Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Adventures148 Comments


DNF @ 86.5 Miles.

View all photos from this event. Lots of pictures of friends inside.


Kim (wife), Natalee (sister), and JP (friend) were my crew again this year. Natalee would take the crew chief duties once again like last year. Kim would play a supporting role. JP would help crew and then pace me from 50 to 86.5. Then Natalee would take over and run me home. That was the master plan.

Slept good all week. Slept 90 minutes total on race eve. The tank was full. After a night of rain and lightening, we awoke to 41 degree temps at 2:30 AM for a 4 AM start. But it had stopped raining. Loaded in the packed Hummer and made our way into town. They dropped us right at the start line. I wasn’t out of the car a minute before I started running into the dozens of people that I knew running the race. Accolades to everyone. I snuck down the sidewalk and jogged down 6th street until the end of the barricade. Then ran back up to the start line. Ready to go! All the dudes were there saying hi. Duncan, Timmy, Dylan, Brooks, and on. Everybody knows everybody and they knew me too. Exciting to be included. Once again, I might not deserve to start up front based on finishing results but that’s where my heart lined up.

Start to May Queen – 1:48

Whenever a race starts and they countdown, I close my eyes and calm myself. Then I press the start on the watch and go when they say. This time, my eyes were open and I could only stare down the road with total confidence. The gun went off and we were off. My totally tapered legs were ready and it was downhill for a 1/4 mile so I rolled. Brooks and I gapped the field quickly in our excitement. I climbed up 6th Street on a mission and crested the first hill. I knew my crew was waiting for me at the next corner. I was not running hard or fast, just totally comfortable and exciting to be leading the Leadville Trail 100 through the first few turns. This isn’t a major claim to fame of course. They give trophies to the people that lead at the end of the race. But I was confident enough to take a stand and lead us down and onto the Boulevard.

Brooks actually sped up when we hit the dirt and I slowed. Realizing that the theatrics were done now and it was time to work, smartly. I coasted and was gobbled into a pack. Looking around with my lights it was all the hot dogs. Timmy on my left. Duncan on my right. Dylan off the shoulder. Everyone was chatting it up. I felt like I was not at conversational pace so I back down a bit again half way down the Boulevard. I didn’t want to run solo there so the next person up was Ryan Burch (finished 6th). “Brandon, right?”, he says. Hell yeah, dude. Met the guy once before. In good company now.

Once we hit Turquoise Lake Road, I felt like I should back it down again based on my watch. Ended up running right behind eventual winner, Ryan Sandes. His Salomon crew was filming him on the road here hanging out the car window. I was off his shoulder trying to get into the frame just to mess with them. Good clean fun. They peeled off and Ryan juiced it to regain the pack. I didn’t follow. Instead I held and eventually found some new friends to create the 3nd pack. Brooks was still up front with a few followers. Then another pack with all the big names. Then my pack. A few times early along the lake people in my pack tried to overtake me. Fine, go! But they quickly ran off course and into the woods and then would rejoin and fall in behind. I was the tour guide. As we rolled toward Tabor, we found more than one runner stumbling or cursing, “Where is the fucking trail?”. I would just laugh at them and they would fall in with us. There were no boobies at Tabor. Fans are worthless.

Near the boat ramp, somebody behind said, “Brandon, love the mohawk!”. I wasn’t going to turn and asked who. “Its Wyatt!”. Sweet. Following Wyatt Hornsby for a few years via the blogs now. He big buckled last year. He was shooting for the 20 range this year. So I felt like I was in the right company. We ended up falling into silence and motored around the lake in the darkness with little emotion.

