Leadville 100 (2013) Race Report

I arrived in Leadville on the Wednesday before the race – rested, fit and excited to undertake my first 100 mile race.  For the past month, I had slept and trained 2 days per week at altitude (6,750’) in order to gain some benefit from the extra red blood cell production that would be required during the race.  Whether there was any benefit from this strategy, I will never know.  I do know that I was in the best shape of my life, and free of injuries that plagued me for the prior 6 months leading up to the race.

On the drive into Leadville from Boulder, I was mentally tracing the steps over the course in my mind.  I was visualizing the course from my previous training trip in May, where Duncan took me on a scouting trip of the course.  There were just a few spots on the course that I was concerned with  – The Powerline climb(Sugarloaf Pass) and the section from Twin Lakes to Halfpipe (inbound).  Both of these passes will have to be climbed on tired legs (mile 60 and 77 respectively).

Powerline (Inbound)

Before heading to the house, I decided to do a reconnaissance run up Powerline to check it out.  As I drove through Leadville, passing the start line at Harrison & 6th, I could see much of the course laid out on the horizon in front of me.  Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, both towering high about the 14,000’ mark would frame the course on the way to Twin Lakes and beyond, to Hope Pass (12,600’) at mile 45.  It was hard to imagine running for such a distance – and to return by the same route.

The climb up Powerline was rough, rutted, steep and bone dry.  I would have to be careful not to allow myself to overstride and go too fast on the downhill.  Twisting an ankle at mile 20 would be a stupid way to end the race.  I ran the trail about 500’ up in altitude (about 1/3 the total elevation gain) and thought that this was not too difficult of a climb, although I was quick to become out of breath at the relatively low elevation of 10,500’.  I would remember those words (“not too difficult…”) on the way in, at mile 80.

Commonwealth Racers Club

After my recon run up Powerline, I headed over to pick up the keys to our rental house.  The house was in an ideal location, about 2 blocks from the start/finish line.  Upon arriving at our house, I spotted Adrian unpacking his car – he was the first to arrive.

I met Adrian via introduction through my running club (Stevens Creek Striders) earlier this year, when he was looking for a pacer for the Western States 100 Endurance Run in June.  Adrian is an Australian who was living in South Africa for the past 3 years for work.  We connected before the race, and became good friends in the months preceding the race, as well as in the race itself.  Adrian is a gifted runner, who place 15th overall at Western States and more importantly placed 37th overall at the Leadville 100 last year.  I knew that I was going to be in good hands with Adrian pacing me – as long as I could make it to mile 60 where I was to pick him up on race day.

We started unloading our cars, when Dennis arrived.  Dennis is friend and fellow board member of our running club, and an experienced ultra runner.  This would be his 8th 100 mile race, and I was planning to get as much advice from him as time would allow.  Dennis grew up in New Zealand, making him commonwealth racer #3 to arrive at the house.

Last to arrive was a fellow racer who I met online – Michael Dalgato from Sydney, Australia.  Michael was a last minute addition to the house party, and he fit into our eclectic mix quite well.  The commonwealth racers club was now complete!  The first night was spent getting organized and getting to know each other.  Plans, goals and concerns were shared.  We all combed through our maps, computers and pacing notes.  It is nice when you are in a group of friends all sharing a common goal.

I made a feign attempt at putting together my drop bags – much to the amusement of my housemates. This would be one of the 5 or 6 times I would pack and re-pack my drop bags over the next 36 hours.  Would I be too cold at night?  Too warm during the day?  What would be it like to run above treeline in a thunderstorm?  For the past 2 weeks, there were torrential thunderstorms each and every day.  It had snowed last week above 12,000’ on the course. Would I be prepared?

Thursday: RD-2 (Race Day minus 2)

The next day we awoke to a crisp and cool morning.  The sun was out, but it was in the low 40’s (about 7C) early in the morning.  The plan was to visit the local hangout – City on the Hill Coffee Shop to check out the action and meet up with other racers, and then head out for a shake out run on the course.

