This past Saturday the last 2 years of training/racing finally came to age, I finally completed my goal of running 100 miles on my 3rd attempt. It was a good thing also because before the race I was telling myself that 3 strikes and I was out of this 100 mile thing and going back to shorter faster races which I seem to do good at if I train for them.
Leadville is a classic course that you have to give respect to, if you don't it will chew you up and spit you out. On paper when you compare the climbing with other hundred milers you may think that it really is not a big deal, the problem is that a large chunk of the climbing happens between miles 40-60. After all that climbing you still have 40 miles until the finish, this is where it becomes a huge challenge. With the average elevation at 11,000 feet above sea level it is one of the highest 100 milers in the US and below is my experience in 2010.
50 miles out and back in the midst of the Colorado Rockies. Lowest point is 9,200 ft. and the highest point is Hope Pass, 12,600 ft. The majority is on forest trails with some mountain roads. Pacers allowed after the 50 mile point. 11 well-supplied aid stations with cut-offs; 5 are medical checks. (I only did 2 medical checks).
Here is the race Profile, you read the 1st 50 miles left to right then backwards for the second 50.
View Leadville Trail 100 2009 map in a larger map
The weather forecast for both Saturday the 21th and Sunday the 22th was a high of 71, low of 40 with a 0-10% chance of rain. It was perfect weather!
Some sections will be long and some parts will be short. It all comes down to if anything eventful happened in that section and to what I can really remember. 28 hours out on the trails and roads in the mountains kind of blend together in a lot of parts.
The first time in the header is the split for that section of trail and the second time is the total running time.
Start to Mayqueen 2:24/2:24
The night before the race was really bad as far as trying to get some sleep. We decided to camp since we were taking the dog with us. So in the 6 person tent we had the 3 of us and the dog, needless to say the dog was climbing all over me driving me mad. It was a good thing that I was able to take out my hearing aid so I never heard the other campers that were up drinking just feet away well past midnight. That would explain why the dog would not lay still. Oh well….
The Family at the Starting Line
Got my butt out of bed around 2:30-2:35 just before the alarm was set to go off and we piled into the car for the drive into town. There was so many people at the start that I really did not know where I should line up at to start. My plan this first section was just to cruise nice and slow, if that meant I was in the back of the congo line then so be it. As I was walking up to the crowd I spotted an old frat brother from CSU Brian O’Malley who was also running. This would be his first attempt at the distance and he all sorts of questions. I lined up with O’Malley as the gun when off and spent the first 6ish miles jogging along with him catching up on the past 15 years since we have seen each other. It was great to see Brian and as we hit the single track around the lake he fell in behind me and that would be the last I would see of O’Malley. I was really bummed on Monday when I saw in the results that he dropped at 50. If anyone who is reading this has the contact info for Brain please let me know I would like to get a hold of him to hear his race story.
The rest of this section was pretty uneventful as I cruised into Mayqueen. I told my crew not to meet me here on the outbound due to the large amount of people running this year. It was just way to stressful for both the crew and myself to try and find each other in this crazy crowd.
I grabbed some food, refilled my bottles and hit the road, not spending more than 1-2 mins in this aid station.
Mayqueen to Fish 2:08/4:32
This section was even more uneventful. After leaving the cluster of an aid station I just fell into line on the single track and did the walk/jog up to Haggerman Pass road. The Colorado Trail up to the road is a nice mellow climb for the most part but there is no where to pass so it is best just to fall back into line and follow everyone.
Once on the dirt road we had to climb up to the top of the Powerlines at about 11,200ft. For being where I was among middle/back of the pack I was shocked to see how many people were trying to run this road to the top! There was no need to do this. I just power hiked up it without killing myself. There was this one dude who was trying to kill this road with all of his might, he was breathing super hard and looked like he was about to pass out. With all that effort he only beat to the top by a mere minute or so, I passed him heading down the other side. I memorized his race number and sure enough, he did not finish. One thing is that it sure was entertaining to watch how much people where trying to kill themselves on this climb. It helped pass the time.
This is the 1st place that I saw my crew, I passed off my night stuff, grabbed my sunglasses and hit the road.
