NOTE: Open post and then Single Click On first Post Photo to view an album in a more detailed, larger format...

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Self Flagellation: Leon Tackles Silverton's Revered Alpine Mountain Marathon

"If we go all in for something and...fail, we...question our self worth. But "failure" is a pathway, not a problem...a pathway to self growth."  Megan Janssen, Editor of Trail Runner Magazine.

Anyone who sets goals is well acquainted with failure. The only people that never fail, are the ones who fail to set goals.  

My pal Leon is a goal-setter; maybe not your kind of goal-setter but a goal-setter nonetheless. In my humble opinion—and by "humble," I mean that he routinely humbles my ego every time we race—I would go so far as to say he's a high achiever. Yes, I'm talking physical. But I believe Leon is cut from the cloth of achievement, such that whatever he puts his mind to pretty much gets done. Instead of just talking about doing something big, wild, crazy, Leon does the hard, often tedious work (think a million "baby steps) it takes to accomplish his goals.

You might say that a career with the U.S. Post Office pushed Leon into a life of "exercising." How else does one maintain their sanity when working for a prime example of Governmental Inefficiency...at least when he worked there. Leon had to learn to keep his mouth shut and his "better ideas" to himself. So he took to "the pavement," so to speak, running and biking oh-so-many decades ago, until it became a habit...something he couldn't live without.

Leon trained, worked his mileage up, and finally entered a Marathon race. It nearly killed him, but it also made him feel good, deep down inside. So he entered another, and another and another. His times improved, but more than that he enjoyed the like-minded camaraderie and knocking back a few post-race beers with fellow racers. 

Somewhere early on in his newfound source of joy, Leon put it out there that he had a goal of running 100 marathons. One Hundred! He just finished number 91, a tough son-of-a-bitch, to boot:  Silverton's Alpine Marathon.                             

Brochure Teaser:  In the 50 Kilometer and Marathon (~26.7 Mile) loop in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. The course follows the “Alpine Loop” jeep roads past the ghost mining towns of Howardsville, Eureka, Animas Forks and Gladstone. High point is California Pass at 12,930 feet!

And if a 50K or Marathon is not enough elevation gain...

Spend the weekend in Silverton testing your endurance limits! Sign up for the Mountain Duo Challenge: Race the 12 Mile Kendall Mountain Run on Saturday, and then keep living the Steep Life by running either the Silverton Alpine Marathon or 50K on Sunday!

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.  T.S. Eliot

Can you spot Leon???

As Leon's lead photographer and cheerleader, I had some time and an appetite to kill in Silverton. A humungous egg, sausage and potato breakfast burrito...only $7.95 at The Bear. 

I eventually caught up with Leon while he was still running "the flats," meaning ...it wasn't vertical yet :)  Lot of avalanche debris had to be plowed from the course...and, of course, snow!

You're on your own when crossing creeks. Expect wet feet. 
More photos from along the course below...

The county didn't get all the avalanche snow plowed up towards California Pass. This is where I had to park and hoof it...

There comes Pal Leon!  He doing great, not that far behind some considerably younger runners and way ahead of some too!  Go Leon, GO!!!

Young ones, eating Leon's dust...or should I say "mud?"

Time for me to head back down. Below are sights along the course...

Back down in elevation... nearing Silverton in the far distance at the foot of Kendall Mountain. Unbelievably, a number of entrants raced the "Duo," the 12 mile Kendall Mountain run (13,500 feet) on Saturday, followed by the marathon AND/OR   50 K on Sunday.  Whew. Got more lungs than sense :)

I reversed course around the mountain in order to meet Leon coming down from California Pass. Just beyond Corkscrew Gulch Road (Jeep trail), I reached a shelf of rock and loose soil. Sue Bee wanted to go for it but I over-ruled her and turned around. 

You can see the road to California Pass in the above photo...marked by a straight-ish line of plowed snow at the foot of Hurricane Mountain just right of center. The road doesn't show up well, so I inserted a photo below...taken from a hike Bobbie and I did a couple days later. It has a better perspective as we were higher...trying to summit Red Mountain One.

Top Arrow points to California Pass, Leon's high point at just under 13,000 feet, which reflects 3,560 feet of elevation gain from Silverton. Only 10 quad-crippling down-hill miles to the finish line from California Pass. The hardest part, most participants will tell you.

I headed back to the finish line to watch racers from both the Marathon and the 50 K come in...

