|Elevation Gain||15,600 feet|
|Rank||252 of 363 finishers/647 starters/797 registered|
|GPS Analysis||Garmin Connect|
On January 1st of this year, I set my goals for the year. The cornerstones were Boston and Leadville. Both were going to be difficult tasks in their own right. Boston went perfectly, but Leadville didn’t turn out to be the performance I dreamed of. It isn’t always your day. And I definitely didn’t peak like I hoped to. But I never quit and finished what I started. I have a buckle and nobody can take that away.
Had a great time meeting people and hanging out. That was the best part of the weekend. Through my stories of this race, I had a lot of people who virtually knew me. They took the time to come up to me and introduce themselves. It happened randomly at street corners, the briefing, in the line at the grocery store, during the race, after the race, and more. It was pretty cool. I felt kinda like I earned my Rock Star moniker that JV uses for me. I always tried to recall or acknowledge all the folks. Some I knew better than others. Some had commented so I knew just a name. Others were complete strangers. If we met, give me a comment below so I can get better acquainted with you.
We set the alarms for 2:45. I popped up at 2:30 and sat on the toilet. I was awake and feeling good. Had gotten some better than usual sleep. It would be the last I would get for a long time. Natalee and I had most of the gear in the truck and ready to go already. Took a few pictures before heading out into the night.
Natalee had custom jackets made for Runner, Pacer and Crew Chief so Team Shart was known!
It was warmer than expected out at the start. Probably low 40s. Had expected 30s. So it felt comfortable in my shorts, singlet, and arm warmers. Looking around, many folks had jackets and other big heavy things on. I was light and ready to run. I felt like I hadn’t run in weeks so I was pretty amped to get the show on the road. We huddled inside of the Provin’ Grounds early and compared outfits, strategies, and wished each other luck.
Time was getting close. Brooks, JT and I made our way into the crowd. Brooks went straight up front so I followed. Wanted to get a look at everyone on the front line. No Tony. 2 minutes to the start. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal was standing in front of me on the start line with his Flip camera shooting some video. Another crew was over further with some big lights. I gave Jake the head nod…what’s up. He responded. We started counting down from 10 to 0 and Tony popped in next to us and said hi. Bang! We were off.
To May Queen Outbound (13.5 miles)
The run down 6th Street was epic. It drops a bit then rises up a hill. Being all fresh and excited I ran with the group to the top of the hill. Someone noted “turn around and look back” to us all and it was a sea of headlamps. Amazing sight. We followed the pace truck down to the end of 6th Street where Natalee and JP had the H2 sitting there so I ran wide and said hi to them. JP yells at me, “Slow down…you are in 7th place!”. It wasn’t that epic. We were all over the street that first mile just getting the party started.
As we turned onto the Boulevard, I slowed my pace and the lead group drifted down and into the darkness ahead. Time to get myself in the game. Minutes later, Tony come jogging up from behind me. Guess he had some business. Told me to watch the speed and save my quads. Sounds good. Wished him a great day. I wouldn’t see him again until he was on his way back.
As we ran past Sugarloaf’n, Brooks came up from behind. He had been off the woods too. See…not just me! Wished him a good day too. I was expecting great things from him today.
We got out around Turquoise Lake and small packs were forming out in the front. I wasn’t 30-50 people back but we couldn’t see the leaders and the mass of runners had not come down to the lake yet. I felt my own nature call so I ran up to a campground bathroom only to find it out of order. Dang it. So I crapped next to the building as punishment. While sitting there, I could see the stream of headlamps coming down to the lake and I was losing lots of spots. It would be a long day so no big worries but I didn’t want to get in the predicted clusterfuck on the singletrack around the lake and at May Queen. I made good progress around the lake. Felt fresh and happy to be there. I knew that the key to this race was going out slow to save it for the day but I felt like getting a small jump on things to start wasn’t going to kill anything.
Started getting into May Queen and I felt nature call again. Those taper weeks always build up a lot in me so let’s get it out early. I knew where the camping outhouses where so I popped over and used those before jogging up through the campground. Coming into May Queen in the twilight was amazing. Because this is the first stop and we aren’t staggered out yet, all the crews were pretty much there. It was an organized madhouse. I ran up the small hill to see JP standing there. He popped out of the crowd and ran in front of me and took me into the tent, got my supplies and out lead me right to where Natalee was. In the sea of people, it would have been a multi-minute ordeal to locate here. However, none of that here. We were on. They gave me my pickup bag, I dropped my light, grabbed new bottles and was gone. I probably stopped moving for less than 30 seconds. Really shouldn’t have been in such a hurry in retrospect but it felt good to show that we could do the pit stop fast.
Split time: 1:58:49 – 11 minutes under prescribed 25 hour split pace. And I stopped twice to poop! So it was way too hot but it wasn’t really a big exertion like a hill climb so I was happy. Plus, I had my next section planned out to recover.
To Fish Hatchery Outbound (23.5 miles)
After leaving May Queen, there is a short stretch of paved road up to a campground and then we get on the Colorado Trail. Its a 2 mile-ish piece of singletrack in there that rises up to Hagerman Pass road. I love that trail so I ran it nice and steady. Popped out on the road in no time. Debating walking the road but had a flashback of walking the road up to Carson at the SJS50 and didn’t want to repeat. So I motored up to the turn off for Sugarloaf pass before employing my strategy. Walk time! I purposely walked every step to the top of the pass. Early on lots of people passed me but they eventually gassed and went to the walk. I ate, refueled, and recovered. We were in the 3-ish hour point in the race so it was a good place to reset.
