Thursday, November 8, 2018

Leadville 100 Again. Quest for the Big Buckle !!

Last year, Leadville was my first 100 miler.

I covered the history of the race in last year's report (you can see it here), so won't repeat it - but essentially it's a high altitude race, run through the Rocky Mountains, with most of the race run above 10,000 feet in altitude.  Runners cover about 15,000 foot of climbing and the same descending, on an out and back course, running from the town of Leadville, over Hope Pass at 12,600 feet, to the small mining town of Winfield, and then back.

Billy Yang did a great video about the 'Why' of running 100 miles, at Leadville in 2017, which, as well as talking about why people run 100 miles, it also gives you some idea of the course and terrain.  You can see that video here.

That video was also a good reminder that a 100 miler is hard, and that there will be low points.

Anton Krupicka, a 2 time Leadville winner, was interviewed and said the following.

"The low points in a 100 mile race,  
I try to remind myself this was why I signed up for the event. 
To be challenged
To get to a point where it's not easy anymore.
Where I don't feel like I can finish maybe.
But then find something internal where you're able to overcome a challenge.
Remind myself that it's going to be a lot more rewarding than if I just quit."

So true.

I had some low points the previous year, but held it together and finished in 26 hours, 12 minutes and received the ‘smaller buckle’ (25-30 hours).

I was very happy to have ‘run Leadville’, and swore at the finish that I'd never run it again.

Too painful.  Nothing to prove.

But then, as is want to happen, I started to think of the mistakes I'd made.  Things I felt I could have done better.  I was only 72 minutes outside of sub 25 hours for the big buckle.  If I got things right, maybe I could make that time back ?

So my 'never again' turned into 'next year'.  I received my entry in December

9 months to plan the race and get things right.

The Plan

- Strengthen quads, and improve technical descending.  The downhills had been my undoing in 2017.  I was timid and slow going down the technical sections, and towards the end of the race, my quads were totally shot and I could barely run.

- Improve nutrition - I bonked last year from not consuming enough calories.  Figure out ways to get in the calories.

- Don't mess around in aid stations - get in, and get out.  The clock is ticking.

- Better mental training.  Believe in myself more, have fun as I'm running, and smile !  Attitude plays such an important role in how you handle adversity.

- Improved equipment.  Lighter shoes, and better headlamp.

My 2018 running calendar was all about Leadville.

I skipped Boston to concentrate on trails to improve my technical descending skills, and also strengthen the quads.

The first half of the year went well.  I got in a lot of trails, even winning a small scale trail marathon near San Francisco.  But then June happened.  I got a hip injury, that morphed into a hamstring problem.

I had to bail on 2 races, and drop out of another.   I ran very few miles in June, and 6 weeks before the race, I was seriously considering deferring until 2019.

Then things started to improve.  With intensive PT, ART, Dry Needling, and the kitchen sink, I was able to get in 4 weeks of decent mileage.

I realized nothing was guaranteed.  If I could run the race this year, then it was probably better to take that opportunity.  Who knows what shape I'd be in 2019.  By the time I toed the line, I 'd run 1900 miles and had 135,000 feet of climbing in the legs for 2018.

Speaking of toes.

3 nights before the race I had a scare.  Packing at home in my bare feet, I kicked the corner of a table and badly stubbed my toe.  That night it got really painful and I couldn’t walk.  I went to bed convinced I’d broken my toe and my race was over.  Urgent care x-ray the next morning showed that nothing was broken and that I couldn’t do any more damage running on it

I'm going to Leadville !!!

The mandatory pre-race meeting the day before is always fun, with founder Ken Chlouber hyping everyone up.

I stood and committed not to quit.  

I was staying on my own, so after the meeting went back to my room and just chilled.  Made myself an early dinner, and tried to go to bed at 7pm.

Not easy to do with an over-active mind, but with a 2:20am alarm call, an early night was required.

Race Plan

Leadville is an out and back, mostly on the trails, with a variety of ups and downs through the race.

On the map, it leaves Leadville, loops around Turquoise Lake, then heads south towards Twin Lakes, skimming the side of Mt Elbert, before going over the big climb - Hope Pass - down to the turnaround at Winfield, and then back.

My crew chief from 2017 had a new baby to occupy her, and because I felt I knew the course pretty well, I decided to go with more of a 'drop bag' approach and not have a full crew.

This meant I had to plan out where on the course I'd need jackets, headlamps, gloves, various levels of nutrition, shoe changes etc - and put those in the bags accordingly.

I studied my splits from the previous year, where I'd run well, where I hadn't, and came up with an optimistic A-Goal of 24 hours.  Try and finish Leadville in less than a day.   I 'only' needed sub 25 hours for the big buckle, but I wanted a stretch goal to aim for.  It would be 2 hours and 12 mins faster than 2017.

A stretch, but not impossible.  And if I didn't make it, I had an hour of wiggle room to get below 25 hours for the big buckle.

Race Morning

2:20am alarm.  Ambien fueled ‘sleep’, but I didn’t feel too bad.  Got myself ready, then drove to the start line and parked a few blocks away.  Fortunately Leadville is a pretty laid back town.  Leaving a car parked on the street for 24 hours+ is okay.

I walked up the hill to the start line.  A buzz.  Met and chatted to some friends.  Sean, Jarrod, Phil, Christy, Andrew, Ryan.

More relaxed this year, although wanting to start a smidge faster.

National anthem, count down - and we’re off.  Realization - you're running the Leadville 100 again !!

START.  4am

A lot of people dressed in jackets for the mid 40 degree temps, but as I had last year, I went with just a technical short sleeve shirts, shorts, arm panties, gloves, beanie and cheap headlamp that only needed to last until the sun came up around 6am.  Road shoes.  2 handhelds - 700 ml each, 1 water, 1 paedaealite.

Heading out of town in the dark, I found myself running with Sean and Jarrod - goofing around.  Jarrod showed us a full moon twice over the first few miles.  Something I can never unsee.

I was trying to take it easy, with a goal to pick off runners throughout the race after the first aid station.

4 miles in,  I realized I was running with Wes Sandoval, which made me nervous.

He’d run sub 20 before and had the all-time Leadman record (Leadman is another level of crazy - details here).  I’d run up Hope Pass a few weeks earlier with him and his brother.  He said he wasn’t feeling good, so I pensively pushed on ahead of him.

It's hard to judge in those early miles.  The pace feels easy, but you don't want to go too quickly.

Off the jeep path onto the trails

Up mini power line, a short, sharp, hill, that I’d really struggled on last year on the return leg.

Onto the single track around the lake.

As last year, there were times when I got caught up in a conga line in the dark behind a slower runner who’d started too fast, and was now holding everyone up on the slightly more technical trails.

Nothing to do.  Overtaking was hard.  Don't waste energy, or risk a fall.

Drinking fluid.  Making a conscious effort to finish the bottles before the first aid station.

Ate a gel, had a pee.

Talking to people around me (not while I was peeing).  Trying to distract myself and make it into a group fun run.   It's going to be a long day.  Or two.

The dark turned to a grey light, then lighter, until we could see without the headlamps.

Off the single track, onto a short road into May Queen, the first aid station.  Picked it up and overtook the blockers.

MAY QUEEN.  12 miles.
107th (out of 713 starters)
2017: 6:09am
A-Goal: 6:05am
Actual:  6:03am

Last year I’d been confused, wondering if I should use my drop bag or crew.  No dilemma this time.  No crew.  I got my drop bag, and had the volunteer help me fill my bottles.  Thanks.

Glugged an ensure.  The first of many.  350 calories in 2 gulps.  This was my main nutrition plan.  Take them at every aid station, and more the second half.  I'd been able to keep them down pretty well last year, so hoped the same thing would hold true this year.

Grabbed some more gels.  Headlamp and arm panties off.  Kept hat and gloves.  And out.  2 minutes.

Leaving May Queen you run through a crowd of crews and supporters waiting for their runners.

I saw a couple of friends in the crowd.

Yanko, the legend, waved and smiled.

Chris, who'd starting his own running store the previous year, gave me some good natured ribbing about my running shirt - the race team from another store - and then back onto the trails.

Up now.   Paying attention.  Coming back last year, this had been one of my slowest miles of the race as I stumbled down the rock strewn trail.  It didn’t seem too bad in the light, although there were definitely patches where I had to stop to clamber up rocks, and plenty of walking too.

Up, up and then onto a jeep path.  Music on.  Last year I’d purposely held back a bit here, but this year I wanted to try and make up a bit more time.

Because - you know - banking time works in races, right ?  I was still being pretty conservative.  I could definitely had gone faster.  I walked a lot of the uphill when I wanted to run it.  Walk before you have to.

Beautiful views.  Try to take them in.  Be thankful that you can be out here doing this again.  Positive mental attitude.

Getting close to the point I fell last year.  That came out of the blue.  Concentrate and be aware of your surroundings.  Pick up your feet.  Watch the ground.

At the top of Powerline.  A 4 mile descent, that would be the last major hill coming back tonight.  1,500 foot down.

(here's a great YouTube video to give you an idea of what running down Powerline is like - and also an idea of what you're going up again in pitch darkness)

Such a difference.  This was the 5th time I was running down it.  The first time, a year ago at run camp, I’d been incredibly pensive, barely able to run 9 min / mile pace down the steep pitch.  Today I had to try and hold back, often seeing 7 min/pace on the watch.

Although be careful.  Last year I thought I probably shot my quads going down here.

Trying to take smaller pitty pat strides to reduce the load.  Over-striding on a downhill will beat you up.

Putting in practice the descending skills I'd been learning over the winter.

But it felt so easy. I was overtaking most people around me, so I stopped for another pee to prevent a sub 7 min mile...

Onto the flat and the road.