I popped out on the May Queen pavement and yelled “Fuck yeah!”. Great section. My wife was standing there with the video camera. I startled her. Wanted to stop but had business to do. Had a date with a timing mat up ahead. 1:48 to May Queen Aid Station was the split. A good 10 minutes under last year’s time with a lot less exertion I thought. The sun wasn’t up yet but I still dumped all my gear so I could greet the sunrise that would be there in minutes dressed appropriately.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

May Queen to Fish Hatchery – 3:35

Natalee guided me out of May Queen. Probably a 60 second stop. Last year it was a 0 second stop. Felt like I was doing the right thing and taking time. I ran out of May Queen alone. Kind of a downer because I had been with a group all morning so far. This let me settle into my own pace though. Started making quick work of the Colorado Trail. Passed Wyatt who was on the phone. Pizza? Popped out onto Hagerman with Wyatt on my tail. We chatted up the road a bit but then he gapped me while I was refueling. The climb up Sugarloaf brought a few more friends by me. Brendan Trimboli and I chatted for a moment. He looked so effortless. I wasn’t working too hard. But I ran every step while others around me were run/walk mixes. I walked that climb to conserve last year. Not this time. Hit the top of Sugarloaf and suddenly had a nasty side stitch. Damn it. Kept running and only lost a couple spots. Bob Sweeney pulled up next to me near the bottom and quickly told me I went out too fast again this year. I was out to prove him wrong! We ran down Powerline together stride for stride chatting the whole way. He pulled ahead of me on the pavement. That’s when Tim Long came up next to me. We did some checks on each other and ran into Fish Hatchery together. 3:30 on the clock. Lots of hooting and screaming at Fish as always. Lots of people calling my name. Felt like a rock star.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Fish Hatchery to Pipeline

This section of pavement kills most runners. I was amped for it. I put the pedal down and kept running 8 minute miles all the way.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

I could see friends like Pat Garcia back behind me and I was motivated to keep out front. My GPS watch clicked to 26.2 miles near the exit into Pipeline. I was at 4:05 on the clock with two aid station breaks. About a 4 hour marathon, at 10,000 feet, with an 11,200 mountain thrown in the middle, on trail, in the dark…hell yes. And I felt great. The Hummer was there with crew so I took the opportunity for a multiple minute stop. I wouldn’t see them all again until Twin Lakes because there is no crew access in between. Got some stuff down and washed it down with some Gatorade. Natalee walked me to the end then I was off.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Pipeline to Halfpipe – 4:53

Last year, I run/walked this section. Not this time! Kept on the run pretty solid. Felt great until I didn’t feel great. Hmmm. Pulled into Halfpipe and went right into the port-o-pot. Ah, cool. Quick crap. Nicely timed. Started coughing while sitting there and then suddenly puked up all the Gatorade. Out my mouth and nose. Yuck. Instantly felt back to 100%. Damn. Kind of stumbled out of the pot and over into the aid station and try and get some food back in me. Off again…

Halfpipe to Twin Lakes – 6:38

Had a decent run in here but walked the larger of the climbs between the Elbert ridges. Everybody in front of me was too so I didn’t feel bad. Tried to use the time to recover a bit. Pounded my water and was dry just in time for the new Mount Elbert water only station. Filled up quick and was off. Nice addition! Ran solid down to the Twin Lakes aid station and found my crew waiting. I complained about my quads being a little sore. The crew with my consent made a gametime call. They had brought my hiking poles from home and they suited me up with them. This changed my hydration from bottles to backpack. Might help me? My nemesis is up next. Hope Pass.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Twin Lakes to Hopeless

The river crossing was cold as always but I was totally ready for it this year. I knew how many streams and puddles before the river so I didn’t mess around trying to stay dry. I just dove in. No big work there. Popped out of the river and got to the trailhead. Got the sticks sized up and it was time to hike. I hadn’t really shuffled position too much in the last few hours but suddenly people were walking by me like I was standing still. We were all hiking but I was 10x slower. Mike Hinterberg came up next to me with 2 huge jugs of water. He carried on a conversation like we were on a car ride together. I could barely muster up grunts. This climb is kicking my ass again! Drat. I kept working. Took 2 pauses up the mountain to regain composure. Leila DeGrave was spotted just below me in the switchbacks. She is a big buckler too so I knew I was in good company but she was gaining fast. I was proud to be chicked by her but a bit sad for myself. I work the hills…more than most…why can’t I keep up? I can run up Mount Massive but I can’t hike this? Got to Hopeless and just passed through. I needed to be off this climb.

