Leadville Trail 100 miler 2010 - Part 2
Part 2 plus photo of the sub 30 and sub 25 medals
Gradually, I stripped off my layers as time ticked down. It was dry and not so cold so I was able to remove some layers quite early and check my waist belt which held two 500 ml bottles and some food. My wife was to get to key aid stations to resupply me but I had also packed a few drop bags at key points in case of problems there. Headlight checked and I would discard at Mayqueen, picking it up again later in the day or another in my drop bag if that did not happen. Everyone has there own kit but I like Tri type tights / shorts - I get a few looks from you Americans but I cannot abide chafing so you are going to have to bear it guys! Besides, you lot seem to think exposing muscular chests is fine or ladies running in skimpy tops and tights, keep an open mind. Last goodbye to Denise and she is off, heading to Mayqueen. Big day for supporters!
As we get towards four I head out as I can't save the legs anymore and find a good spot quite high up in the field. I can hold my own in this area so it won't upset anyone plus I do not want to get held up in any big slow packs around the lake. Luckily the dirt road at start gives loads of time to sort yourself out before it goes single. The big shotgun goes and we are off, as usual I love the start of such great races and quickly settle for the long day ahead, find my rhythm and trot off at the pace I hope to hold for many hours. A few people dodge off for a pee as we run but we soon hit the lakeside trail in pitch black and I know I am quicker than last time. I consciously check to see if it's ok and decide to run with it, I believe I should push today a bit and not be too controlled. The trail is an easy one through the trees but in places I take some care with rocks and bridges etc. I know the first aid point is 13.5 miles and my goal is about 2 hrs ten..... I actually emerge ahead of this time just as the sun is rising and I trip across the car park to this campsite happy. Later we would camp here on holiday in the region and I know if I go back as a pensioner I will feel the same. For me it is locked in as a part of this race and every part of the course will forever be in my mind in that context. It's the same for particular sandy runs in Auckland, always associated with Marathon Des Sables. My two bottles are gone so it's refill with my different choices for this leg, something quick to eat, a pee and off into the next forest section which leads up to the shingle road heading up up up. I have read a lot on nutrition for ultra and I think people are making it too complex. I believe most of your calories will be liquid sourced but, because we are humans not machines we will also need some solid food regularly. Train to get used to your food and then your stomach will not vomit it all up on race day, that's why we call it training. So, sip from your bottle ( and it should be bottle not bladder) every twenty mins and eat a little solid food every forty five. Personally I think people are getting confused on the most simple things. Gels are not solid food guys and they are really only carbs etc. if you keep dumping gels in plus your liquids you will get a problem. So, I suggest a variety of liquids in such a race and a variety of solids. First, find a meal powder which will be every third bottle or so for your calories and meal balanced intake. Train on it so you can take the 500 cals in a bottle that it may be ( less for some people). I choose Spiz or a Horleys product. The big issue is the product is a meal powder not an electrolyte drink or some protein drink. This will be in my bottle one or two and the other will be maltodextrin powder with a tiny bit of say Powerade power for taste really. A third bottle choice will be say Powerade drink and the odd bottle of water makes up my liquid for the ultra. I will rotate through these but remain flexible enough to maybe have a bottle of flat Coke if I feel like it later or maybe the water only for an hour or maybe just a break for a bit if that's what I feel like. For solid I will have a strip of powerbar or hi five bar every forty five. Later that might morph into a bit of banana or pizza at an aid station etc. the point is for the first five to eight hours I take care of my nutrition needs diligently and I am used to it... result I never have stomach issues.
