Thursday, August 29, 2013

2013 Leadville "Race Across The Sky" 100 Mile Trail Run

Looking for a new challenge, I decided to sign up for the Leadville 100 miler on January 1, the day it opened for registration.  At the time it seemed like a good idea and then later I wasn't so sure. The entry fee wasn't too expensive (compared to Western States), I could run fewer ultras to offset the expense, and only cost $130 gas round trip in a Prius.  I tried to get into the Leadville hostel to save money on lodging but it was already full.

I signed up and tried to not think too much about the race until June since I had Land Between the Lakes 50 miler in February and the Berryman 50 miler in May.  If I think about a 100 mile race too much, I start thinking about how little I am training and then start to doubt myself.  I made a training plan which included other races but didn't go too crazy with the long runs or the mileage.  I ran a lot of 20 - 25 miles runs (some days there were breaks if I ran a race) and then 12 - 16 miles the following day.  In the 8 months preceding the race, I averaged only 52 miles per week.  I had hoped to do more hill work to get ready for the mountains, but it just didn't happen.  Sleep was severely lacking for 2 months (caring for immobile dog) and stressing more about work than necessary took its toll on my energy level.  I didn't feel like I was totally prepared for it but figured I had a good chance of finishing within the 30 hours.  After Rusty passed in July I started to get more sleep and feel better.  I had a good race at the Psycho Psummer 50K to boost my confidence.

I arrived in Leadville on Friday morning and checked into a cabin that was just a few blocks from where the race started.  It was in the backyard of one of the local residents and I had access to her home to use a bathroom.  I found out about the cabin just a couple weeks before the race so cancelled my hotel in Frisco which was 40 minutes away and the same cost.  She had 3 cats that would greet me at the door sometimes.  It turned out to be the right place to stay since it was so convenient to everywhere I needed to go.  I picked up my packet and had my medical check-in which consisted of a weigh-in before packet pickup closed down at 10 am.  At 11 am, I headed to the mandatory prerace meeting which turned out to be more of a pep talk.  There was also a doctor that gave some good advice.

For lunch, I had a calzone from High Mountain Pies which was more than enough for 2 people but ended up eating all of it since it was so good. I took a nap and then met Tim and Neilly late afternoon by the courthouse where I dropped off my drop bags.  They would be volunteering at the Hope Pass aid station and had generously offered to pace me later in the race.   After we made a plan I found some dinner.  Ended up eating at a hamburger place called Wild Bills since it was less busy than other options.  Then I went back to the cabin, laid out my clothes and was in bed shortly after 8 am with the race starting at 4 am (5 am Missouri time).  I set the alarm for 3 am but woke up about half hour early.  

I decided to take a shower since I had a bit of a pressure issue in my head due to the altitude.  The shower seemed to fix the problem and my head felt fine the rest of the time I was in Leadville.  I walked over to the start line and arrived around 3:45 am.  The corral was already full.  I was walking up to it and recognized Scott Jurek in the front.  I then walked up further and positioned myself about in the middle of everyone.  I didn't see anyone that I knew but kept hearing someone yell Jed Taylor several times.  He was from Columbia and also running the race.  There were 2 others from Columbia as well but I didn't know them.

After the Star Spangled Banner, we were off at 4 am.  Too late to back out now and no idea for sure what I am getting myself into.  I started off very conservatively.  The first 5 miles are gently downhill or flat.  I ran these at about upper 10 mi/min pace and I was getting passed by a lot of people.  Once we turned to go around Turquoise lake I needed to make my first of many bathroom stops to pee.  I quickly realized a woman was squatting nearby so moved and found another spot.  The next several miles were very crowded and nearly impossible to pass anyone.  I mostly attempted to pass people while walking uphill since my walking was faster.  It was difficult to pass though and sometimes the line of runners almost came to a stop.  I figured this should definitely prevent me from going out too fast but was also afraid it might be way too slow.  My light was flashing at me even though it had fresh batteries.  It wasn't much of a concern since everyone around me had lights and the view of long line of people with lights looking back was kind of cool to see.

I arrived at the first aid station at 13 miles just about when I expected in 2:31 and was out within 5 minutes after refilling my bottles,  grabbing more gel and baby food squeeze packets, and dropping off my light.  The next aid station is Outward Bound (also called Fish Hatchery) and I remember about the first 5 miles walking/running as I climbed about 1200 ft to the top of Sugarloaf pass.  There were some runnable sections so I still made pretty good time even though had a 15 and 16 min mile.  Definitely had to lower the standards for my usual pace.  Once I reached the top of the pass I went down the "powerline" section.  Several people passed me on this section since I took it easy (about 11 min miles) so I didn't trash my quads.  Another aid/drop bag station and same routine as before.  At this point I have been running about 4 hr 45 min and 23 miles, a little slower than I expected but feeling good.