As I ran over to the Powerlines, my final crap of the day came calling. My crew was supposed to give me little baggies of TP but we didn’t get that loaded at the last station so I was at a loss. There is literally nothing up top there. The trees are all pines with needles. There are no leaves. No large rocks. What to do. So I went and used handfuls of dead pine needles mixed with dirt. Primitive but it got the job done for now. Once I get to the aid station, I can check my work.
Time to descend. Excited to do get the first downhill of the day going. Ran this hard in training camp and learned my lesson so I was ready to take it nice and slow. Step. Ouch. Step. Ouch. What the fuck is that? My right hip flexor was on fire. This is different than my piriformous syndome because that is the back butt. I think this thing may have been related and tightened up and wasn’t happy. The further I descended the more it hurt. So I just kept backing off. Hordes of people were coming around me and I looked like a gimpy road runner trying my first downhill train run. Downhills are nice time pickups but I was losing a lot here. OK, just get down and reaccess.
Felt like forever but finally got down the Powerlines and was out on the road to the Fish Hatchery. This is 1 mile paved section that rolls. And the downhills in the rolls hurt now too. Crap. What does this mean for my day? JP flanking me into the aid station getting the low down on my needs.
I made a few gametime tweaks – no headphones yet, take arm warmers, etc. Then we went up and ran through the aid station and I was back out. Never stopped moving. Natalee was setup just down the road but I stopped at the port-o-pots to inspect my work from earlier. There were 2 of them and I was jumping up and down waiting to get in. The crowd started yelling “Runner!” like if a spectator was in there they should cut it off mid-stream and get out. Natalee brought the gear over and we did the pit stop while I was in line. As a crew, you have to be flexible. Finally, the door swings open — its JT! You have to be kidding me! I was waiting on him. Hadn’t seen him since the start and here we are. He still had to check in so I finished and ran out of Fish Hatchery knowing he was back behind me but not very far.
Split Time: 2:05:53 – Now 3 minutes over 25 hour pace. Damn. That downhill just ate nearly 15 minutes. This isn’t good and I started to worry about my day already.
To Halfmoon II Outbound (30 miles)
From there, I motored down the road out of Fish Hatchery. We were on our way to Halfmoon aid station but there was a crew access point at Pipeline where I expected to see Natalee and JP again. Crews can’t go to Halfmoon so I needed to get my supplies for that at Pipeline. I was on and off my run on the way to Pipeline. For some reason, that road just takes it out of me so I ate and refueled then ran. Repeat. Finally, JT showed up behind me and we walked together for a 1/2 mile before going onto Pipeline. We ran up through the mass of vehicles to find Natalee and JP.
JT and I coming up the line.
We stopped and offered JT anything he needed. He was good so he went on. I stayed back and got suntan lotioned up and took some swings of Mountain Dew. Wasn’t going to see the crew again for hours so this was a final checkpoint of sorts. Got my headphones on and moved on out to regain JT and make my way to Halfmoon.
Randomly, JT popped up from behind a few miles later. He said something about a wrong turn but guessing he was in the woods. Anyway, he was moving good. I was transitioning walks and runs but he was staying on the run nicely on the moderate inclines that I was happy to walk. He has discipline. Over the course of the next few miles, he inched forward and finally out of sight. I was cool with that. Allowed me to relax and focus on my own game.
Made it into Halfmoon and ate some random food they had out. Stuffed my pockets with chips and pretzels and made my way out. 1/3 of the race was now done and it was still early the morning. It was going to be a long day.
Split Time: 1:35:51 – This aid station was moved last year so a lot of the historical data is wrong because it was for a different location. However, my gut told me I was slow.
To Twin Lakes Outbound (39 miles)
Back on some rolling terrain and the any descents continued to suck. Even small ones. I was just slow. People were coming blasting by me. I did that same thing to people at training camp earlier in the summer. Not today. I was getting passed on easy non-technical downhill because of my hobbling nature. I continued to let runner after runner by knowing that this was bad and something is going to have to be changed in the strategy for today.
Coming into Twin Lakes, I could hear the crowds and was pumped up to see everyone again after the 3+ hours of no crew. Ran down the hill to find them conveniently setup. Kim had joined them at this point. Her and Kayla slept in given they might be up and out with us late tonight. I was excited to see her and be able to kiss somebody in the crew. She told me I was looking great. Knowing she has seen the best and worst of me at races, I thought that was a good sign. At this point, I opted to go with the hydration pack for the long up and over Hope Pass. Said my goodbyes and made me way through the small town of Twin Lakes were people lined every street cheering me on. No runners immediately around me so I had the crowd to myself.
I made Natalee try and pull out my leg to shake my hip out. I laid down and she yanked on me for a while. Then I tried to stretch a bit. Nothing was helping.
Split Time: 1:37:59
To Winfield (50 miles)
Winfield is an old ghost town that sits on the other side of a ridge of mountains from Twin Lakes. The races goes up and over that at a place called Hope Pass. Its at 12,600 feet. While not a 14er, it packs quite a punch. However, to get to the start of the climb we had to traverse the boggy backside of the Twin Lakes themselves. It was wet! I got familiar with wet shoes at SJS50 but this might be different. First big puddle had a way around. Cool. Next one. Nope. So I stood there for a fraction of a second then said “fuck it” and splashed in. It wasn’t knee deep but it was cold and my shoes were completely soaked. This sucks but it liberating because I continue through each of the next few ponds of water and mud quickly now. Finally, I hit the river. A rope was tied to a tree on each side. I grabbed the rope with both hands and steadied myself across. It was knee deep and it was cold. My feet were burning. After getting out, I had to walk because my feet were tingling. Also wanted to get the water squished out. Ended up walking to the start of the climb.