This next section can be tricky as the rocks are in the middle of the trail and tripping is possible, plus it's uphill. I have a negative memory of last race actually crawling here on my return journey with massively swollen knee etc and I force the image away. Quickly, I emerge on the dusty trail and head right up the road. Still with good cadence and enjoying myself I then turn left onto the steeper and lumpier trail heading up to the top of the first big climb. This comes out at the top of Sugar Loaf Pass at 11,000 ft, the effects of the altitude will be very evident to those not acclimatised. Both times I have got to this point and absolutely loved the view to the left out over the lake as the sun rises, it's superb. Now I am heading down towards the well known Powerline descent, above you are, unsurprisingly, powerlines that crackle when wet or damp. I have trained this section many times both in the previous attempt and again whilst acclimatising this time. Often it's hot and dusty and it's a good tough climb when heading back towards home later in the race, actually in the dark later it's a defining moment here which tells you if you are running well or just heading for a finish. From the top, early in the day, you take quite a long rutted and steep drop. It's not too difficult to run at all but it is a few kms long with lots of deep ruts, I take quite a bit of care on my quads here but roll down nicely and pop out on the road and then it's easy cruising to Fish Hatchery and some good crowds. Again, I refuel with my wife, pop into a portaloo and head out quickly. I am always conscious of time and wasting it in aid stations is not on this year. This aid station is absolutely buzzing but I know lots of people won't get back here tonight so you have got to stay focussed.
The following road section is not that enjoyable but it allows good pace so I try to pick up my pace to take full advantage. It's dry and fine, so for now I love it. Fish Hatchery was under four hours so I am now mentally heading to Halfmoon tent ahead then on to Twin Lakes which a major milestone in both directions. The 7 miles to Halfmoon goes fast, now back in the dirt and heading to Twin Lakes another 9 miles on. No Denise at Halfmoon, it's just a tent in the hot dusty trail. The section of trail to Twin Lakes is beautiful running through aspens and very scenic, towards the end it gets a bit shingly in the trees and you emerge above the aid station in this township. We slither down a small bit of scree and find the people we are looking for. It's a carnival here with crews and athletes reunited. Some people linger a while sorting problems, it's obvious a few wheels are wobbling for some. I assure Denise I am fine and run off over the grassland to the big deep river! I wade over no problem at the rope crossing and slosh on through a few more wet sections. When sure that's behind me I take the time to stop and change socks, I am determined to minimise foot problems later. I am racing to get to Winfield now ahead of ten hrs thirty and the halfway point. It's a big long climb up to the high point through the forest and then above the treeline and in a few places I deliberately fast hike a few metres to eat, drink and keep the heart rate down a bit. Despite this strategy I seem to be passing a few people which is gratifying, I am still in control of my pace and cadence and able to look at my watch and calculate sensibly. At the very top the views are sensational and as I descend the first top athletes come back the other way. I pay them due respect and hurry on my way down. It's a brutal drop on rocky and dirt sections which turn zig zagging down the mountain. Occasionally I meet a few people running and walking up but luckily I have enough space to descend well. This section does impact on the legs and when you hit the dusty trail at the bottom you can really feel the race has started to bite now. There are people running both ways plus supporters waiting for their runners. The ghost town is a great turnaround and I find Denise easily, change shoes and socks, fill bottles and eat some of the snacks available with a coffee thrown in. A pacer has been found for me but I must say he does not look like he will handle the trail too well. Oh well, it's company and we run off back to the trail heading back up the horrific climb to the top of the pass again. It's hot and I must say for the first time I am finding it tough going on this very very steep trail. I pause to catch my breath, crikey the altitude does have effects even with acclimatisation and I push back the fluids. I can see others having trouble and I pass a few people sitting down whilst others are pushing on gamely. I meet a British girl I know coming down, she's visibly upset and struggling to get to cuttoffs. We both know she won't get past Winfield. My pacer is starting to feel it also here but I must push hard to get to the top. In my mind I begin to feel daylight pressure. I know we cover ground quicker in the light and I want to maximise my running before losing the light. Somewhere around twelve hours in I crest the top and feel the elation of getting past this section with a massive descent ahead, river crossing again and Twin Lakes. I want to get there by 13:45 and pick up headlight etc. Very soon after here I will lose the light.