Now going a little slower.  A Canadian guy overtook me.  The first time I'd been overtaken since the first few miles.  We chatted briefly, asking where the next aid station was.  “About a mile” - 2 run camps and running the race last year - I knew the course.  Easy to visualize.

To improve nutrition, I’d read the Feedzone Edibles book over the winter.  I’d heard good things about it, so had made some rice cakes.  They tasted great at home, so I was hopefully they’d work for me during the race.  Give me something solid to eat.

OUTWARD BOUND.  24 miles.
87th place.  20 places gained.
2017: 8:14am
A-Goal: 8:10am
Actual:  8:02am

I was 12 minutes up on last year and 8 minutes up on my A-goal.  But it's early.  I wasn't checking the splits at the time, just knew ball park that I was on track.

Into Outward Bound aid station.  Again - straight to the drop bag.  Glugged ensure, glugged some Gatorade, filled handhelds - grabbed one of the rice cakes I’d made.  Beanie off, visor on, but kept the gloves.  3 minutes tops.

Out away from the support.  Through the miserable field.  Last year I’d run the next section pretty well, but I’d had to walk in the field, so I made a conscious effort to keep going and not walk there.  Make up small chunks of time.

Storm clouds brewing behind me.

I tried to eat the rice cake, but it was too dry and quickly glued up in my mouth.  So much for that idea… I threw it down for some lucky animal to eat.  Although it may not have liked the cayenne and curry powder I'd included :)

Out onto the road briefly for a mile, then back to the trail - starting heading up.  Someone telling me ‘it’s all downhill to Twin Lakes’.  Bullshit it is !!  It’s all uphill to the Mt Elbert aid station.

Through the alternative crew zone.  Thinking of the Billy Yang movie where he stopped there last year, then pranced out.  No prancing for me, but I was slowly overtaking folks around me, although it suddenly felt harder than last year.

Hopefully you haven’t gone out too quickly.  The 10 mins you're ahead - that’s not worth blowing yourself up.

Storm clouds continuing to build on the nearby peaks of the 14ers, including Elbert.  Hold off rain - I’ll put my jacket on at Twin.  I promise.

HALF PIPE.  29 miles.
77th place.  10 places gained.
2017: 9:19am
A-Goal: 9:15am
Actual:  9:00am

A few more minutes gained.  15 minutes up on the A-Goal, and 19 mins ahead of last year.

Into Half Pipe aid station. Rain still holding off.  This was the last drop bag until Twin Lakes, 11 miles away.  Normal routine, glugged an ensure, glugged gatorade, filled handhelds

Asked the volunteers ‘is it going to rain’ - ‘yes - but not until later today’.  

Hesitated for a moment, seeing a spare rain jacket in my drop bag.  Take it !  No - it’s extra weight that I won’t need if it’s not raining.

Decide to push on.  It’s just 11 miles to Twin - I’ll put one on then.

Half a mile out of the aid station - it started raining.

Others around me pulled out jackets.  Not me, because I was stupid.  Turn back and get it ?  Heck no.  You'd lose too much time.  Nothing to do but suck it up.  You’d rather have rain than heat, right ?...


A female runner, Muriel, caught me and chatted.  She was bubbly, and said she was feeling good.  Looking forward to seeing her husband to pace her back over Hope.  I told her that would be a good test of the marriage !!  :)

She was pushing faster than I wanted to go, so I wished her well and let her go.  Starting to struggle more.  The 2nd person to overtake me.

Gradual climbing, into the trees, getting wet and cold as the rain picked up.  I wasn't feeling good.  I have 70 miles to go

How can I do this ?

The enormity of the task setting in.  This is miserable. I’m not having fun.

Maybe I can quit at Twin Lakes ?  That’s 40 miles in.  You wouldn’t need to do Hope Pass then.  The longest you've run this year is 26 miles.  No wonder you're struggling.  This isn't going to happen.

Wait - your son will be at Twin Lakes.  That’s not a good example to set.   "Son - watch me quit this 100 mile race at 40 miles.”

Ok - here's the deal.  It’s still 10 miles away - let's not worry now. Just keep going and try and get that far.  Last year you learned that things can change quickly.  Wait and see.  Remember what Anton said.  This is why you sign up for this thing, to be challenged.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.

So much of running a 100 is mental.  Trying to do my best to maintain a positive attitude.

Up to Elbert aid station (36 miles).  Didn’t bother stopping - I hadn’t been drinking much water in the cold, so still had plenty left to make it to Twin."

Running solo, now downhill.

Narrow paths - slick with the rain.  

I had to walk down several downhills for fear of slipping.  

Regretting wearing road shoes - I had no traction.  Slipping and almost falling multiple times in the mud.  Ugh.  

I ran past a hiker, just as the photographer took this, clearly showing his intelligent level of dress for the rainy conditions, and my level of stupid cold soak...

I felt like I was going slower than last year at this point.  Losing a lot of time because of the road shoes on the wet muddy trails, and my general malaise.  I’m probably behind now.  Meh.  So much for trying to pick up some time early.

Out of the single track trail, and onto the Jeep trail.  1.5 miles down to the big aid station where I knew I'd have people.

Catch a guy who asks how far the aid station is.  Hey - you’re English.  We chat for a few mins - he lives in Cornwall where my family used to take summer vacations as a kid.  Accomplished runner - he’d run UTMB as well.  Good stuff and a emotional lift for me from running solo for so long.  Felt a bit better.  Maybe I can keep going.

TWIN LAKES OUT.  40 miles.
74th place.  3 places gained.
2017: 11:02am
A-Goal: 10:55am
Actual:  10:45am

So I had lost a bit of time, but just 2 mins.   I was still 17 mins up on last year, and 10 mins ahead of my A-goal.  I hadn't expected to make up too much time to this point, although I knew I'd wasted time in this aid station last year.

The final steep clamber down, and then we were in Twin with all the hustle and bustle and crowds cheering.

Trevor was there and motioned for me to follow him.  I sat in the chairs at the aid station and got to work.

Gary, Krista and George were there too.  Quick photo.  The rain had stopped.  This was the lowest point elevation wise of the race.  9,200 feet.

I switched out of the road shoes and put on my inov-8 trail shoes.  Glugged another ensure, drank gatorade.  Refilled the handhelds.  I took a caffeine pill and some salt caps, and then put on another waist belt.  That had a water proof jacket in it, and also 2 more ensure shakes.  My rocket fuel.

I grabbed a honey sandwich that I’d made, and carried that out.  I’ll eat that on the big climb.  None of those rice cakes.

And then I was out.  Much quicker than last year.  My son, George,  ran with me as we went through the small town, and another friend - Sarah, who’d come 5th the previous year, appeared and ran and chatted for a few seconds as well.  

Across the road - and back onto the trails on my own again.

Last year I’d struggled coming out of Twin, so knew that if I kept going here, and was able to run to the lower slopes of Hope, I’d be making up more time.  So I did.

The water levels were much lower than the previous year, with only 2 crossings and no other ponds or streams to wade through.  Despite the gators I was wearing, I still managed to get stones in my shoes, so I stopped after the last crossing and took out the stones.  A hundred yards past that, I realized I’d dropped my sandwich as I’d emptied my shoe.  Oh well - no worries.  You have the ensures still.

And then I was onto the climb.  No more running - just hiking from here.

4 miles to climb 3,225 feet with an average pitch of 15%.

I was power hiking, with the occasional brief jog.  But faster than almost all around me.   Seeing runners appear ahead, slowly catch them, then past.  Repeat.

Drank another ensure.  Cramming in the calories.

Up up.

I knew this climb.  I’d done it a few weeks earlier with Christy and Andrew.  My 5th time.

It's a long grind, but knowing the various landmarks, I was able to check them off as I went.

It wasn’t intimidating, just something to get through.  A landmark in the race.  A right of passage.

Finally above tree line, there in the distance was the aid station with the lamas.  Tried to soak that in and smile.  Mental attitude plays so much of a factor.  Fake it until you make it.  Smile - you’re having fun, right ?!!

HOPE OUT.  45 miles.
61st place.  13 places gained.
2017: 1:16pm
A-Goal: 1:00pm
Actual:  12:39pm

I’d gained 20 minutes in this section over last year, and overtaken 13 runners.  Now 21 minutes up on the A-Goal.  Although again, I wasn't thinking about this at all.  Just knew I was doing better.

At the aid station I filled the hand-helds, glugged the other ensure I’d carried up, took a caffeine pill, and a tylenol, then kept going.  The tylenol was a pre-emptive attempt to temper the pain of the quads on the descent.

Still 500 feet of climbing to the summit.  The steepest of the climb.  Rocky.  Slow.

Finally to the Tibetan flags.  Over the top.  One Hope Pass ascent down, one to go.

Let’s see if all that work on descending and quad strengthing paid off.  Last year I was very slow going down the trails, being over-taken by a lot of runners.

This year I was keeping pace with those around, and also over-taking.

Down the switchbacks.  Wow - I’m running well.

Wondering when I’d see the leader coming the other way.  Last year it was about this point when I saw Ian Sharman, but this year I’m 45 mins ahead of that pace, so probably a bit later.

Wait - who’s this guy run hiking up towards me.  Oh shit - it’s Rob Krar - and he’s working hard.  I step aside and a brief acknowledgement.  The dude is a beast !  He doesn’t have a pacer - although based on the speed he was going, very few people in the world would have been able to keep up with him.  He went on to win, and ran just a few minutes off the course record, but the course was 4 miles longer this year than back then, so really - he was the fastest ever on the course.  Beast !!!

Clambering down over the rocky section.  Careful not to fall.

Past the stream, into the trees.

Maybe a mile later, the second placed man with his pacer.

Steep down, but I was able to run them.  Definitely doing better than last year.  Having fun as I pick people off.

