Even after a wrong turn, David Roche knocked a whopping eight minutes off the course record, and was the first runner ever to break the two-hour mark, coming in at 1:58:03.
Was this your first time doing the Leadville Heavy Half? Why did you pick this race?
I actually raced three years ago, in 2010. I was very new to running back then, but had heard so much about Leadville that I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. Trudging up Mosquito Pass, it was very clear what caused all of that fuss – Leadville is beautiful, the people are awesome, and the race is one-of-a-kind. I finished in 2:11 that year. I think I went 13 minutes faster this year because I had the added motivation of getting to the post-race beer 13 minutes sooner.
Take us through your race. What was your secret to record-breaking success on Saturday?
I had two general thoughts going through my head (both in all caps) during the race: “PLEASE LET ME REACH THE TOP SOON! I CANNOT BREATHE!” followed shortly thereafter by “WHEEEEEEEEE!” On the way up, I tried to conserve energy. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn about four miles in (which is totally my fault – I would turn right during a NASCAR race). During the off-course excursion, I was passed by an awesome fellow racer named Kyle O’Brien. I followed his footsteps to the top of Mosquito Pass, at which point I took off the brakes and tried to impersonate a runaway tractor-trailer. The descent was tons of fun, the other racers were really supportive, and the volunteers gave me extra bursts of energy. Due to the whole runaway tractor-trailer thing, I could only respond with wheezes that sounded like a broken transmission, but I was able to string together some faster miles near the end (around 4:50 on the second-to-last).
Tell us about your trail racing (or other racing) background.
I won the 2012 USA 10km Trail National Championships and am sponsored by INOV-8 running shoes. Everyone should buy 100 pairs. Otherwise, I just love being outside and meeting awesome people. And eating. I love eating.
Which do you prefer: Climbing or descending, and why?
I prefer descending because it hurts SO MUCH LESS. Especially at 13,000 feet. Although, typing this after a few days where walking was difficult, I realize that the pain of descending is a bit delayed. However, applying principles of discounting, the delayed pain is totally better. Note: I know nothing about economics.
The Leadville course is pretty technical. What is your advice for keeping speed, but doing it safely?
I think going down is all about letting go of inhibitions. Umm…that didn’t come out like I was planning. What I mean is that you have to let go of worries, open up your hips, and forget about things like stride rate or form. Instead, treat it more like a game. I loved the course so much because it gave me a few miles to impersonate a little kid, jumping down a mountain with a big smile.
Also, it helps to have a complete disregard for the wellbeing of your ankles.
What’s next on your race agenda? Will we see you at any other Leadville Race Series events this year?
I am making it up as I go along, but would love to be in Leadville again. The town is amazing, and the race directors put on epic events. That being said, I am not nearly epic enough for some of the Leadville Race Series events. I mean, Leadman/Leadwoman? I might be able to run a half marathon pretty quickly, but those men and women are 100 times stronger than I’ll ever be.