TRAIL STOKE: No Trail-Race Plans? Go Virtual
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At the behest of my friends Dave Mackey and Bob Africa, I signed up for the Leadman endurance competition two years ago.
And it was one of the hardest—and most excruciatingly fun—events I’ve ever done.
If you’re not familiar with Leadman (or Leadwoman), it’s a summer-long series of events that unites most of the events of the Leadville Racing Series. Once you sign up, you have to commit to five of the six main events (or all six, if you’re a monster like Mackey) in the Leadville Race Series.
I ran the Leadville Trail Marathon, completed the Silver Rush 50 and Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike races and concluded with the Leadville 10K (one of the hardest events in the series, given that it’s the day after the 100-mile mountain-bike ride). Then, still exhausted and fatigued a week later, I finished the Leadville Trail 100 run. (Mackey, being the warhorse that he is, crushed me in every event and even added the Silver Rush 50 run, but I expected him to beat me, even while running on a prosthetic.) It was an amazing and grueling summer-long adventure that included 53 total hours of competition time, and yet, I wished it didn’t have to end.
It was an amazing and grueling summer-long adventure that included 53 total hours of competition time, and yet, I wished it didn’t have to end.
What’s been even more fun for me in recent years is pacing, crewing and volunteering at the Leadville races. Three years ago, I ran 23 miles with Gina Lucrezi and helped her get over the daunting Powerline section in the middle of the night. Last year I paced good friend Martin Schneekloth about 40 miles of the 100-mile run, which was part of his amazing quest to finish the six-race Last Great Race series.
I was hoping to pace or crew other friends and volunteer this year, but, alas, as we know, trail racing isn’t happening much in 2020. The entire Leadville Race Series was canceled for 2020 because of the threat of coronavirus how it could devastate the Leadville community.
What’s the next best thing? While there are plenty of adventure runs and peaks to bag, virtual races and challenges offer a real goal to aim for and, often, provide a chance to raise some money for charity. Before you roll your eyes of scoff at the idea, understand that the competitions and challenges are virtual, but the running is very real.
While there are plenty of adventure runs and peaks to bag, virtual races and challenges offer a real goal to aim for and, often, provide a chance to raise some money for charity. Before you roll your eyes of scoff at the idea, understand that the competitions and challenges are virtual, but the running is very real.
The key is that you can go out and run trails to achieve the goals of the virtual races and challenges. So far, I’ve already participated in the Kahtoola Virtual Run to Benefit Havasupai Tribe and Boulder’s Front Door Classics to benefit Boulder County businesses amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
I just signed up for the Leadville 100,000FT Challenge, a series of individual and two-person team run and/or ride virtual tasks that require participants to log 100,000 feet of vertical gain while running between June 13 and August 22, the day this year’s Leadville 100 run was supposed to happen.
How am I going to get 100K of vert? I’m not sure, honestly, but I better get crackin’! That’s roughly the equivalent of running up 25 of Colorado’s 14ers! The good news is that you don’t have to live in Colorado to join the challenge. You can run your vert wherever you want and wherever you can. And best of all, there’s a component where you can contribute to one of two charities that benefit the Leadville community.
There are plenty of other chances to run virtual races this summer, including those offered by Destination Trail Run events, Pacific Coast Trail Runs, Trail Running Over Texas and, of course, the second edition of the Quarantine Backyard Ultra on July 11. You can also enjoy the Virtual Trail Running Film Festival in the comfort of your own home. And if you really want to an amazing virtual experience, consider joining the Chamonix Virtual Tour offered by Run the Alps.
Who knows what the future will bring for trail runners, but for now we have to do the best with what we have. And as of today, I’ve got my work cut out for me.