It's getting hot though.  The cool rain from earlier gone.  I know there are several miles to go to the turn, so I'm rationing my fluids.  Starting to feel dehydrated.

See training mate Andrew, coming the other way.  Nice.  He had a serious running pedigree, having run for Australia, but had never run near this distance before.  He was killing it.  Nice going mate.

Reaching the point where the trail splits.  In previous years the course took the direct route down to Winfield.  I could see the cars and people down there.  But last year, the land-owner declined access for the race, so we had to run an extra mile out past Winfield, then back in.

More miles for our money.

Finally down towards the turn.  Feeling pretty good.  Into the crowds of crews waiting.  Great energy and support.

9 hours 58 mins to the half way point.  50 miles down, 50 to go.  Sub 10 hours for 50 miles in the mountains.  That's quicker than my Silver Rush 50 mile run last year...

WINFIELD.  50 miles.
56th place.  5 places gained.
2017: 2:56pm
A-Goal: 2:30pm
Actual:  1:58pm

Into the aid station, grabbed the drop bag, just as the crew arrived.  I surprised them by being so far ahead of A-Goal.  Great timing !

Sat and drank gatorade, glugged an ensure, and got the hand-helds filled.  Grabbed a couple more ensures for my belt - some photos - and then we were off.  Less than 5 minutes.

Trevor now with me, pacing for the next 26 miles.

Running pretty well - I ran a lot of the less steep ups, although knew that would stop when we hit the main climb.

The back side of Hope is harder than the front side.  Most of the climbing done in a 2.5 mile stretch (2,456 feet in that section).   An average gradient of 18%, although at points it kicks up to 40%.   That’s just silly.

This is the grind.

The toughest miles of the race.

But everyone who’s finished Leadville, has gone through this.

Everyone who has the big buckle had to push up here.

No choice but get to suck it up and get it done.  You've got this Richard.

One nice thing about an out and back, is you get to see other runners still going the other way to the turnaround point.

I noticed people I'd been running with earlier, heading into the turn.  Some several miles back up the trail.

This was really the first realization of how much better I was doing than I expected.  Some good runners were behind me.  Although take it easy.  It's a long way to go.  Last year it took you more than 15 hours to ‘run’ the second half.

Onto the steeper climb - this thing is ridiculously steep - at points it felt as though I was standing still.

4 miles into the return I saw Sean and Jarrod - still together.  Both looking great.  Fortunately no mooning.  But wow - 4  miles - that meant I was 8 miles ahead of them now.

Hopefully you’ve not gone too fast ?!!....

Sipping on one of the ensures,  A liquid diet for the last 12 hours was taking it’s toll - I was starting to get some pretty evil gas.

Each fart made me feel better, but Trevor - who was behind me - had to deal with the scortched earth of the napalm that I was dropping.  Literally all plant life around me vaporized and small animals curled up and died.  A few times he’d push his way past me to get some fresh air.

Continuing up.  Up.  Up.

Finally I can see the top.  Overtaking most people, although a couple of times I was over-taken.  No longer with the middle of the pack people.  I didn’t feel as though I wast going up as strongly as last year.  Cause for concern ?

It’s only 5 miles, but those 5 miles from Winfield to the top of Hope are a LONG FUCKING WAY !!!

Finally to the top.  Trevor took a little video.  A few seconds to enjoy it - then back to business.

Let's get going :)

Talking to myself.  "ok Richard - this is where you can gain some time"  Last year you literally stumbled down this mountain, so any semblance of running you can muster you’ll make up gobs of time.  It was hurting - but not as much as last year.

Trevor ran ahead to the aid station to fill up one of my handhelds.  I wasn’t going quick - maybe a slow jog.  But far quicker than the slow stumble from last year.

HOPE IN.  55 miles.
47th place.  9 places gained.
2017: 5:06pm
A-Goal: 4:35pm
Actual:  4:01pm

9 places gained.  Actually a few minutes quicker than last year on this section, although that would have been early in the leg.

I sipped on a little broth, but that was it.  Caffeine pill and more ensure.

Saw my friend Phil sitting down.  Still going the other way.  He wasn’t doing well.  The volunteers were trying to get the runners still on the outward leg of the race leave the aid station.  The countdown to the cut-off was a minute away.  Runners struggling to get in and out of the aid station in time.  Phil wasn’t going anywhere, his race over.  Sorry mate.  Watched the countdown - a bit like Comrades - with the volunteers counting down.  Ugh.  Many races over.

We headed out, although I probably wasted too much time here, watching the countdown.  A number of other runners came in and out while I was there.

We caught Muriel, the lady who'd overtaken me earlier, and her husband.  Ran with her for a mile as we worked our way into treeline.  Still seeing a few runners coming the other way, feeling bad for them that their races were done,  whether they realized that or not.

I was feeling good.  The toughest miles of the race were over. Only 45 ‘hilly’ miles to go.  

I picked up the pace and pushed ahead of Muriel, over-taking a few others as we ran down the hill - definitely going a lot better than last year.  My fears of trashing my quads earlier in the race perhaps unfounded ?

Finally down to the flat - through the river, into the field.  Kept going - no stopping.

Into Twin - again Trevor ran ahead to get my drop bag and fill the handhelds.  Learning from last year - let’s not waste any extra time in the aid stations than I need.

I saw Sarah again and yelled out 'big buckle baby'.  I was growing in confidence.  Big smile too.

TWIN LAKES IN.  60 miles.
48th place.  1 place lost.
2017: 7:19pm
A-Goal: 6:15pm
Actual:  5:29pm

I’d gained 45 mins on this single leg over last year, although dropped 1 spot.  That was probably the extra time I'd spent at the Hope aid station.   I wasn’t really thinking about my time though, I knew I was ahead.   Although no real understanding of how much ahead I was.  At this point I was almost 2 hours ahead of last year, and 46 mins up on my optimistic A-Goal pace.

More ensures, changed out of my trail shoes and back to my road shoes.  Got the jacket out of my waist pack, put on a hat and gloves, and put on my headlamp.  I didn’t need it - but this was where I’d stashed it.  Pre-race planning didn’t have me getting here this early.  There were no other lights ahead in my drop bags.  Last year it got dark within 30 mins of leaving Twin - that wouldn’t be happening this year.

Dave, my second pacer, who’d be picking me up in 14 miles, was there too - he helped us get things together, then we headed out.  I knew from last year that the first few miles out of Twin were all hiking uphill - 1,000 feet of climbing - so may as well use that time to get calories in, and not sitting in a chair.  Another ensure as I climbed.

More napalm bombs.

Along the narrow ledge that I’d wanted to make last year before dark.  This time the sun was still out.

Climbing up, but the trails that had been muddy and slippery earlier in the day, had now dried out.

Stopping briefly at the Elbert Aid Station, I glugged the second ensure I was carrying and filled up a handheld with water.

The ensures were basically my salvation.  Most of my calories came from them.

I’d gotten a second wind on this section last year, so didn’t expect to pick up much time here, but we pushed on.  Overtaking occasionally.

My second wind this time was coming from my bottom.  Sorry Trevor.  The gas explosions continued.  More plant life vaporized.

It was still light as we got into Half Pipe.

HALF PIPE IN.  71 miles.
45th place.  3 places gained.
2017: 9:23pm
A-Goal: 8:15pm
Actual:  7:28pm

Did I say it was still light ?! 

I’d gained 5 mins on last year on that section.  Glugged another ensure, and stashed another in my waist belt.  Filled the hand held with paedealite, drank some gatorade, and pushed on.  Wondering how far I’d get before it got dark.

We caught a female runner here, and hopskotched with her for a good mile or two.  I’d take a brief walk break and she’d overtake with her pacer.  Then she’d do the same, and we’d over-take.  A bit of bantering as we continually passed each other.  I later found out she was the 3rd place female.

Through the alternate crew zone - some runners stopping for their crews.  We kept going - dusk setting in, but still light enough to see without needing the lamp.

Heading down the trail towards the mile section of road.  I was determined to wait until we got to the road before turning on the lamp.  Thinking in my mind about how far I ahead I was distance wise of last year at this time.  My light was needed 2 miles out of Twin, so perhaps 38 miles to go.  Here I was 10 miles up the road.  Starting to realize now that I might be on for a good time.

Onto the road, and finally turned on the light.  Running with a couple of other pairs of runners / pacers.  Brief banter as we continued the game of hopscotch.  Trying to keep the mood light.  Make this thing fun.

Trevor’s leg coming to an end.  Thank him for his help.  Really appreciate it.  He phoned ahead to let Dave know we’d be there in 20 minutes.

Into the miserable field.  Remembering the barbed wire from last year, and the uneven footing - keeping the headlamp trained on the ground in front.  Slowly making our way towards the lights of the Outward Bound aid station.  Trevor hit a small pothole and twisted his ankle slightly.  Fortunately nothing serious, but another warning of the gnarly footing.  The race could end in an instant.  Stay focused.

Finally to the aid-station.

OUTWARD BOUND IN.  76 miles.
44th place.  1 place gained.
2017: 10:45pm
A-Goal: 9:350pm
Actual:  8:40pm

Another 10 minutes gained, which surprised me looking back.  I thought I was struggling more here.

Dave was there with my drop bag.  I put on a heavier jacket and thicker gloves, and of course drank my ensure, gatorade and refilled the handhelds.

I took another tylenol, although just one - I wanted to have another at the top of Powerline.  I gave Dave an extra layer for me to use later.  Something I hadn’t needed the year before, but in my planning had thought it might be a good idea.  It turned out to be a very good decision.

It started to rain again.  Said a thank-you to Trevor, and then Dave and I headed out for the final 24 miles.  

