Start – May Queen 13.5 miles (insignificant elevation change).
I’ll save the melodrama, this is a race report not a autobiography, but know that I stood on the start line (or 50 ft behind it) prepared, inspired and ready to run 29:59:59, if that’s what it took to get the job done. The shotgun went of, and 4 of our friends ran the first ½ mile together. I enjoyed a few glances back at the field, the headlights that signified another runner would continue to push me on me throughout the night time during this adventure. The race immediately heads downhill for almost 3.5 miles, though the gradient is always forgiving. My legs felt just fine and it was easy to reign in the speed. When the road turned right towards Turquoise Lake, I took my first gel! And practically threw up. Ugh…I expected to be nauseous, but not at mile 4! I slowed down even more, and settled into a comfortable rhythm, my stomach settled and I had uneventful rest of the way. So far, so good.
MQ – Fish Hatchery 13.5 – 23 (+/- 1,200)
The course joins the Colorado Trail and rolls on gnarly singletrack for just over a mile (all distances are approximately precise). I was really excited for this section, the sunrise captured these little cloud puffs on the lake and the meadow to the north of the road prompted me to run on the outside of the road for a better view, adding .02 miles to an already long trip. I hadn’t intended on walking as much of this section, but my leg was strangely tight, from IT band to Achilles. I was running fine, but to say things felt great would be a lie. The only good thing going was the scenery, and I tried to enjoy that as much as I could. On the downhill, my leg loosened up and I enjoyed (finally) an uneventful few miles. Though my run wasn’t going according to plan (they rarely do), without knowing it I was consuming ample calories, salt and water, and was hardly working my legs, even though I was covering a lot of ground at a halfway decent, but slow, pace. In the end, this may have been a blessing in disguise. I was happy to see my crew and a few friends here that I had not expected. Though Leadville has an evangelical-esque intensity to it, the benefit to a large race is that there are people everywhere.
Fish Hatchery – Treeline 23.5 – 28.5
To finish this race I knew I’d have to be smart, this is part one of how preparation really paid off. I figured that this exposed road section would be hot, as well as the few dirt road miles afterwards. I picked up a 12oz bottle of water mixed with 2.5 gels, and a pack of shot blocks. 5 flat miles after 4:15 is as easy as this race gets, and I used the energy surplus to eat, rather than make up lost time. I know that my body reacts poorly to heat, and with no clouds in the sky it was obviously going to be a warm day. This road is easy, and the openness of the wide Arkansas Valley made it possible to ignore the heat and stare down Hope Pass, which looks rather benign from 15 miles away.
Treeline – Twin Lakes 28.5 – 40 (+/-)1,000
And hot, it was! Slow, slow, slow – Salt, salt, salt…
I’ve heard many people say that this is one of the prettiest section of the course, but I was just trying to focus. I was hitting a low point and I knew it was because of heat. I was getting passed by a lot of people, which was fine, but they seemed to be moving so effortlessly. It was somewhere in this section that I accepted I was having a bad day. Before the race I told myself (and truly believed) that I could finish if I had a bad day, but not if I had a dumb day. Dumb meant ignoring how my body felt to stay on some schedule. Dumb meant not eating because it sucked to eat and eating slowed me down. For once in my life, I wasn’t dumb. I managed for a while, then built momentum, and by the time I hit mile 36, and the drop into Twin Lakes, I felt fine. I ate 6 shot blocks on the drop and really enjoyed running. (Including a great quote from a spectator heading down to the aid "I am going to pace her for 37 miles, and her husband is going to finish her off at the end.") I headed into Twin Lakes feeling great, on a sugar and adrenaline rush. Then I did something stupid.
Twin Lakes – Winfield 40 – 50 (+/-) 3,000
I had planned on taking in some Coke and broth at Twin Lakes, which in retrospect, I didn’t need. It was really exciting to see my family here, I spent an extra minute saying hello to family and friends, and walked out of what can only be called a ¼ mile aid corridor. I loved every step of that little section, the support from strangers was a boost to the energy. I felt great and was looking forward to my stomach to settle so I could make quick work of Hope Pass. After all, this was the section I thought I was best prepared for. Some Trifuelers may remember my favorite quote is, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” I got punched, then donkey kicked, then stampeded in the gut. I was able to walk just fine and I didn’t rue the time lost on the 1.5 mile flat serction preceding the climb. All the time I was walking, I was waiting for my stomach to settle. There were several water crossings in the marsh, the water was cold and it helped to cool me down, I was still really hot, but coping better since the previous 6 miles had been in the shade. Still, as I headed up the steep lower slopes, my stomach was bad. Not unsettled, but totally cramped and dysfunctional.
