Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Leadville Trail 100 Race Report (yes, a running report)

Leadville Trail 100 mile running race

August 16, 2014, Leadville, Colorado
My alarm went off at 2:30am.  After a quick shower and some oatmeal I was dressed and ready to roll.  Tanya and Ian loaded up the gear for a massive day(s) crewing for Chris and I.
We arrived at the start line at 3:45am and lined up around 5th row.  The energy of the field was incredible.  4am and the shotgun went off.  The first few km's are downhill as we exited town.  I took the time to look back and saw a snake of headlamps stretched out in the dark.  Up ahead I could see the leading lights up the road.  It was an incredible feeling to have this race actually starting.  Chris and I had planned on running together for the first half.  We averaged ~5min km's for the first half hour.  With the downslope it was a good starting pace.  In no time we were at the dam and turning right up a short, steep rocky slope.  I was passed by about 10 guys up this slope.  The  hill ended and we entered the trail surrounding Turquoise lake.  I cruised along with a group of about 10 guys doing just over 9 min miles.  The pace felt good, I was eating well, the sky was still dark, the single track was fun (lots of little ups and downs)... All was going well.

The sky started to lighten up as we ran into the May Queen aid station (1:58, 13.5 miles, and 43 place). Tanya and Ian were waiting for us with fresh fluids.  I filled up, gave Tanya my headlamp and we were off towards Sugarloaf pass.  Almost immediately after leaving May Queen we turned onto the Colorado trail.  It is an amazing bit of trail that totally reminded me of running in Canmore.  There were roots, rocks, twists, turns... loads of fun.  We popped out of that trail after a few miles and started climbing a gravel road which then turned off onto a steeper, rocky fire road.  The slope was steep enough that we power walked.  There were a few guys running, but not us.  Eventually we rounded the top at a bit over 11,000 feet.  Down Power line trail we went.  At first it wasn't too steep, but by the last couple km's it was a nasty downhill with tons of washout.  The mountain bike race went down this trail last week; I was much happier doing it on foot.  A guy watching said we were 62 and 63 place.  We chuckled at this info so early in the day.

After a short jaunt on a paved road we made it to Outward bound aid (aka a Fish a Hatchery) (4:04, 24.5 miles and 60 place).  Tanya and Ian were again there with smiles, fluids and good vibes.  After a refill and a porta-poti stop we were off.  The next 2 km were through a cow pasture.  The grass was cut, but the footing was, well, like running through a cow pasture.  I was happy to have that end.  I had picked up a peanut butter and banana sandwich at the Outward bound aid.  The thing took me almost an hour to eat.  It was like paste in my mouth and almost impossible to swallow.  Not good.  The course follows a paved road for a few miles, then follows a pipeline right of way, the whole time going slightly uphill.  Chris and I trudged along.  We slowed for a few walk breaks, but kept plugging forward.

Eventually we hit the Half pipe aid (5:02, 31 miles, and 51 place).  There is no crewing here, but we did have drop bags.  A volunteer helped my re-fill my hydration pack and we were off again.  By this point I had eaten 3/4 of a pb sandwich plus about 1 gel and 1 bag of stinger blocks per hour.  Not bad for food, but I had wanted a bit more in me... Ahh well.  After Half pipe, the trail keeps going up, but not crazy steep.  However it was steep enough that we had to power walk a fair amount.  Mentally, this part was very hard.  We had already covered a lot of distance, but we still had a ton to go.  I was feeling tired.  While there was never a question of stopping, I was becoming very scared of what I still had to do.  Eventually we hit the top of this part (Elbert).  The trail turned into a beautiful flowy single track which was a ton of fun.  It took us down around 1,000 feet into Twin Lakes.

Twin Lakes is a beautiful town and the aid station was my favourite on the course ( 6:49, 39.5 miles and 52 place).  You make a grandeur entrance to the station via a steep rocky trail.  Tanya was there with my fluids and food.  I had planned on eating a bagel w/ Nutella, however after the previous pb sandwich debacle, I only took gels, stinger blocks and a snickers bar.  Some more sunblock and we were off.  Immediately upon leaving Twin you have to cross a grassland area with a bunch of bogs and a river.  The bogs were almost knee deep in places and there was no avoiding soaked shoes.  You finish off this part with the river crossing.  There was a safety rope which was very necessary as the water was knee height and flowing pretty fast.  The water was also refreshingly cold.  I splashed a bunch over my head.

