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Leadman – A Rough Finish

“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.

Leadman Hardware

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.

Leadman – Silver Rush 50 – 2 Down, 3 To Go

I had plenty of nervous anticipation leading up to the Silver Rush 50 race.  After the massive cramping I had at the marathon, I was unsure how my legs would respond.  I had numerous good training runs since the marathon, but was still nervous.  I spent the week of the race getting out on the course to see the remaining miles and resting up as much as possible.  Saturday was the Silver Rush 50 Bike.  I went to watch the start and then back to see the finish.  It was great to see local Wasatch SkiMo team member Tom Goth come in 6th.  Utah took 3 of the top 6 spots. 

I have started the liquid diet that has been working so well for Emily for the last couple years on the day before the race.  So far after using this diet for 2 races, I have had great luck with limited GI issues while racing.  The challenge of the diet is that you are eating (rather drinking) non-stop all day, but you just don’t feel fulfilled.  Since a liquid diet takes a lot of planning in order to get enough (and quality) calories, I included my liquid calorie intake for the day before the race below.  The beer was critical as I really feel that it relaxed me and allowed me a good night sleep.

Race morning I enjoyed my first cup of coffee in 2 weeks, a quick bowl of oatmeal and was off to the starting line.  It was a cold morning (low 40s) so standing around the starting line left me cold, shivering,and worried I would not be able to get my legs warmed up.  Luckily as soon as the race started we quickly warmed up with the climb up Dutch-Henri hill and the fast pace the lead group set once we started running at the top of the hill.  I was feeling really good and the miles were clicking away quickly and I was running on a sub 8:30 pace.  I was ecstatic with this since my goal was 9 hours, but I knew I needed to go sub 8:30 for my overall Leadman time and to keep from dropping more places in those standings.  I was able to move in and out of aid stations in only the amount of time it took me to fill my water bottle and felt like I was being very efficient.

I reached Stumptown, the 25 mile turnaround, in 3:54, I quickly refueled from my drop back (new gel bottle, Roctaine powder for my water bottle, chugged an Ensure, and chased it with a Red Bull.   My calculated 8:30 split was 4:04 and I left the aid station at 3:57.  I was really happy with this split, but I knew I had a long way to go and had to keep it together.  It was a long climb from Stumptown back up to Ball Mountain and I settled in for a mixture of running and steep hiking.  I don’t know why, but for some reason after dropping down off the back side of Ball Mountain, I started to feel a little bit of cramping.  This was the exact same spot I started cramping during the marathon, only I was at around 30 miles instead of 21 miles.  I increased my Endurolyte intake and kept pushing the pace.  After circling Ball Mountain, I know I had 2 long descents and only 1 climb left.  I was worried about the final descent knowing that it would be a knee and quad trasher since it was a rolling 10 mile descent.  Everything went great, I had a good last climb and started the descent carefully knowing I had a long way to go.  For the most part I had been running mostly alone.  At this point in the race, I was getting passed by a few people who were very strong descenders, but also catching some of the people who had gone out too hard and were fading so I had figured that I was maintaining about 20th place.  In the final 3 miles, the wheels were starting to come off.  My left knee was starting to hurt quite badly, my sesamoid bone issue on my right foot hurt, and my quads were trashed.  I slowed more than I would have liked at this point (probably about 45-60 seconds/mile), but kept pushing it and was able to catch 1 more person during this time and pass 1 person who had passed me at around mile 45.  I didn’t know if I had it in me to ‘race’ to the finish, but luckily, it seemed like no one else did either.  When I knew I could finish in under 8:30, I was hoping to make 8:15, but I just couldn’t push the last 10 miles hard enough for that.  I came across the finish line in 8:24:45 for 18th out of 479 racers.  In my age division I was 10th out of 134.  I was extremely happy with my race since I was able to set a PR by over an hour, felt great for almost the entire race, and fought off the cramps when they started to rear their ugly heads.