I hiked up at a snails pace, stopping to sit on rocks, throwing up once (as a friend rounded a corner…talk about great timing). I continued in this pathetic fashion, watching the front runners stream past, and was happy to notice a good friend in 5th and 8th. My friend, who was in 8th at the time, and I had camped together for the week leading up the race and for several weekends while running up in the mountains. He stopped with his pacer and took some pictures, I was bewildered! “Dude! Go and run, what the hell are you doing?” He was having so much fun, I wanted to have fun. I’ll be damned if things didn’t start to get better. I made it to Hopeless Aid station at 12,000 feet, drank a little Sprite and just kept marching up. I caught my friend who watched me puke, and got a good look at Leadville in the distance, 55 miles away. The descent seemed easy enough, and I assumed (correctly) that the worst was behind me. By the bottom I felt like I had some spring in my step, and on the 2.5 mile dirt road into the aid station I was able to run almost every step. My 50 mile time was 12:38, at least 1 hour slower than I wanted.
I felt amazing though. The 50 miles back to Leadville didn’t seem intimidating at all. It was also nice to be far off of the 25 hour buckle, I could focus on finishing and be as conservative as I wanted.
Winfield - Twin Lakes 50-60 +/- 2,800 feet.
I ran into Winfield shouting “Back from the dead” at anyone who would listen. The good feeling held through the 5 min stop at the buffet, and soon I was on my way. I felt so good that I wasn’t even thinking about 50 miles back to Leadville. With my friend Brain pacing me, and the adrenaline of hitting halfway coursing through my veins, I eagerly looked forward to exacting revenge on Hope Pass for the butt-whooping it laid on me during the first crossing. It was nice catching up on the days events from a crew perspective. There is a two mile road section leading up to the climb, and I took my time down this road even though my legs were screaming GO GO GO! It was a pleasant change to have everything working right, and I tried to ride that peak for as long as I could.
Soon the climb began, and I settled into a slow, but comfortable and steady hike. I was awfully chatty at the bottom, but as the air thinned my desire to talk waned. Still, I was having a perfectly fine trip up the to the pass. Treeline came and went, before I knew it, I was at the top. From that lofty perch at the summit of the race Turquoise Lake, Leadville and a host of my friends were below me. All I had to do was run back to the finish line. Truthfully, it did not sound that intimidating. The altitude was noticeable but I was focused on the goal, I had a vision of me crossing the line playing through my mind, and I was finally starting to believe that my vision could become reality. It seemed, that the worst was behind me. I sat at Hopeless (Hopefull?) aid station to help get down calories. The conversation between Brian and I was something like this...”Brian, I am going to sit for 5 minutes, check your watch” “Brian, has it been 5 minutes” “Brian, can I get up and run now.” I was obviously ready to rock, and left after only 2.5 minutes of sitting.
It was raining outside and cold, but once we bridged the 1/2 mile to treeline and dipped into the forest the rain was hardly noticeable. I floated down the backside, ate a shot-block every ten minutes and really, really felt good. The streams we passed on the way out were colder now that the sun was beginning to set. I remembered a piece of advice I had gotten from a 5 time finisher, if I made it to Twin Lakes (60) and it was light out, I’d have no problem finishing. The sun was just setting below the ridges of Mt. Elbert, it was light out. From here on the finish, no matter how far away it was, felt close.
