Leadville 100 Trail Run – 2010

Well, this one really sucked. Going into the race, I have to admit that I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the event. The only reason that I committed to run Leadville was because it was part of the Grand Slam. And even that is a minor point of irritation since I don’t think it’s right for someone to sell entries into a series of events that they don’t direct, sponsor, or donate to. But that’s an entirely different issue.

Leadville is really an over-priced, over-hyped, over-crowded event on a mediocre course. I will say that the event has a lot of potential. It could really be a world class race if it were organized with the same level of support and competition as Western States. After running events like Western States, Vermont, and Bighorn, paying $300 for Leadville is quite a let down.

If they can’t run the entire race on decent trails, they could at least make use of the miles and miles of perfectly accessible road to set up decent aid stations. I had a miserable time covering the final 10 mile stretch over Sugarloaf and the last 13.5 miles from May Queen and I can’t comprehend how anyone at the back of the pack pushing to make the cut offs could manage that. The race would have a much better finish rate with just a few more aid stations along the way. But I guess that’s part of the money making system. Bring in as many entries as possible from anyone and everyone and bank on a high DNS and DNF rate to pocket the profits. The volunteer aid station crews that were out there were fantastic. Especially the team that packed in gear on Llamas and camped on Hope pass. I just wish the race organizers would set up more aid station crews on the course.

And the sheer volume of trash on the trails really put me in a bad mood. On the way outbound, there weren’t more than 30-40 runners ahead of me but I still saw more dropped gel packets and other trash than I’d seen at every ultra I’ve run in the past two years. The runners who dropped that trash weren’t the brain dead zombies who couldn’t manage to hold onto a gel tab with swollen fingers. That’s just unacceptable behavior. On the way inbound, Eric filled his pockets with trash several times between Twin Lakes and Fish Hatchery. But even that was a losing battle and a token effort at best.

So I guess I can’t be surprised at my final performance at the race. You just can’t run a 100 miles well without being fulling mentally committed. I started out thinking that I might be able to run sub-20 if I had an exceptionally good day. At the very least I thought I could run under 24 hours comfortably. Well, I didn’t have an exceptionally good day and I think I’ve finally realized that if I continue to run races back to back each month like this, I probably won’t. I didn’t run under 24 hours either and it wasn’t comfortable.

The morning started out fairly well and I settled into a pretty brisk pace with the long line of runners making their way through the winding trail around Turquoise Lake to May Queen. I knew I had to push the pace a bit here to avoid getting stuck in a traffic jam with the rest of the 700 runners. But the pace actually felt pretty comfortable and I was in and out of May Queen a couple minutes ahead of my 20 hour goal.

The climb up Sugar Loaf was one of the nicest parts of the day. We hit daybreak and sunrise on this section and I had a chance to chat and catch up with a few other runners – Rod Bien, Neal Gorman, and Tim Waggoner. The climb felt pretty easy and relaxed and on the decent down Powerline my legs felt exceptionally good and I took and opportunity to jump ahead of a few runners.

Eric and Victoria were waiting for me at Fish Hatchery and had me loaded up and back on the road with fresh bottles of ice water and another packet of shot blocks without breaking stride. Unfortunately the next section included a few miles of pancake flat paved road and a long, gradual uphill on dirt road to the Half Moon aid station at mile 30. My paced dropped off considerably here and a couple dozen runners passed me. I wasn’t hurting and kept running steadily on this section. I’m just not that great at the flat easy stuff and was moving as fast as I could comfortably go.

Half Moon to Twin Lakes was a fairly nice section along the Colorado Trail. The course finally leaves the dirt roads and there area few really nice miles of winding trails through Aspen groves with an occasionally view of the valley to the east. The last couple miles into Twin Lakes is a pretty abrupt drop down to the low point on the course at 9200ft. Again, my legs felt great on the downhill and it was nice to really pick up some speed again after the last 15 miles of slow grinding.