The "Office"

Upon arriving at the café, we spotted Byron Powell at his favorite table – blogging one of his pre-race interviews. The coffee shop is a great place to hang out and go through last minute planning or just hang around to soak in the race vibe. Adrian and I were anxious to get out, so we left the café to head back to the house and out to the Fish Hatchery-Halfpipe area of the course.

The drive out towards Fish Hatchery from Leadville is a great way to see about 40% of the course.  As you head out of town on CR24, Mt Massive looms high above the landscape.  It’s only about a 10min drive to the turn-off, and then another few miles to the access road for the trailhead to Halfpipe aid station.

We parked the car close to the trailhead and headed out on the faint tractor road by the fence which is the entry point to the trail on the outbound portion of the run. The trail was wide, buff with a slight uphill orientation – perfect for running.  3.5miles later we arrived at the Halfpipe aid station, or at least what would be an aid station during the race.  One of the volunteers told me that it was about 2 miles from here to the entry gate for the Colorado Trail.  This was a mental milestone for me, as I knew that gate was only 3.5 miles from the Mt. Elbert mini-aid station – which is the high point on the way to Twin Lakes.  The run back was great – fluid and easy. No problems with the altitude, no nagging injuries, just blissful running and joy from being so in tuned to my body.  I now had a mental image of this portion of the route and was mentally ready for this portion of the run (mile 24-36 outbound).

An early pasta dinner that night and then early to bed for all of us (after re-packing my drop bags).  This would be the last good night’s sleep before the race.

Friday: RD-1 (Race Day minus 1)

I awoke Friday morning earlier than I wanted (about 8am), but I was so stoked and excited I could not sleep any more.  Since I was the first up, I decided to go through my drop bags for the last and final time. At 3pm, we would drop off our drop bags and use the remaining hours of the day to mentally prepare for the race. The buzz at the coffee shop was starting to subside, as the race start was looming large on everyone’s mind.

Just as folks were getting up in the house, Duncan Callahan arrived. It was good to have my coach staying with us, so I could review my game plan for the race. Duncan is always positive and I was in a good spot, mentally. No pre-race jitters. I was kind of shocked that I was not anxious about the race. I would ride this high right into the race.

Around 11am we welcomed our 4th racer who would be staying with us.  Jeff Woody.  Jeff was being coached by Duncan as well, and I was to find out that he was man on a mission.  His goal was to run 50 ultras in 50 states, all before his 50th birthday.  He was aiming for Leadville to be his 45th ultra (his Colorado race), and he was not going to be disappointed.  Jeff and his wife, Diana got settle in to the house with all of their gear (they were hotel hopping over the past week).

An early dinner and some last minute coordination with Adrian and Duncan would be the end of the pre-race prep for me.  I knew that in a few hours I would start my first 100 mile race… at the Leadville 100.  I was so amped up, I could barely sleep.

Race Day (2:30am)

The alarm goes off, and it feels like I just went to bed.  1hr to get ready and then walk over to the start line.  The day has come and I was ready.  Everyone starts to get up, get some coffee and light breakfast. Each person has their routine memorized. Gear carefully laid out, crew maps and pacing charts, food divvied up into bags.

The Start Line

We head out the door at 3:30am for the 5 minute walk to the start line. We are all geared up for the chilly start at 4am.  It is about 40F (5C), but I don’t notice the cold.  The start line is behind a small runner corral, and we mull about for a few minutes and take a few pictures. I enter the corral at 3:43am and take a spot in the crowd of runners, about 20m from the start line. Dennis tells me that this is too close to the start line. I know that I need to make sure not to go out too fast, but I also want to get that jolt from the crowd around me.

4am. The race starts with the firing of the shotgun and then we are off! My plan is to run the first 13.5miles at an easy pace – 4min running, 1min walking.  This would allow me to keep my nerves in check and make sure that I don’t go out too fast.  We hit “the Boulevard” – the first bit of trail/gravel road on the course – quickly.  I decide to run/walk on a 3minute cycle, because I was going out too fast.  I quickly settled into an overall pace of 10:30 and felt good.