Hopeless to Winfield – 10:30

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

The entertainment begins. As I topped out on Hope Pass at 12,600 feet, I started to see the leaders coming up. Who will it be! Its like a front row seat to a major event…no more like being on the field! It was Ryan Sandes. He had his pacer and they were moving good. He was sweating like crazy though. Really working. 2nd was #30 and I didn’t know him. 3rd was Dylan. He gave me a shout out by name on the pass by. Wished him luck. 4th was Burch. I was really excited to see him doing well after or quick morning exchange. No pacer, he was solo. I think I said “Look at you, you motherfucker! You are four minutes behind Sandes. Roll him up!”. From there the list went on. Timmy. Duncan, etc. At 8th, it was Brendan Trimboli and his pacer Stephen Young. Stephen stopped to take my picture and Brendan exchanged a few words with me. This is key because all the other folks before him only mustered up a grunt or a name. Brendan could carry on a conversation. He looked better than everyone in front of him. So proud of that dude. Finished 11th. Saw more and more people I knew. Finally saw Brooks and Andy Henshaw and Brooks couldn’t even speak to me. He was empty, beat and just grinding. Told Andy to take care of my friend. Got to the bottom of Hope and passed by Bob Sweeney and Tim Long nearly side by side.

The road to Winfield was hot as shit. It had been nice all day but suddenly the sun was full on and temps shot way up. High 80s? Apparently, the Winfield parking was so full that they stopped cars back before the turn to Hope. Pacers and crews were walking up the road all pissy. The good news was that I only had to deal with about a dozen passing cars this year and much less dust. Normally that would have been a non-stop parade of cars. That 3 miles was long and I walked the ups and eventually walked into Winfield as JP came out to greet me near the little historic cabins out front.

Winfield – 1/2 way

Felt pretty good at Winfield. No signs of anything really wrong. Just ran 50 and was ready to run 50 more. Quitting was not even on the radar. This is a huge drop zone for folks. But looking at the clock I realized I went from sub-18 pace at May Queen, to 21 hour pace at Twin Lakes, to now being right dead center on sub-25 hour pace. No room for error.

Kim and Natalee spent a lot of time cooling me off in the chair under the tent. Wet rags on my neck. Ice in my hat. I was hot. I cleaned out my shoes from all the 50 miles of rocks I gathered. Things seemed OK for the feet but honestly I was probably distracted and should have paid more attention to them there. I was a bit dejected about my time into Winfield. I wanted to be sub 10 hours and I had missed that by a bit. David Clark came in just as I was leaving. I was glad to see him in the hunt for his big buckle as well. I was still surrounded by people with similar goals.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Winfield to Hopeless

JP and I headed out of Winfield with a mission to reach the finish in less than 25 hours. My dreams of something significantly less than that had evaporated. I was OK with that. That was the stretch goal anyway. Oh well. As we motored down the dusty road together, we got a chance to catch up on the day so far from each other’s perspective. As well as make some new bets on how today as going to play out. I was satisfied with running the flats and down here and walking the few ups just to get loose again and prepare for the return over Hope Pass. Many of my friends were still coming into Winfield. I stopped for everyone of them and chatted for 10 seconds. Giving them whatever boost I could muster up for them. Quick recaps on their days. Saw Andy Wooten, Luke Crespin, and many more that I had chatted with pre-race. Kim and Natalee finally passed us by in the Hummer. We made the turn into the campground but I told JP something wasn’t right with my feet. I sat on a rock and took off my shoes. Ouch! Both sides, on the balls of my feet, total whiteness. The skin was separating again. Last year repeating itself. I should have switched socks or shoes or something at Winfield! Too late now. My mind raced. I remembered something I learned from Tony and later was reinforced by Dr. Jeremy Rodgers. I took off my socks and stowed them in my backpack. Won’t that hurt? Not as much as the blisters once they fully develop. I knew that the heat and moisture from the socks was creating the problem. So removing them would get more air to the foot but I would have to deal with any rubbing. Let’s move.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

