“That’s the mark of a great crew. When your masochism weakens, their sadism strengthens.” – Jim Knight
It’s hard to know where to even start, but that quote definitely sums up my race. I love running 100’s and out of all ultra’s, they are my strong distance. I have a great ability to suffer and just keep going. I always know a 100 will hurt, but going into them, I always know that I can persevere and finish. I was not so sure for the Leadville Trail 100 this year. After 2 massages and a chiropractor visit, my back was not much better. On Friday I drove to Aspen for what I called a full body reboot. I visited a deep tissue release specialist. It really felt like a full body reboot. It left me sore, but I felt many times better than prior to ‘the reboot’. This gave me some great mental strength going into the race. Friday night was spent in the normal fashion, dinner, crew briefing, and early to bed.
I awoke Friday morning excited to race. We were staying 4 blocks from the starting line and I was going to use this as a quick warm up. I quickly realized on the way to the starting line that my back was not in good shape and I started having real doubts about running 100 miles. I resorted to my backup plan and took a Percocet and put 2 more in my pocket.
LT100 Starting Line – 3:50AM
When the race started, I was not able to run at all. I jogged the first 3.5 miles downhill and then resorted to walking with short bursts of jogging. I was not able to run at all and the fastest jog I could maintain was ~10min/mile. At the boat ramp on Turquoise Lake (mile 7), I was ready to quit due to the pain. Since my crew was not going to meet me until May Queen (mile 13.5), quitting wasn’t an option. I walked most of the rest of the way to May Queen arriving around 2:40 instead of my planned 1:53. I told my crew I was quitting as I was in severe pain and couldn’t imagine suffering another 87 miles and 24+ hours. My crew talked me into continuing convincing me that my back could loosen up (it is not uncommon for me to feel crappy the first 12-15 miles of any long run) and that I don’t want to throw away Leadman quite so quickly.
Emily Sullivan convincing me not to drop at Turquoise Lake
I felt moderately better climbing up to Sugar Loaf Pass and was able to pass many people. Unfortunately, I was not able to run much of the downhill on Powerline due to the stress it put on my back. I made it to Fish Hatchery (mile 23.5) feeling miserable, but no worse than before. Since my stride was so screwed up from my back, I had to do some foot work due to already having sore feet. I left Fish Hatchery willing to give the suffering another chance. Similar to my experience around Turquoise Lake, I was not able to run the flats (especially the paved parts) and walked the next 4 miles to the Pipeline Crew Stop. I sat down and said I was quitting and they should go climb Mt Massive since we are so close to the trailhead and I would sleep in the truck. My crew (or sadistic crew according to Jim) would have nothing of it. They convinced me that if I took poles, I could take the stress off my back and I would feel better.
Brent & Emily convincing me not to take poles and keep going at Pipeline
I left Pipeline with poles and it definitely helped. I was able to keep a slow, but consistent jog and the flats, gradual climbs, and descents. I came into Twin Lakes still miserable, but for the first time, actually looking forward to moving on. I kept moving through the aid station and continued on for the long climb up Hope Pass. The climb went well and since climbing is my strong suit, I was able to pass quite a few people and was enjoying getting up high. I only stopped long enough at Hopeless Aid Station to fill my bottles and kept moving. The next 6 miles to Winfield went by quickly as I was meeting many friends and it was great to cheer people on and get cheered on. There is a new section of the Continental Divide Trail that allowed us to avoid the horrible and dusty Winfield road. The trail added about 2.5-3 miles round trip, but it was well worth it as it was a great section of rolling single track and I would do anything to avoid the cars and dust of the Winfield road. I arrived at Winfield in about 12:40, one of my slowest 50 mile paces, but I was happy to still be making ‘relentless forward progress’ (a statement that had become somewhat of a mantra for me during the day), and excited to be picking up Emily S as a pacer. As with all aid stations, I sat down to eat, drink, and hopefully reduce some of my pain which was now in my back, glutes, hamstrings, knees, and feet. Emily S and I headed out of the aid station for the long slog up Hope Pass. Emily pushed me just hard enough and we made the pass in good time and soon were on our way back to Twin Lakes.