I knew the timing on this climb from training camp so I put it into hiking gear and made my way up. Moved pretty well I thought. Definitely fatigued from running 40+ miles already but I never stopped moving. Step after step I plodded to the top. Got passed a few times and passed a few but definitely wasn’t losing to the crowd up the hill. This made me think I might have fallen off my early hot pace during the downhill trouble and back to a more comfortable place in the rank order of racers.
As I was just getting to treeline, I saw a blaze in front of me. It was Tony and Dakota moving swiftly. I was excited to say hi and relieved that he passed me nice and high versus down in Twin Lakes. Reached Hopeless Aid Station and was excited to see all the llamas. This aid station is near the summit and offers pretty much full service aid. They use the llamas to get all the gear up there. Then they take the llamas back down to the snow melt and get jugs of water, filter it, and serve it up. What a job! I was good on everything so I didn’t even stop. While my climb was decent, I thought I needed to pick up some time so I just blazed through.
The summit of Hope Pass is always a great thing. Completing such a climb. But this was just the start. I had to go back down and then come right back up hours later. Saw 2nd place runner Duncan here. I guessed Tony had 45 minutes or more on him at this point. Nice. The descent down Hope on the south side is steep. I did well with it in camp but today — not so much. The hip was back in action and worse. I wasn’t moving fast at all. I am pretty sure my uphill pace was faster than my downhill. Got passed a lot. Had to stand in the switchback corners and let visibly timid downhill runners go before me. Sucked ass. I mean, this is one of those things I like running and do OK with. And its an advantage. If you are from Mississippi, you don’t have this kind of stuff to run on. Now, I am losing my advantage and my motivation is wandering because of it.
I kept moving though. The race started to turn into a reunion at this point. I saw Bob Sweeney moments later. He gave me some shit about tripping me because JT said to. He looked solid but something was off. He would end up dropping at Twin Lakes due to pain. Saw Lucho coming strong up the hill. Noticed he was sweating hard. He was working. Tim Long looked fresh because he just started his pacing duties. They also gave me some crap about JT. Turns out JT was just minutes ahead and he was planting seeds of negativity on me and passing them through the virtual grapevine. It was hilarious. Saw Brooks lower down and he was working hard. Everyone else took a second to talk but he was focused. I was excited to see if he was going to deliver a stellar performance.
I finally was down and started the 2 mile shuffle up the Winfield road to the aid station. I mostly walked this because everyone around me was. Hoping to bring it back together on the way back down. Winfield looked like a tailgate party. Cars everywhere. JT was just leaving as I was coming in. We stopped and talked for a few seconds. Natalee helping JT in.
JP found me and brought me through as always. Went into the medical tent for my weight. 142 was my initial weigh in. I thought I would be good here. I strategically did not pee over the last hour to build water weight. Hey, it counts. 140! Nice. 135 would have been the cut off. They were happy so I was released and went over and sat down with my crew. They emptied the rocks out of my shoes and got me fresh socks. The others were still damp from the river crossing nearly 3 hours ago. I was there for a few minutes eating random food and talking. Felt like I was ready to go and JP was all geared and ready for his adventure.
JP’s innocence. He knew this race but he didn’t know what he was in for minutes from now!
Split Time: 3:39:26 – I was about 45 minutes behind my target. While this is a long race, it wasn’t making me feel good. I knew it would take work to make that up and I didn’t feel like I was getting stronger or faster.
To Twin Lakes Inbound (61 miles)
We shuffled down the road to Winfield for 2.3 miles until the turnoff for Hope. Just then Kim and Natalee came driving by and waved goodbye to us. We wouldn’t see them for about 4 hours.
Now it was time to back up and over Hope Pass again. However, something changed at Winfield. My energy levels were down a bit. My motivation had wandered a bit because of the slow 1/2 split for the race. From the start, the climb is a hike. Its the steeper side so its very slow steps. Like 1 every 5 seconds. But I kept moving. Went to hands on quads pushing through the steps. Wasn’t flying but stayed steady. JP was encouraging but it was so brutal to see his freshness versus my fatigue. The pacers became the people saying hi and the runners just focused. I wouldn’t respond to anything but he would do all the talking for me on passing or whatever. I was just getting up to treeline when I felt really off. So I said I needed 2 minutes. I sat on a log, looked at JP and said “Oh no”! Turned my head and blew a bucket of red Gatorade all over the ground. Then a small follow-up. That felt better! Probably a bonk but I wasn’t sure. Felt like a high concentration of sugar and I just needed to tone it down.
We started moving again, but I hadn’t come back around totally. My lungs were literally burning now. Felt like I couldn’t get any oxygen. Would find myself gasping at nearly any pace and had to stop and catch my breath. At first, it was every once in a while. Then every few switchbacks. Then every switchback. Then 1/2 through a switchback. We were making progress to the top but I wasn’t moving good at all. The stop didn’t get me recovered. They just got me to avoid passing out. It was a bonk. However, after throwing up I fought eating and just wanted to get to the top then sit and refuel. Probably dumb but that was my plan. JP edged me but didn’t push me. It was classy.