We hit the base of Hope and started up that gnarly climb from hell. Tons of people were still coming down so we were constantly dealing with oncoming traffic. I had the poles out and it added to the mix. It was a total slog. Felt like puking a few times but did not. Was totally out of breath like I was on the front side earlier. It wasn’t as bad as last year but I still stopped a dozen times for pauses to get my breath and calm my heart rate. Never found a rhythm. JP talked to every one that passed us in either direction. And it was a lot of people both ways. Lost places like they were going out of style. Sucked balls. Really sucked balls. The only saving grace I had was that I knew that once I crested that pass, I would be a new person just like last year. So I kept at it. More passing. People coming by that had flown in from sea level days ago and were kicking my butt. Embarrassing. I had acclimated for a whole summer. WTF!

We topped out and I started getting back to myself. My quads were a bit burnt so I was sort of stumpy into Hopeless. We stopped there for maybe 5 minutes to get some soup, GU brew, and more into me. I knew I would run non-stop to Twin Lakes so this was a needed pit stop.

Hopeless to Twin Lakes – 14:28

As promised, I got into the run, found rhythm, and moved downhill. Last year I ran too hard. This year was controlled yet quick. We rolled up a bunch of folks that had passed us on the up. It felt great. We were back in it. Even lost JP back behind me at times as I was in the zone descending. Hit the river, crossed it, then quickly were running again through the marshy fields. JP wanted to alternate in some walks but I would have none of that. I ran until I hit a chair in the Twin Lakes Aid Station. JP asked a medic to come and look at my feet as I was changing shoes. He suggested some duct tape. That was about it. The feet were holding up and the whiteness had gone way down even though they still looked bad. I was encouraged. I slipped into my ugly K-Swiss Kwickies to finish the race. I had 3 choices of shoes but I knew these were light, comfy, padded, and I could run in them. No socks. Time check put me in the mid 25 hour finish now. I gotta move to make that back up.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Twin Lakes to Halfpipe – 16:51

I was in a hurry to get moving. We had really fallen off the 25-hour pace block with that Hope Pass shit. 45+ minutes off the statistical average for that aid station. I could make that up plus its an average. So I got out of there without JP and left him back to gather our cold weather gear and supplies. I knew he could catch me on the climb. But I screwed up a minor item. I didn’t grab my watch charger. This was the spot but neither I nor the crew remembered to suit me up with it. 10 minutes into the climb, the watch beeped. Damn it. It really wasn’t a demotivator. I didn’t need it. But I wanted it. It would tell me how I was helping or hurting the pace gain each mile. So I was blind there. As we climbed up that wall of a hill out of Twin Lakes together, JP started noticing that I would hunch over when I hiked. It was causing me to breath funny. To hyperventalte to some extent. No air. I started playing with it and found that if I just even did a slow jog on the steep hill, I could get air. Came to realize that I have spent hundreds of hours adapting my body to breath efficiently while running. But I have spent about 0 hours on that same skill for hiking. When I do a 14er, I run, I don’t hike. It all made sense. But not much I could do about it now…but run. So I did. Took more exertion I suppose but I was able to find a good pace on most of the terrain and occasionally blazed the downhill rollers. We were making up great time.

