August 17, 2014
|Elevation Gain||14,541 feet|
|Rank||335 of 360 finishers/690 starters|
Son of a bitch.
This race and I are like a bad couple. We just can't get along but we still keep going out hoping to make it work.
The lead up to the race seemed near perfect. Had everything dialed in. Was greatly acclimatized. Not a single thing I can argue in my head.
Race morning is always so painful waking up at 2:30 AM to go stand in the cold and run at 4 AM. This is not my best time of day. Slept a bit beforehand but the secret is always sleeping soundly the day before that -- which I did. Drove myself to the start line this year for the first time. Parked and walked up 6th Street a 1/4 mile into the lights. I was pumped to be there again. There are no qualifiers for this race but it feels good to swagger up the street knowing you can give this race a fair shot year after year.
Started up in the front but not the front. Just far enough up so I could chat with all my Colorado boys that would surely be leading this race out. As the gun went off, I started my jog but let the leaders fly. I settled into my pace and down the Boulevard we went.
We cruised to May Queen in a good pack. I got there in 2:08 which I knew would keep my fans/critics happy. Oddly the pace seemed a tad harder than I would have expected. I can't fathom how I ran a 1:48 there in 2011. I dropped my headlamp and was on my way.
On the way up Sugarloaf, my day took its first turn for the worst. I was getting some lower stomach, high ab pain. Tolerable but super annoying. This was breaking my run up Sugarloaf and people on the run were quickly moving by me. Drat. As I descended Powerline this became worse and worse. I started to better identify it as kidney pain. I had an issue at Bighorn in June but after 6-8 hours, I was able to clear it and recover. Would this be another day like that?
On to Outward Bound. They moved the aid station further east in the field this year. No cars on the road at all. It was a pretty clean entrance. Then they changed the course to exit out the south of the property and then go east over to Halfmoon road. So it cut a bit of the road out but it was just a mowed path through the pasture. And there were plenty of divots/cow holes in the ground. Not sure it was a bonus.
As I headed to Half Pipe, the pain continued. I was re-evaluating my fluid intake. I was hitting 1 UD bottle of water and 1 UD bottle of UCANN between each of the aid stations. That was all I could carry so it seemed reasonable being before 9 AM. I found myself ducking off in the trees inbound to Half Pipe trying to quell the pain by peeing. But I could barely pee. Like squeezing as hard as you can and a couple drops would come out. Like you couldn't fill a thimble. And it was dark. Orangish. Is this blood? What the hell. Not again.
I figured I would just keep on it and it would eventually clear. But the weather was not helping. This was literally the hottest day in Leadville in months. We had a rainy and overcast July in Leadville. I nearly trained there all summer. Never much in Longmont where temps are 90-100. I was forced to wear a shirt and run in 60-70s in Leadville -- in the rain. I was not heat trained this summer. I used to pride myself in the hot summer workout. This year I just wasn't in that location. Me acclimatizing bit me back.
Finally dropped into Twin Lakes just past noon. I was aiming for 11-11:30. Tim was right at the front when I arrived. He flagged me right into his camp. He had brought a chair and got there early and setup to crew me. I wasn't planning on much support on course but it was nice to get a bit of help here. He knew I was off pace and I was showing my disappointment. But he encouraged me to move out and make it up on Hope Pass. Because that was the plan anyway. Ryan, Liz and Honeybear were hanging out at Twin Lakes and wished me well. I had a moment and bent down and let Honeybear lick my face. I told them I missed my dogs. Its weird to train with them all summer but then leave them home on the big day.
Hope Pass was a mixed bag. I felt so familiar there given my training over the summer on the course there. I moved better than I had in prior years. I used to double over hacking and coughing trying to get my breath. Today, I used my inhaler and it seemed to calm my symptoms. So I was steady but it was slow. The kidneys still aching. I finally hit the road into Winfield and Jason Koop was there waiting on his runner. He accompanied me all the way into Winfield chatting about my race and offering suggestions. I appreciated the time he took with me.
I got into Winfield and weighed in. Down 12 pounds. Oops. Totally dehydrated. I sat in the tent and drank cup after cup of water, GU brew, whatever. I wasn't going to stop at Winfield -- but I changed plans. I decided to hang for 15 minutes just refueling to see if I could kick start the recovery. Finally, I got up and left and headed back over the pass.
The return was another slow ascent. But it wasn't as painstaking as other years. I just kept moving and the time sort of melted away. Once I crested, it was time to go down and I could barely run. The kidney pain was too intense by this point for the jostling of the rocky trail. So I hiked down.