Finally topped out and started the slow descent to Hopeless Aid Station for a break. Again, the hip was tweaked so this was slow. But we made it there and I sat. Got some soup and we probably took 10 minutes there. My longest stop so far. I needed to recover. At that moment, if there was a way to quit I might have considered it. But you are up at 12,000 feet so what are you going to do? There were people all around me hurt less and worse. A bit of triage going on there. Finally, I felt somewhat better and knew we needed to move before my legs tightened up.
I hobbled out of the aid station and started moving downhill. Oddly, my hip felt a bit better at this point. Over the course of the next few minutes, I started getting jovial and talking with JP about non-racing stuff. We talked to passers by. Joked. All was good. JP commented that I had turned the corner and was coming back from the dead. I felt 100 times better. I knew it would work that way but its always painful to experience.
About 1/2 down, I was getting better and holding myself in a position that didn’t aggravated the hip too much. So we moved quicker. I was motivated by the fact that we lost so much time on the ascent. Felt like we had some making up to do. JP took my hydration pack at some point to free me up. Then I took my shirt back off. Felt free and light. Very refreshing. Finished the descent and ran out into the open meadow to the river crossing at some good speed. Felt like I just had gotten started for the day. We got through the water and made quick work getting back into Twin Lakes. We ran into town getting lots of hoots and hollers about looking good. We did look good — but you should have seen us, well me, just an hour ago.
JP and I in the back of the pack coming into Twin Lakes.
We left the other 2 kids back in Longmont with friends but Kayla got to enjoy the time on course!
Donald Beuke and I coming in. Donnie was one of the many folks who I have met over the course of the last year through my blog and Facebook. Many of these folks said hi while on course and it was great having friends in misery while sharing this experience.
The sun had gone down behind the mountains and the air was cooling. It was time for some night gear. We changed to dry shoes, long sleeve shirts, and put our lights on. It would be dark soon. To my surprise, Homie was there and helping my crew with a few things as he is a resident expert at this race. I mentioned our 25 hour time goal and he gave me some words of encouragement and told me what to do but I knew it was game over at this point. The 25 hour goal was going out the window. I just lost too much time on Hope and with the descents. Now it was just about finishing.
Depends on what you read, but they say you have big changes (like 85%+) of finishing if you leave Twin Lakes inbound. Back on Hope Pass, I questioned leaving Twin Lakes but upon arrival, it was very clear to me. I was hurt and I was slow but I could still move. I had absolutely nothing else in the world to do this evening but stay out and run and experience this. Quitting right there would have been the dumbest decision ever given my circumstances. So it was a no-brainer. We are moving on out into the night.
Split Time: 4:26:18 – 25 hour goal was over in my mind after missing the goal pace by 45 minutes.
To Halfmoon II Outbound (70 miles)
JP was on me all day about drinking and eating. So our climb up and out of Twin Lakes was about fueling. I was pretty steady and maybe only took one breather on the climb up while trying to get some more fuel down. While that was encouraging, I could feel my internal accelerator dialing down. The night was refreshing in a peaceful way. Not in a let’s crank it up way. So we kept moving on. At this point, I figured we could just walk it in and finish respectably. No big buckle but the big work was done. Just stay focused and move it in. This is actually a fairly standard strategy at Leadville. Work the first 40 moderately, then get your double Hope Pass crossing done, then just bring it home slow. After being on my feet for longer than I ever had and the impending all nighter, this sounded good to me.
Minutes later, we passed by a runner with no pacer who was hobbling. His walk wasn’t good. He wasn’t going to finish on that. I was actually walking really good. So I didn’t want to mess that up. When we tried to run, my fatigued legs would just blow up quickly. So I finally resigned myself to not running much more if at all through the night. I didn’t’ want to try and get a minute or so up just to fry some muscles and be messed up. So we walked, talked, ate, and just enjoyed the adventure.
My GPS watch (Garmin 310XT) beeped low battery at this point. Been a long time. So I got out my clip and Duracell charger and hooked it on. Charging! Felt kind of cool to be refueling my gear while moving. Also gave me some sort of progress bar to stare at for a while to take my mind off things. It would end up being fully charged by Halfmoon and ready to finish out the race.
Until it got cold. I mean real cold. I don’t know where it came from but some combination of the sun setting and my slower walking pace put me in a cold spell. I was shivering. JP was freezing too. Not good. People get hypothermia on this course every year. We just focused on moving and getting to Halfmoon. They had soup and that should help. Otherwise, we have to wait until we see Natalee again.
We got into the aid station. While sitting there, I turned around to see Chris Labbe. He was in the hurt box. I chatted with him but he is a veteran and I figured he would turn it around. We stayed at Halfmoon probably longer than we should have but given the 25 hour goal was off the books, it felt right to be fueled and comfortable moving forward.
Split Time: 2:36:53
To Fish Hatchery Outbound (76.5 miles)
It was a total hobble getting started again. My quads were stiffening up. Took me about 5 or 10 minutes to get loosened up and moving again. Plus, I was shivering. Trying to move and build body heat was difficult. It was only 3 miles until Pipeline and we might get lucky. I told Natalee she had the option of meeting us there. Was giving her an out in case she needed a break. But at this point, we were starting to telepathically demand her presence. We just kept grinding and eventually hit Pipeline and eventually got to the line of cars sitting there. A good number of folks were out. We walked down the line and I saw Natalee standing there wrapped in a blanket talking with some other folks. We were so glad to see her. We went over to the H2, opened the back and started going through the clothes bags. I jumped in the driver’s seat and got naked and layered back up with tights, shorts, shirt, long sleeve shirt. I got out and threw on my North Face 550 down jacket that I brought for Natalee to wear in case she was cold. I put on a hat and zipped up. JP layered up too. We weren’t warm yet but should be very shortly. I grabbed a large can of Red Bull and started down the road by myself. Looked and felt very non-runner at this point.
