All posts by brackec

Winter Gear Modifications

The bikes are hung up, most of the trail shoes are put away, and the Wasatch has already had over 300” of snow.  We are off to a great ski season and everyone is hoping the big snow continue.

I am a self proclaimed gear-head and I am constantly looking for new gear and modifying the gear that I have so that it works exactly like I want (and frequently to avoid buying another piece of gear that would do the same thing).  With winter in full swing, I thought it was a good time to share my favorite gear modifications for winter which are my ‘screw shoes’ and ‘semi-split skins’. 

You can buy all kinds of winter running traction devices from Yak Traks to Micro Spikes to Ice Bug shoes.  All of these are great, but I don’t run that much on the trail in the winter so why spend the money on shoes/devices.  I got the screw shoe idea from Matt Carpenter’s web site.  Since I go through 5 or more pair of trail runners each year, I used a retired pair of Montrail Hardrocks as base shoe.  Adding anywhere from 12-18 1/8” (or as short as you can find) sheet metal screws to each shoe and using an electric drill with a socket bit, in just a few minutes you have a great pair of winter running shoes.

Part of being a gear head is also always trying to shave a few ounces off my gear.  The old adage is that you shouldn’t spent a ton of money on lighter gear when most people can shave far more ounces from their bodies.  I don’t have too many ounces to spare so I look towards my gear.

When Black Diamond came out with the Split Skins, I thought they were a great item for my Voile Drifters.  My calculations determined they would save me 8 ounces over traditional skins.  The problem with these skins is that you now have a strip of slippery nylon under your foot.  When you get on a hard skin track, the nylon causes a lot of slippage.  To counter this, I sewed a small strip of skin under the mid section of the skin to provide a little additional traction.  I have not weighted the difference, but my estimate is that this only added 3 ounces to the skins so I still have a 5 ounce savings.  Thanks to Mark at Voile, I was able to stitch the skin strips on with their machine rather than hand sew them with a sewing awl.

As I mentioned, we are well underway to a great ski season.  Check out Matt Hart’s You Tube Video of one of our ski days and Andy’s show of perfect powder.

The Race Across the Sky – Emily’s Leadville 100

I fell in love with the Leadville area when Chad completed the Leadville 100 mountain bike race in 2004. The mountains, streams, and lakes are so phenomenal in this area. In 2008 we went back to Leadville for a 4-day weekend of training on the course to prepare Chad and our friend Kristin to run the Leadville 100 (I was training for Wasatch). He did extremely well finishing in 24:24. While we were training and when I was crewing and pacing Chad, I knew that I would want to run this course at some point but the 30 hour cutoff was quite intimidating. It wasn’t until I finished the Bear 100 last year in 28:51 that I knew that if I set my mind to it I could finish Leadville. It’s always quite a feat for me to even sign up for a 100 mile race because once I do, I know I’m committed and will train and finish the race. That is again how I felt after signing up for Leadville.

I trained differently for Leadville than I have for any other race. I can’t say that I love running and really do love hiking so this race was very different for me since it is so runnable and you have to run the majority of it to make the cutoffs (a strong finish requires you to run at least 80 miles of the race). So I trained as such – running a LOT – running up hills and down them. I don’t know if I got much faster but I know I got stronger and was more aware of my abilities to run. I set goal times of around a 27.5 to 28 hour finish hoping that I could meet those times and knowing they were lofty goals. There is less elevation gain/loss than the Bear 100 but the high altitude was going to have a factor on me (starting altitude was over 10,000’ and the high point is 12,600’).

I had fantastic friends join me in Leadville to pace and crew – Kristin, Becky, Christopher, and of course Chad.


Crew and Pacers (minus photographer Christopher)

The pre-race meeting on Friday morning was inspiring as Ken always is. He had us chant “We commit, we won’t quit” as many of us had tears in our eyes. Ken’s other inspiring words include “Dig deep” and “You can do more than you think you can and are stronger than you think you are”. I love it because those words really do come back to you when you really do need to “dig deep” when you think there is not anything left.

We started the race at 4:00 am. The first 5 miles are a downhill dirt road and extremely fast. I looked down to see a 7:20 pace which I found very surprising since I didn’t think my legs could go that fast. I cruised into May Queen Aid Station (13.5m) a little past my goal time but I always know that I’m more steady on the last half of a race and don’t want to get too worried about pace at that point.


Aid Station setup



Restocking at Twin Lakes

I made it up and over Sugarloaf pass and into Fish Hatchery (23.5m), ran the road, dirt road, and Colorado trail to Twin Lakes (39.5). Next was the 5 stream crossings and up and over the huge Hope Pass (12,600 feet elevation). I came into Winfield (50mile) at 12 hours (my fastest 50 miler time).


Winfield Aid Station and coming into Winfield

At this point we turn around and run 50 miles back to Leadville. I picked up Kristin to pace me and, as always, was very happy to have her with me. Kristin has a way to make me feel at ease with everything that is going on which always give me the ability that I need to cruise through the miles.


Climbing up Hope Pass

I had some minor stomach issues on the next 25 miles, but even with that I felt my strength not diminish too much during this time and was able to make up a little time in this section. At Fish Hatchery Chad paced me “home”.


Fish Hatchery


Leaving Fish Hatchery

I always have a lot of confidence when Chad is with me because he knows me better than anybody and is able to push me beyond where even I think I can go. He gives me the strength to push myself to my outer limits.


Running down from the last hill after Turquoise Lake

Becky, Christopher, and Kristin joined Chad and I for the last ½ mile and it was great having my friends there to support me to the finish line. My body felt pretty good but my legs were absolutely shot. I crossed the finish line in 27 hours and 41 minutes. Merilee gave me a bouquet of flowers as well as the finisher metal around my neck.



I was ushered right into the medical tent, they weighed me, I told them I felt great and they let me go right away. It felt incredibly good to sit down but once I tried to stand and walk I was surprised by the fact that my legs had a hard time holding me up much less moving. In the short 36 hours after the finish I’m recovering very well. Leadville is a great race. It is quite interesting though since it is such a huge race. Over 800 people registered, almost 650 people started the race. I was the 163rd person through the finish line (15th woman of ~100) out of ~310 that finished.

Becky, Christopher, Kristin, and Chad were the best crew I could have ever asked for. They had everything ready for me and I was in and out of the aid stations as fast as I could to continue on the trail.