The next aid station, Half Pipe, is 5.6 miles and running on a paved road for a couple miles and then following a pipeline right-away.  I made pretty good time on this section running about 10:30 - 10:45 pace.  At mile 29, I am at 5 hr 54 min which is right where I wanted to be.

The section to Twin Lakes is approximately 10 miles.  The first 6.5 miles gradually climbs but some is sort of runnable with ups and down.  Then there is a 3.5 mile downhill to Twin Lakes which I didn't think how much fun (not) that was going to be running up later.  I took it easy again on the downhill to save the quads.  When I arrived at Twin Lakes I changed into my trail shoes to get ready for the climb up Hope Pass, the section which I was most worried about what to expect.

We were warned to take a rain jacket with us up Hope Pass even if the weather looked beautiful since things can quickly change.  It could rain, lightening, or even snow.  I took one even though it was a pain carrying the jacket and the sky looked pretty good.  I should have tied around my waist but did not.  There was just over mile flat before starting the long climb.  We crossed a creek and there was no avoiding getting the feet wet.  There was a rope to hang onto since there was  bit of a current.  Some people changed their socks at this point.  I kept going and my feet quickly dried out since it was fairly sunny and warm.  We started the climb.  I asked a woman if she had climbed it before and if it ever flattened out.  She said that it just keeps going up pretty much the same as we were currently climbing.  I heard someone playing a harmonica which I thought kind of strange, but someone had climbed up part way to entertain us.  It felt like nearly every muscle my legs were burning, yet I kept climbing without taking a break.  A couple people with trekking poles passed me but I ended up passing more people later even though I was moving excruciatingly slow.  I kept thinking I should stop and take a break but decided to keep moving no matter how slow.  There were people stopped along the way.  Some standing, some sitting on logs, and some bent over.  I soon realized why I had heard this called "Hopeless".  These people had sad hopeless looks on their faces.  It was very quiet and there was no talking.  The mood around me was kind of depressing.

Finally we make to the Hope Pass aid station but we are about half mile from the top.  The views up here are amazing so it is worth taking a few seconds to look away from the trail.  I am so happy to see that aid station along with the llamas but also said to an aid station volunteer that I didn't think it was that bad so far although some of the last miles had taken me 24 - 26 min.  I get to see Tim and Neilly working the aid station and they were very helpful getting me everything I needed.  I had Ramen Noodle broth, orange slices, and watermelon.  I felt just a touch of nausea which would stay with me on and off the rest of the day.  I left them my jacket and one of my water bottles.  Carrying the jacket turned out to be unnecessary on this particular day.

We climb the rest of the way and begin to see the top runners coming back.  They tell us we are almost there.  At the top there is a camera which I am sure a lot of people were smiling for this one.  I was very happy get a bit of a break going down.  The next 4 miles were mostly down with a hill before Winfield.  Even though mostly down, this was slow going (18 min pace) since a lot of rough rocks and stepping out of the way of runners coming back.  Also, legs needed to recover from the long climb.  We had to run on a very short section of gravel road before Winfield.

There were way too many people in Winfield and I had to squeeze around cars driving in the road to get to the aid station.  Winfield was the only station where I had to weigh in.  I was down 3 lbs which was good.  I left Winfield at 12 hours so am 20 min behind where I had estimated but feeling good that I have 18 hours to go back.  I was glad to get out of Winfield and back on the trail.  The cuttoff to leave Winfield is 14 hours so I easily met that requirement as well.

Going back up Hope Pass, even though it is about 2 miles less climb (3 miles vs. 5 miles), was tough.  It was in the sun a lot more climbing.  I came up behind a man and woman (she was pacing).  She said she was from Minnesota and I asked where he was from and he said St. Louis, Missouri.  At this point, I noticed he was wearing a Missouri jersey and thinking that was a stupid question.  I could feel my heart rate getting high so stopped with them about 3 different times to let it go down and felt refreshed enough to continue.  I actually had a 32 min mile on the way back. It was slow, but I as making progress.  When I got back to the Hope Pass aid station they had run out of some food, cups, and had diluted the Coke.  This aid station was considered for emergency use only since it is tough to get people and supplies to it.  I had some Ramen noodles in my extra water bottle and then Tim filled it with diluted Coke which I drank on the way down since I was getting sick of Succeed.  I took my jacket back just in case and this time he tied it around my waist.

On the way down, I let myself run a little even though I was still worried about trashing the quads. I was less careful than on the earlier downhill.  I had a couple guys catch up to me near the bottom.  We crossed the creek and into the aid station together.  I changed into my dry road shoes, picked up my GPS and charger, and headlamp and was on my way.  Just as I was leaving my Garmin says low battery and before I could get the charger connected it shut off.  I turned back on and connected the charger so would not be able to see my pace (not that I wanted to) while it was charging for the next 2 hours.

