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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.

Leadville Update – Tour de Mt Massive

I focused last week on recovering.  My recovery seemed to be going slowly at high elevation so on July 3 I drove to Salida to get to a lower elevation for a day of recovery.  The lower elevation definitely helped and I felt much better on Wednesday.  I had a couple of great mt bike rides on Wednesday and Thursday, then ran from the Winfield road over Hope Pass to Twin Lakes and back on Friday with local SLC speedster Jay Aldous.  I was hesitant about the run due to my calves, but after 9 miles, the lactic acid seemed to move out of them and they felt very good.  Saturday I rode a section of the LT100 Bike course (Half Moon Road to Twin Lakes).  It was good to get out on the course.  I was hoping to see the entire course last week, but that didn’t pan out with  my recovery so I will need to do that on my next trip out prior to the races.  I will have a busy 2 weeks before the LT100 Bike and run as I will want to see ~60 miles of the bike course and ~30 miles of the run course.

The highlight of my trip so far has been Tour de Mt Massive with Jared Campbell on Sunday.  Jared and Mindy came through Leadville Saturday on their way to Silverton for Hardrock 100.  We hung out on Saturday, had a great meal at Tennessee Pass Café, then watch the movie “Race Across the Sky” which features the 2009 LT100 Bike.  It was fun to see the movie again, it had some great course footage to help bring back some of my memories from when I road the race in 2004, and it helped to get me excited about the race.

Jared and I wanted to get in an adventure run on Sunday.  Mt Massive is the second highest peak in Colorado at 14,421’.  It has 5 summits over 14,000’ on its 3 mile ridge plus another 2 summits over 13,000’.  The mountain truly is massive with there being over 1/2 square mile over 14,000’.  It has the largest area over 14,000’ of any peak in the continental US.

   Mt Massive ridgeline as viewed from the Silver Rush 50 Course East of Leadville

Jared and I wanted to hit all of these peaks.  Since we had the luxury of a car shuttle (thanks Mindy), we put together a route up the North Ridge from the Windsor Lake Trail Head and down the South East Ridge.  In total, our run was 11.5 miles and 5,300’ of climbing.  We were only on a trail for ~1.5 miles which made it a great run.  Since we both have races next weekend, we did the route at a very easy pace, not running any of the climbs, very little of the ridge, and keeping the pace easy on the descent.  The run turned out to be fantastic.  It was great to have a running companion for this trip, we spent a significant amount of time over 14,000’ which will pay us back for our races, and we got to do a full ridge traverse of Mt Massive which is looked at from Leadville everyday.

Starting at the ridge, we hit the following high points

  1. Point 12,875’
  2. Point 13,125’
  3. Point 13,801
  4. Point 14,169’
  5. North Massive: 14,340’
  6. Massive Green: 14,300’
  7. Mt Massive: 14,421’
  8. South Massive: 14,132’
  9. South, South Massive: 13,630’
  10. Point 12,381’

Here are some photos of our run.  Click here for full size images.

Chad at Windsor Lake.

Picture 1 of 10

Chad at Windsor Lake.

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

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.