On my way down Hope, I lost light. Sunset came and I was running down in the dark. This happened last year and you would think I would have learned. But I didn't have a drop bag at Winfield. Oops. So I was running down the trail in the dark using my cat eyes to veer away from the grayish looking things on the trail that looked like rocks. People with lights would bomb past me. Finally, crossing the river and then the swamp in total darkness. Losing the trail a few times and just standing there waiting for the next runner to come through and light the trail.
Pulled into Twin Lakes and Tim was right in the parking lot. I wasn't really sure what the situation was with the cutoffs. I don't think I need to pay attention to such things but here I am. Tim had the data and said we had 20 minutes. I was fully prepared to go home if they said I was out of time but I was guaranteed to solider on if they let me. So we packed up Tim's camp and moved to the real aid station so we could get through the timer and make a final prep for the night time push.
We got out and hiked back up to the Colorado Trail. Tim's fresh legs had him just drifting away from me at a leisurely hiking pace uphill. While I was there driving the sticks and grunting up the hill. Tim was trying to encourage me to push and stay with a group, or catch a light, or eat more. But I was in survival mode. I started thinking in terms of cutoffs. Could I make the next aid station in time? I continued to hurt in the kidneys. Barely any pee still. I figured night time would fix everything given the cooler temps but it wasn't relieving me. I would try and pee and get out another drop and then try and run. It was a pathetic jog if anything.
Tim then started having his own digestion issue. He was having to stop and stretch and bend. He wasn't well. We pulled into Half Pipe freezing cold. Tim informed me that he couldn't pace anymore with the discomfort. He hitched a ride out of Half Pipe as I went into the tent. Cutoff was 1:15 and I arrived at 12:20 AM. Nice. Got some time back there. But the highlight was clearly dropping Tim with my wicked pace.
Off to Outward Bound. I was solo and still cold. All my warm clothes were in the Outward Bound drop bag. I didn't pack one for Half Pipe. Whoops. When I have been on an OK pace, I never get could until Outward Bound (Fish). Not this year. I was later than ever. I took my Buff and made a glove out of it and kept switching it from hand to hand to keep some finger functioning.
Outward Bound's cutoff was 3 AM. I got there somewhere around 2:45ish. I grabbed my dropbag and sat by a fire that some crew/family had going in the field. I geared way up. Pants. Couple shirts. Hat. Gloves. Warmed up nicely. Marched out into the night.
Up next was Powerline. It was a 2x a week practice this summer with the dogs so every step was predictable. I continued to move decently on the hike but couldn't run the stuff I should. I didn't lose position to many and caught plenty. Felt like a decent push given the circumstances. However, the descent off Sugarloaf was killing me. The kidneys were piercing but my feet started getting angry too. My non-Hokas all day long were starting to catch up with me.
As I approached May Queen, I was unsure of the cutoff. People were saying 6 AM but there was no big push of people around me. Maybe it was later? Maybe it was earlier? I didn't know. I just made the best time I could and rolled into May Queen. As I crossed the timer, it read 6:19:41AM. Cutoff = 6:30. Damn. I made it. You aren't sure if you are happy or sad at that moment. But I knew the race went on and so would I.
I was still in this thing after hiking since sunset. Now, sunrise is here and I have 13.5 miles to cover in 3.5 hours. This might hurt a bit. So I jumped on the Turquoise Lake Trail and started doing math. What pace do I have to nail to make this? How bad do I want this? I was rolling the down and hiking the ups. I found some rhythm that didn't have me doubled over from the kidneys.
People passed me and I was passing people. There was definitely something special going on with the time left in the race. We were the last wave. And frankly, it was pretty interesting being in it. We came though the campgrounds and folks were all cheering us on like I have never heard. They knew it was close and they were pushing us. I ran what felt like super fast around to the damn. Looking back on the splits I never broke a 15 min mile but I would have sworn they were 6 minutes flat.
After the mini powerline, I started thinking I was in the money. And suddenly I came upon a group of about 15 runners in a pack. They were mostly walking and talking. There was no sense of urgency with this group. I found the last wave! They and their pacers had done the math and we were all going to make it.
We got to the Boulevard and I cruised right up it with the pack. I had memories of 2010 with my sister. I was doubled over crying like a baby saying I wanted to stop right now. Taking pauses. None of that today. I just powerhiked and never broke my stride up the whole thing. Passing by the exit for my house knowing I would be there shortly. Thinking about how my dogs and I ran this road about every afternoon. Basking in the moment.