Happy to be at Hope Pass, the 2nd Time
Twin Lakes River Crossing
The face of someone who has been in pain and miserable for 60 miles and 16 hours.
At this point I was just in the mentality of keep moving forward at whatever pace wouldn’t kill me whether it was walking or jogging. Due to my messed up stride, many other muscles and joints were getting more beat up than my back. My right glute and hamstring were in rough shape so Emily S gave them a good massage at both Twin Lakes and Pipeline (mile ~73)
This is how you know you have a GREAT pacer!
Emily S continued pacing me out of Twin Lakes and we had a long stretch to Pipeline. To add to my misery, my stomach had also gone south. Emily S had her work cut out for her in the next 13 miles to Pipeline where. We continued the standard of walking as fast as possible and a slow jog and were happy to see Brent and Emily B at the crew stop. Since my feet hurt so bad I decided to try running in Hoka’s. I bought a pair this summer but had only run in them for 20 miles and had not liked the way they felt. I usually wouldn’t try something new in a race, but at this point, I had nothing to lose.
I was not looking forward to the next 4 miles of road to Fish Hatchery. I was unable to run it at mile 25 so I doubted I could run it this time – I couldn’t. Since I couldn’t run, Emily S marched me at a 13:30 min/mile pace all the way to the Fish Hatchery Aid Station. It always feels good to pass people who are running when you are walking. Upon arriving at Fish Hatchery, I changed into my magic tights in hopes of helping relieve some of my knee and hamstring pain, filled up with food, had 2 Advil with a Red Bull chaser and took off with Brent for the next 10 mile section up Powerline and over Sugar Loaf Pass.
Brent and I set off on my normal pace of the day, but after about 30 minutes my Red Bull/Advil cocktail started to kick in and I started feeling better than I had felt all day (although just a lower degree of miserable). I had trained hard on the Powerline climb and knew it was 3.2 miles and 1,600’. Brent pushed me hard with happy thoughts of skiing powder and using good skimo climbing form. We continued to catch racer after racer and made the May Queen Aid Station (mile 86.5) at close to my 22 hour goal split pace. I made it through May Queen just wanting to get done with a modified goal of beating the sun rise (my original goal was 21:45 and I was now hoping to squeak in around 26:30). I refueled with pancakes and sausage as I walked out of the aid station and had my best pacer (my wife Emily B) taking me to the finish. I continued to suffer (sometimes worse than others) over the next 13 miles, but we continued to push and to pass people. It was amazing as I was passing people who were 2-3 hours ahead of me at Winfield. I didn’t feel good, but I didn’t feel any worse than I had felt the entire day so I was able to slow down much less than other people who were suffering. Emily pushed me the entire way to the finish line. I was doing great, but at 500M from the finish line my back totally went out and it was all I could do to keep a jog across the finish line for a finish time of 26:12.
My 2012 Leadville 100 was my second slowest 100 run, but I learned a lot about the power of a motivating crew and my ability to persevere and suffer. Had I dropped, I would have had a very long mental recovery for not finishing Leadman. Having finished, I have a solid 2-3 weeks of recovery ahead of me, but I also have the extreme pride of being able to persevere and become 1 of only 124 people to complete Leadman with a total time of 46:26. In the last 8 days I have raced ~212 miles and I have learned a ton about how my body reacts (both positively and negatively) to this type of intensity and duration. I am extremely happy to have finished Leadman and I am looking forward to a fall with no races on the calendar and lots of adventure running.
Final Note: I can’t thank my awesome crew of Emily B, Emily S, and Brent enough. Without them, I would not (and probably could not) have finished. They had their work cut out for them with my back issues, but when I didn’t think I could go on, they kept me on track to become a Leadman.