There was a 4 mile climb out of Twin Lakes which was a tough section.  I turned my light on and passed a few people walking and some stopped having a hard time.  I may have taken a couple breaks.  I had another 32 min mile.  Feeling kind of unmotivated but still moving forward.  Looking forward to having a pacer soon.  I go into the aid station and replenish my supplies.  I am doing a good job of either getting down a gel or a baby food every hour but my drink is becoming less appealing.   Around mile 71, I start looking for Neilly or Tim.  We couldn't meet at the aid station so had to wait.  I see cars parked later and am looking.  Neilly soon comes up behind me so I had missed her.  I managed some 13 min miles running with her and we took a few walk breaks as well.  I'm still wearing a short sleeve shirt even though it has cooled off.  I still feel warm.

Neilly contacts Tim as we get close to Outward Bound (76.5 miles).  He is planning to take over pacing and get me over the power lines which I had kind of forgot about that climb coming up.  It is over 4 miles of climbing and every so often you think you are done and then it goes up again.  Tim set a good pace going up and I had to stop a few times to take a break.  We managed about 20 min miles going up this climb.  After this section, we are finally done with major climbs.  We can relax a little and 5 miles to go to the final aid station, May Queen.  It was good to be done with the climbs since all day they were really causing me pain between the shoulders at the base of my neck.  Whenever I could run a little things loosened up and felt better.  Tim gets me to run between various markers and we walk the rest.  I changed my light batteries since the trail is getting technical and I don't want to fall.  It is getting more difficult to step down since I am not feeling quite as nimble.

Neilly takes over pacing at May Queen.  I refilled my supplies.  I couldn't get myself to drink anymore Powerade or Succeed so I tried the Herbalife which didn't taste that great, but decided to fill up my bottle. Muscles are a bit more sore than when I ran with her earlier so told her we would probably not be doing much running.  We mostly are hiking about 18 min pace and I am not feeling too comfortable with the trail.  I know I am going to finish so walking is just fine with me.  We did a lot of talking which helped to pass the time.

We met Tim at the boat ramp where they decided that Neilly would continue with me to the finish.  She kept reminding me to drink and eat.  At this point to the end we went a little faster (14 - 16 min pace so my overall pace was actually going down) and maybe some brief spurts of running.  We didn't see hardly anyone for quite awhile and then start passing some people.  Within a mile to the end we see 3 other runners.  We stay with them.  About half mile from the end someone says they think we should run to the end. Due to peer pressure, I started "running".  My legs were trashed so they left me in the dust.  I can see the finish and keep running.  I notice the slight incline at the end but am able to continue, get to the red carpet, and cross the finish in 26 hours 57 minutes and 14 seconds.  I am given my medal.  I managed a 16:10 pace, had just over 3 hours to spare, and no falls.  I am satisfied with my finish.

Medical weighed me in and now I am down only 1 pound.  Tim and Neilly drive me back to my cabin.  I am dreading going to the awards ceremony at noon since I would much rather sleep.  We had to attend in order to get our buckles and our sweatshirt.  Food does not sound appealing at all.  I manage to take a shower but couldn't get all the dust scrubbed off.  I am fortunate that my feet were in great shape and looked normal (sorry, no scary feet pictures to share).  Overall, I am just sore.  I took a nap and managed to drive and walk into the awards ceremony.

A woman sat down by me and asked about the race.  She had finished in 22 hours something.  I asked if she won and she was third.  A guy with her offered me some of their food but I declined since I still wasn't feeling like eating.  The awards seemed to take forever.  They called all the age groups up to the stage plus the Leadman (completed both bike and run), various milestones for completing the race, etc.  Then they called all the 25 hours or less to get their buckles and sweatshirts, and finally the rest of us.  The sweatshirt was personalized with my name and time. Finally, I was able to leave after 1 hr 15 min and went to eat lunch, took a nap, got some dinner, slept, got up early, and drove all the way back to Columbia.  I was home in time for dinner at 6 pm on Monday evening.

This was a great experience but I am at the point (again) where not sure if I want to run any more 100 milers.  Yes, I know I've said it before.  100Ks or a multiday races are sounding more appealing.  Leadville is definitely the commercialization of the the 100 miler which I know a lot of people don't like.  I've heard some complaining since the race and yet others like myself that said they didn't encounter any of those problems.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to run it.  I feel the organizers did a decent job considering the size of the field they allow in the race.

Last Saturday a guy posted a 12 minute YouTube video he had taken at Leadville on the ultra e-mail group that I subscribe.  I saved for later and watched last night.  To my surprise this turned out to be the guy from Missouri that I came up behind when climbing the back side of Hope Pass. I didn't realize he had a camera on him. Over half way through the video I appeared in the footage.  It is between 8:55 - 9:25.  I am wearing a bright yellow shirt.