After the river the trail turns upwards. With wet feet we started the climb up to Hope pass.  Twin lakes is 9,200 ft while the pass is 12,600. The trail is steep.  The air is thin.  The trail is steep.  Chris and I trudged up the trail at a steady pace, but not blistering fast.  A couple guys with hiking poles went by.  I was envious.  I doubt poles would be any better for me, but anything looked good at that point.  I decided it was time for some serious fuel and opened the snickers bar.  I took a bite which proceeded to turn into a Carmel paste in mouth.  I couldn't swallow the damn thing.  I spat it out and gave up on that pleasure.  Heading up Hope was as I expected.  It was steep and hard.  However, I found myself really enjoying it.  I felt strong and my legs felt good.  I mitigated the lack of real food with more gels and stinger blocks.

About 800 ft shy of the top of Hope there is an aid station (8:47, 45.1 miles and 38 place).  The food and drink is carried up to the aid station via llamas.  Those were incredibly strong animals as they carried a ton of stuff up there.  At this aid I grabbed a glass of water and a cup of soup broth.  In and out quickly we continued the final bit up.  This part was tough.  There were some rock stairs which were gruelling and the grade continued to be steep.  However, like everything in this race, you eventually make it over.  The next part of the course is a 3,000 ft drop down the south side of hope pass.  I took this section very slowly, mainly due to a) a goal to conserve my quads and b) I am not a great descender.  It took about 10 feet into the downslope before Chris started to pull away.  We would be going solo now.  We made in almost 70 km together.  I wasn't too far into the descent when the race leaders were coming back up.  I gave each one a "good job" and every single one gave an encouragement comment back to me.  What an amazing group of competitors.  After dropping 3,000 feet the trail  turns off into a single track which takes you into Winfield.  I really struggled at this point.  I was tired and had some twingy calf cramping.

The Winfield aid station is the half way point (10:05, 50 miles and 41 place).  The first thing you do is weigh in.  I was down 5 pounds on the day.  They said no problem.  The guy beside me was 15 pounds down.  They took him to a special area to make him get his fluids back up.  I spent a much longer time at this aid.  I ate a cup of soup broth, a cup of Ichiban and drank three cups of coke (mmmm, my secret weapon).  I refilled my fluids from my drop bag and started my trip back.  I made in about 20 meters before I remembered I needed gels.  They were worth turning around.  After a good fuelling I was back onto the lower single track.  I was running better and had more energy.  The best part was that my legs felt great.  I had not beaten them up at all yet.  Once the trail turned back up Hope I felt I was in a groove.  I was moving well, passing a few people and saying good job to everyone coming down the trail on their outbound voyage.  I was able to re-catch some of the people who had passed me going down this hill.  This time I was not feeling jealous of anyone's hiking poles.  I liked the choices I had made.  One other item to note here is that runners are allowed (actually encouraged) to have a "Pacer" run with them for the second 50 miles of the race.  Being as  Chris and I only had Tanya and Ian down with us, we had to forgo the Pacer until the final aid station. 

After 4km of climbing and ~3,600 ft of elevation gain I hit the top of Hope (again).  Over the top and down the 800 ft to the next aid I went.  I tried to be more aggressive going down, but it wasn't working very well.

At the Hope aid (11:53, 54.9 miles, place unknown as the timing mat missed some people) I had another cup of soup and two cups of coke.  From there I continued my descent.  Wow, it was ugly.  I was slow, clumsy and slow.  It felt like a parade of people passing me the entire way down.  Even though I was frustrated with my running, the trail itself was gorgeous.  At the bottom of Hope I hit the river and bogs again.  Feet are now soaked and muddy.