We rolled up 6th Street and the pack decided to run it out. I let them go. I could see the clock and I had plenty of time. So I let them go so I could cross the line alone. There have never been so many people at one of my finishes. We were getting close to the end of the race and the town gathers. But you finish a few hours earlier and its tough to find anybody out there. I never ran. I walked right over the finish line and got my medal. Another one done! 3 time finisher.
I went over to the medical tent and told them my story. No pee. Pain. I figured I was a shoe in for an IV. Denied. They sent me over to the food area and told me to keep hydrating. So I did. Sat by myself and chugged what I could for 15 minutes. I was getting stiff so I got up and limped to the finish line to see them shoot the gun for the end of the race. I then hobbled down 6th Street and found my truck. Sitting in the driver's seat felt amazing. I don't have to move anymore!
Except that the awards were only 2 hours from now. So I had to go shower and then get myself up into the auditorium to receive my buckle. I worked for it and I needed to get it. Not surprisingly, I fell asleep in my chair during the awards. Apparently, they never called my name but I took a buckle anyway. My chip stopped working half way through the race so I never got scored. I had to go to race HQ on Monday to sort it out. I was kind of panicked. I just did that and I want my credit! Turns out they have manual data too and the put it all together except for one split. Everything is right now.
My Bighorn video seemed popular so I wanted to do another in the same style. However, I lost motivation during the day with the issues. Probably would have made for a good story but I just wasn't in the mood or something. Then I think it popped on later and the battery drained. So you get some video of me from the start to after half way.
I usually try and end these Leadville posts with some epic plan or discovery or proclamation. This time, I just don't have one. I am not really sure where to go from here with this race. I have 3 buckles -- which I tell myself I can divide up between my 3 daughters some day. Seems about right. Is that enough finishes? Have I proven I can gut that race enough times? But I still haven't achieved the mastery I wanted there. I want to have one good race in my adopted hometown one day. That would give me some peace. And something about that 1000 mile buckle seems right.
I talked to many friends who indicated they were going to pause after this one. I feel the same sometimes. Step away for a while. Come back some other day. This is a runner's course and I have done less pure running lately. It used to take me months, then weeks, then days to recommit to returning to this race. This time it took me minutes. On the drive from the finish back to the cabin. But I left the year out. When you are out there, it really seems like agony sometimes and you wish you were elsewhere. But the second it was over, you realize it was a fine place to be at that time. Life isn't about normal moments. Its about special ones. And every August I get one of those burnt into my brain forever.
The tradeoff is always more about the strain on things. This race seems to put pressure on my family in some way I can't understand. They don't enjoy it and haven't attended in a few years now. My kids have never seen me finish a 100 miler. I crossed the line this year with no pacer, no crew, no family. And that was OK. Its a solo passion for me and I respect that. For my fellow runners that do get to share it with their families, I hope they all cherish the insanity of running around these mountains in the middle of the night trying to keep you from puking. Those are the stories that you will remember forever.
So I commit to coming back here again, but maybe not next year. Odd years seem to bite me. So maybe I will try a few new things next summer. Hone some skills. Really prep. And then come back and give it another go with fresher perspective. I know I can do this. I just haven't put it together yet. So the journey will continue...date TBD.
August 16, 2014
Its 4 AM in Leadville. The shotgun just fired. We are off! My 5th year in a row.
Why Leadville? Why run 100 miles? This video touches on it for me.
Track me! #247 @ http://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-6391?lc=en
See you Sunday.
August 14, 2014
We are almost there. Hang in there. Leadville overload will stop soon enough.
Today was race check-in. Always a big deal to get the bib and the band on your wrist. You don't get to take the band off until you cross the line or quit trying. Another new number for me. They do these alphabetical these days so I seem to be in the 200s every year now.
We headed over to Aish's Mizuno party. I had to get one of the shirts of little Aish when he was in 2nd grade. I never gave out shirts at my Leadville event. But then again, I don't have a sponsor (yet). One day. Met up with a lot of great folks. New friends and bumped into some old ones too.
Speaking of old, ultrarunning's biggest fan was in the house. We got a look at the Duper list. Pretty standard but he didn't have them sorted just yet. We gave him crap for not having the balls to man up and pick a podium in order. Tim and I talked Bill into jumping into my truck with us and we headed over to the Boulevard for another kind of race...
The 2nd Annual Leadville Beer Mile! Pat put it on. And Pat won. 7:30ish. At altitude. That's drink 12 oz, run 1/4 mile, drink 12 oz, run 1/4 mile, drink 12 oz, run 1/4 mile, drink 12 oz, and run 1/4 mile again! It was a fun event to watch. I am not trained for such a thing.
