Leadville Trail 100 - 2009
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From my point of view, this year's race was blessed from the beginning...sporting my new Vibram FiveFinger KSO Treks (to be released this month)...and some sponsorship money to pay for the race and some travel...thank you Vibram...I was also blessed with a fantastic crew and pacers...a luxury I did not have last year...made all the difference being part of a team! Thanks!
(Please click on image to right to read Michael Sandler's excellent report on the race.)
This was my third summer in Leadville: 2007 crewed Caballo Blanco and paced Chris Labbe from Mayqueen to Tabor. 2008 my first LT 100 in 28:33. Each year I stayed part of the time at the (in)famous Labbe Compound...Mas Loco Chris "Cabro" Labbe's family's Leadville vacation house. Lots of stories being made and shared there. Thank you!
My crew was headed up by Dave "Rem" Remy of Mercer Island, WA. Dave was one of my Introduction to Barefoot Running clients who got the itch to see what an ultramarathon looks like. When he asked me if he could help, my first inclination was to say no, just seemed to logistics oriented and more trouble than it would be worth, but I thought about it for a moment and realized that it would be an excellent way to share my experience...expanding all our boundaries...for the better. So, I agreed to have him crew. Did he know what he was getting into?
I left Seattle on the 14th and headed to Boulder. Michael Sandler of the Boulder Barefoot Running Club picked me up at the airport. He hosted me on Friday and on Saturday morning I had a blast giving a on-the-fly barefoot running workshop to the members of the club. At this meeting, I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of great folks and share what I had learned about barefooting. The next day, Sunday, a group of us headed for Leadville and a day hike up the famous Hope Pass...barefoot! What an experience...and great training.
(Click image to left to see my Facebook race report entry. Image on right is me with Nick Lang on Hope Pass)
Lucky for me, several of the hikers up Hope decided to come back to Leadville the following week to pace and crew with Dave. Wow!
I spent the week hanging out at the Labbe Compound and acclimatizing...eating Buffalo burgers (you heard me right...free range, grass fed, live-free-until-the-end critters...thank you!) and making sandals.
Dave showed up on Thursday, took a tour of the course with Senor Labbe on Friday and was ready to play by 4am on Saturday morning, start of the race. Thanks to Cabro, I had a spreadsheet with all the cutoff times at all the aid stations that I would need to get to in order to run under 25 hours and get a big silver buckle :) Thanks Cabro! I really wasn't training for speed or anything...just trying to maintain good overall fitness...and running well within myself and with excellent form. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Boulder Barefoot Running Club Members Scott, Dennis and Joey joined Dave on Saturday to divide up crew duties and get ready to start pacing me after the 50 mile point at Winfield. We agreed to have Dennis take me back over Hope Pass and Scott to take me to wherever it would be that Michael would catch up after giving a book presentation in Boulder. The race was on.
Started out by chatting with Ladislav Lettovsky who happened to be THE last out of Winfield last year who made it to the finish in time...after me. It was a coincidence that he had just read "Born to Run" so we had a great conversation.
Met my crew for the first time at Hagerman, and was running a bit too fast...after all I saw Cabro there...and he should have been way ahead, so I walked up Sugarloaf and took it fairly easy coming down. Was about 15 minutes ahead of schedule at Powerline, but the heat was starting.
Got to Treeline in good form, got my cap and bandana and headed out through the new course section heading to Box Canyon instead of Half Moon due to a military helicopter crash. It was a hot section and I found myself filling up my bottles in streams as I found them.
Got into Twin Lakes feeling good and ready for my big climb. Felt good to "baptize" myself in the river crossing. Headed up Hope Pass with just one bottle with the idea of filling it up in the streams as I went...a great plan until the bottom of the other side where I had to run the entire 3 mile dusty road, in the heat, with just a swiggle left in my bottle and no streams. Ouch! This was a mistake that I would pay a little upon my return climb...feeling a little dehydrated.
Got into Winfield in good time, still on schedule and left with Dennis as my pacer/mule. Dennis tried to keep me amused climbing the backside of Hope, but it was taking a lot out of me and I could only answer with forced and not very energetic one-word grunts. But we finally got to the top and started running down. Dennis stuck it out and helped me a bunch. Great experience.
Got into Twin Lakes inbound feeling ready to run 40 more miles. Picked up my pacer Scott who was sporting red VFF Sprints...and off we went. Just before we took off, I downed a Chili Chocolate Mocha from Proven Grounds in Leadville...it was delicious...but it didn't mix well with the other stuff I crammed down my throat, so Scott's first taste of ultra nastiness was me upchucking the coffee just after climbing out of Twin Peaks. Vomiting while walking-running is a ultramarathon skill. Scott was a bit taken aback, but we soon got in stride making our way to the finish.
Scott ended up staying with me all the way to Powerline...25 plus miles on his first pacing adventure. What an amazing job. Excellent company the whole way. Thank you!
At Powerline I picked up Michael who had spent the afternoon in Boulder giving a presentation on Adult Attention Deficit Disorder...only to follow it with a run/walk into the night of the last 25 miles of the Leadville 100. Tragedy struck us after we reached the top of Sugarloaf...ready to run down the steep, rocky backside...our lights were dimming...and we did not have backups with us.
The aburdity of not having enough lights is big...I had been sent 20! lights from Princeton Tec...all excellent, bright lights, but we only had two...one dying, one dim...and it really hit me like a ton of bricks...I was not going to be able to run down...and I was most likely, therefore, not going to make the 25 hour, big-silver-buckle cutoff. Crap! Took me a bit of time to adjust to the new reality. It is amazing how hope can keep wind in sails...and hopeless...not so much.
After getting to Mayqueen and pretty much resigned to my over 25 hour destiny, Michael and I had 3+ hours to hobble our way to the finish...and having Michael there started paying off. He is a very interesting person with a lot of great stories and we shared and walked and hobbled our way to the never ending finishing line....which seemed so far away...the last 12 miles.
Finally we found ourselves climbing the last stretch of the rocky "Boulevard"...two miles that seems more like 6 at this stage of the race, but alas the asphalt road leading to the finish came into view...1 mile to go...uphill.
As we ran the final stretch, Michael had the presence of mind to suggest I pick up the pace to finish under 26 hours. He stretched the truth a little when he said there were 7 minutes left and I had to pick it up. There actually were 9+ minutes. And I picked up the pace big time...running the last 1/4 mile and finishing in 25 hours and 54 minutes. Wow!
Ended up in the medical tent getting checked and souped up on chicken noodle soup! Did I mention how AWESOME the volunteers in the race are...well they are!
All said and done a big team effort...a success.
PS. I want to thank ProBar for sending me some of their latest organic fruit bars that have both black and white chia seeds in them. They definitely helped. Also, thanks to Amanda McIntosh for sending me Hammer Gels...I love them too. When I ran out, it sucked sucking on the PowerBar gels...YUCK! Can't handle sweet like that. Also, thanks to Princeton Tec and Extreme Outfitters for providing me with lights...if I had only had some extra with me at the top of Sugarloaf. Next year!