Right after the bogs is Twin Lakes aid (13:35, 60.5 miles, and 44 place).  Tanya had the perfect set up for me.  She sat me down on a lawn chair, swapped out my wet shoes/socks for dry ones.  What an incredible feeling.  My pinky toes both had big blisters, but we left them to pop on their own.  Tanya had pizza and a huge coke for me.  I devoured them both.  


Off I went with a full pack of fluids and gels.  The trail goes up and up from Twin.  The first few km are hiking speed only, but it then tapers off a bit.  With the food in my belly I am feeling good.  And, the best part, my legs are still not hurting at all.  Up over Elbert and then it was a nice easy downhill grade.  What was a tough grind on the way out has turned into an amazing section coming back.  I ran the entire way through Half-pipe aid (15`33, 69 miles, and 43 place), through the pipeline right of way and almost back to Outward Bound (fish hatchery).  Only the cow pasture and the fading light slowed me to walk those 2km.

I entered outward bound aid (16:42, 75.5 miles, and 42 place) and was happy to see Tanya and Ian.  They told me Chris was still doing great and left looking strong.  At this aid Tanya dressed me for the night.  Despite my protests she made me put on a warm top plus my running jacket and gloves.  I thought it was overkill...  an hour later I realized that Tanya was right.  After more pizza and another bottle of coke I was off. I had been waffling all week as to what headlamp to use.  A uber lightweight one or the one that can light up the entire bloody mountain.  Being as I was still going solo I took the big boy, and I loved it.  After a couple km on a road the trail turned back to the Powerline climb.  I was feeling really good thanks to the pizza and coke and pushed it up the 1,000 foot climb.  I caught a few runners with their pacers.  Again the cheering and support that all of the racers gave each other was amazing.  At the top of Powerline I had the good fortune of catching two guys who were good going downhill.  I followed their path down the steeper rocky section down Sugarloaf pass until we hit the gravel road.  They stopped for a breather, but  I kept running.  The final part of this descent felt like home.  I was able to run the technical singletrack at a good pace and was loving the trail.  It was pitch black, my headlamp lit up the trail, the roots and rocks seemed to be perfectly placed for me... I was having a blast and flying through the trail!  Best of all, I was about to get my pacer.

The final aid was May Queen (19:32, 86.5 miles, and 31 place).  I arrived here about 30 min ahead of my fastest estimate.  My amazing crew was ready for me nonetheless.  Tanya had another bottle of Pepsi and a cup of soup for me to eat there.  She reloaded my pack with fluids and then changed roles to pace me in for the final 13.5 miles.  For the first 4 miles I led through the single track around the lake.  I hiked the up hills and ran the rest.  Tanya`s presence and company skyrocketed my emotions.  Once we came to the boat launch Tanya could sense I was getting quiet.  She stuffed some licorice into me and then moved to the front.  For the next 4k I simply stared at her shoes.  I don't remember much, but she kept the pace high and we burned through the distance.  Once you leave the lake it feels like you should be done.  But you are not.  What was effortless downhill 22 hour ago is now a never ending uphill grade.  Tanya would only let us slow down if it got really steep and we ran almost all of it.  About 3 km from the finish we caught up to a familiar gate.  Chris and Ian were grinding up the final climb as well.  What an incredible way to finish the race.  Chris and I have run and biked countless km's together over the past three years and here we were back together within a spitting distance of the finish.  I couldn`t have asked for a better ending.

The finish line was beyond words.  I had a stupid grin that I couldn`t get off my face.

22:09`23, 100 miles, and 27 place. 

Words cannot express my gratitude to Tanya for everything she did during this race for me.  Chris had an amazing race which I am super proud of.  This 100 mile voyage wouldn`t have even started if not for inspiration from Ian`s Dad, Don Watts who raced Western States 100 in 1986.  I was honored to have Ian with us.


Now its time to get back on the bike.


Emily said...

Wow, great race report! Congratulations on your awesome finish guys, and kudos to your support and pace crew!

mikehealy said...

Thanks, that was a great read over morning coffee. I don't understand the logic of a shower before a 100 mile run though.

Anonymous said...

Solid report Jared, I think my heart rate spiked to over 100 just reading it and reliving the day! Was amazing to have you as a training and racing companion this past year. Let's find another challenge before too long.

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