I drove back to Park City after the race and am glad to be home for 11 days before heading back to Leadville for 2 weeks of acclimatization and training before the next 3 races of the series – 100 mile mountain bike on August 11, 10K on August 12, and 100 mile run on August 18.

Silver Rush 50 Elevation Profile

Final Silver Rush 50 Results

Silver Rush 50 Photos

And as part of a past post, here are some links to photos from the Leadville Marathon.

The Summer of Leadman

Ever since first coming to Leadville in 2004 to race the Leadville Trail 100 Bike Race, I have loved the Leadville area.  Not being an ultra runner in 2004, when I heard about the Leadman competition during the awards ceremony, I thought it was crazy.  Fast forward to 2008 when I returned to Leadville to race the Leadville Trail 100 Run as my first 100 mile run and I became very intrigued with the idea of completing Leadman.  After 3 years of running 100s, when we returned to Leadville in 2010 for Emily’s Leadville 100 Run, I was sold on the idea that I had to do Leadman at some point.

What is Leadman?  Leadman is the completion of 5 of the 6 Leadville events over the summer:

  • Leadville Marathon on June 30
  • Leadville Silver Rush 50 Bike or Run on July 14 and 15
  • Leadville 100 Bike on August 11
  • Leadville 10K on August 12
  • Leadville 100 Run on August 18-19

The crux of Leadman is obviously the final 8 days when you have to complete the 2 longest and hardest events as well as a 10K.

When planning my race schedule each year, I apply for Hardrock 100 and everything else revolves around ‘if’ I get into Hardrock.  With this year’s failed lottery attempt, I am not 0 for 4 at the Hardrock lottery.  Since Emily was planning to do Wasatch 100 again, I decided this would be a good year to attempt Leadman.

With the less than average winter in the Wasatch, I came into running season strong and fast from skimo racing.  I started training hard in April adding in more than my normal amount of biking along with my normal amount of running.  I have had some large training weeks with 70 miles of both running and mountain biking in the same week and had planned not to race anything other than the Leadville series.  This has made for a strange spring since it is now the end of June and I haven’t raced yet – I am ready too start racing. 

Training has been more of a sacrifice than normal.  Since the Leadville events are very runnable, not a huge amount of vert, and not real technical, I have had to focus on running instead of the fun adventure running that I like to do.  In the end, this won’t be too big of a deal since I will be done racing August 19 and have late summer and fall for adventure running.  In order to do as best as possible in the events and minimize my travel between Park City and Leadville, I decided to only make 2 trips to Leadville and stay for 3 weeks at a time.  Since house rentals were expensive, I decided that camping was my best option.  I will be in Leadville from June 25-July16 and July 29-August 19.  This will be a long time away from family and friends, but spending that time at altitude and being able to train on all of the courses, will definitely pay off on race days.

While I am in Leadville, I will be taking some time off from work, but will also be working.  My base camp has AT&T 4G service and the great guys at Goal Zero Solar set me up with a couple of solar panels and battery pack so I will be able to spend some time working from camp.  For the rest of the time, I will be working from the Leadville Public Library.

     Leadman Camp 1 – Half Moon Creek

     Leadman Camp 1 – Mt Elbert

       My Goal Zero Solar Powered Work Area

My goal this week is to get out on the marathon course to see all the trail at least once.  After the marathon on Saturday, I will be dedicating my time to the 50 mile run and 100 mile bike courses.

On Tuesday, I attempted to run the first 8 miles of the marathon course.  I drove up to the aid station locaiton around mile 8, then road my mountain bike back to town.  I took a couple of wrong turns on the maze of mining roads, but still ended up at Ball Mt so I had a pretty good idea of what the first 8 miles of climbing will be like.  I had a great run with a good afternoon thunderstorm thrown in for some extra fun in the high elevations.

     Leadville Marathon Elevation Profile

     Mosquito Pass (marathon turn-around) from the mile 8 aid station