Eric and Victoria had me in and out of Twin Lakes again without breaking stride and I was off to tackle the first climb up Hope Pass. The first couple miles leaving Twin Lakes crosses an open, marshy meadow with several stream crossings. Most of the water crossings weren’t much more than shallow puddles but the one real river crossing was ice cold and thigh deep. This really sucked the energy right out of me and it took about thirty minutes of slow shuffling to get any life back into my feet. The first climb up Hope was slower than I expected. I didn’t feel that bad at this point in the race but I just didn’t have much power in my step and wasn’t able to keep up my usually fast hiking speed. This was the first part of the race that I realized that I definitely wasn’t operating at 100% of my ability and 20 hours probably wasn’t a realistic goal to push for. On the other side of Hope I managed to loosen up and got the legs moving at a good downhill clip again. One hiker shouted that I was the fastest descent they’d seen so far ….so while I was pretty weak on my climbs and super slow on the flats, I had that going for me today.

After the fun bomb down the backside of Hope, I had to endure 3 gradual uphill miles on the dirt road to Winfield. The road and the climb weren’t all that bad but the endless line of crew vehicles kicking up dust was miserable. So here’s one more reason never to run this event. There is absolutely no reason to have this many cars driving on the same dusty dirt road that the runners are on. It would be far better to either set the aid station at the junction to Hope Pass or set up a shuttle bus for crews and pacers.

I made it to Winfield in good time in 9 hours and 20 minutes. That was just 20 minutes slower than my 20 hour goal pace so I was still pretty happy about that. Unfortunately my legs were starting to tighten up and slow down so I knew that I’d be considerably slower on the return trip to Leadville. Eric took the first shift pacing from Winfield and after a quick weight check and bottle hand off from Victoria, we were back on the dusty road on our way home.

The second climb up Hope Pass was grueling and horribly slow. My legs were weak and the heat was starting to beat down and drain my energy. But despite my feeble climb up the backside, it was nice to see all of our friends still working their way down. Stopping to say hello to everyone – Alan, Mike, Chris, Michael, Shad, Olan, Karla, Ning, Dan, Cat, Mark, and Allen (…if I forgot anyone, I blame low blood sugar and altitude for the memory loss) – was a nice excuse for a break to rest my legs. The altitude started to get to me at this point as well so I took a slightly longer break at the Hopeless Pass aid station to try to eat some crackers, drink some extra water, and stretch and rest my legs. The short rest paid off and Eric and I were able to pick up the pace on the long descent to make up some time.

At Twin Lakes since the 20 hour goal was out of consideration, I changed gears to try to make the most of the aid stations. I changed into fresh socks after the slog through the rivers and mud across the meadow and I took some extra time to try to drink and eat a little more before tackling the next 9 mile stretch to Half Moon. Eric and I power walked up the hill from Twin Lakes and then continued to walk/jog along the rolling Colorado Trail. This section tops out at about 10,500ft and I was definitely starting to feel the altitude again. I was feeling pretty lousy having trouble getting shot blocks or any other food down and was losing ground on my hydration. A couple miles from the Half Moon aid station, I puked for the first time. Not much came up so I really didn’t lose anything but it sure wasn’t fun and it just drained me of my energy. I spent some extra time at Half Moon and was able to re-fuel and recharge a bit to make the next easy section in to Fish Hatchery. I wasn’t moving very fast at this point but Eric and I got into a pretty good rhythm of jogging 15 minutes and then walking to drink and eat whatever I could.

If I only had to cover 7 easy miles between stops, finishing wouldn’t have been too difficult at our pace. But Fish Hatchery to May Queen was going to be a 10 mile grind up and over Sugar Loaf. And the reward for surviving this gruelling 10 miles after May Queen? An endless 13.5 mile stretch to the finish line without any more aid. After enduring 76.5 difficult miles at altitude, that’s a real kick in the balls. So I took my time eating and drinking at Fish Hatchery to prepare for the worst that was yet to come. Victoria took over pacing with fresh legs and plenty of energy to spare.

On the climb up Powerline, I hit my toughest point of the race. I was tired. I was barely keeping up with hydration and I barely had any calories in the last 20 miles. And worst of all, it was getting late and I was unable to get down any caffeine. I was beyond bonking – I was going cross eyed falling asleep on my feet. 4am starts really suck. Especially if you have to be up all night. And we were going up to 11,000ft again and I was getting sicker and feeling worse and worse every step we climbed. Partway up the climb, I took a break to lie down in the gravel on the road. You know you’re in rough shape when you think that cold gravel feels wonderful. I asked Victoria to give me 4-5minutes to close my eyes and it felt really good to rest for a minute. After the race, she admitted that she only gave me a minute and a half ….but it helped. A couple more times I had to stop and kneel down, put my head on the ground, and close my eyes to be able to get back up and see straight. The last time I stopped, my friend Caroline caught up with me while pacing her runner and encouraged me to get back up. Having another friend out there in the dark was a welcome sup rise and I was able to jog part of the way back down the hill towards May Queen with them.