The road to Fish Hatchery should have been run but I had nothing to give it. I was cold, heavily dressed, and my legs were tight. If I could have run, I would have only shaved 3-4 minutes off my walking pace I suppose and over 3 miles that isn’t a huge amount of time. So we walked. Got passed in there but just a couple people but never stressed. They were running a bit but I saw a few of them at the next aid station so they didn’t make big gains with the extra exertion. For the most part, the line of headlamps behind us was holding pace if not slowing.
We saw Natalee just outside Fish Hatchery. We had no needs so we just said hi and moved on. Kind of a waste of a crew pit stop but we were good. Went up and checked in and they weighed me again. I was 142. 142 was my starting weight. Had a lot of clothes on so that added to it but I wasn’t sweating either.
Split Time: 2:39:07
To May Queen Outbound (86.5 miles)
There was some relief leaving Fish knowing that there was only 1 aid station to go. However, the final big remaining climb of the day was the next objective. We had to go up and over Powerline to Sugarloaf Pass with over 75 miles on us. However, something else was more interesting. On the road into Fish Hatchery and the road leading out of it, the ball of my right foot started to hurt. It was subtle. It has happened before during longer outings. Wasn’t quite sure what to make of it and there wasn’t anything I knew to do about it. So we just kept on. I found myself walking on the outside of my feet a bit more as time went on. I just pushed on knowing that we would get off the road shortly and a change of surface would hopefully do the trick.
As we turned onto the Powerline, you could look up and see a dozen or so headlamps making their way to the top. I was committed to get up this thing in better shape then that previous Hope Pass bonk crap. So I found a good pace that worked for me and just moved up that thing. I never stopped. Passed a few people. Got passed a few times. But it was solid movement and I was gritting it out. I started getting hot so I would drop my coat off my shoulders and then bring it back up. I had a water bottle in my pocket and I was still trying to consume as I could. I felt solid and knew this would be over soon…well, not really.
It was about 90 minutes to the top of Powerline and then we had to go about another 30 minutes to the top of Sugarloaf as I recall. Sugarloaf has lots of false summits. We would turn and think we were there only to see more headlamps way off in the distance. Damn. Kept going and finally got it.
The ascent wasn’t so bad on my feet it seemed. However, I think all the pressure made the problem worse. As we started to descend, my walking was impaired. Basically, I needed flat sandy ground and I couldn’t find much of it. The road is littered with rocks and stepping on them with the ball of my foot was agony. So I zig zagged the road all the way down finding the best line and trying to keep my feet on something flat. Some folks were jogging this down and I would have loved to have done that. Would have been a nice time boost but not tonight.
We got out on to Hagerman Pass road and I felt a sensation that I had not since a long time ago. I had to pee! Yeah. I had been way behind on it but just couldn’t get it going. Finally. Looked at the color with my headlamp and it was clear. I was expecting solid dark yellow. I was encouraged.
We made our way down on to the Colorado Trail. This wasn’t good. Rocks everywhere. Lots of bigger rocks all along the trail. I was trying to push it to May Queen before addressing the feet but I felt like I needed to take 5 and see what I had. So we found a rock and stopped. I sat and pulled off my right shoe and sock. The ball of my foot had a large blister across it. Not a thin “pop with a needle” blister. This was a deep painful pocket. I pulled out some moleskin and applied it to the sides of the blister to develop a supportive platform so the blister wouldn’t be the first thing smashing into the sole of my shoe. I put my shoe back on gently and we moved out.
It wasn’t much better but maybe a bit. But I knew what I was dealing with now. I found a random branch and fashioned it into a walking stick to take some weight off the foot. Not sure it helped either but it gave me some sort of boost. We made our way through this 2 mile section of forest and eventually popped out at the campground. We had about a 1/2 mile on the road until the aid station.
Looking up at the sky at this point was amazing. There were a billions stars out. It was so clear. You just don’t see sights like that from the city. JP and I called it out to each other.
As we neared May Queen, JP started saying his feet hurt too. He had signed up for 50 miles tonight but at this point, we had gone the time we expected to be on course together, just not the distance. We were 13.5 from the finish and if that 25 hour goal were still in place, we would be close to down about now. He has events coming up himself and started worrying about his own feet. He knew I was motivated to finish. I just had to make it to town. So we made a gametime decision. How about JP gets to drop here and we sub Natalee in as pacer? She had no clue this was going to happen so we will just see how it plays out.
By now, my left foot had developed the same blister issue. It hurt just as bad. I contemplated medical attention at May Queen but that was going to eat time and I didn’t think it would help. I was moving so I will take the condition I have versus the one I don’t know how I will operate in.
We found Natalee just outside of the May Queen tent sitting on a box zoned out. I went into the tent and got some soup and sat for 5 minutes while the volunteers filled my bottle and I got warmer. Then I came out and found Natalee and JP discussing tactics to the finish. They were swapping gear, getting Natalee dressed, etc. She went through my clothes bag and got some more layers on. I gave JP a hug and thanked him for his service. With that, JP took the gear to the truck to drive back to Leadville while Natalee and I left May Queen under a dark starry sky with one mission. Make it to Leadville before 10 AM!