About 36 hours before the gun fires. Nerves are in check so far.
August 13, 2014
Tim and I were sitting at my kitchen table in Leadville on an overcast afternoon. I had my back to the sliding glass door. Tim suddenly says something to the effect of "there is a bear in front of your house". What? I turn around to see a black bear meandering across our front yard. He checks out our hummingbird feeder and then continues on.
I have never seen a bear on a trail in my life. I just saw one out my window. Wild. It was nice and peaceful being in the comfort of your home watching this. But I clearly got the sense, that his guy wanted nothing to do with people. We barely made any noise and he was perking his ears towards us and really moved on fast once we stepped outside. If Tim wouldn't have been there, would I have even seen this happen?
Well, dude, sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.
I don't know if that movie quote applies here but this was some sort of omen for Saturday. I just don't know what it means yet.
August 12, 2014
The halfway point at Leadville is a place called Winfield. Its an old ghost town that comes to life with droves of people on race day. Its the hardest place on the course for crews to get to. And its one of the easiest spots for runners to call it a day. The "Leadville 50" as we call it at times for those that do not carry on from that point.
This year, race management is changing the logistics a bit on Winfield. Crews will be able to travel to Winfield until the first runner comes through. Then they will stop the road traffic and make people park along the road. This should be an interesting change to the most frustrating crew point on the course.
Although Winfield is the mathematical center of the race, I am not giving it any weight this year. Its simply a line I have to go cross. I will have no crew or pacer at Winfield. I am not even putting a drop bag there. I plan to touch the line, grab some food, and return to Twin Lakes -- the real half way point of the race out at mile 60.
The whole plan is to shave time off Hope Pass. That's a tall order in the sense that its always the crux of the race for me. But the good news is that I have hours I can gain even by running this decently. I have been incapacitated before there. My splits are not very predictive.
What's different this year? 1) Poles. Trained with them. Uphill and downhill. 2) Training. I went to Hope Pass many times this year as opposed to zero to one times other years. 3) Drugs. I have drugs for my lungs that I experimented with on those runs. We will see if that is enough.
This brings me to Twin Lakes where I pick up my pacer and we mount the charge going into the evening. If things went well on Hope, I should have the time on the clock I need to make it happen. I usually bonk on Powerline and then mentally cave around the lake. But if the time on the clock looks right, I am sure I can reverse that easily through some wishful thinking.
That's what a year of planning got me to. But I also changed a couple other things worth noting:
1) UD AK pack - No more handheld bottles. Been using this pack all season and will continue with it for the race except on Hope Pass. I will go to my hydration pack because its easier to drink hands free. Worked at Bighorn but I was a little slow on fluids.
2) Starch - I have been using UCANN in the water all year and did at Bighorn. Been liking it and not bonking as hard or as much. Will continue to utilize at the race to prevent the sugar highs and lows. Although I supplement it with sugar in the form of Cliff Blocks.
3) Shoes - For the final and probably more controversial choice, I am forgoing trails shoes for this race. I am actually wearing a pair of shoes with 3000+ miles on them. They look like shit. For my daily runs, I throw on a pair of black Nike Free 5.0s. These are my go to shoe. It evolved out of the says when they produced the legendary Nike Lunartrainers. RIP. I love the sock feel and I never have issues with these shoes. But I always go to my races in something else and get beaten up. So this time, we are calling up the daily workhouse to the race. I did train in them last month up high and did fine so I am confident they will do what I want them to do. Change of shoes in the drop bags in case.
4) Pacer - Bringing Tim out of retirement(?) to help me get this done. At WS100, his skills (and they are skills) helped dig me out of a hole. We got momentum and then built a cushion that carried me to the finish. Never proud of having a bad moment in a race but if I could run Western-2012-style at Leadville, I would take that deal any day.
That's what brings me back. Planning. Thinking. Waiting. Executing. Waiting for that late race surge that makes you feel immortal -- even if just for a few hours. Then you go back to your desk Monday and wait 365 days for it to happen all over again. Hopefully with a big shit eating grin on your face.
August 11, 2014
I enjoy learning. Whether it be a new skill or factoid, it makes my brain feel bigger by knowing more.
The interesting thing about running a hundred miles is that you always learn something. Sometimes a lot of things.
The best part of it is that you aren't learning about some boring topic. You are learning about yourself. What could be more interesting to you than you?
This will be my fifth consecutive running of the Leadville Trail 100. In the recent podcast, Gary noted that I am in a relationship with this race where "I just cannot quit you". Pretty true. Probably because I keep learning each time.