At May Queen I was completely wrecked, tired, and ready to be done with this race. Eric and Victoria found me a seat outside the tent (there was no way in hell I was going near the heaters inside) and I was able to finally get some decent calories with half a turkey sandwich, two cups of tea, some coke, and water. I took as much time as I could at this stop since I wouldn’t have any other chance for aid until the finish. I was already over my 24 hour goal but as long as I didn’t fall on my face or break a leg, I could make it to the finish under 25 hours for the big belt buckle award.

The extra calories, water, and caffeine had me refreshed and moving again. For about 3 and a half miles Victoria and I managed to roll along the trails around Turquoise at a steady clip. We were still alternating walking and jogging but making decent time. Unfortunately when that wore off, I still had 10 more miles to go. *$@#! Our pace deteriorated into a shuffle/walk and since we were getting close to the finish, I thought I’d risk taking a caffeine pill to see if it would give me enough kick to make it. Nope. I spent another 5 minutes hugging a tree puking my guts out. My sandwich from May Queen didn’t come up so I was happy about that.

The route around Turquoise lake goes through a large campground and in the dark, it’s impossible to tell where the trail goes with camp sites and paths in all directions. Victoria and I were wandering around in circles looking for trail markers while letting loose an endless stream of profanity directed at Ken Chlouber for taking in nearly a quarter million in entry fees plus sponsorships and not bothering to shell out a couple bucks for a @#$ %&$ @!#$@ing glow stick for the campground. And by the way, this would make a perfectly good spot for a #$%^ing aid station. Just then a couple lights appeared on the trail behind us and it was Aaron Marks from Fort Collins pacing Charlie Cowan, who paced me at Vermont last month. Aaron had camped out at Turquoise lake for the weekend and new the way through the campground. So Victoria and I hitched a ride on their wagon for a few miles. Charlie was flying! He was moving a bit too fast for my ability at the time but it was a good mental boost to have a group of friends on the trail and I went with it as long as I could.

About 4.5 miles from the finish, the trail makes a steep drop for about a quarter mile down a rocky slope. For the last time, I was able to bounce down the hill without any trouble. My legs still felt good on the gnarly downhills. …Too bad this course is mostly flat. When I hit the bottom back onto a flat dirt road I realized I had dropped Victoria, Aaron, and Charlie behind. So I took the opportunity to stand still for a moment and try to get an S-Cap and some water down. Nope, bad idea. I spent about 10 minutes puking on the side of the road and that’s the last I saw of Aaron and Charlie until the finish. I swear this one came out of my eyeballs. This took the last bit of energy out of me and for the rest of the way to the finish, I didn’t eat or drink. The final 3 miles is a lonely dirt road that just seems to go on forever. I really wanted to just walk quietly in the dark to get to the finish in one piece but runners kept coming up behind me flashing lights back and forth like a disco. I’d cut my light off and stand aside to let them go to avoid getting dizzy from the lights. And of course, everyone would shine a light at me and ask if I was OK. I’d have to explain that I’d be OK as soon as they got the light out of my face and moved on up the road. Ugh!

In the final mile once we hit the pavement, I started jogging again. Other runners would shout out encouragement along the way. I just told Victoria that she needed to be nice to them and answer for me since I wasn’t going to say anything. I crossed the finish line in 24:36 and kept on walking straight to the medical weight check and found myself a cold quite spot on the lawn to sit down and recover. I didn’t need medical attention, didn’t have any injuries, and was done in under 25 hours for the big buckle. That’s good enough for me to cross this one off my list for good.

Personally, my run was terrible. A 9:20/15:16 split is pretty ugly. Many other runners who finished slower than I did had far better runs. As for the event, I really didn’t enjoy it. I won’t ever run this one again and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But the best part of this weekend was having so many friends out on the trail. I can’t thank Eric and Victoria enough for their support. I’ve been in worse shape physically but I hit a real mental low at this race and they both put up with it for the last 50 miles. It was great to see so many other friends out at every aid station. And it was great to share the trail with so many other close friends.