A few yards out of the aid-station, I went into shivering spasms.  My whole body racked with pain.  I wanted to go back to the aid-station and stand by the fire, but Dave wouldn’t let me.  I put on the extra layer under my jacket - and then we started out.  Dave reasoning that I was cold because of the fluids I’d just taken, and the extra layer and activity would help warm me.  Sound judgement Dave !

Back on the road - about a mile and a half before turning to the final big climb of the race.  Powerline.  It was dark and raining - we could see a several sets of runners headlamps a few hundred yards up the road and used them as a guide.

The turn-off for Powerline seemed to be taking forever to reach.  In the distance a car stopped the other runners - and after a few seconds, the headlamps started coming back towards us.  Oh shit - confirming our fear - we’d all missed the turn-off.  Crap crap crap.  How much time would I lose here.  We turned and went back - I sent Dave ahead to look for the turn to confirm we had missed it.

We had indeed missed it !!  It wasn’t lit well at all, and very little in the way of signage.  The car that had warned us of the mistake, now sat there with its lights pointed at the trail.  I wondered how many people had over-taken me with this detour.

Checking the GPS plot after the race, we’d added 12 minutes, and about a mile, to the course.

Back on track - and now on Powerline.  Hiking and attempting to sip more ensure, but even that starting to become harder to get down.  Need to force it in though to keep the calories.  I couldn't stomach a gel or anything else at that point.

Dropping more napalm bombs, with Dave quickly pulling ahead to avoid most of the impact.  I'd literally drunk all my nutrition in the form of ensure shakes and gatorade.  Fortunately the gas seemed to be the only side-effect.

Last year we could hear the ‘bong’ of the gong at the Psychadelic Aid station the whole way up Powerline.  This year nothing.  I wondered if they were there.  Heck - maybe we’re too early.  Maybe they’re only there later in the night ?

Dave commenting about the buzz we could hear from the Powerlines above us.

A mile from the top we finally heard the gong - turns out the wind was going the other way, so the sound wasn’t traveling as far.

I took another tylenol.  More pre-emptive work ahead of the section I fell apart last year.  After another 20 minutes of climbing we arrived at the 'psychedelic aid station’.  Multi-colored glow sticks led us in, with blow up characters along the side of the trail.  A really cool experience.  Others were stopping to re-fuel - but we kept going.

I was anxious to see how I’d do on the descent into May Queen.  Still 5 miles away.  This was where I was still on-track for the big buckle last year, but couldn’t run down the hill at all.  My quads totally shot.  This time I was able to continue to run, albeit 10-12 min / mile pace.

Down Sugarloaf trail - I could tell I was doing a lot better than last year.  Dave commented the same - he'd been my pacer on this section last year as well.

Wow - onto the jeep path already ??  That was quick.  Overtaking more runners, before plunging down onto the trail again.  Raining again.  The rain had been off and on all night.

Ok - this steep section is hard.  Big steep steps, I had to walk a number of the steeper sections, but forced myself to jog where I could.  In the trees, very rocky, and very dark, particularly with the rainy dark sky.

No one overtook us, despite the slower pace.  Looking at my watch each time it buzzed a mile split.  Slower miles, but wow - I'm doing a lot better than last year.

To get the big buckle I needed to average 15 min/miles for the race, but my watch was showing me with a 13:30 average with only 13 miles to go.  That’s a big cushion.  87 x 90 seconds...  can't do the math, but that's a big number.

Finally out of the trail and onto the road briefly.  May Queen was coming up.  I sent Dave ahead to get the drop bag.

MAY QUEEN IN.  88 miles.
37th place.  7 places gained.
2017: 2:24am
A-Goal: 1:00am
Actual:  11:53pm

25 minutes made on that leg, despite the extra mile detour, and 7 places gained.  While I wasn't going fast, I seemed to be fading less than others around me.

Finally starting to allow myself to think about getting the big buckle.  Calculate that I have 5 hours to get 12.5 miles for the big buckle.  Holy shit - I could walk that.  

This plan might actually play out !!  Forget sub 25 hours - you want sub 24 remember.

That's 4 hours to get there.  You took almost that long last year on this leg.  Don’t back off.

Another ensure, pack one on the belt, more refills of handhelds - and then we're off out.

Along the road for half a mile, I was making good time.  Next stop is the finish.

Despite the time on my feet, I was remarkably clear headed, and not in any discomfort.  12 min/ miles were common.

Back onto the trail  Undulating around the lake, although a lot more uphill than I remembered.  Still - I was feeling pretty good.  Able to run all but the steepest up hill.

Once I got down to under 10 miles to go, I was calculating my finish time.  Sub 25 looked to be in the bag.  I realized if I kept going at 18 min/mile pace - I’d get sub 24.

I started to realize that if I kept going at my current 12 min / mile pace - I might go sub 23.  Holy shit.

I didn’t talk about it out-loud.  I didn’t want to tempt fate, but every mile split that clicked by - I realized that was definitely a possibility.  Can that be right ?  Is your math just messed up ?

The miles seemed to take forever around the lake though - past midnight and into my second day of running.  I didn’t know how long we had left to go, because of the extra distance we’d added.  I was thinking 101 miles would be the finish distance, so tried to calculate back.  93 miles down - so about 8 to go ?

Finally off the trail - and now to go down mini-powerline.  Last year this had been truly pathetic.  I’d probably taken 10 mins to go the 300 yards, and that was with my hands on the shoulders of my pacer Kevin.  No such issues this time.  I was able to hike down pretty quickly.  We reached the bottom - wait - is that it ?  Seriously ?  That wasn’t bad at all.

Back onto a jeep trail - let’s keep running.  5 miles to go.

5 up-hill miles to the finish.  Seriously Ken ?!!  Still, just 5 miles.  Picking off a few runners.  This is taking forever - but the miles are slowly clicking away.

I knew the last mile was going to be on the road into Leadville.  Where the heck does this jeep trail end ?  My watch clicked over 100 miles and still no road in sight.  Jeez - this is crazy.   But I knew it was coming to an end.  Enjoy this !!  Ok, endure this...

Finally - there in the distance I see the road.  Up onto it - knowing there’s one last little climb to go, then the finish would be visible.  I’d thought I might run that last hill - but heck no.

Dave looked over his shoulder and saw another running catching me.  “How concerned are you about your finishing position”, he asked.  “I’m not” was the response.  So we let the other team go with just some congratulatory comments.  At the top of the hill - I could see the finish line way in the distance.  I knew a sub 23 was definitely in the bag and talked with Dave about it.

It was crazy how well the day had gone.  Sure - there had been some low points - but I’d run far better than I’d even dared to hope.  I’d never been in real discomfort, hadn’t fallen, had been able to keep running throughout.

Running to the finish - the last block.  Thanked Dave and he peeled off, while I pushed up to the line.

Hear them announce my name.  22:45:29.

I shout ‘big buckle baby’ and get a giggle from the crowd.  Hug from Merliee.

A surprising number of people out to support at 2:45am.

36th overall out of 713 starters.  378 finishers.  53% finish rate.
2017: 6:12:am
A-Goal: 4:00am
Actual:  2:45am

Holy shit.  22 hours 45 mins ??  And that was with the extra 12 mins we’d added from the detour.

Out in 9 hours 58 mins, and back in 12 hours 47 mins.

9 months in the planning.  I'd put in a lot of work, but this was one of those rare races where everything went mostly to plan.  Lady luck had smiled on me.

Below the official splits, and also the table show last year, the A-Goal, and the actual splits below.

Dave appeared and we went to get some warm noodles, but they were out.   I was starting to shiver, so we quickly got to the car and headed away.  I tried to drink some gatorade, but immediately threw it up.

I was in a worse way than I realized.

At the condo I went back into shivering fits and had to take off the wet clothes, put on multiple layers, and then climbed into bed.  The thoughts of stopping to eat fried chicken, washed down with tequila were long forgotten.

Dave babysitting me to make sure I didn't die...

It was a few hours, and several cups of tea later, before I was able to warm up.  So much for getting some sleep that second night.

So that's it for the Leadville 100 for me.

No room for improvement.  No reason to run it again.

Maybe....  ;)

Leadville truly is a special race.  The town itself with rough edges.  The beauty of the course.  The history of the race, and its impact on Leadville's economy.  The challenge.  The camaraderie from other runners, crew and supporters.  The achievement.  Pushing boundaries that didn't seem possible.

No one does it alone.  Big thanks to Krista, Dave, Trevor, and Gary for helping get me to the finish.  It takes a village.  I appreciate you all for the help.  Trevor and Dave - let me know if you need help pacing when you get back on the course.

Comrades is probably still my favourite race experience.  This run at Leadville was perhaps my proudest running achievement.

So far.

Now my sights are set on qualifying for, and hopefully running Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) - click this link for a cool trailer.

That will take a few years, but it's the big 'scary' race goals that I need to keep getting me out there to train.

And the big buckle.  This thing is obnoxious, but it's not going in a box.

I'm damn well wearing the thing.

(should you be interested in the strava plot / splits, it's here)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Leadville 100

"You're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can"

- Ken Choubler, founder of the Leadville 100

Living in Colorado, I was well aware of the Leadville 100 trail run.  

A 100 mile trail race through the rocky mountains, most of the miles run above 10,000 foot in elevation.

A few friends had run it, or friends of friends.  

But it was something different - it was for the hardcore, crazy, beardy, runners.  Real ultra runners.  Not for a road runner like me.

Despite running the 56 mile Comrades, I didn’t think a 100 trail race would ever be something I could do.  

Still, in June of 2016, I decided to dip my toe in the Leadville trail waters to see what a trail race in the mountains was like.  I signed up for the 50 mile Leadville Silver rush the following month.  