Leaving Fish Hatchery
Fish to Halfmoon 1:32/6:05
Now it was time to roll for a little bit. This is a flat road section of about 8-9 miles with a mix of both asphalt and jeep road. About halfway across this section is a location called Treeline that I could meet my crew. I felt really good through this section and just cruised along catching and passing lots of people who had killed themselves climbing in the last section. I never felt like I was running hard but just out for a nice easy Saturday morning long run. This is a great section to make up a little bit of time without putting out a big effort to do so. I was just rolling through here and really don’t remember a lot from this section.
Meeting the Crew at Treeline
Halfmoon to Twin 1:42/7:47
This is another pretty uneventful section that I really don’t have a lot to write about. It is a great section of rolling Colorado Trail that is well shaded from the morning sun. My goal on this section was just to walk the uphills, run the downhills, and try to get some food into me for the upcoming big 3500 or so foot climb up Hope Pass in the next section of the race. As I was jogging the down the final ~1000ft into Twin Lakes I came across a guy limping along and as I slowed down to make sure he was ok I discovered it was Donald Beuke. His year long battle with a tight IT band was rearing its ugly head again. He said it is fine uphill and on flats but was killing him on the downhills. I was able to talking him into jogging down the road with me and we came into Twin Lakes at mile 40 together. I was just happy to have some company even if it was short lived. I left Twin Lakes before Donald and did not see him again which is a huge bummer. We did some training together this past spring and it would have been cool to run with him a little farther.
At the aid station I grabbed my coat, gloves, hat, and some food hitting the road eating as much as I could to ready myself for what I consider to be the heart of Leadville 100, the double crossing of Hope Pass.
Coming into Twin Lakes
Twin to Winfield 3:56/11:44
Now the fun really starts. I left Twin Lake eating a Mojo Bar trying to get as much energy as I could for the up coming climb of Hope Pass. You cross a flat 2 miles or so to get to the base of the 3 mile ~3000ft climb. On the way to the climb one has to do a river crossing. This year the cold water that came up to just below my knees felt great on the tired legs, but did cause a weird burning feeling in my feet which passed quickly.
The climb from this side of Hope was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. I just put my head down and worked my way up to the aid station on the top of the pass trying not to work to hard because I do have to come back over this again. Once at the Hopeless aid station close to the top of the pass I took a 5 min breather and ate some soup. This was the first real break at any aid station all day and I could feel my stomach starting to get weak so I thought some soup would help calm it a little.
After a finishing my soup I got my butt up to finish the last ~500ft to the true top of the pass and jogged down the other side. This is a cool part of the race due to the out and back nature of the course. I was able to see all my buddies who were in front of me coming back over. I made pretty quick work of the downhill and the 2.5 mile road into the Winfield (halfway mark) to pick up my pacer Fred. Now the fun really begins.
Winfield to Twin 5:34/17:18
Before I start digging into the meat of this race I want to share some advice that 2 friends gave me before the race. There were many more responses to this list from Facebook but I took the top 15. Then reason that I bring them up is that I start breaking these rules in this section.
Gerber and Misti’s Tips for Leadville and other 100s.
1. YOU CAN NOT BANK TIME! Don’t do it or even think about it.
2. Don’t sit down ever, unless you are changing your shoes.
3. Don’t go anywhere NEAR the fire or propane heaters at the aid stations. The gravitational field of them is amazing.
4. EAT early, eat often, and as much as you can assimilate.
5. Take your electrolytes, even if you aren’t cramping. They help with digestion too.
6. Sometimes it feels better to just puke it up and get on with the show.
7. The fastest times on this course are out in 45% of total time and back in 55% of total time.
8. Training is over 2 weeks before the race. Nothing you do the week before will help you. Take an easy, relax, and eat some bacon.