Split Time: 4:09:34 – 39 minutes off 25 hour goal pace for this section. Still had those splits in my mind even though we weren’t on the overall pace. With the feet condition, this was probably about right but if I could have run a bit, it still would have been tight. Thinking that pace chart is bullshit now.
Finish (100 miles)
JP and I had gotten pretty silent just due to the amount of time out there. So getting Natalee out there was fun because we had a new set of things to talk about. She filled me in on how my friends looked at various point and other stories about busy aid stations and more. We motored through the May Queen campground and got on the Turquoise Lake singletrack that would be our home for the next 8ish miles. I let Natalee lead and I just followed in her footsteps. Its a lot of ups and downs. The pain in my foot was worse but had kind of dulled out. Or I was just getting used to it. It didn’t matter at this point. I had no plans for using my feet anytime soon after this race so I was going to grind them down and deal with it.
A few minutes later, Natalee’s phone rang. I hadn’t seen or heard a cell phone in 24 hours. It was like a magic device! It was Kim. She was at May Queen and had bumped into JP and got the low down. I was sort of sad that she did but also worried that she was up early. Wanted her to sleep in and see us at the finish. But with the change in line up, this might actually be a really good thing. We told her to meet us at the Tabor Boat Ramp instead. It was a couple miles ahead of us. However, Kim was having trouble locating it. A crazy phone conversation with directions occurred. I just kept moving while they tried to coordinate.
Finally, as we neared the boat ramp, the sun rose. My 2nd sunrise on this adventure. While it would have been cool to finish before it did, it was just as cool to see it happen for a 2nd time. Yeah, I have been out here that long. We came into the boat ramp and couldn’t find Kim. She had just took Kayla back up to the parking lot. Natalee scampered ahead looking for her while I was walking along. I heard Kim’s diesel engine up above so I squatted down and could see her car up through the trees. I walked up the hillside through the brush and found her in the car. She got out and gave me a kiss and said, “how are you?”. I hadn’t seen her since Twin Lakes the evening prior. I had been out all night long but things were just getting interesting.
I started tearing off my hat and coat and iPod. I just laid it all in a pile on the ground then told her what was going on: My feet are shot but I am going to push on. We are running against the clock. I am nervous about the 30 hour cutoff so I need to step it up. Take my clothes and see if you can follow us along to the finish. Natalee ran ahead but I will find her and send her back. I love you. See you soon.
She cheered me on and I got back on the trail. With less layers on I felt light so I tried to run. I got about 100 feet and I started wheezing. My breathing was impacted. That Hope Pass ascent fucked up my lungs. I felt it then and it was back when I tried to hard now. So resigned myself to walking but it was the hardest fastest powerwalk I had in me. I found Natalee and told her where Kim was. She ran back to her and I hoped to see Natalee again. She said she would catch me and I hoped she would. I motored around the lake constantly doing pace math in my head. Sometimes the calculation had me finishing an hour before cutoff while the next time it was a week from Thursday.
Natalee came charging back up on me before we got to the Matchless Boat Ramp. She was moving good and could roam around, take pictures, and then come back to me. It was nice to have that energy on board. She originally was going to pace the last mile in but this opportunity that developed was much more fitting. She probably didn’t intend on running (well, walking) a 1/2 marathon in Leadville this morning after staying up for 24 consecutive hours but that was what duty called for. There is your endurance right there, people! I may have been able to do it solo but this was much better. I enjoyed sharing those final hours with her. It worked out perfectly.
We popped out on Turquoise Lake Road. This was a busy spectator spot in the morning when we were outbound. Now it just had 4-5 cars and Kim was one of them. She snapped photos and cheered us on as we cut over and down the steep slope.
We kept moving well and finally arrived at the Sugarloaf’n intersection where Kim was hollering at us like a rabid fan. She was telling us we were good on time and we were going to get this. Everyone around us was walking too so it started to set in that we really were not in jeopardy and I could relax just a little and focus on the work and not the lack of result. Less stress.
We turned onto the dirt road that leads to the Boulevard and kept motoring. I was not looking forward to the Boulevard given the prior training run. It was going to be a long 3 mile uphill journey on a dark road. However, it wasn’t anything like that in the daylight. We found some lines with less rock and we were powerhiking hard. I was just a notch below wheezing level and holding it. We were passing clusters of people at this point. Some looking worse than I. I was strong and just pushing through it. It was completely psycho to look down at my GPS and see 97.XX then 98.XX on the watch. Holy crap. I might not ever see those kinds of totals again. Amazing.
We heard more cheers and I knew we were almost there. The road curves and Kim was there again standing on a big dirt mound taking our photos. I had my own roving cheering and photo squad. Pretty nice!
We hit the pavement and I said I wanted to run until 6th Street. It was only a few hundred feet but it hurt to pound on the blisters. We turned onto 6th Street. Another hill! This is the final ascent. Just a normal in-town road but it goes up and you can’t see the finish line until the top. We marched up it and the random spectators began to really start cheering me on. We topped out and could finally see the finish line. I looked at my watch and knew we were going to be sub-29 and that was a decent enough mark. I had several minutes to make it but I gave it one last push. We jogged down the hill and Natalee was trying to keep me fired up. I was there but it was an exciting moment. I kept pushing and all of a sudden my right foot popped and liquid gushed out of my shoe. Popped that pad. Oh my god that hurt. I didn’t miss a step but returned to the fast walk.