That race was hard.  I’d gone through the 50 mile mark at Comrades in just over 7 hours, so naively thought I should be able to run between 8 and 9 hours at Leadville.  But after a fall, and lots of walking, I staggered to the finish in 9:16, swearing that in the unlikely event of being offered a ‘gold coin’ - a ’skip the lottery entry for the 100', there was no ‘f***ing way’ I’d accept.  

Except they did offer me a coin for placing in my age group, and the only words that came out were ‘yes please’.

I deferred that entry until August 2017 to get prepared.  Very fortunate in hindsight, because running Comrades and the Silver Rush so close together, then starting training for a fall marathon, led to over-training syndrome.  I was out for 3-4 months, and even training this year for Leadville, I could tell that I still wasn't fully ‘right’.  Although I don't think anyone who runs Leadville is 'fully right'...  :)   I was slower in all distances than the year before, and not able to do the big training mileage that I’d done previously.  Still - I did enough - and with the 8 previous years of marathon training cycles, I figured I’d be okay.  This was all about steady slow progress, not sub 3 marathon speed anyway.

The thought of running 100 hilly high altitude miles frankly scared the crap out of me, but I didn’t want to look back when I was older and say ‘I had the chance to run Leadville, and didnt

I didn't want to regret not taking this opportunity.  

Leadville 100 History

Ken Chlouber founded the Leadville 100 in 1983, as a way to try and bring tourism and money to the town of Leadville after the Climax Molybdenum Mine closed, and caused massive unemployment in the town.  Ken may have 'saved' Leadville from becoming a ghost town.  He's still actively involved in the race.  It's a fascinating story (Denver Post Article here).

With Ken, and Merilee before the race

Also known as 'The Race Across The Sky' or the 'LT100', the race is held annually in August on trails and dirt roads near Leadville, Colorado, through the heart of the Rocky Mountains.   Runners in the race climb and descend 15,600 feet (4,800 m), with elevations ranging between 9,200–12,620 feet. 


It's recommended you have a 'crew' - people who will drive ahead to the various aid station stops and set up there, both to provide fluids and nutrition to their runner, and also to switch out gear as you go from the cold morning, to the warmer sunny day, maybe with afternoon storms, then back to cold and darkness again.

Leadville also allows pacers for the second half of the race - they can 'mule' for you - carry fluids and food, and lighten the load of the runners.

My 'crew' consisted of my girlfriend Krista, and jack-of-all-trades friend Kevin.  Kevin was going to crew through the day, then take the last pacing leg in the middle of the night home.  What a beast !!

In addition I had 2 other pacers - Trevor and Dave, and Trevor's girlfriend Marcee helping out too.

I very much appreciate them all for the help.  

In addition to getting all the supplies ready for the crew, you also need to prepare 'drop bags' at each major aid station.  This is important in case your crew gets caught in traffic, or has a mishap, and doesn't reach the aid station in time for their runner.

Quite a logistical challenge - particularly if you're an anal planner like me anyway...  :) 

Race Day

The race starts at 4am on Saturday.  Only a small handful of elite runners will actually finish the same day.  Only 10% will finish before 5am on Sunday, the cut-off for the larger sub 25 hour buckle.  Typically only about 50% of starters will finish by 10am on Sunday morning.  30 hours later.  The cut-off for the race.  No one will finish after that.  So a 50% finish rate.

Think about that.  100 miles in 25 hours is 4 miles per hour.  15 min / mile pace.  And yet less than 10% of the starters will go under 25 hours.  It’s a combination of the altitude, the elevation profile, the running surface, and the fact that it’s 100 bloody miles !!

I was up at 2:20am, after a fitful 'evening' of sleep.  Krista dropped me at the start line at 3:40am.  Like any start line, there was a buzz of excitement and nervous energy.  Murmuring runners and their crews.

10 minutes to go.  Everyone but the runners out of the starting area.

National anthem. Cold, high 30s

Just wearing arm panties, gloves and a beanie with headlamp

2 handhelds for fluid.  I'd decided against the running vest with bladder (save on weight), and a jacket (I find I warm up quickly).  Other people dressed in jackets and pants - but fortunately the cold was never an issue.

Hanging with Christy and Sarah who I’d done several training runs with.  We'd discussed tactics and were all shooting for sub 25 hour times.  Two big sand baggers as it turned out !!  They both had amazing runs (3rd and 5th place overall females), well under 25 hours.  Both inspirations.  

And then the gun.  We were off.  People flying around me on both sides.

I'd been told not to think in terms of 100 miles - that was just too far and too scary to think about - so instead think purely of aid station to aid station, so that's what I tried to do.

The first 13 mile 'leg' was a relatively 'easy' section.  Road for the first few miles, before moving onto a single track trail around a lake.  Downhill initially, then undulating with no major climbs.  Albeit in the pitch dark.

The following chart shows the elevation for this section.

A hundred yards in I checked the garmin and see I was running 8:30 min/mile pace.  It’s going to be a long day.  Don’t go out too quickly.  That applies in all races of any distance, but especially so in a 100 miler.  In a marathon if you blow up and have to walk the last 6 miles, it sucks.  In a 100 miler if you blow up, and have to walk the last 30 miles - that's a lot worse...

Almost immediately I picked up a conversation with a guy running next to me - Ian - he looked like an ultra runner with his beard.  Truth be told, I’ve never seen so many beards in a race in my life.

And Ian certainly was.  He was attempting to run the Grand Slam - which basically means running 4 of the top 5 100 milers in the US over the period of a couple of months (more details here).  Another level of crazy !!  Ian told me that he was hoping for 22-25 hours.  My goal was sub 25 hours, so I figured if he was running this pace - I shouldn't go any faster, so we let other runners surge ahead.

Heading out of Leadville, we moved off the road and onto the trails.

Up ‘mini powerline’ - a steep 300 foot climb.  The first walk of the day.  Certainly not the last.

Trying to stay relaxed - we were on single track that rose and fell around Turquoise Lake - there were roots and rocks, so you had to keep an eye on the footing with headlamps facing the ground.

Talking to people around me.  Lots of camaraderie.  One guy had run 25:10 last year and just missed the big buckle.  He was determined not to do that again.

Being single track, and trying to start slow, a couple of times we got caught up in a conga line of runners, visible by the long single track line of headlamps, with one slower runner who’d started too fast, and then slowed down to create a bottle neck.   A few times I overtook, and then pushed on - searching in the dark ahead for the next string of headlamps.  One time, when I caught the end of the next conga line, I stopped and took a bathroom break.  First pee of the run.  I wanted to make sure I hydrated enough.  Dehydration has been an issue in many of my races before - both road and trail.

Took a gel, drinking water - finished both bottles by the time we got to first aid station.  Making a conscious effort to drink more.  Unlike a road race - stopping for a pee break in the middle of the wooded mountains is pretty easy.

As we neared May Queen the sun rose, and so footing became easier to find.

May Queen - 13 miles in

145th place out of 604 starters.  2 hours, 9 mins.

Perfect - right where I'd hoped to be.  Not too fast, not too slow.

Coming into to the aid station I was trying to figure out how it would work.  I knew Kevin and Krista were planning on being there, but also had a drop bag just in case they got caught in traffic.  The aid station with the drop bag was before the area where crews could wait, so I grabbed an ensure from my drop bag and downed it, refilled one of the waters - and then exited and looked for my crew.

They were there just up the road.  

Dumped my headlamp and beanie, got my sunglasses, kept my gloves, refilled water, glugged some gatorade and off.  Temps were probably in the high 40s at this point.  I felt a bit guilty that they had likely driven a good hour, then stood around in the cold, for me to come through and be done in 30 seconds.

The next 'stage' was 11 miles - starting up and over Sugar Loaf - a single track, then jeep road, climb of 4 miles, then descending down the steep 'Powerline' section, before flattening out before the Outward Bound aid station.

Up through a wooded trail with some big step ups.  I remembered thinking these would be tough in the dark on the way back (they were !!!).  The guy in front tripped and fell and seemed to hurt himself.  I helped him up and he said he was okay, but limped for a while.

Up out of the trail and onto a jeep road.  I fished out headphones and put them on and immediately picked up pace.

Caught Ian and said the music really helped me go faster - he said that's why he didn't wear music...

Climbing up Sugarloaf.  The runner who'd fallen earlier, caught me and thanked me and said he was feeling a lot better.

Heading towards the top of Powerline from the backside.  Another runner right in front of me stumbled, and I wondered if he'd fall.  He saved himself nicely, but the distraction of watching him had me catch the same rock, and apparently I wasn't as nimble.  I fell, thumped the ground hard with my right knee and left shoulder, and rolled.  Lay there for a second in shock before a group of guys helped me up.  The shock got me on my feet and I tried to keep running.  It was slow going at first with a pretty big limp, but after a few minutes I could tell thankfully nothing was seriously damaged.

Falls can happen out of the blue, and can take you out of the race.  I was lucky.

Ian gave me a 9 out of 10 for the fall.

Despite the fall, I tried to take in and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Now going down Powerline.  A 1,500 foot descent that would be the last major climb coming back tonight.

Another runner in front fell on the steep hill and wrapped himself into a tree.  It was carnage.

This photo doesn't do justice to the steepness.  One of the seven false summits from below of 'Powerline'. 

I’d run down Powerline twice before.  The first time I’d been very timid, scared of falling on the steep pitch, often with patches of rocks, then sand.  The second time I’d been a little braver, and this time I’d grown in confidence a little.  

Previously everyone at the run camp had overtaken me, but this time I seemed to be keeping pace with the runners around me - even overtaking a few of the more pensive.  I consciously tried not to go TOO fast though.  Save the quads, although did have some 8:xx miles.  In hindsight I probably went a bit too fast.  I paid for it later.

I was over-stridding.  I  need to do a better job of doing smaller steps, keeping my legs beneath me.

Onto a road briefly, then turned into the field for the aid station.