9. Try to remember that “it never always gets worse.” Seriously, this is the miracle. You can trust it.
10. Red Bull is your friend.
11. For the 1st 50 miles listen to your body, for the second 50 stop listening.
12. If you don’t think you are going absurdly slow the first 50, you’re going to fast.
13. When gels start making you gag, try bacon. Seriously!
14. A cold beer at mile 70 is pretty darn good.
15. If you drop for some lame ass reason, it is going to stick with you for 364 days.
I was weighed in at Winfield and was up 2 pounds, that was good news. I found my crew, took a load off for a few minutes trying to eat some more for the big climb to come. After a few more minutes chatting with my wife I grabbed a cup of soup and my pacer Pastor Fred and hit the road back to the trail head to go back over the pass.
About 1.5 miles up the road from Winfield the trouble started, I suddenly had to poop-BAD! I grabbed some paper and ran into the woods, of course I did not grab enough paper so I had to run back out to the road to get some more from Fred. After getting cleaned up I was walking out of the woods when out of no where the puke just started flying everywhere. I spent the next few minutes on my hands and knees puking valuable calories and energy into the dirt. Darn it, I need those calories to get back over the freaking pass!
Fred and I just kept walking and started the climb back over. About every 10 minutes or so I would heel back over and throw down some more calories into the dirt. As this was going on my pace was getting slower and slower due to running out of energy. Just before tree line I saw a nice big rock on the side of the trail and took Fred’s suggestion, I curled up into a ball on top of the rock and took a 10 minute nap. The hope was to get my system to settle down a bit and it worked. From that point on I was able to keep a very very slow but steady pace the rest of the way up Hope Pass only puking a couple more times and taking a couple short breaks to catch my breath. At the top I kept up the hiking all the way to the aid station just ~500ft or so down the other side. It was time to problem solve and get this race going again, I was losing too much time if I wanted to finish this thing.
At the aid station we came across Gerber and his runner who started giving me a hard time about breaking the rules. I was sitting around the camp fire feeling sorry for myself trying to eat. After a few minutes of heckling from Fred (my pacer) and Gerber the four of us left and started a slow jog down the pass back to Twin Lakes. Slowly I was starting to get my stomach back, a gel here and Clif Block there. I was starting to rebuild the foundation to finish this thing. Before I knew it we were back in Twin Lakes (mile 60) and it was time to change my socks/shoes and get the heck out of there.
Breaking the Rules on top of Hope Pass
Twin to Halfmoon 2:49/20:08
Being silly at Twin Lakes
Last pose before leaving Twin Lakes
I really don’t remember a lot about this section. I do remember that Fred and I agreed just to take an easy on the uphill and recover as much as possible. We needed to keep building on that new foundation that we just started laying down. I spent most of this section walking all the uphills at an easy pace and slow jogging the downhills while trying to eat a Clif Block every 15-20 minutes. We kept this cycle up all the way into the aid station. I was starting to get sleepy but held off on taking anything. Fred wanted me to hold off from taking the No Doz as long as I could so that it would have a more dramatic effect in the early morning hours when I would need it most.
Halfmoon to Fish 2:32/22:41
At Halfmoon the lady in charge of the cut-offs came up to me and start questioning me. I must have looked like crap. At this point I don’t think I was much more than 30 mins ahead of the cut-offs. I started asking her questions like. “If the cut-off is 2:30am (don’t remember the real time) then that is how many hours from the start?”. I had a running hour total on my watch and I could not do the math, I was too tired. She just looked at me and said, “You ask way too many questions.” and walked away. Guess my mind was working a little.
We walked the jeep road all the way from Halfmoon to my crew car at Treeline. I was getting more and more tired. The stomach was not feeling that great either and the legs hurt like hell. I am running out of time and feeling really down on myself about it at this point.
At Treeline I broke the rules again. I sat down in a chair for no other reason than just to get off my feet. I was really pondering the thought of quitting. As I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself because I was hurting my mind drifted off to the last time I saw my grandfather who passed around the end of June. This was nothing compared to what I saw him go through as cancer was taking over his body! Between that thought about grandpa, the frustration in my wife’s voice, and the disappointed look on Fred’s face I asked my wife to fill my bottle with Ginger Ale, popped some No Doz and I kept walking. I did not care if we made the cut-offs or not, we were going to walk this whole thing even if it was unofficially.