JP took my bottle and I was really in the zone. We picked up another couple of dudes and we ran together. JP was talking to them and about me at points and I didn’t even respond. I wouldn’t take my eye of the ball. One word and I might be walking again. I just kept on pace. JP put his light on as it got darker. He wanted to stop and get my light out for me but I grunted “NO” and we kept moving. I could see a bit better but as it darkened I just ran right off his shoulder in his light. I must make it to Pipeline. Now. JP had me take a salt pill after I couldn’t really tell him when the last one I had was. Seemed like a good move.

We pulled into Pipeline just before 9 PM. I was super excited. We have until 5 AM to get 30 miles or so. That should be good, right? In the aid station, I slammed a cup of broth, a cup of coke, a few oranges, and moved out. It was cold now but I was still in my singlet. I put a shirt on but quickly tore it back off once I got moving again. Felt great.

Halfpipe to Pipeline

JP was getting really excited to show up at Pipeline where the girls would be waiting for us again. He felt like we were moving quick and it might shock them. I ran every step. As we turned onto Pipeline, JP took a salt pill for himself and gave me another one. I didn’t ask questions. But with JP holding my bottle, I wasn’t asking for water that often. Just not on my mind because it wasn’t on my hand. I likely gain a bit of a boost from the lack of weight to carry though.

We found the Hummer near the end of Pipeline. I was on fire…nice and warm. Running strong. Nothing can stop me now. I drank a 5 hour energy right there. Stood up, kissed my wife and was bound for Fish Hatchery. Even started singing Nine Inch Nails shit out loud…really loud…while running out of there. This is mine.

Pipeline to Fish Hatchery – 18:29

Back on the road, my pace slowed a bit. JP and I were all alone out there. I started to fell funny. When we got out past the dirt section along the road, I went to a walk. Need a minute, JP. Stomach turned over. Hmmm. He was fine with it. We had been running hard. Let’s do the run/walk stuff. Tried. Started becoming more walk than run. Just no steam. I could see Fish Hatchery in the distance. Must make it there and regroup. I asked JP what time it was because he had the only watch. He told me then I slid out my mini pace chart and saw that I was 45 minutes short on the chart for pace. Recoverable but I just worked that hard and didn’t seem to close the gap that much. Came into Fish and saw the Hummer sitting across the road in the dark. The girls were there at the back. It seemed far away. I told JP to go talk to them and I would just run up and through the checkpoint and be back. Only I can cross the mat so let me go do that.

As I tried to run up to the aid station, energy levels plummeted. I went inside the building, made the loop and came to the food table. Nothing looked great. “Have any broth?”, I asked. “Fresh in just a minute”, she said. I sat in a chair against the wall, leaned my head back, and sort of fell asleep. Power nap? Not sure. They handed me the broth and woke me up in the process. Volunteer next to me started asking me questions. “You have a pacer?” “Where is your crew?” It sounded like and felt like I was a lost boy at the mall. I got a little freaked out and stood up, told them they were outside, and I left the building. I was in another state of mind. I walked down the driveway to find JP. I needed to do something. Maybe the girls had some magic. “Where’s the Hummer?”, I asked. “They left for May Queen”, JP said. Oh fuck. I dropped down a few more notches on the energy level scale. OK. Let’s roll then. All we have to do is climb up Powerline….

Fish Hatchery to May Queen

JP and I started down the paved road to the Powerline entrance. For the first time, I started feeling cold. Give me my shirt. Give me another shirt. Give me my beanie. Give me my coat. I couldn’t put it all on fast enough. I was a walking zombie. I didn’t care to run because I knew we had a 5 mile hike to do straight up hill. Powerline has 6 false summits and climbs to 11,200 feet. Its dark and cold and its the killer of dreams at Leadville. JP stopped on the road to put his tights on before the climb. I wouldn’t do that so I continued on down into the trail and into the water crossing. Something about that moment, being alone, being cold, being sick….I barfed. 8 times. Mostly dry after the first 2. Nothing in my stomach. I spent a few minutes there, gathered myself, and started the hike. I was dizzy but I knew there was only one way to the finish. JP caught up to me and we hiked up the hill together. I wasn’t fast. Passed by a few groups who were relatively chatty. However, we did find some like minded folks feeling like shit as well. Solo dude sitting on a rock, etc.

