Race: Leadville Trail Marathon

Runner: Matt Urbanski

Race Date: 06/15/2019

Location: Leadville, CO

Results: 7th OA; 3:20:21

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/2456167406

leadville trail marathon
Pierre, Jeff, Zach, and me, all after the finish. Love the Team RunRun representation!

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • It’s a cool racing environment. Oftentimes, trail races are small (and that’s cool too), but this one had 1500+ starters between the full and the half, and that made for a bigger feeling race atmosphere.
  • It’s a fast course. It’s not really trail in the sense of single track or technical, but the dirt and paved roads definitely enabled us to all move more quickly, even with the elevation.
  • It has the opportunity to win your way into the Leadville 100. I wasn’t thinking about doing the 100 back in December when they had the lottery, but by June, I was wanting to do the big race, and having the chance to win my way in was cool!

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

There was a bear on course! It was in the second half on an uphill and I could tell something was going on b/c people were peering off the side of the road and had phones out taking photos. I overheard something about a bear, and later saw a story online confirming it! Pretty cool that you have a bear as a spectator for your trail marathon!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I managed my race well. I was pushing hard the entire time but never went over the edge or blew up. Steady, strong, good early season racing. I also won a gold coin for the 100.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • This year was an odd year given all the snow. We were not on the regular course. We didn’t go to Mosquito Pass at over 13,000′. We topped out at 11,700, totally fine by me, but I say all this as a disclaimer that my course knowledge may not be super helpful for future racing years.
  • Some pro-tips nonetheless: hold back a little early. The altitude is real and while it affects people differently, being about 10,000′ for the entire race is a challenge.
  • More people walk the hills later in the run. If you manage your race well, you can make up lots of ground if you’re still running later in the race. I moved up a spot on the final little hill b/c a guy in front of me was walking.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Be confident in not pushing super hard early. There are plenty of chances to make up ground on this course.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Dirt roads are faster than normal trail – be ready to move! Also, if they ever do this course again, the climb up toward Sherman (the final big climb) and the final little pop in the last few miles are both a grind! That last one with just a few miles to go was especially hard, and thankfully I caught someone on the hill which kept me moving well. Spend most of your energy on the final climb and then fly down into town for the finish!

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

I love being out in these mountains – be it on roads, trails, or dirt roads. Great to be in the mountains with snow and beauty all around!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yes. The times were fast this year b/c of the easier course, but still, 4k of vert, all about 10k’ elevation = challenging!

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Lifetime has it down. Everything went smoothly, fun race, well organized.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Reasonably strong. No Jim Walmsleys, but a fast and deep race nonetheless.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Easy, straightforward. The race did sell out, but not until a week or two before. Hotels aren’t plentiful or amazing in Leadville. We thankfully have a good friend who lives there and helped us out, so we could jog the start line as our warm up! Lots of hotel options in Silverthorne, which is about 40 minutes drive away.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The actually were handing out cups of water and were ready like in a road marathon. I took advantage of this and never had to refill my 500ml soft flask once. I fueled with my own gels the rest of the way so didn’t scope out their selections apart from the water.

Weather and typical race conditions

Sunny, warm, chance of storms. And this year, lots of snow still in the mountains, though none on the course.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Waist belt with soft flask, Nike Kiger trail shoes, WAA tight shirt with pockets, and my Salomon shorts with pockets. And sunglasses!

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Yes! There are spots a spectator could be and we had good cheers throughout. We also had 3 out and back sections which led to lots of camaraderie among runners.

How’s the Swag?

Solid. Tech t-shirt, a finisher medal, and the gold coin for the 100 qualifier = cool!

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 out of 5. Good race, well run, challenging. And I’m now doing the Leadville 100! Woohoo!

Matt Urbanski is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Matt, check out his coaching page.

leadville trail marathon
Me and Jeff showing off our gold coins, our ticket to the Leadville 100!