The drop through the bush goes well but it's long and the legs are now feeling the miles a bit, I am desperate to keep up my pace and try to keep to a sensible fluid regime with some solid food thrown in. The heat and altitude requires a sensible regime but I also feel some bloating and change to my water only bottle for an hour with a few jelly babies thrown in.... Just until my body can absorb some meal powder again. As the race progresses I am less worried by nutrition, I have had over thirteen hours of good fluids and mistakes or changes are possible towards latter stages. I jog solidly towards the river hoping to get my legs back after that drop. Nobody around now, we are well spread as I wade the river, enjoying the cooling provided. On the other side it's a solid run on a few kms before crossing the road to Twin Lakes again. Not so carnival now! Dreams are being destroyed here as people miss goal times or just come to the grinding painful reality. If you are in trouble, you may not finish this thing, how bad do you want it? For me Twin Lakes is a critical marker for athletes. You need to be fully aware of the issues of your race here, not hanging on at all. You absolutely must hit this place with the ability to continue racing or even have an ability to lift things to hit your goals. The dreams get reassessed here by a lot of people. My wife has raced a lot and enjoyed the scenes here as athletes sit too long or try hard to get their show back on the road or move efficiently through the place still firmly focussed on their goal. My pacer is in trouble and I now have to focus on myself, he is struggling and I face the prospect of dropping him. This reality happens a couple of kms after this aid station.
I am still in the game, tired, a bit dinged up but still very much in the race game still. I am elated to feel nothing like my last race, On the trail again in the fabulous Aspens of the region I enjoy this isolated section of beauty. Here there are just a couple of people anywhere near me and I quickly run on ahead trying to make good distance as the light fades. I roll into Halfmoon with headlight blazing, fantastic temperature for running and walk along the tables refilling my bottles and eating as I feel the need. By now I am straying from my defined diet and swallow a coffee as well as munch some crisps etc. A few people are sitting around looking smashed, luckily I do not feel anything like that, I am enjoying it! One of the medics comes over to ask a few questions, obviously he is trying to assess my state to see if I need to sit down etc but he soon realises I am fine and we exchange a joke or two as I get ready to roll. Bizarrely someone asks me to wait so a group can head out in the dark together! Sorry but I do not feel the need for group therapy and I am comfortable alone in the dark so I shoot out pleased to jump ahead of ten people in an aid station.
I look back on this section now as a tough one. It's dark and you pop out on the road completely alone with a long section of Tarmac to crack until Fish Hatchery but it's a vital section to keep up your attempt today. I passed a couple of people on this road and was pleased to hit the lights and people at Fish Hatchery. It's a little oasis in the desert! People are in various stages of breakdown here because if you are feeling great you would be gone quickly! Often runners are feeling a little cold even though it's actually not that cold, obviously it's the effect of the miles on people and maybe the altitude. Denise replaces my head torch batteries and refills my bottles while I graze the potato and salt! I would say forty or fifty per cent of entrants to the race won't make this point at all so you feel the numbers arround you are really thin at this point. It can make you feel you are way back in the field or you just realise it is what it is, each runner has had months and years to get ready. It's now that you see if you did this prep right or wrong.
From here we run back out to the road, turn left and immediately get engulfed by the darkness. A km or two and then it's left into the bush, over a small stream with a couple of boards over it and up the huge climb of Powerline. I engage my strategy and run walk up this never ending climb. I came across a few people sitting down at the side of the track, exchange encouragement and push on. I keep glancing at my watch to see how progress is going and just as I get to the top I come across another Brit runner. He has come over just a couple of days before the race and altitude was always going to be an issue. It was his girlfriend that I had met coming up the hill on the way back from the turnaround and unfortunately she has pulled out. We have a couple of jokes with each other here, I know full well he is a fantastic athlete and younger than myself but I have acclimatised really well, it's my second time here plus I have some huge background by this stage in my life. Game on! He wishes me well but is clearly in trouble with this climb and the altitude so I push on hard. He could beat me, things can change at any stage so despite my respect for him it's smash the guy time and get the mental stress on him as I leave him behind. Maybe he can get back onto me later, if so well done and together we will both use this rivalry to keep going. At the top I roll down in the dark on the trail then onto the gravel, I can actually see way down the mountain to the aid station tent of Mayqueen. I passed a few more people and drop left into the trail to the aid station. It's fantastic to be running not crawling but it's tough with the big rocks on the trail here, my