I finally told JP, I need to sit down. Then I tried to lay down. A 20 minute nap mid-way up Powerline was just what Brandon wanted. JP knew this was not a good move so he kept haggling with me. Finally he saw me getting even colder as evidence by my huge goosebumps on my legs. So like the fucking man he is, he dressed me in my tights right there on the side of the trail. I was getting a bit warmer in those but I needed to move. As I laid there, Cole Chlouber (son of race founder, Ken) came by me. Cole ended up finishing in 25:07…7 minutes past the big buckle cutoff. I didn’t know it at the time but he was sort of my grim reaper of last chance for a big buckle passing by. However, I knew that when we left Fish Hatchery we were tight but still possible. This latest fiasco somewhere up on this mountain just did me in for my chances. It was not recoverable for a big buckle. My dream was dead.

But you are laying there on the side of the course. There is no helicopter. There is no “do over”. You have to man up and stand up and finish. So I did. I stood up and started walking up hill. In retrospect, I probably should have went back to Fish. But backtracking seemed like a major foul. We pushed forward. I kept counting false summits and just knew it would be over when it was over. I just kept stumbling along. I had one pack of shot block in my pocket. It took me 15 minutes to eat 1 of the 6 blocks in the pack. I gave up then and put them away. Once we topped out, I had some hope of a quicker descent but I was a fragile wreck. I was tripping over rocks and just resigned myself to walking it in.

My feet hurt and I stopped to clear out the rocks. I leaned back and suddenly something happened. I had a GU in my back pocket and it just exploded…into my ass crack. My butt cheeks were stuck together with gel. Oh, this is just great. I sort of didn’t care. Pile it all on. Everything is crumbling down anyway. We got onto the Colorado Trail and made the long 3 mile hike through the windy rock trail. I fell over and stumbled many times. My light was fading too. Everything was suck. I was dizzy. I could hear people at May Queen but it just took forever to get there.

We popped out at the Timberline trailhead near May Queen. I later learned that this section took us over 4 and a half hours to complete. I ran every step of it hours ago in less than 90 minutes. I stumbled like a drunk zombie down the road and passed my parked Hummer. The girls were up at the aid station. I was hugging myself to keep warm. JP put his arm around me. Told me that he was going to get me warmed up and feeling great. As we approached the aid station where the food was, Natalee started waving us in. JP ignored her and walked me straight over to a closed/sealed tent…the med tent.

He walked me inside and gave them a quick synopsis. I stood there like a zombie and when they pointed to a cot with a sleeping bag on it, I collapsed into it. They zipped me up in the bag, head included. I started shaking uncontrollably. Maybe I was before, but I felt it now. I was hypothermic. I could hear them getting the low down from JP above me faintly while I drifted in and out a bit. When did he drink last? Eat last? All the answers were bad. Natalee leaned into the bag and gave me a kiss on the face somewhere. I think she was crying. I later learned that she lost it when I turned into the med tent. She had been recalculating our split meticulously and knew something was up. When she saw the med tent, it confirmed her fears. Its a long day and she was very emotionally tied to the event, outcome, me, whatever. Apparently, she got into a fight with Kim and this point because Natalee wanted to take my bib and run the rest of the race for me. Its not rational but everyone was out of it.

