll keep pushing hard. If somehow, one of us imploded and gave up a significant time gap then it’s every man for himself. Likewise if someone came up from behind us to pose a threat for the win. But what will probably happen is we’ll mostly run together, I’ll gain ten seconds in this section, he’ll gain ten seconds on that section, and when we hit a few miles to go and we’re near each other then we’ll link back back up together. Then approaching the finish we’ll do what proper sporting mountain men do and play a single round of rock paper scissors to decide the victor. It’s not like us to hold hands across the finish line, we can each take winning and losing, so we’d decide a winner just in a different way than most races are decided. All in all, I’ve learned that sometimes these big ass mountains that we run, ski, and bike in are best suited for working together with a sense of teamwork. And that’s exactly what we did.
We pushed up the Mosquito Pass climb, each electing to walk at different times but never getting far apart. At the summit we both started downhill only to almost get blown off the mountain by the intense wind. It’s an out and back course and at the turnaround we saw that we had a bit over three minutes on third place which was a cushion but not enough of one to let off the gas we both knew. So we pushed hard on the rocky, steep and snow fringed downhill. Matt put his superior downhill skills to use then we grouped back up on the last little uphill hump of the day at three miles to go. The route gets on a smooth dirt road at that point and the gnarly trail running for the day was over. We cruised on down, gave some high fives to teammates on the Runners Roost team, hit the fringe of Leadville, and ran towards the middle of town where the finish lay. A hundred feet from the finish and it was time for rock paper scissors. I knew I was going to throw down rock. I mean, the town of Leadville was created on the richness of rock and the mining of it. So I was going to mine my rock and take the win. “One, two, three, shoot!” Matt splayed his hand and threw down paper. The win was his. We both laughed and he ran ahead to claim the win with me a second behind.