Outward Bound Aid Station - 24 miles in

107th place - I’d moved up 38 spots.  4:14.

This time we were more practiced.  Kevin had come up to the drop bag area, so I skipped that and ran to where Krista had everything laid out.  The sun was out and the day was warming.  It was 8:15am.  I got rid of arm panties and gloves.  Sun hat.  Glugged ensure, some gatorade, no food, a few more gels in pocket, refilled water / pediatlite.  See you in 16+ miles !

While there was another minor aid station that crews could access just a few miles up the road, the next 'main' one was at Twin Lakes, at mile 40.  There was one other in between - but that was 'drop bag only'.  No crew access.

The 16 mile section from Outward Bound to Twin Lakes took you up the side of Mt Elbert - the tallest mountain in Colorado.  Although fortunately just skimming the side, before plunging back down to Twin Lakes.

Leaving the aid station, you had to run half a mile through an uneven grassy / bushy field.  I’d done it in the run camp, and remembered it was tough going.  Lots of holes, and even one patch of barbed wire. 

Stupid field !!  Despite it being flat, it sapped my energy and I ended up walking a few times.  I kept telling myself - it’s a long day - walk before you have to.

Watching out for pot holes and barbed wire.

Then onto the road for a while.  Felt so much easier.  I’m a road runner at heart - this is my strength.  I was picking people off slowly.

Off the road and back onto the trail.  Past the ‘alternate crew zone’.  No one for me, but a nice energy lift and some people stopping and lots of encouragement.

Rising up again now, I caught and ran with a Canadian guy from run camp.  He told me he'd run 25:07 the previous year.  Wow - 2 guys already who just missed it.   He said we were well ahead of his pace from last year.  Not intending to, but I ended up pulling away from him too.

Into Half Pipe

97th place.  10 more places taken in the last hour.  5:19.  9:19am.

This the aid station where the crew can’t access, so I knew I was getting my drop bag.  The support crew were great - calling out the numbers as they saw us run in, and another helped grabbed the bag.

Glugged ensure, gatorade, filled my handhelds, and kept going.  I was feeling good.

I’d run this section with the run camp, and also 4 weeks earlier with Christy and Sarah.  It really helped having a mental image of the course.  I knew we would keep going up until we hit the Mt Elbert aid station, then some flat, and then the steep descent into Twin Lakes.  That was where the race would really begin.

The Mt Elbert aid stop was a small one.  Just water and some snacks.  I was still overtaking people and gradually caught a female runner ahead.  We ran together.  The scenery familiar.  

One section ran along a narrow ledge on a steep slope.  On the run camp Id stumbled and nearly gone over the side, fortunately a tree had been there for me to catch.  I thought about this section and really wanted to be past it coming home before it got dark.  That would be pretty scary on a 2 foot wide ledge in the dark.  Fortunately no issues on the way out in full daylight.

We started descending and hit the jeep trail.  I was trying to keep up with the female runner who was flying down.  Probably not the smartest thing for my quads.

Over a last very steep scramble and into Twin Lakes.

Twin Lakes - 40 miles in

89th place.  8 more places gained.  7:02.  11:02am.  Right on target.

I’d driven out with Krista 2 days before.  I didn’t think she’d be able to get to be close to the aid station - but there they were.  I skipped the drop bag and sat in the chair they’d set up.

Feeling good.  Far better than I'd been feeling in the 50 miler a few weeks before.  I think part of this was the shoes - running in light road shoes instead of the heavy 'boats' of the trail shoes.

The blood from the fall clearly visible on my knee...

I sat down for first time.  Trevor was there too.  Tried to eat some noodles, but didn't feel like them too much.  Glugged ensure.  Glugged some gatorade.  Changed into trail shoes for river crossing.  Didn't want poles.  Refilled water.

Spent a little too long here.  When I got up to go, my legs suddenly felt heavy and stiff.  Sitting for 5 mins after 40 miles was probably not the best idea.

The next 20 miles were going to be the 'make or break' of the race.  After a few river crossings, the course takes you up and over Hope Pass to the turn around point at Winfield.    This was some serious elevation changes, and getting up to close to 12,600 feet above sea level.

The first 40 miles had taken me 7 hours.  The next 20 miles would probably take more than 7 hours.  That was expected, and partly why only 10% of runners could finish under 25 hours.

Out of Twin Lakes and across the road and into the flat fields you cross before Hope.  The extra weight of the food and drink in the stomach crept up on me.  We'd been told not to trust a fart after 5 miles, so I pulled off the course in the grass, squatted and emptied :)

Fortunately I had toilet paper, although in hindsight could have probably used a bit more.  I’d wanted to save some just in case it was needed again.  But after 60 more miles - I ended up with a bit of butt rash…  TMI ?

A little lighter I continued, although the people in front of me were pulling away - I was having a hard time getting going again after the stop.

Lesson learned - don't spend so long sitting… should have stayed standing.  

A friend Jason had taken Christy, Sarah and myself across the river 4 weeks previously.  I was very glad to have done that so I knew that (1) - there was no way to avoid getting wet - you have to wade through up to your knees at least, and (2) - the shoes would dry off fairly quickly.

I’d bought some new trail shoes that had a good drainage system.  I’d switched into these at Twin.  The problem was - they were larger and quite a bit heavier than my road shoes.  

At least the water washed off some of the blood...

Finally at the bottom of Hope.  No point in trying to run now.  This is where the ‘fun’ begins.

3,500 feet of climbing in less than 4 miles.

I’d done this twice previously.  Now I was in my element.  I’d run most of the way up with the run camp and knew that I was a strong climber.  No way I'd be running up today, although other runners were no longer pulling away, I was pulling them in and over-taking.  

Both times I climbed Hope in training, we'd driven to the bottom and started there.   Now with 40+ miles on the legs, the climb seemed a lot steeper.  Cruel.  Just keep going.

I caught a female runner (Kaitlyn) from Run Camp.  We chatted and stayed together to the top.  She thought she was  currently 8th placed female.  We were both looking for sub 25, she said we were currently on for 23 hour pace, which was a little scary.  I thought I was actually pacing pretty well, but 23 hour pace.  That’s a bit quick.

I was just going by feel and not paying attention to clock.

Up up and more up.  Overtaking runners who stopped to take a break.  I’d read multiple race reports and advice - and wanted to just keep going.  Don’t stop.

Crazy steep.  Hard to appreciate unless you've been up there.  It’s a grind.  We’d come from that lake down below...

Some perspective.

Pikes Peak Ascent is a beast.  7,800 feet of climbing over 13 miles.  When I ran it a few years previously, I was done at the summit.  I thought the people who then turned round and ran down to complete the marathon were clearly nuts.  7,800 feet of climbing and 7,800 feet of descent in 26.2 miles.  No thank-you.  And how do you even walk afterwards ?!!

Twin to Winfield and back is a little over 20 miles, with over 7,000 foot of ascent and 7,000 foot of descent.  So similar, albeit a bit steeper, than the Pikes Peak Marathon over less miles.  After you've already run 40 miles through the Colorado high country.   And have 40 more to run afterwards.  Oh, and the trails on Hope are far more technical and less runable than the Barr Trail on Pikes.

Fortunately I only realized this post race as I wrote up this race report.  If I'd figured it out before, I may have changed my mind.  But probably not.  

This is meant in no way as any dig at Pikes Peak - more just something that came to mind writing this.  Pikes is a very different race, and people tend to go up and down a lot quicker than Hope.  It also goes to over 14,000 feet, whereas Hope is 'just' 12,600.  I definitely hope to run Pikes again sometime sometime.  It's a beast of a challenge.  Although I won't be doing it like Mike Wardian...   Crazy guy went straight from finishing Leadville, to running the Pikes Peak Marathon the next day.  Article here.  That is frigging nuts !!

Any 100 mile race is a test.  A real frigging hard test.

You learn a lot about yourself out there.

Then make it a bit harder.  Let’s put a big mountain in the middle, with rocks and roots.

A real challenge.  But that’s why this race is 'attractive'.  It's a challenge.  Something to really push yourself.

Hope Aid Station - 45 miles in

85.  A few places gained.  9:16.  1:16pm.  Over 2 hours to go 5 miles !!

Hit the Hope Pass Aid station - nicknamed 'Hope Less’ by the runners, which is actually about 500 feet short of the summit.  Had some ramen, refilled the water, saw the lamas, then kept going.

And FINALLY there are the Tibetan flags - the summit !!  Over the top

I'm not a technical descender - so now the runners I'd overtaken going up were running past me.  With the previous fall and my leg still bleeding, I was even more pensive than normal.  Walking quite a few of the steep downs so as not to go out of control, or trip,

The heavier trail shoes seemed to make me stumble more as well.  For next year - stick with the lighter road shoes.  Wait - did I say 'for next year' ? !!

Leadville is an out and back.  50 miles out to Winfield, 50 miles back.  I was now 45 miles in and descending, so expected to start seeing the leaders coming the other way.

A mile past Hope, Ian Sharman went the other way.  Then the second placed guy.  Both very friendly.

A few miles further on, the first place female passed.  Followed soon by the second who smiled and said something to me as I went past and touched my shoulder.  I wondered if I knew her and racked my brains.  In the following days I learned she had overtaken the lady in front of her and had won the race.  Devon Yanko.  I read her race report where she talked about encouraging all the runners she past.  Great energy and attitude - even though it had me confused for a while

Down towards Winfield - some really steep sections that I walked.  Just don’t fall again.

I saw the third placed female was my friend Christy.  Holy crap.  She was flying and smiling.  She shrugged when we passed each other.  A few places later was Sarah.  Both girls were crushing it.

Passed the trail to Winfield that previous years would have taken.  The land-owner had asked that we not use his land this time, so an extra 1 mile each way was added.  ‘More miles for your money’ as Ken Choubler had told us pre-race.  Thanks Ken !!

