Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leadville 100 Run


I almost forgot we had a blog :) 

Finally, the race Sean has been training for all year and the race I signed up for 6 weeks ago.   This is the 30th year of the Leadville 100 Run which makes the race as old as I am.  Ken Clouber started the race as a way to save the dying town of Leadville after the mining boom died out.  It was his idea to start some extremely difficult races to increase the amount of tourists visiting the town.   From the look of it, it has been a great success.   About 1000 people registered for the LT100 this year, 800ish started the race and 45% finished the race.  The usual completion rate is usually around 40%, so this was a good year.

This was my first experience with a race like this. Sean had been there last year pacing a friend, but I had no idea what to expect.  I was pretty sure that only crazy people do this race and I think I am correct in that assumption.  The city of Leadville is at 10,200 feet and the race climbs up hope pass to 12,600 feet of elevation.

Racers have 30 hours to complete the course with many cut off times throughout the course.  If you miss a cut off time you can be forced to quit the race.  Those who finish the race get a finisher's medal and a large belt buckle for the 25 hour and under finishers and a smaller buckle for the finishers under 30 hours.  Women also get a race pendant for finishing.

The race directors get you pumped up at the meeting the day before and the morning of the race.  Ken was out of town for the first time ever so his son Cole spoke and filled in for him. 

The race starts in downtown Leadville and then winds around Turquoise lake to Mayqueen then jumps on the Colorado Trail segment 10 and then down a jeep road to Fish Hatchery. The race then runs on dirt roads and then jumps back on the Colorado trail heading to twin lakes and then climbs over Hope pass to Winfield and then you run right back the way you came.   The trail around Turquoise lake, the Colorado Trail, and Hope Pass are beautiful.  My favorite parts of the race are the water crossing before and after hope pass and also the aid station near the top of hope pass.  They use llamas to bring up all the supplies for the aid station because there are no roads that go there. The view from the top of Hope Pass is amazing.

I had an  amazing crew who met me at most accessible points and carried any gear I might need and 4 awesome pacers to keep me in line for the last 50 miles.  The pacer's job is to keep delusional runners on the trail, carry extra gear for them,  remind the runner to eat and drink, and to make them run when they are slacking.  

My first pacer was Rob who got me up and over Hope Pass.  I used trekking poles which made a huge difference because the ascent was so steep and the descent was slippery and my knees were already in pain.  Rob saved the day with his headlamp as it got dark before we were down from Hope pass.  Andy met me at Twin lakes to pace me out to Fish Hatchery.  

It was great to know so many people out there on the course.  There were people from the Runner's Roost Run club and the Denver Trail Runners at almost every aid station cheering me on.  I got to the Fish Hatchery Aid Station at mile 76.5 and was ready to quit.  It wasn't that I felt bad, it was just that I wanted to see Sean finish as well as I wasn't sure why I was out there.  It never really was a goal of mine to run this race and I was happy with my 76 mile fun run and figured that recovery would be very easy if I stopped there. I only signed up for this race because I am too competitive to let Sean run a race further than me.  Luckily, Ben and Dave were there to kick me out of the aid station and to make me keep running.  (Sorry Andy, I could have put in more effort running with you but I was too busy pondering why I was out there and figuring out how to quit). 

After it was decided that I was going to finish the race, I started to put in more effort.  Dan paced me up powerline and the land of a million false summits.  We still powerhiked up powerline and I tried to run going downhill, but my knees had now been hurting for the last 60 miles and were not thrilled with the idea.  We ran and hiked to Mayqueen where my brother in law was waiting for me to pace me for the last segment.  I was feeling really good when we got to Mayqueen.  John joined me and we continued running around Turquoise lake.  We left the lake and then ran/walked on a dirt road for what felt like an eternity.  When we were about 2 miles from the finish we saw my nephew and his girlfriend which was an awesome surprise.  They had driven from Michigan and stopped to see me finish.   We ran and powerwalked the last 2 miles to the finish.  The finish line was like a big party with many of my friends in attendance.

My crew grabbed my hands and ran me across the finish line to find Sean.  The No Doubt song Running started playing and Sean dropped down on one knee to propose.  Sean compared the race to marriage and asked if I would be willing to commit and not quit.

Apparently, Sean had already told his million closest friends that he was going to propose, so everyone was there waiting with their cameras to catch the moment.

It is not every day that you get to complete one of the toughest races in the US as well as to get proposed to by your best friend.

The race is long and difficult and many people who were very prepared for this race did not finish.  Congratulations to all who persevered for hours, but did not complete the course.  You are still an inspiration. 

It is Wednesday today, and I think I will be ready to run at the Runner's Roost Run club tonight.  I still have some mild knee pain, but it is back to what it was before the race.  Sean is still hurting pretty good but his muscles are feeling better.  The swelling in his legs is going down but his knees and feet are still very painful. 

Now that the race is over I am excited to resume trail running, break out my bike, climb some 14ers, and hopefully go backpacking before fall is over.  Sean is already ready to book reservations for lodging for next year. 

If I am dumb enough to do this again, I will run with just a handheld instead of my hydration pack, still use trekking poles on the big climbs, but find a way to carry them without my hands when they are not needed.  I would definitely have a headlamp when leaving Winfield. I would put citrus flavored gels in my Gatorade and skip gagging down gels in addition to the Gatorade.   I would also like to avoid avulsing fragments of my tibia while running road marathons and banging my knees on the pavement and Chipotle tables prior to the race.