Twin Lakes - Fish Hatchery 60-76
I can’t explain why, but, after a full 16 hours of running, I felt the best I had all race. I headed up the short climb to the Mt. Elbert TH water-only aid station. Climbing felt effortless, we were passing people left and right and I had succumbed to being the machine. Brian told me when to eat, handed me Endurolytes and set the pace. I couldn’t swallow the stupid pills without gagging, a fact that would not reverse itself, so I resolved to pouring them out on my tounge, mixing water in my mouth, and swallowing. I also started my steady intake of Red Bull at this point. Other than an occasional shot-block, or M&Ms, I was on liquid only diet. We reached the summit of this climb and took off running downhill. In the fading light it was impossible to tell what was flat, and what was gradually uphill, so we ran pretty much everything but the obviously steep stuff. I kept making the remark “I can’t believe how well this is going.” We were truly flying. I passed quickly through the Halfpipe Aid, stopping only to grab a cup of ramen. This cup of ramen was pretty much the highlight of the race. It was delicious but I barely sipped on it, I didn’t want to upset the delicate balance of my stomach. One nagging question that presented itself almost every hour was whether or not to speed up and upset my stomach, or stay conservative and let me stomach limit me. I chose to stay conservative, and I don’t regret this. In retrospect, I was steady for 55 miles, largely due to this decision. I spent lots of time alternating 5 minutes of running and 2 of walking. Later, after a few beers, my pacer informed me that some of the running sections lasted 8-12 minutes, and most of the walks were 1:30. Glad I picked a pacer who couldn’t count.
Fish Hatchery – May Queen +1,800 STEEP feet. Down 1,500 gradual feet.
I changed socks here, and the extended time in the chair really let my legs tighten. I walked out of the aid station, and walked almost all of the 1.5 miles to the start of the Powerline climb, and then walked up the climb. Sounds boring, and it was. Pretty much all I noticed was walking. And the house BLASTING Chariots of Fire at 3 in the morning from the base of the climb. These speakers had to have been rented. It was awesome. I cheered to no one in particular, I was happy and doing just fine, but I was tired and ready to get the last climb started and finished. I hiked up slowly, slower than most. I kept thinking to myself, obey King Stomach, do what it lets you do. I loved looking down the hill and seeing headlamps charging, slowly, up and forward. The climb dragged and dragged, up and down 5 false summits and finally over a high, exposed, cold platue at 11,250 feet. Running has become second nature in the past few months, but it took a lot of convincing and self talk to run down to the next aid station. I did it though. I knew that running 75% of the downhill to May Queen would make it almost impossible not to finish, so I drank my calories, tasted gross salt tab after gross salt tab and made it to the rocky, nasty, cursed, too long, too technical Colorado Trail.
A note on the dark: I LOVE RUNNING AT NIGHT! I can’t wait to run 100 again for many reasons, but night running is a major one.
May Queen to Leadville.
I didn’t stop at this aid station, I just handed off my pack and kept walking/running towards Leadville. All night the challenge had been one aid to the next. Now it was GET TO THE FINISH! Brian caught up (not before I bummed a bit of water off another pacer) and took up a furious hiking pace over the undulating Turquoise Lake Trail. The math kept getting closer and closer to 30 minutes per mile to finish, and to me, that was the golden ratio. We walked and walked, I struggled to eat and get salt down. Finally, we hit the Tabor Boat Ramp. There were 40 people here and one said “6.7 miles to the finish.” “Are you serious, 6.7? That’s it?!” I thought we were 8 miles away. The math added up now. I got past the ramp and the people, and then promptly lost it. I could see Hope PAss in the distance, the summits of Elbert and Massive were bathed in a morning light and I was going to finish a 100 mile run, it all hit me right then. From there we walked. We didn’t hike, we didn’t try to push as people flooded past, we just walked. The first glimpse of the finish line brought more emotion, and the short walk through town was bittersweet. After 2 years a dream had come to fruition. I sprinted up to the line when I saw my friends and family, many of whom finished hours earlier and followed my progress online throughout the night. I did it. Not only did I run the Leadville 100, but I had FUN doing it. A lot of fun.
I felt great when the race ended, and have been walking around with no problems. I have no nagging injuries and no dehydration/hypernatrima issues. I am really proud of the race I had, even though it was far from what I expected. I am really glad that I raced this honestly, I didn't go out in 10 hours and limp back. I pushed hard for 24 hours, and felt really good long after I assumed I would. Thanks for reading.