Kim was asked to feed me some soup after they took all my vitals. I looked her in the eyes. Lucho told a story last year of feeling like he hurt his wife when he laid in the med tent under similar conditions post race. I tried to see what my wife’s take was. Fear? Crying? What? She was smiling. WTF? Turns out she had read all those race reports I had sent her. Tony’s infamous DNF, etc. I heard her tell someone that this happens…all the big boys DNF at some point. They think its cool. And she knew that nobody had died…yet. Such a confidence booster for me. I ended up laying there for about a 1/2 hour. They would constantly wake me up and ask my name, where I was, and what time it was. I knew the answers. But the time question was a bit harder to answer because it stung inside. 4 AM was the last answer I gave. They were prepared to release me. I had not taken the IV that they offered me because that ends your race. So I was actually free to continue as I pleased. However, I looked at my beaten and exhausted crew. My legs were shaking. It was 13.5 miles to the finish for a small buckle. JP was done pacing and it was Natalee’s turn. She had just gone though a total emotional mess. We had been up since 3 AM on this ride. Its a dark singletrack trail with no ATV (emergency vehicle) access. The sun wouldn’t be up for 2 hours. It took us 4 hours to walk that section last year with my busted feet. So with total conviction, I told them to cut my bracelet. Take me out of the race. I am done.

I will never regret that DNF decision. The prize for me was long gone that night. I regret earlier decisions along the way. I didn’t need to prove I could race 100 miles this time. I did that last year. I wanted to race it harder and much faster. I had nothing left to prove or that I could prove. Time was up.

My crew was able to bring my Hummer into May Queen and load me up into the car. Given the parking madness there, this was an amazing feat in itself. We drove down the dark roads the 7 miles back to home. Just before the house, we could see runners scampering onto the Boulevard. It was getting close to 5 AM and these guys were trying to book it home to beat the clock for the big buckle. While I rode by them in a car headed for bed. We got back to the house and found Tim in bed in some level of pain not able to sleep. We shared stories. I took a semi-supervised shower then fell into bed. My day was done.

I awoke at 10 AM on the nose. That is the official race finish time. I could have still been out there but I was very content to be in bed with my wife alive and well and not much worse for the wear. I knew there would be mental consequences but those were for later. I made the decision to skip the awards ceremony. My parents were back in Longmont watching our kids, it was a long night, and I wanted to beat the rush of traffic out of town. I did want to congratulate my friends but that would have to come later. So with that as my excuse, we packed up and left during the ceremony…kind of a chickenshit move.

When we got home, I retold the story to my parents. Then to neighbors that came by after following me via the Internet throughout the race. I got several phone calls over the course of the day to check on my well being. We hadn’t elaborated much after the last DNF tweet. Some thought I might be in the hospital. I left too much to the imagination there I guess. I just didn’t really know what to say.

My daughter presented me with a belt buckle of my own she made.

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011


Still sorting it out but basically I fucked up.

+ Nutrition: This was the heart of the matter. My calorie consumption started well but dropped off a cliff over the course of the day. Stomach off. Lucho and I talked nutrition on Sunday for a while by phone and I just don’t fuel well over 6 hours or so. I can wing (sort of?) a 50 but I can’t fake a 100. This was the overall factor on my day. I sort of fake this a bit during training because I broke my runs very evenly so I never really had big long days. Lots of medium days.

+ Pace: I went out too fast. That’s what the critics all say. Screw the critics. But they might be right. Brooks and I led side by side from the start to the Boulevard. We were talking and having the time of our lives. I was 100% acclimated and I ran comfortable from the start. Maybe not “super easy” as some would suggest you pace.

+ Hiking: I suck and I can’t breathe. You are going to hike in this race. So practice. I didn’t. I figured it wouldn’t be a game changer. It was.

+ Feet: My feet got fucked up in the water again this year on Hope. I should have done something different this year but I made the same mistake. Dumb.

+ Hypernatremia: So I ran a negative split back to Half Pipe and things were really turning around. Rolling up dozens of runners. Crew did a salt check on me and they refilled my bag. Confused me. So I took more. Oops. I had 3 s-caps in an hour. Felt funny coming into Fish. Washed it down with some broth. Too much salt. Not enough water. Textbook.