There were only a couple of intersections to go and I was passing people. My walk was faster than theirs. Felt good to still be gaining but brutal to pass someone with 100 feet to go. However, I don’t think anyone cares. The finish line was the prize and it was so close.
So without a single tear in my eye, I pushed one more time and ran up on to the red carpet and broke through the tape at 28:53. I was done. No emotion.
I got my medal from Merilee and limped over to Kim and Natalee. Drank some water and chatted about some finishing stories.
JT showed up minutes later and congratulated me on my first 100 mile finish. I inquired about his race and was proud of him for hitting his marks and cracking 24 hours. He won the duel fair and square. I was the dumb one that picked the fight with a multi-time 100 miler finisher. Surely, we will go at it again some day. He gave me some dirt on Brooks, Tony, and other finishers and friends. I felt like I had been out of touch for so long. No clue what was happening on course except in my little world.
Kim handed me my Crocs and I put them on. They actually hurt more but I couldn’t bear to put the other shoes back on. I was walking around a bit but I was on the outside of my feet. Felt like the worst looking of all the finishers. The feet condition definitely put a damper on my post race desires. As I sat, a few people came over and congratulated me on sticking it out.
Natalee went and got the truck and picked me up on the corner and we headed back to the hotel. I wasn’t sleepy tired or exhausted. My feet just hurt and I was just glad to be off of them after nearly 29 hours. Holy shit.
Split Time: 3:57:45 – Again the 25 hour split was 3:30 for this. Got after it with literally no running here. Any running and I could have hit that split. Probably could have made time just a bit too. But felt OK with it given the condition.
At the hotel, I iced my feet for a while. I had 3 normal blisters that I popped. I tried to pop the big ones but jamming the needle in hurt. There was too much skin with nerves in there. It was not going to happen. I wasn’t sure if that was the right answer so I gave up.
I wanted to fall asleep but we had to check out of the hotel and then get over to the awards ceremony. I could sleep on the way home. So I got dressed and we went over and found seats up front so I wouldn’t have to walk too far when my name was called.
The CEO of Lifetime Fitness, the title sponsor of the race, was there and he gave thanks to Ken and Merilee. He promised new and greater support of the race now that they recently purchased the ownership rights to the race. The CEO himself has competed in the bike race 2 times now and said that he is going to be back next year for a chance at a Leadman (6 events). That seemed cool in that he isn’t just a suit. He is a competitor on this course. That means that Leadville should be in good hands and not just a budget line item. I am not worried about Lifetime’s new role at all. Encouraged by it.
Saw many of my friends get their awards and cheered for them. I was briefly saddened when the 25 hour award cutoff happened. I should have been in that group. Oh, well. Then they got to me. I went up and got my buckle in a box. No emotion. You dream of getting that thing but it is just a symbol. The experience is what you came for.
We drove back to Longmont and I slept the whole way. But I every so often, I would just jump up in a frantic panic. Not sure if it was Natalee’s driving or just some kind of freak out because my body was trying to come down a bit. The worst part was I would often drive my feet into the ground and hurt my blisters.
Pulled up and my neighbors came over to witness the destruction. I put on a good show with not being able to walk up my own driveway that well. They were excited for me and gave me big kudos on achieving that. As for the 25 hour goal, nobody cared. Nobody even really gets it if they aren’t in the know. All they care about was that I finished the Race Across the Sky. I was a Leadville Trail 100 finisher and those are a rare breed…even in Colorado!
Went to the doctor on Monday morning after everyone said my feet looked bad. He took a look at them and said it was best to leave them as is. The blisters are deep and would not benefit from lancing them. They are not infected (yet). He told me what to look for. He gave them 10-14 days until they clear up. Had him check my lungs as well. When I went into medical after the race, they were concerned about my slight wheezing. He didn’t notice anything abnormal and was not concerned. So all was good. My mother can soundly rest tonight.
I didn’t carry anything but Natalee and Kim did all the shooting at aid stations.
View the full set of photos.
There were also random LT100 photographers on course and other friends with cameras. Hopefully, I can score some nice shots of myself out of that as I come across them. Let me know if you have any.
Other runner’s albums in which you might get a sense of the course and the day from: Matt
Natalee had her camera around her neck on a lanyard for the aid stations. Its a bit jerky but you get a sense for my state and what we were working through in them. Also some moments with friends like JT, Brooks, Lucho, and Tony making their way through the aid stations. Couldn’t film at night because it was too dark. Anyway, here is a glimpse into the race from a crew chief’s perspective.
|Mile||Race Clock||Time of Day||Split|
|May Queen||13.5||1:59||6:00 AM||1:59|
|Fish Hatchery||23.5||3:58||7:59 AM||1:59|
|Twin Lakes||39||7:14||11:15 AM||2:16|
|Twin Lakes||61||15:29||7:30 PM||4:35|
|Fish Hatchery||76.5||20:41||12:40 AM||1:16|
|May Queen||86.5||25:56||4:55 AM||5:15|
So you get the rest of the story…
What a day. So many aspects to a 28+ hour effort that I will probably be thinking about it for sometime to come. But I will try and list a few key things and stimulate some feedback.