sore hips and legs find it tough to adjust to these changes. I am grateful for knowing the trail so well, each river crossing bridge and the sound of the river beside me, it allows me to gauge progress. Not long later I pop out on the road and again feel the cooler air of this area. God it can be cold here! In the tent I can see George, a local who runs this aid station, he has on a funny warm beanie which goes down over his ears! Once again the American differences hit me with their non stop positive feedback of 'nice job' and I constantly smile at the huge trucks parked by the side of the road or the men running in long baggy shorts. Inside I say hi to 'George' and sit down here for a moment with Denise who is obviously pleased to see me still functioning. It's a tough place to be in a hundred miler! A two plus hour run home but everyone is so toasted it's really a grind in your head to keep up the pace. I get so sore all over at this point, the hips are stiff, there's usually a foot soreness or blisters plus the neck or shoulders are really feeling it. You know it's just normal but the body is gradually getting to its limits! Last time here I was way back a couple of hours away and in deep shit but now I am ok , a bit rough arround the edges but I am still functional and I can even jog and run out of here. I am not sure how everyone else feels here but for me I get an overwhelming need to get this thing done and achieve the time goals if I possibly can. There has never been anything approaching a feeling to quit in all the races I have done, I have seen people do it and sometimes they are right but mostly they mentally have not had the chops to see it through. Obviously this point is arrived at due to inadequate training, we need to retrace if this happens and retrain. The closest I have ever been is last years Leadville at Mayqueen. I do not think I have ever been such a mess but I finished and for that I am proud.
It's dark and it's cold in this place and people are really either pushing through here or they are really not going to make it. In general I would say if you get here you will make it but it's where your time goals are out there getting stressed! I know exactly what's ahead of me and push on out the door of the tent into the cold and around the lake back to town. I do not know about others but I am still running but crikey it's a painful set of hips and feet and really haven't we done enough! Each person is now in their own painful world and even pacers are finding it tough to lift their people.
It's beginning to get light now and I terribly knackered but still I can notice and appreciate the environment and the race I am a part of. Nobody can ever take away what you do on these things, you cannot buy it or feel it unless you have done it. The lake on the right is beautiful, the tents on your left in the woods now have a few people looking strangely at these pretty destroyed people as they grab their morning coffee. A few groups of supporters have come out from town to spot their friends and they all shout their encouragement. I am still jogging ok over the sandy patches in the woods now and then across the small boat ramp etc. Then it's back over the road and down the short rubbled track I fast walked up all those hours before.... There were hundreds around me then and now I am pretty much alone and can taste the sub 25 hour time deadline. An urgency drives me on and I manage to jog past a few walkers who have just done their dash. As I hit the tarmac heading into the last km or two it goes uphill! Bloody hell that's a killer at this point and I can see people finishing and hear the announcer. I must look pretty drawn after this kind of run, it does suck at your very inner core strength at every level but the finish is welcome to say the least. I hear the announcer welcoming me, a Brit, living in NZ and running the Leadville Trail 100 at this altitude! Done and finished in many senses of the word, I am smashed and stagger past all the people patting me on the back to my wife and the car. Why do we absolutely fall apart at the end? I sit and obviously cannot really get up or move to well again for a bit but we drive back to the house for a shower and a lie down!
Strange thing here is only a few hours later you get up and stagger to prizegiving. The hall is full and again the sport is fantastic! Many many people did not finish but they are here to congratulate those that did and those that did encourage people to come back and get it done. I really like the people I this sport, it's hard but all the people involved from spectators to athletes are great people. I see the British athlete I passed with his wife and am shocked to see him with an oxygen cylinder and a mask on... After limping over he says well done and blow me down if he also got under 25- must have killed him! Apparently Ken won't send him his medal as he has been told to descent in altitude so he is going to pick it up and get going.
The race 'owner' unfortunately talks too long and we are knackered, a woman faints and falls off a chair unsurprisingly. Eventually it's time to grab my buckle and head off. I congratulated the two marines I had got to know before the race... They did not get the sub 25 but to be fair I thought they did well considering their knowledge and running background. Full marks to them for balls really, they split up later as one was I better condition than the other but both finished and I hope they feel inspired to come back. They both impressed the hell out of me with character and are a credit to the Marines, I would get into a foxhole with you anytime guys!