+ Hypothermia: Got cold because I stopped generating heat. Sort of an after effect of the above. People were running by in short sleeves and shorts when it was about 30 degrees on Sugarloaf. I was miserable. They were fine.

+ Pride: I let my talking get ahead of my running…again. Last year, I wanted a big buckle, and I got a small one. This year, I said I wanted a big buckle, but I really wanted sub-20 or 21 or something in that range. Sacrificed the big buckle for it. Just keep getting ahead of myself. People told me not to. I didn’t listen. Tim Long told me at my table in Leadville to play it smart this year and come back next year with my madness. I didn’t listen.


Next Steps

So now I sit here on a self imposed running hiatus trying to figure out my next move. I ran 86 miles and other than a blister and a little quad soreness, I feel like I could line up to race tomorrow. So much for “went out too fast”. I have hurt more after marathon PRs. But I don’t know if I have the desire anymore.

Well, what do you do when you are in such a moment of clarity yet misery like I was on Powerline? You make promises to yourself. And one that I made pretty clearly was that I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. I WILL NEVER RACE AGAIN.

Do those promises in those types of moments really mean anything? I like to think they do. When I say “DO THIS AGAIN” was it the race? Was it the way I raced? The way I prepared? The way I pushed on? What was it really? I struggle with that answer now. Never race again? Is that the right answer? Do this for enjoyment only? Racing is really fun, is it?

I am not selling my cabin in Leadville. That’s for sure. I will be back there in two weeks in fact. It will be bittersweet.

But what do I do now? My sister says she will be back if I call on her. JP says that he is racing next year himself…even after looking that misery of mine straight in the face. However, my wife and I only said a few words and the conclusion was mixed. It was clear that this race has become a sacrifice for our family. I feel like its one of the only ones I ask them to make for me. But do I really want that? Do I really want to spend another long season training for this thing? “Daddy’s out running again”. Maybe I stick to shorter stuff and refine my craft. Maybe I am getting too old for this shit.

We were watching a stand-up comedy special this past weekend pre-Leadville. He was talking about religion. He was joking that people ask for forgiveness for their sins. His response, “Your sins are the most exciting thing about you! Wear them on your sleeve.” Something about that rings true here for me. While I hang around with other ultra dudes and feel normal with them, I know this is a unique sport and I am special for being a part of it. It puts a bounce in my step. It has given me purpose. It has opened new doors. It has introduced me to new people. It has made my life different than it was before. So for me as an individual, this is “the most exciting thing about me”. Would you want to give that up?

So why would I shut the door on that because of a few bad hours? I looked that DNF in the face and took it. It doesn’t hurt. It just puzzles me. It frustrates me. Do I really have to now wait 365 days to go give it another shot? What would I do different? How would I raise the bar yet again? Thinking Matt Carpenter style here. Beat him once…never again. Big buckle…nice but I am over that one. What do I really need to feel successful at that race? I got a taste of it through the first quarter of the race this year. I felt more alive in those moments than ever before.

I have had every thought from driving to Leadville right now and running the course unsupported, to jumping in the Bear 100 next month to redeem myself, to never running ever again. All of those are great options…if you are insane or like extremes.

But I will tell you what…I will ultimately decide for myself….but you tell me. What did I do wrong? Did I have a chance? Did I get ahead of myself? Should I go for it again? Raise the stakes?

Should I get a coach…I know this guy…

Are you sick of hearing about Leadville yet or are we just getting started?

Leadville Trail 100 Run 2011

Thanks to my wife, sister, brother-in-spirit JP! Thanks to my parents for coming to watch our kids. Thanks to my friends for the continued advice through the year. Thanks to my followers for making me feel like a rock star out there. Thanks to the Leadville crew for putting on a great race — Life Time has been positive in my book.

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the race. I guarantee I will be in Leadville in some capacity. I just need to decide if that’s as a volunteer, pacer, crew member, or the only place I feel at home…up front on the starting line leading out that race into the darkness.