Daybreak coming up the first climb at 11000 feet.
As most of you all know one of the highlights of my running is helping others get to their dreams and goals. One of the ways I can do this is through pacing. This past weekend was Swede's last hard run before the Leadville 100 in 3 weeks. So I left the course and distance up to him.  And in true Swede fashion he delivered an incredible run.

We met at our usually time of 4am on Saturday morning and started our ride to the Indian Wilderness area close to Ward, CO. The mindset was to do the Pawnee and Buchanan Pass and maybe throw in Audobon for good measure. Chris, Steph, and I arrived at the TH at 5:15 and the place was half full. Looks like we are not the only ones hitting the loop. Trail runners started popping out of cars everywhere like Wak-A-Mole. Talking to others we decided to add a few to our group and we were off.

From the start I could tell Swede and Steph meant business. Swede was in the mindset to push the pace. I was in the mindset to sweep the course...nice and easy. Elevation was climbing and the sun was rising...what an incredible sight!!!

First turn comes...and goes...as Swede ran right by it. Ever heard to saying "if you friends jumped off a bridge would you follow?"? Well that was me...I ran right by the turn which I knew and just kept rolling up the mountain. Back tracking is always fun on loose footing...

As we made our way towards Buchanan Pass the trail descended for a while and was very nice rolling areas. I was carrying my trekking poles (which I love, http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/mountain/trekking-poles/distance-trekking-pole) in hand and really enjoyed this area.

As we approached the climb to Buchanan Pass I could tell this was going to be a great day of running. The climb was tough but very doable especially with poles. At the top we took a minute to take it all in. We were all feeling good after the initial climb and ready to roll. As we were there Swede pointed out the clouds in the valley that were below us. We were around 12000 feet and the clouds we under us...that was an incredible view.

Now...let me start by saying I have ran in some incredible places before but this next section was one of the best. We come off Buchanan Pass and the trail drops into a beautiful valley full of wildflowers. They were EVERYWHERE. I almost fell a few times looking at them as the trail took us back to tree line. That was one of the memorable areas I have ever ran. As Swede and Steph pushed the tempo through the next section I was just smiling and having the time of my life. That is when I happened...I came around a corner and Steph was standing in the trail holding her hands over her head. I thought either the Clif Shots and elevation is making her crazy or there was an animal with horns around the corner. Turned out she was not crazy and there was a BIG moose standing there. I never knew how big those animals were until now. They looked like a horse with antlers and I wanted to keep my distance. No trying to ride the fuzzy tractor today...

The next areas went by fairly quick and we ran into our friend Rob Howard who was running the loop as well but the other direction. We chatted for a few and were off. Rob was running his last run before taper as well. What is up with everyone looking strong but me?

We get to the last climb of the day and had no idea what to expect. We entered into this "bowl" where the mountains were jagged and straight up. Hmmmmm...where does the trail go? The climb was around 6 miles and 4000 feet up. Oh yeah...this is going to be fun. As I approached the major incline I asked a hiker how far we had to go to top out. He replied "don't worry about distance just try not to fall off". Rather odd at the time but made sense later. The climb was grueling but still walkable. At one point early on I looked up this jagged edge and could see movement. Not knowing what it was at the time I quickly learned it was people hitting the switchbacks. Even going up the trail I had no idea where we were going. FINALLY we top out at 12500 feet and at the Continental Divide. Oh that felt so good as my quads were on fire and poor Steph was going to puke. Swede on the other and was looking smooth and fresh...damn you. We know now the down was coming.

Now something to note about Steph...she is crazy. She runs technical downhill like it is road. Hopefully today with her jacked up stomach I could keep her insight. We BOMBED the downhill the next 5 miles. It was so awesome seeing others hiking up and we were killing the down. We got the "freaking nuts" look...you know the look!!!

Back to the car we called it a day. Steph had just put in one of her longest runs ever, Swede was cruising all day and looked really focused and in shape, and I was feeling good as well. We all were smiling and if you can end smiling that is a good thing. We finished around 28 miles and 7600 feet vertical climb. That took me to 100 miles even with 21600 feet vertical climb for the week.

Swede is ready to roll and I am VERY honored to be there with him as he crosses new bridges in his life. Leadville 100 here we come...
Topping out on Buchanan Pass with the clouds below us.
Our "friend" on the trail.

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