This video from Melissa Young does a good job showing the ups and downs of the race.

Leadville 100 Trail Run 2010 from Melissa Young on Vimeo.

Here are some photos from the weekend:

Our Leadville home away from home.Our Leadville home away from home.

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Our Leadville home away from home.19-Aug-2010 17:28

Relaxing pre-race with a house full of Special Idiots. We lost track of how many people stayed here over the weekend.Relaxing pre-race with a house full of Special Idiots. We lost track of how many people stayed here over the weekend.

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Relaxing pre-race with a house full of Special Idiots. We lost track of how many people stayed here over the weekend.

 
At the start with Chris, Dan, Mile, and Liz.At the start with Chris, Dan, Mile, and Liz.

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At the start with Chris, Dan, Mile, and Liz.

The mad dash at the start. 3 miles of fast downhill to get ahead of the 700 runners who will cram their way through the narrow trail around Turquoise lake.The mad dash at the start. 3 miles of fast downhill to get ahead of the 700 runners who will cram their way through the narrow trail around Turquoise lake.

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The mad dash at the start. 3 miles of fast downhill to get ahead of the 700 runners who will cram their way through the narrow trail around Turquoise lake.21-Aug-2010 04:10

 
Daybreak climbing Sugarloaf between May Queen and Fish Hatchery.Daybreak climbing Sugarloaf between May Queen and Fish Hatchery.

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Daybreak climbing Sugarloaf between May Queen and Fish Hatchery.21-Aug-2010 06:44

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21-Aug-2010 06:44

 

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21-Aug-2010 06:50

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21-Aug-2010 06:50

 
Coming into Fish Hatchery behing Rod Bien.Coming into Fish Hatchery behing Rod Bien.

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Coming into Fish Hatchery behing Rod Bien.

The view of Elbert, Massive, and the other mountains around the valley almost made this stretch of pavement tolerable. ....almost.The view of Elbert, Massive, and the other mountains around the valley almost made this stretch of pavement tolerable. ….almost.

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The view of Elbert, Massive, and the other mountains around the valley almost made this stretch of pavement tolerable. ….almost.21-Aug-2010 07:49

 
Mt MassiveMt Massive

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Mt Massive21-Aug-2010 07:49

We're going way down there over that ridge in the distance.We’re going way down there over that ridge in the distance.

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We're going way down there over that ridge in the distance.21-Aug-2010 07:49

 
A long stretch of dirt road after Half Moon aid station.A long stretch of dirt road after Half Moon aid station.

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A long stretch of dirt road after Half Moon aid station.21-Aug-2010 09:06

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21-Aug-2010 09:06

 
I puked here on the way back.I puked here on the way back.

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I puked here on the way back.21-Aug-2010 09:06

Bombing down the hill into Twin Lakes.Bombing down the hill into Twin Lakes.

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Bombing down the hill into Twin Lakes.

 
Victoria crewing at Twin Lakes.Victoria crewing at Twin Lakes.

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Victoria crewing at Twin Lakes.

Heading out across the meadown from Twin Lakes towards Hope Pass.Heading out across the meadown from Twin Lakes towards Hope Pass.

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Heading out across the meadown from Twin Lakes towards Hope Pass.21-Aug-2010 10:29

 
  • Rob

    August 30th, 2010

    Hey Pete! I hope your Wasatch experience erases this one from your memory. Still hats off to you for getting it done.

  • Pete

    August 30th, 2010

    I sure hope so. Wasatch is the one I really wanted to run this season. I think a long day in the mountains is just what I need to end this season.

  • MikeH

    September 1st, 2010

    Still a great time, on track for the Slam, but sorry to hear about the race otherwise. I’ve been somewhere between intrigued by the area and history of the course, and turned off by the money and spectacle.
    I think your comments about the on-trail trash pushed me over the edge — I don’t think I could stand 24-30 hours where I also had a negative attitude about some of the runners in front of me, when camaraderie/love of nature/kumbaya is what usually helps. Thanks for calling it out.

    Though it does look pretty in the pictures….

    Wasatch should be a blast, can’t wait to hear about it!

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