The gal in the above and below photos is Lucy...a 23 year-old from Melborne, Australia. She's one of "those" who ran the Kendall Mountain Race from Silverton to Kendall's peak...and back down...the day before running the 50 K race, you know, just as a warm-up jaunt. Lucy placed 3rd woman overall in Silverton. She also competed in the Western States 100 mile ultra, placing 11th in her class this year and 3rd last year. "I'm having an off year," she says humbly, with her cute Aussie accent.  (Sigh...)

Just about the time I began to worry about Pal Leon, he came trotting toward the finish line...

The first words out of his mouth were apologetic, that I had to wait so long for him to finish. I told him to shut the fuck up and gave him a bear hug...then began to cart food and drink from the aid stand. He was wasted. It took a while for him to "come around." 

Over beer and pizza at Colorado Boy Brewery in Ouray, Leon struggled to come to grips with his slower-than-expected time...as if it was some kind of "failure." We all know that just finishing such a race is a monumental achievement. But he had trained so hard and long, sometimes at altitude, to the degree that he felt sure he could take an hour off his last time. 

But Mountains are made from emotionless, cruel, inorganic stones. They will break you. They don't care a whit about all your plans and all your training. On any given day, they are more in control than you are...and the sooner you realize that the wiser you become.  

Over time, I hope Leon evolves to a more realistic perspective. I mean, at 64 years of age, in a race with 3500 + feet of elevation gain and loss, to come in 6 minutes faster than his last time, 7 years ago?  Most could only wish to fail so miserably. 

Congrats on finishing...on fighting through dehydration and stomach cramps and leg cramps and demons of doubt. In a different sort of way, Leon is a true hero. He just finished marathon number 91, baby, inching closer to his goal of 100. 

If you think Leon will stop there...be satisfied when he reaches that magic 100 mark...then you are missing the point and purpose of living a goal-setting life. The thing about living a goal-setting life is that they are not content with success. Nope, they aim higher or in a different direction or both following achieving a long sought goal. They go right back out, try to shave a few seconds off a previous Personal Best or climb some obscure peak. Their lives are never boring. Every day brings a new challenge...it's what gets them out of bed every morning.

Only a fool would bet against Leon achieving his goal of 100 marathons. Like astronauts, he's got "the right stuff."  I hope to be at the finish line cheering him on when he reaches that goal of 100. 

Now back to training, Pal: When's our next training race up to Yankee Boy Basin? 

‘’The most dangerous thing you can do in life is play it safe.’’ Casey Neistat

In the mountains, you are sometimes invited, sometimes tolerated, and sometimes told to go home.”  Fred Beckey

Peace out,
Mark...and Leon


  1. Way to go Leon and thanks Mark for the race coverage!

  2. The course was beautiful! wish I had been there to give Leon a great big hug!

  3. Nice write-up and kudos to Leon. But the gratuitous and knee-jerk bad mouthing of the USPS is a cheap shot. I know it's been fashionable to bash government since, oh, the Reagan Administration, but look where that's gotten us. Informed critiques are welcome, but throw-away lines for a cheap joke are beneath you, or should be.

    1. Rebuke Accepted: Just relating what I was told by the guy who worked there. Of course not all Post Offices are the same...and I should have said something positive to go along with the negative...like the decent and somewhat early retirement that gives Leon all the time he needs to chase marathons all around the good ole USA.

  4. Ye'll old Leon is Dammed Amazing for sure and you did a great job covering all of it Mark, you even made Silverton look sweet

    What a beautiful day it was , would have loved to been there; and Rocky loves that little park and last year someone had left a soccer ball and we three had the best time playing our own version of that game until Rocky's canine teeth ended the fun, oh boy somebody was not happy the next day, glad we had no spectators.

    1. Thanks Sonoma Pals...That's some high altitude "football," eh? I bet Rocky didn't even notice :)

  5. Congrats to Leon! I had several friends race that and the Kendall Mountain Run this year ... looked like a fun event.

    1. There were some elite runners there, and first overall in the men's 50 k broke the course record by several minutes!!! I took several days off after all of my Kendall runs :)
      thanks, mark

  6. I love your blog. I am so glad I found it. Pictures are gorgeous. Your adventures are right up my alley, down to the bad knees ,and love for CO and AZ. Go Leon....!

    1. Thanks Dodie. Always nice to hear from kindred spirits. Cheers and keep on truckin'

  7. Just saw this post. Congrats, Leon! No doubt he will reach his 100 marathon goal.

    1. Maybe more :)
      I'll tell him you said "congrats."


If you like reading blog posts...from any blogger...consider leaving a "tip" in the form of a "comment" to the author, lest the blog might disappear from perceived lack of interest.