Later looking at the low finish rate, I can't but help think these extra 2 miles had an impact.  2 tough undulating miles are likely worth 30-40 minutes at the back of the pack.

Winfield - 50 miles in (52 according to my garmin)

94.  10:56.  2:56pm.

First time I’d lost places.  I really do suck at descending.  Lots of room for improvement.

Got to Winfield in 10:56, so faster than the 11 hour cut-off that I'd been aiming to get beneath for going sub 25.  I’d definitely lost a lot of time on the steep technical descent, but I was right where I'd hoped to be.

Found Trevor and Marcee.

You’re allowed to have pacers for the second half of the race.  I had 3 lined up.  Trevor - who I’d met the previously year in the medical tent after the Silver rush (the race where I’d ‘earned’ the coin for the 100).  He’d run the 100 before and would take me the first 26 miles.  Then Dave - who’d also run the silver rush the year before with me. He was part of a Wednesday night City Park run club that I’d done for years.  Finally Kevin, who had drawn the short straw and would hopefully take me the last 13.5 miles home.  He'd run a 2:40 marathon previously, so was going to be like a Ferrari stuck in first gear with me...

Glugged an ensure.  Trevor took one of my handhelds and we headed out.

In hindsight I should have had more ensures here and had Trevor carry one of two more.  We didn't need the poles.

Started going back up.  Passing those who were now behind me.

Runners going up hill have the right of way, and most folks stepped to the side - as I had going the other way.  Tried to encourage them and gave them an idea of how far it was to the turn.  Many asked ‘how far to the turn’.  The changed course had people wondering where the hell the turnaround was.

Trevor consistently lied.  "Oh - less than half a mile”, even after we were a couple of miles into the return leg.  What a dick !  :)

Hit the bottom of Hope and began the big climb.  Ridiculous steepness.  Knew this was the hardest 2 miles of the course, so just kept grinding.  

We caught a female runner with her male pacer.  Trevor told me it was Aton Krupicka.  Said hello as we overtook, Trevor wearing his Anton vest...  a bit surreal.  Not many people can say they overtook a 2 time Leadville winner going up the hardest climb on the course.  Sure - he was pacing - but I’ll leave that out in 20 years when recounting the tale…  😃 

Again I was over-taking everyone.  Something about the climbs.  Even though it felt I was going incredibly slowly, I was going less slowly than those around.

I caught and overtook Kaitlyn and her pacer.  The pacer was wearing a frilly fairy skirt.  I commented on the outfit as we went.  Definitely the best pacer costume of the day.

Tried not to look up - the summit seemed so far away.   Some nasty rocky sections, with runners going up, and others still coming down heading towards the turnaround.

Grind grind grind.  This thing really is a BEAST.

Finally onto the switch backs, which I knew meant a mile to go.

Started to feel spacy.  Trevor was on me to drink constantly and to try and eat at least once / hour.  The gels weren't going in though, and I was definitely starting to bonk.  This was where another ensure would have done wonders.

Trevor lied 'just 2 more switchbacks' when I could count 5 or 6.  I can still count mate - even if I’m slower than a turtle.

Kept going.  Long long slow time.  Other runners and their pacers suffering around me as we tried to encourage each other.  Finally made the summit.

Now to drop the 500 feet to the Hopeless aid station, but I was stumbling.  Not good.  People were running past me.  A few weeks earlier I'd run down this path, but now I could manage nothing more than a slow walk.  The few times I tried to run, I quickly stumbled.  The big trail shoes felt like canoes.  Combined with the bonking, I couldn’t lift my feet up enough to get over the rocky terrain, and was scared I'd fall and hurt myself.  With good reason.

Hope Pass - 55 miles in

74.  13:06.  5:06pm.

Despite feeling like I was going slowly, and then stumbling the 500 yards down to the aid station, I'd over-taken 20 runners on that section.  

Shaking and feeling nauseaus.  I was out of fuel.  Stood shaking and forced down 3 cups of ramen.  Refilled water.  Trevor pushing me to leave, but I stayed longer.

Losing time.  Probably 10-15 minutes there.

This was my lowest of the race.  56+ miles in.  Clearly slowing dramatically.  Doubts about finishing crept in.  Fortunately I couldn't quit at the top of the mountain - there was no way down other than the trail, but I seriously thought that I might have to quit at Twin, the next aid station.  No way I can go 45 more miles when I feel this bad and can't lift up my feet. 

Disappointed with myself.  

The afternoon before I'd held my hand in the air in the high school gym with the other first timers and promised Ken 'I commit I will not quit'.  

Now I was contemplating just that, although my mind was coming up with 100 justifications of why that was okay.  Only half the people who start finish, it’s okay.  You tried your best.  If it was easy, everyone would do this.  You’ll be back next year.  It’s okay.

Finally started up, but only walking.  And stumbling.  A combination of the energy levels, descending skills, and heavy shoes.  How the hell am I going to get down this mountain ?

Very slowly was the answer.  I'd actually gone up the mountain quicker than I was descending.

Kaitlyn and her pacer blew by.  I checked later - she put in 40 mins into me in the 5 mile section between Hope and Twin - 20 behind, to 20 in front.

Obvious now, but 3 things could have probably bought me over an hour on the climb up and down Hope.  

Technical descents - I need to practice them more.  Lose the fear of falling, although that’s not so easy if your shoulder, arm, and knee are bleeding already.

Lighter shoes.  This another no brainer.  Sure, you crossed a river, but you don’t need an extra 5 oz’s per shoe to get up and over a mountain.

Nutrition.  More calories and you’d have avoided the bonking and long aid station replenish.

I started to feel a little better as energy returned.  Thought that maybe I could continue after the next aid station - make it one more station before quitting.  The walk turned to a plod, and while I was still being over-taken by several runners, I overtook a few myself.

This was first hand experience of the 'second wind'.  In a 100 miler I'd been told you can get multiple recoveries.  Often related to nutrition.  If youre feeling like shit - take some food - and probably in 30 mins youll be feeling better again.

Finally onto the flat - through the fields - through the river.  Slow going.  But I knew the toughest part of the race was done.  I was 60 miles in.  The furthest Id ever run before in my life.  And now an aid station with my crew.

Kevin caught this video of me as I came across the road at Twin.

Twin Lakes - 60 miles in

85.  15:19.  7:19pm.  

I'd lost 9 places coming down from Hope.  And it had taken me over 8 hours to 'run' the last 20 miles.  

Found the crew and sat again.  Changed shoes - out of the trail boats and back into my road shoes.  Ensure, tried to eat more.  Got jacket, headlamp.  Behind schedule.  Crew concerned.  

Sat for a long time, at least 5-10 mins.

Although the thought of that narrow section ahead finally motivated me.  I wanted to get through it before darkness fell.

Trevor anxious.  Another lesson for next time.  Between the 5 stops at Twin (x2), Hope (x2) and Winfield, I lost at least 30 minutes, maybe more.  Just tweaking a few things and I could easily have cut big chunks of time.

Finally Trevor got me going.

The hardest part may be behind you - but coming out of Twin, you have a 1,000 foot climb to deal with.  Fortunately that meant no expectations of running.  It's a great place to regroup - and to continue eating and letting the calories settle.  Less time sitting at Twin to consume - carry them with you and do on this climb.

Up the steep hill.  One pair of guys over-took and I chatted to them.  Started climbing and my legs came back.  Caught the guys and pushed on by.

Caught more people.  Starting to run on the flats and less steep ups.

Still light, although starting to fade - we got to the section with the steep drop off.  Through with no stumbling.

Trevor now starting to feel nauseous.  I searched for some ginger candy that might helped, but couldn’t find it.  Fortunately it was a short term thing and he bounced back.  If you're reading this ahead of the race in the future - think about your pacers too.  They're doing some pretty brutal distances themselves, over tough terrain, and carrying extra weight for you.  It's not an easy task.

We were still overtaking

In my head I was singing 'kicking ass and taking names'

No one overtook me the whole section.

Headlamp on.  It was dark.

Into the Mt Elbert station.

They had a big fire going.  One team was sitting there warming up.  No time for that.  Refilled water and asked Trevor for an ensure.  Crap - we didn’t pack one.  Something else for next year.  Pacer carry an extra.

Fortunately Krista had packed some potato chips in a plastic bag - salty carbs - they seemed to help.

Push on.

Kicking ass and taking names.  

We kept seeing ahead in the distance pairs of headlamps which we'd gradually pull in, say a few words of greeting to the runner and pacer, then overtake.  Then repeat.

I could picture the whole course ahead of me.  You know what - this actually seems achievable.  I think I’m going to do this !  Thoughts of quitting banished.

Half Pipe - 69 miles in

80th.  17:23.  9:23pm.

5 places gained.

Grabbed the drop bag and glugged some ensure.  We didn’t stop long - time was a ticking.

Out into the darkness, still overtaking.

Through 'alternate crew zone' - bantering with the crews.  'You're looking good' - 'Right - you're lying - it's dark - you can't even see us'...

The distance seeming more managable.

I'm going to finish this thing.  Heck - I could probably walk it from here and get in in under 30 hours.

Picking people off still.  Hit the road - picked it up.  Finally - a surface I'm used to.

Into the stupid field.  Stumbling, both of us.  Trevor was coming up on 27 miles.  An ultra in itself, and over a ridiculously steep climb. 

He was able to get on his cell phone and call ahead.  We'll be there shortly.  

Outward Bound - 76 miles in

75 th place.  18:45.  10:45pm.

5 more places gained.

Found crew.  Feeling good.  Glugged ensure.  Switched out pacers.  Took photo.   From left to right, Kevin, Trevor, myself and Dave.  Thank-you guys !!!!