+ Did I go out to hard? Surely on the start but it was just a mile worth. That was the grandest moment of the day. Better than the finish. I slowed up though quickly and got into my own rhythm. That being said, I did come into May Queen under time but I don’t think it jeopardized my day in retrospect given the types of problems I had later in the race. If those didn’t happen, it might have been more of a factor.
+ My hip issue came back. It was a totally different flavor and I hadn’t seen it like this before. From the get go, I couldn’t run downhill in any type of fast fashion. This put a damper on the whole day. I enjoy the descents and I practice them. I like to think I am solid on them so it was a huge motivation blow to have them work against me all day. I lost all my big time on these. All I can say is that my year caught up to me. I have run further this year than ever before. I was in 100% shape going into SJS50 and haven’t been 100% since after it. In retrospect, I would not have done that race but maybe I would have got hurt some other way. Staying healthy is the #1 objective and while I wasn’t hurt enough to quit, it wasn’t pain free. I will heal and try to build up my weaknesses.
+ I bonked. The reascent of Hope Pass crushed me. Its not terribly difficult. Just slow and steady but I couldn’t maintain that given the issues inside of me. The race director talked about puking and lack of energy as classic bonk conditions. I thought it was more the Gatorade. Natalee was supposed to give me a 2 parts water, 1 part Gatorade mix. But instead I found 3 parts Gatorade in my pack and it was sugary. I was climbing Hope sucking on it and it wasn’t working. When I puked minutes later, it was just red liquid. No solids. I haven’t done so well with sports drinks. I puked Accelerade years ago and haven’t touched it since. Thinking I should stick to 100% water in my bottles and just drink the other stuff at aid stations. Gulp some down and move on. I struggle here because water gets so bland at times but it just what you want at other times.
+ Motivation. Once the goals changed from 25 hours to finishing, my motivation went downhill. I was motivated to finish but that was a different game. It wasn’t racing. It was surviving. I wouldn’t run harder because that would burn fuel for later. Conserve. I still focused on the time but really 26 hours, 27 hours, 28 hours, 29 hours. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Kind of made me wonder what the big deal with 25 was. Really arbitrary I suppose. At one point on the way to Halfmoon, I commented to JP on why people do quit this race. We had miles to walk to make it and that didn’t see interesting. Really? Walk like 40 miles. Stay up all night. Just to finish. Pretty stupid. Didn’t seem like a feat of endurance. Just seemed retarded. But I had come that far and had nothing better to do.
+ Feet. This blister thing had not been an issue before. I had gotten sore on the balls of my feet before after a long long run but they never developed. So I didn’t really have a strategy or solution. I changed shoes only once at Twin Lakes. That got me out of wet shoes and into dry ones. I have worn both of those shoes a lot and never had issues. But this was a new dimension in time on my feet and things just got bad. I am not sure what to do about this. Thinking I have a bit of callous down there and some more work on minimal shoes and/or barefooting will help soften that skin and wear it back down to the point were its more flexible.
So those were my 4 main issues. The feet and hip seemed out of my control on race day. I just tried to manage them. The other bonk and motivation were within my control but tainted by the effects of the others. Sort of secondary. You can’t let anything get you down but it does. Not enough to knock me off but it threw me off my game a bit more than I would have liked.
Where do I go from here? No clue! I have raced everything from a 5K to a 100 miles now over this 5 years since I started running. I have no desires to branch out into other types of events. I like this stuff as is.
What’s next on the schedule? Nothing. Need to heal up 100%. Not used to injury and I don’t like it. Being healthy is the best training technique. So I want to recover and get this hip back.
Will you return to Leadville? Absolutely! While driving up for the race, Kim called me and told me that our offer on a cabin in Leadville was accepted. By the end of September, we should have the keys and be part-time Leadville residents. That’s going to be a beautiful thing. Excited to have a high altitude home that we can enjoy with family and friends which lays in the heart of the region that motivated me to do this race.
So will you return to the Leadville Trail 100? I don’t know. Would I run it again? Sure. Do I want to run it again? I don’t know. Maybe its a question of when. At 100 miles, a race becomes a totally different event than a marathon or a 10K (of course). Its not about foot speed. Its about mental toughness. Its about not quitting. Its about dealing with adversity. That great stuff. I actually enjoy that. But its not as much about running for me and that is why I like racing. So I am not sure where to go from here with my running career. That’s probably the crux of the issue for me. I will reflect and try and figure out what’s next. Maybe I will train for shorter distances and build some speed. Maybe come back and lower that PR time. Or maybe I really do need that big buckle. I don’t know right now. But you know that as soon as I figure it out, you will be the first to know.
Thanks to everyone for all their support, encouragement, wishes, etc. over the last year and more recently the last month. I enjoyed writing up every aspect of this adventure and I am sure you enjoyed some of it and glanced over lots of the rest of it. When is he going to run that race already? Well, its over. Wrote my report and now I get to drift for a while and maybe enjoy some less notable adventures.
One last thought. Of course, I am not the first or last to run this distance. But as I share the story, I often get the response of “geez, how is that possible” or “that is amazing” or some such message of admiration. Its mind boggling to some people. However, I tend to gloss over that fact now because I have done it and while its still a long way, its not in the realm of impossible. I set goals, learned, got motivated, and built up. It wasn’t over night but it didn’t take a lifetime either. Running has changed my life in many ways and it all started with a jog around the block. I encourage everyone that asks me about running to get active, start small but think big. Anyone can make it to the start and finish line of the Leadville Trail 100 by putting forth a certain amount of determination, patience, and sacrifice.
Until next time…