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Leadville Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run (Ultra Mary at 10,000 feet) - Run20 Mile

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Leadville, Colorado
United States
Chaffee County Running Club
20F / -7C
Total Time = 3h 57m 94s
Overall Rank = 5/100
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

As is my pattern, I worked late... I had this kick ass heavy metal band playing at the bar: The Texas Hippie Coalition (or THC). Needless to say, I had a few too many beers. I got out of the bar by 3:30 and went straight home and slept from 4-7. Luckily I fell a sleep as soon as I hit the pillow!
On the way to Leadville I stopped at the local convenience store in Minturn and picked up a coffee, a Red Bull and since they didn't have Pop Tarts, a Hershey's chocolate bar. The snow was dumping and my tires have very little tread and I wasn't sure I could make the drive to Leadville, so I headed off slowly. After 5 miles or so, I realized that I didn't put the gas in my car that I pre-paid for. Shit. I was already running late, but had to turn around. Luckily I did make it to to the cabin at Sugar Loafin' Camp ground in time to get dressed, and hit the bathroom... My stomach was upset from last night's beer and I would eventually have stomach cramps in the race.
Event warmup:

No time for a warm up. Got in line and saw my friend Eric who does stupid things like the Leadville 100, The HardRock, etc. I was hoping to beat him this year but he is a machine... I noticed that Travis Macy and Keri Nelson were back. Travis is a stud trail runner from La Sportiva and won this event last year. Keri is the number one woman snow-shoer in the USA and she came in second last year. Also, another snow-shoer of note was toeing the line again, Tom Sobal, arguably the most accomplished snowshoe racer in History having won nearly every major snowshoe race including the 100 mile race in Alaska, Iditasport 100. There were some other sponsor race kits too, and then there was Dime in his slick Beaver Creek race kit. What am I doing here? Last year I came in 9th place with a time of 4:42:14. I was stoked to make the top 10. Out of the 65 runners who raced in last years blizzard, only 25 of us could finish the race in the 7 hour cut-off.
  • 3h 57m 4s
  • 20 miles
  • 11m 51s  min/mile

The Turquoise lake 20 Mile Snowshoe Race is considered an ultra-marathon. There is a 7 hour time limit and it is one of the must difficult winter endurance events anywhere. The race starts at above 10,000 feet and reaches and elevation of close to 12,000 feet with about 4000 feet of ascent. Weather is always a factor and top athletes test their metal at this race.
It is mandatory that racers support themselves with their own water and food.

I got off to a good start. Travis and Keri took off and I fell in right behind Keri. We ran the first mile as a tight group through the single track. I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard so I just ran with the leaders.

We got to the lake and the wind was fierce. I couldn't tell if it was snowing or if it was just windy. We headed out. within a few hundred meters I was behind Travis... There was about a foot of fresh snow on the lake. At a certain point Keri and I post-holed alternating every 30 steps. We were making good time across the lake (it is about a 1.75 miles across the lake). About half way across we encountered some very sticky lake sludge. Lake sludge is what happens when the layer of old snow turns too slush beneath new snow. It is very difficult to snow shoe through... sort of like wet cement. We marched on and then suddenly the sludge turned to water! there was a 12" deep lake on top of the ice. We were now running through icy water that was nearly knee deep! It was freezing. Over 18 miles to go and my socks are soaked through and I'm thinking about frostbite danger...Luckily the water was only about 75 meters or so. I actually got across the lake in first place, followed closely by Keri and Travis and not far behind Tom, Eric and others. After the lake I fell in behind Keri again but not for long. As we got on the service road the distance between me and the two leaders grew. The next 5 miles were all up hill and last year I walked a sizable chunk of the steep sections. This year I did not want to walk any. The turnaround is at a 10th Mountain Army Division Hut that you have to touch. I got to the hut in 3rd place and started a 3 mile descent feeling pretty good. I was flying, but my ankle was hurting and I realized that I hadn't had anything to drink or eat up to this point. I tried to drink off my Camelback, but it was frozen solid. I realized that although I had two more hours of running to go, I would be doing the entire 4 hours without any Gatorade or water... shit, Shit, SHIT! I continued running, the next 7 miles or so are on the road that circles Turquoise Lake. Lots of grueling up hills. I got through mile 12 and looked back and I couldn't see the 4th place runner. I couldn't see the 2nd place runner anymore either. I hoped I could hold 3rd. Unfortunately at around mile 13 or so the wheels started to come off. I was dehydrated, dizzy and my ankle was killing me. I looked back and I could see a group of 4 runners working together and gaining on me. They were going to catch me for sure. At mile 14 I decided to start walking so that I could eat some shot blocks and a Gu. Tom Sobal patted me on the back as he passed me. He knew what was happening to me and his empathy was real. Shortly after, my friend Eric passed me and asked if I needed anything and I said water! He gave me a sip of his and I continued on. I started running again and was getting through the bad patch. I could see Tom way ahead now and Eric looked catch-able. I just continued, there was another racer behind me but the distance between us was stabilized. I was in 6th place and stayed there for a long time. I looked ahead and I saw Tom stumbling. It looked like he was in trouble and Eric passed him. I found out later that Tom's water froze too. It seemed like forever, but finally we reached the lake crossing. I could see Eric and with two miles to go, I wouldn't catch him. Tom and another runner were right in front of me as we got on the lake. I briefly passed Tom and he quickly surged past me and put a little distance on me. I sort of figured that 6th was the best that I could do today and looked back to see how far back 7th was. As I got to the shore, I could see Tom walking up the hill to the single track. I didn't know if I could catch him and I didn't care, I just ran. With less than a mile to go I did pass Tom on a very steep and short uphill and knew that I had him and I would finish 5th. I was pleased.
What would you do differently?:

Obviously, hydrate and fuel better. I believe that if I had stayed hydrated, I would have taken 3rd in this event. Still I am thrilled! I shaved 45 minutes off of last years race and moved from 9th to 5th! Who's complaining?
Post race
Warm down:

I crossed the finish line and went to the deck to remove my snowshoes and as I did my left calf completely seized. The pain was intense. I fell to the ground and yelled out. Same cramp that occurred on my swim during Ironman back in November. An assistant brought me inside and massaged my calf. I changed and had some food.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Complete dehydration.

Event comments:

This race is a throw-back, very nostalgic feeling with a true spirit of sport. The lack of corporate sponsorship and the intimate nature of the lodge make this race a welcome change of pace. It is the oldest continuously running snowshoe race in the country and it is one of the most difficult. I have now finished this race twice and I will be back again next year. Honestly this was more difficult than Ironman and more rewarding too. Plus the food was awesome. In lieu of the 20 dollar entry fee, racers can opt to bring in food for donation and/or the pot-luck post race party. Bliss.

Last updated: 2009-01-04 12:00 AM
03:57:04 | 20 miles | 11m 51s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 5/100
Performance: Good
AVG HR 152 MAX HR 170
Course: Snow covered single track, slush and snow covered lake, service roads and 4000 feet of climbing.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? No
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2009-01-04 1:06 PM

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Conifer, Colorado
Subject: Leadville Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run (Ultra Mary at 10,000 feet)

2009-01-05 1:06 PM
in reply to: #1885362

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Somewhere between lost and found
Subject: RE: Leadville Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run (Ultra Mary at 10,000 feet)

Damn awesome race you earned a cold one ... lOlLaughing

the pour

2009-01-05 2:26 PM
in reply to: #1885362

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Extreme Veteran
Denver CO
Subject: RE: Leadville Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run (Ultra Mary at 10,000 feet)

hot damn! that event sounds right up your alley... brutal conditions, excrutiating course, the best of the best to compete against. best of the best includes you, of course... you must be making a name for yourself up there amongst all the other ultra-crazies.

congrats on an awesome race! I admire your ever-evolving quest for athletic craziness.

ps: waive the entry fee if you bring food? maaan, that is the way to do it!

(is keri nelson the same woman that won pikes peak last year? she must be one sexy endurance BEAST)

2009-01-07 10:10 AM
in reply to: #1885362

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Westminster, CO
Subject: RE: Leadville Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run (Ultra Mary at 10,000 feet)
I'm [nearly] speachless.  I think I went past Z1 just reading this.  Great race DD!  You killed it!  Congratulations!
2009-01-11 10:00 AM
in reply to: #1885362

Iron Donkey
, Wisconsin
Subject: RE: Leadville Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run (Ultra Mary at 10,000 feet)

A number of things, if I may, that I need to comment:

1). Yes, even very accomplished athletes can have cramps.  I now know that I am not alone.
2). You are an insane individual with doing these races.  You RAWK!
3). My H.S. x-country coach/phy-ed teacher used to do a snowshoe race from Superior, WI to Rice Lake, WI back in the late '70s and early '80s.  I should look it up and see if they still do that race and give you info on it.
4). I need to look into that band!

Great job, Mr. Dime!

2009-01-12 11:21 AM
in reply to: #1885362

Subject: ...
This user's post has been ignored.

2009-01-13 11:08 AM
in reply to: #1885362

Rochester Hills, Michigan
Gold member
Subject: RE: Leadville Turquoise Lake 20 mile Snowshoe Run (Ultra Mary at 10,000 feet)
Damn, this is 100% pure, uncut, classic dime. No sleep, no water, no entry fee, and a damned good showing. Nice work, monster.
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