Lesson learned from before - I had Dave carry an extra ensure.

On we go.  A short road section - then onto Powerline.  The last very tough climb.  1,500 foot up in a little under 4 miles.  On legs with over 80 miles in them.

Stopped to pee against a tree.  6th of the day / night.  Hydration seemed to be working.  The paedealite in water worked very well, with occasional gatorade.

One guy overtook just at the bottom.  The first time I'd been overtaken since Twin Lakes.  I didn't like that, and was determined to keep him in sight and get that place back.

On the run camp in June I’d been lucky enough to run this section with Timmy Parr, the race winner in 2009.  He’d told me that there were 7 false summits on Powerline.  Having that knowledge helped me break down the climb.  I’d run it in training and had a top 10 strava position.  But that was driving to the bottom.  Not much running up powerline today.  Still, I was able to keep a reasonable pace.  18 min/miles average.  Which at this point, on that hill, was pretty decent.

Grind, but going well.  Over-taking everyone, except the one guy who seemed to stay about 30 yards a head.

Overtook Kaitlyn and her pacer.  Wow - I must have done well the last few legs - she was 20 minutes ahead of me at the bottom of Twin.

I'm definitely right back on track for sub 25.

Going up, I tweaked my left ankle on a rock.  Momentary sharp pain, but then seemed okay.  Everything is aching at this point, so get in line ankle !!

This didn't impact me during the rest of the race, but was by far the sorest thing post race.  It lasted for a good month afterwards and I found out it was a type of ankle sprain - anterior tibiotalar compression syndrome.

Sorry people who just googled that and found this blog !  😃  Although I can tell you that its possible to get 20 miles on it !!

Push on.

Half a mile from top of Powerline, I drank the ensure that Dave had carried.  Determined to avoid the bonking I'd had coming back over Hope the second time.

All the way up we could hear the deep call of the horn from the psychadelic aid station.  Id read and been told stories about this place.

An unofficial stop, where a bunch of people camp out and provide a ‘different’ aid station experience.  With beer and pot, and likely a lot more.  There were glow sticks leading the way in, with music.

I’d considered whether I should ‘try anything’, but decided against.  There were still 17 miles to go, and I needed to keep as much of my wits about me as I could.

Laughed and joked with them, but didn't take anything.  Didn't want to find out the water was laced with acid...  although maybe that would have helped separate my legs from reality.

At the top - ok - now it's all downhill to May Queen.  17 miles to go.  Past the spot I'd fallen earlier.  Definitely on track for that sub 25 hour buckle.

Crap - I can't go down.  My quads are absolutely shot.  I try, but they cry out in pain.  It feels like 'next day marathon legs' - except I'm still racing. 

Although at this point it was 1:00am, and I had run a marathon the day before.  3 of them actually, with some ridiculous climbing and descending.  

I tried to push on but couldn't.  Dave encouraged me, but I could feel the big buckle was slipping, but nothing I could do.  Any time I tried to go faster, my quads wouldn't allow it and I'd stumble.

Again - you need to practice technical trails in the dark - preferably this one - to get more confidence.

You also need to be a bit stronger - and have your pacers yell at you and tell you not to be such a pussy.  It may not have helped, but if they made you angry enough...  :)

Dave gave me some tylenol which helped a little.  Kaitlyn and her pacer overtook about 2 miles out of May Queen.  Said hello again.  Last time I was to see them.  She went on to run just under 25 hours, so it shows me I was still on pace even with 15 miles to go.  With a few tweaks - that could be me, although very impressive that she kept it going over the toughest miles of the race.  The last ones.  Badass Kaitlyn !!

On to a flatter jeep trail and was finally able to get some slow running in.  Then we hit the mile steep technical trail down to the aid station - big steps - ouchie.  I had to go very slowly, several people blew past me.  Nothing I could do.

Headlamp completely dead.  Needed Dave's to see.  Need a better headlamp.

Into May Queen.  Dave ran ahead to let the gang know I was there.

May Queen - 88 miles in

82.  22:24.  2:24am.

I'd lost 7 places.

Glugged ensure, Kevin took 2 more.  Put on beanie.  Switched to new headlamp and handheld  Still just light weight jacket.  A photo, and ‘see you at the finish’ to Krista and ‘thanks’ to Dave - and it was onto the last leg.

Even with all the slowing and walking downhill, I still had 2 hours and 35 mins to run the last 13 miles to get sub 25.  Despite running that same section the other way earlier in the race in 2 hours 9 mins, I knew that was very unlikely.  But I also knew I was going to finish.  I was at peace with this.  Now 'Monday morning quarterbacking' - I wonder if I shouldn't have pushed harder here....

On a road for the first mile, we were able to get a reasonable clip going.  Over-taking a few runners.  Then onto trails.  An undulating and fairly runable trail, but we were mostly power walking.  As everyone else must have been.  No one overtook us for the next 6 miles, and we overtook no one.

At one point we stopped and turned off the headlamps to appreciate the stars.  It’s not every day you get the opportunity to be out in the middle of the mountains, with no man-made light to fade the stars.  Truly spectacular.  Then back at it.

Feeling cold, but didn't want to stop and take off jacket to put on another layer.  Switched gloves with Kevin.  Headlamp fading again too.  2 good lamps - neither got me through.  I need to get something better for next time.  Next time ?!!  At this point that certainly wasn't a consideration.

Slowly counting down the miles.  18 min / miles were common.

I was a little grouchy.  Kevin was chatty and I had to ask him to stop at one point.  I felt bad with how much he'd done for me that day, but I needed all my energy just to keep going.

Onto the road, and then to the final steep descent of the day.  Mini-powerline.  300 feet down in a few hundred yards of gravelly rocky slippery road in pitch darkness.

Absolute agony.  Kevin had to stand in front of me - with me holding his shoulders - and then we literally pigeon stepped down with me yelping like a seal.  A couple of times I tried to go solo, but then would stumble and cry out.  300 foot of descent probably took 10+ minutes.  Several teams blew past and I envied their quads.

Now onto a jeep trail.  I can run !  Well - 13 min / miles.  Still - we pulled back in several teams.

And here comes the sun rise again.  You can officially time my run on a calendar and not a watch !!

2 miles to go.  Kevin texted my crew.  We’re almost there.

1 mile to go.  Up onto the road.

How cruel - after 100+ miles, the last 5 miles are all uphill.  Seriously ?!

Way off in the distance I could see the finish line.  Finally I allowed Kevin to talk about me finishing.  I can literally crawl there now in the time cut off.  Picking off several more runners.

I’d like to say that I thought profoundly of the day, of the things that had happened, the experience - but all I had was tunnel vision for that finish line in the distance.

See Krista - she runs along side.  I want to run this thing in properly.  Pick up the pace.  Animal yell as my legs hurt but I tell them too bad.  Maybe up to 10 min pace…

Into the barricaded area before the finish.  I’m going to do this !!  Onto the finish carpet.  Over the line.

Hear them call out Richard Williams from Denver.  And I'm done.

100 miles (104 on the garmin).  Hug from Merilee.

And it's over.

A bit of an anti-climax.  It’s just 6:12 in the morning.  Only a few people around, those waiting for their runners, and some volunteers. 

I staggered around, thank Dave, Kevin and Krista.  Then into the car.  Now I really just wanted to sleep.


26:12. 74th out of 604 starters (283 finishers).  Despite the slow going, I'd pulled back 8 more spots that last leg.

I used to think people who run 100 miles were crazy.  Well - they are - that’s a given - but now I understand the appeal a little more.  

No race I've ever done compares to the ups and downs, the highs and lows, I found in that run.  You really do learn a lot about yourself.  And for that reason, you want to do another.

I read a quote from David Blaikie who describes it better than I could.

"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility.  It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense.  The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."

It truly was an incredible experience.  Hard at times, but also uplifting.  You really do learn more about yourself.  A real adventure.  The camaraderie from the other runners, the crew and pacers keeps you going.  

When I finished I swore I wouldn't do it again.  Too painful.  Nothing to prove.  I'd always be able to say 'I ran the Leadville 100'.  But then as the days passed, I thought about the mistakes I'd made, and the ways I might shave off big chunks of time.

The lure of that sub 25 hour buckle, heck - to run the course in under 24 hours - that started pulling on me.

Soon the 'never' was 'next year'.  In December I signed up for the special 'run camp entry'.  Paying to do the summer run camp with the option of a guaranteed entry to the 100.  It looks like my summer plans for 2018 are set....

As Ken Choubler says - 

"You're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can"

Very true.

You learn that running a race like Leadville.


This just summarizing some of the things I learned and hope to apply next year:

- need much lighter shoes for the Hope to Winfield and back section.  Maybe just a pair of road shoes, or lighter trail shoes.  Practice going through the river in them and see how they handle it.  Then put on dry road shoes again coming back at Twin.

- drink an ensure at every aid station (I think you did) - at Twin - consider drinking two ?  Don't worry about the other food too much.  Carry an extra ensure from Twin up Hope, and drink near the summit.  Do the same going from Winfield up Hope to try and avoid the bonking.  You couldn't stomach gels at that point.

- the aid stations had noodles / broth at Hope - and likely elsewhere.  You don't need your crew to make it - you need to be quick through those changes

- you don't need poles

- you can make it easier for your crew by making more use of the drop bags.  You could just have crew at twin for the shoe changes.  Get larger bags and put in some extra headlamp batteries at May Queen.

- music coming back - if you have pacers, tell then you need to listen to some - and have them bring their own if they need it

- realize it's going to suck at times - but that you can get a second / third wind.  Push on.

- learn to do technical descending and strengthen the quads with lots of practice.  Have the confidence / drive to run that last section down Powerline into MQ.   And to get down mini Powerline more elegantly...