Learning a new skill is one thing and brings about a freshness in your mind. But really honing in on something. Preparing for it year after year. Brings some sort of focus when you really direct yourself.
So I was reflecting on what I had actually learned in these prior attempts. Checking myself to see if it really was beneficial. Each year I surely learned some technical lessons about what shoes to wear or whatever. But those are not the point today.
In 2010, I learned Confidence. Moving from a 50 mile distance to 100 mile distance is hard but its possible. Take that from a guy that ran his first half marathon ever 5 years prior. Anything is possible.
In 2011, I learned Humility. This didn't happen on race day. It happened after. Your first DNF is an exhausting process. Its truly easier to finish the race -- given the choice. But when you talk a big game and you aim high, you crash hard when you don't reach the goal.
In 2012, I learned Fortitude. No matter what the pain is, there is a way through it. Find a rhythm that works and keep on grinding it out. Its not going to be the thrilling accomplishment you hoped it would be, but just getting the job done is what matters. And its all anybody remembers.
In 2013, I learned Respect. Respect for my body. Respect for the distance. Respect for the race. I thought I could cruise it based on a bad set of assumptions. I had things I had not dealt with and I hoped that would just be different on race day. Lady Luck wasn't on my side.
So with less than a week to go until that gun goes off, I wonder what lesson I will learn this year. Its no fun to repeat the same class in school. But if I had one elective to choose from the curriculum offered, it would be Patience.
I have been working year after year to master my low points.
Its finally time for this race to come to me -- because I have come to it enough times. But if it does not, I have prior lessons to review.
August 7, 2014
Last August, Gary and Tim, the famous hosts of Elevation Trail, stayed at the Fuller Compound in Leadville during the Leadville Trail 100 Run. We had a great time chatting about all things racing. Afterwards, the race got some bad publicity for its overcrowded scene. Gary and Tim addressed some of the issues on their show back then.
Fast forward to now, Leadville is on the mend the race is just over a week out. Who better than to be a guest on the show than ME -- the self-proclaimed mayor of the town. I am lining up for my 5th consecutive start at my favorite race. We chat about Leadville, the series, my strategies, and my failures. And how Tim is coming off the couch to pace me once again next week. Listen here.
Thanks to the boys for giving me an outlet to speak on this important topic. My wife is sick of hearing about it.
August 4, 2014
Note to Mom - Don't leave Dad alone at the cabin with your kids. This happened.
August 3, 2014
My buddy, George Zack, and Jack the Burro won the 2014 Leadville Burro Race again! That's 20+ miles of running -- including a trip to the top of Mosquito Pass (13,000'). He won last week in Fairplay at the World Championships as well. One more race next week in Buena Vista to see if he can take home the coveted Triple Crown!
August 2, 2014
The tradition continues. Another night run in the books! Kim and I opened up our home to runners seeking to compete in the Leadville Trail 100 in two weeks for a final preparation run. We run from Fish Hatchery along the course until we intersect with my house. Then we treat the runners to a warm home and a buffet of food. We had a smaller group this year which worked out well. We stayed a lot tighter the prior years.
People always arrive and we have time to chat and get to know each other. This year, we were able to setup a fire and bond around that.
Before getting started, I always have an increasing longer speech to give. My pre-run briefing if you will. Most people know it all but there are always some that say "I have never been on this part of the course before". Its for them. But even the veterans get lost every year.
The run starts at 8 PM under daylight but quickly darken as we near the summit of Sugarloaf at around mile 80 of the race. From there, we descend down into the colder part of the course in the dark. Luckily George Zack once again supplied us with an aid station at Timberline Trailhead. This makes for an excellent refueling option mid-run. Thanks to him for his continued support of this event.
From there, its around the lake we go. Always taking longer than you feel like it should. But we had clear skies and the crescent moon lighting our way. Temps were down into the 30s by the time we reached the Boulevard. The hard core in the group continued that way to do the full course. We had everyone successfully back inside the house at 1 AM. Lots of banter about the run and upcoming race.
Thanks to everyone for coming out. I feel like this event is always a milestone to signify the end of big training for the race. And its a pleasure to share the trail in a non-competitive setting with friends, new and old. Much thanks to my wife for allowing a bunch of sweaty strangers into our home and then feeding them. I couldn't do the event without Kim's support.
Personal note - Its hard to tell year to year where I stand with the night run based on time. I am always helping and chatting with other runners and the watch doesn't always stop. What I can say is that was the most effortless I ran that route in the history of running it. It felt good.