We just kept walking all the way to the Fish Hatchery getting a little quicker with every step. By the time we got to the Fish Hatchery about an hour later we were power hiking and I had finished off both bottles containing ginger ale and water. I had also eaten a whole pack and a half of Clif Shots.
Fish to Mayqueen 2:45/25:26
At Fish Hatchery I had to run up and check in before meeting my crew. I was starting to cut it really close to the cut-off. After checking in I grabbed a turkey wrap and told Fred I was hitting the road all within about 30 seconds to a minute. He said back that he needed to stay behind and eat a little and will catch-up shortly. On the way out I stopped to kiss my wife aka my crew grabbing 2 new bottles of water and ginger ale along with a bunch of Clif Blocks. I asked to send some an extra bottle with Fred since we had about 11ish miles to Mayqueen with the last big climb.
Once on the road to the base of the Powerlines (last big climb) I decided since it was a rolling downhill that I would try jogging and see how that felt. I ended up running all the way to the base of the climb where I went into a quick strong power hike. There are 3 false summits on this climb, I was hiking so strong that my pacer (Fred) did not catch up to me until between the 1st and 2nd false summit. I was moving very strong and passing people like mad. I had no idea why I was moving so good but I went with it. Once on the top of the Powerlines at about 11,200ft above sea level we took a quick break to refill my bottles from Fred’s pack.
From this point on I just started rolling, Fred and I jogged down the Haggerman Pass road together to the start of the Colorado Trail single track that would take us to Mayqueen. Once on the single track I took off! I felt really really good! I ran every step from this point all the way to Mayqueen passing all kinds of people. As I was coming into Mayqueen I started looking for Ashley (crew/wife) so I could get an extra bottle to carry since I lost my pacer. I still had 13 miles to go to the finish and 2 bottles was not going to cut it. Not locating her anywhere I went into Mayqueen and sat down breaking the rules again. I had to wait for Fred to catch up so I had enough fluids to finish this thing.
About 5-8 minutes later he came rolling in and after a fluid top off in his backpack and some more food for both of us we hit the last section of trail without ever seeing Ashley.
Mayqueen to Finish 3:12/28:39
What to say about this section but I never would have believed that I could still run like this between miles 90 to100. Just shocking! I got rolling again and lost Fred again which had me freaked out about having enough fluids to finish this. I ran for the next 5 or so miles coming into Tabor Boat ramp to lots of cheering people and empty bottles. I asked a person camping right there off the trail if they could fill my bottles with water and they did! Awesome!! Lets Roll!!! As I got about 20 feet past the boat ramp I heard someone yelling my name, I turned around and my wife was running down the boat ramp. She found me!!!! She was just as shocked as I was on how good I was feeling. I dumped out one bottle of water and topped it off with ginger ale, kissed her, grabbed a hat and headed towards the finish. I was able to maintain a run all the way on the single track trail to the final road that would take me into town. The final 5 miles of road I did a run/walk cycle all the way to the finish coming across in 28:39, one hour and 21 minutes ahead of the cut-off! Awesome!!!!! I really had no real emotions as I ran up the red carpet with Braden who did the last ½ mile with me. I was just happy to be done. I never would have thought that it would hurt less to run than to walk the final miles of this thing.
Views from this section
Tabor Boat Ramp
Finishing it up with Braden
Some Happy Campers!
The Under 30 Hours Buckle
I know that I am not a great writer but I hope that you enjoyed sharing this little story with me. I would like to thank Ashley who has been putting up with me and my training for the past 3 plus years we have been together, I love you babe. And of course a big shout out to Pastor Fred Ecks who delivered me from the gates of hell back into the Lands of the Holy Trails. Thanks for pushing me through the rough patches dude.
I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. There were only 5 people who left the mile 76 aid station Fish Hatchery later than me that finished and I ended up in front over 140 people by the time I hit the red carpet in Leadville, you can do the math to see how many people I passed the last 25 miles. You can recover from the deep dark places if you take the time to do some problem solving to why you are there in the first place and just walk it out. I also learned a great deal about the great people that I have surrounded myself with. Next time we will go even faster!
Here are some great videos that some friends made during their adventure at Leadville.