I met Tim Urbine during the Silver Rush 50 Miler. If you watched that video, you met his son Luke and later watched the two of them cross the finish line together. Tim is gearing up for his first 100 Miler ever and it’s this years Leadville Trail 100. It does;t sound like Tim has much interest to run 100 milers beyond this one, with a wife, kids, a job that requires him to travel and his love for Ironman.. he’s a bit tied up as it is. Regardless, I was able to get him to agree to go on a little training run with me this weekend and I let him choose where we went. After presenting 3 options to him, he chose the obvious… Hope Pass.
After an early rise and a quick drive up to Leadville, we started our adventure from the Twin Lakes trailhead somewhere around 9200′ elevation. The first part of the Hope Pass section of Leadville has us running across the flood plane of the valley. The trail is barely discernible between the herd paths and high mountain scrub. We got lost… a few times but eventually made our way to the river. Once there we had to walk up stream to find a safe place to cross. By safe I mean, not waist deep and we can actually see the bottom through the crystal clear waters. We eventually find the spot where we actually cross during the race and make our way through the water. It’s thing deep and breath taking.. literally.
After we cross we head out on the trail and quickly find ourselves climbing up Big Willis Trail towards Hope Pass. The climb here is relentless as it follows along the cascading run-off down low and eventually into the high Montane Meadows up high. The mountain flowers are in bloom and are really stunning. Purple, red, yellow, white, lavender, orange.. a huge kaleidoscope of color. As we make our way towards the big field where Hopeless Aid is on race day, we spot a group of about 6 runners hanging around. They started an hour earlier then us and seemed to be chatting it up. We say hello, talk a bit about the race and then carry on. We pass where Hopeless is, then make our way into the open and wind up the switchbacks towards the top of the pass. At this point, members of that group of six come running past us on their way up to the pass. Unbelievable at just shy of 13,000′.
Just below the summit we hit the only snowfield up there. We walked all of 10 feet across the snow that was maybe a foot deep. It’s watermelon snow at this point, called that because of the red algae that grows on top of the rotting mass. After this we top out on the pass and take a few photos of each other and soak in the views. This place always leaves me speechless. Words cannot describe the view.. it’s heavenly. Quickly we put our heads down and bomb down the other side of the pass. The 2+ miles down to the bottom of the mountain is brutal. We pounded our quads into submission. We were passed by another runner who was running downhill.. he then passed us again while on his way back up. We also saw another runner on his way back up.. as we continued down. On the road, we walked our way into winfield aid station where we sat next to the river and filtered water back into our bladders and bottles.
We got back up after snacks and refills and ran down the dusty road and started to tackle the run back up and over hope. I say “run” loosely.. it’s brutal. Tim takes off ahead of me as he’s using hiking poles. He convinces me that I’ll need them on race day. I struggle in the back under a hot July sun. It;s a scorcher up here as the back of my neck gets more burnt from my time outside. I struggle to make my way back up. I get dizzy, nauseous, I try to vomit but nothing. Thankfully the higher we get the more the breeze kicks in. I remember to take breaks in the turns of the switchbacks to let my heart rate come back down. I snap photos of the view, some columbines.. and then eventually I plop my rear down in the alpine grasses at the top of the pass as we watch rain clouds sail on by over the Mosquito Range (Mount Sherman Area).
From here we pour it on again as we hammer down back to Twin Lakes. The 6 miles back to the river takes us under an hour. And when we reach the waters edge, we cross to the other side, take our packs off and literally sit in the ice cold water until our legs go numb. It felt so wonderful. After about 10 minutes in the river, we pick ourselves up and try to find our way back to the car. We get lost a few times again but eventually we get there. It was the PERFECT day for a training run up and over the pass. I’m ready for this race. I ended up running 177 miles in July. This is the most miles I’ve run in training over the last 3 years and it’s the most I’ve run in one month in over 2 years. I’m psyched. I feel great and I’m down to 165 pounds for the first time since 2009. My legs are ready, With three weeks till race day.. it’s taper time. I have a lot of hope for this years race.. 30 Hours to finish, tough cut-offs… Redemption is mine…