The next milestone was reaching the mini-powerline climb up the flank of the dam to Turquoise Lake.  I was dreading this portion, but found that it was not that bad by headlamp.  I like running at night with only a headlamp.  I find that I can focus my thoughts and attention on the constrained world limited by the arc of the light projected from my headlmap.  This makes it easier for me to be in the moment and not think about other things (like the fact that I still have 94 miles more to run).

Early Morning at Turquoise Lake

 

We hit the single track around Turquoise lake around 5am.  Dawn is still about an hour away, and the May Queen aid station is about 7 miles away.  I really enjoyed this portion of the run, where we were all locked in the same pace, single file around the lake. Everyone was chatting it up, doing their own self-assessments and running.  The highlight on this portion is when you cross the Tabor boat ramp parking area.  The first crowd of spectators are whooping it up and cheering us on. The remaining trail to the aid station is undulating and starts to get rocky and rooted up – not a problem on fresh legs. Dawn starts to break with about 2.5 miles from the aid station.  It is a glorious morning out – a few clouds, but clear and cool.  Perfect for running.

 

May Queen Aid Station (mile 13.5)

I pop out of the lakeside trail onto the drive and know that it is only 300m to the aid station.  I am feeling good at this point, and run well into the aid station area.  This would be my first experience with the aid station crowds of the day.  It seemed like folks were going in all directions.  It took me a minuted to figure out where the drop bags were (there were no aid station volunteers greeting runners – there were too many of us at this early stage). I searched for my drop myself, and dropped my shell and headlamp off.   I noticed that the aid station was a little chaotic, but I figured that this was due to the sheer number of runners heading in all at the same time. I had to refill my own bottles, and I topped up my EFS sports drink as well.  As I headed out of the aid station, I was able to grab a quarter of a PB&J sandwich to eat while walking. I was not thinking too much about nutrition at this point, as I was more concerned about getting out there quickly.

In about 10 minutes I hit the Colorado Trail, which is the start of the climb up to Sugarloaf pass (11,500′).  The trail is rocky and steep in sections, but runnable in sections.  I am not pushing at this point, and am able to pass a few people, making me feel good.  This 2 mile section went quickly and I then popped out onto Hagarman Pass Road.  I knew from Adrian’s description that this was a runnable section of the course and a place to make up time (outbound and inbound).  I settle into an easy pace and am able to run most of the road, breaking into a power hike when it gets too steep. I was prepared for a much longer climb when I find myself at the top of the pass looking down the Powerline hill.  I remember the advice that Duncan gave me – save the legs for later.  I make sure to run relaxed and easy on the downhill.  There are a few climbs on the way down, which helps to break up the pounding on the legs.  In what seems to be no time, I am in familiar territory – I reached the point on the descent where I had run to on my first day in Leadville.  I knew that in about 10 minutes I would hit the road and be only about a mile from the Fish Hatchery aid station.  Things were going good – 22 miles in and I still felt fresh.

Outward Bound Aid Station (mile 24.2)

First surprise of the day – The Fish Hatchery aid station is no more! The next aid station is Outward Bound and is about 1.2 miles further up the road. I was a little miffed about this, more so because my pacing charts would be off.  I pick up the pace (since I was slowing down, anticipating the Fish Hatchery aid station at mile 23) and run towards a solid stream of cars lined up on the road.  The aid station is down off the road, about a 10m drop down a slope.  As I am dropping down from the road, I can see a chaotic sea of runners running to and fro.  Not the organized stream of folks you expect to see going through an aid station.  I enter the station, stepping over a timing mat that would log my time into the station.  I quickly understand that I would be on my own again (no greeters like we have at the Last Chance aid station at WS100) and start to search for the drop bag location.  After asking, I see the drops all the way at the back of the aid station area.  I run over to my bag and bring it out to a place where get to my stuff.  I notice a runner not looking too good, just as he starts to throw up.  Moving to another location, I think to myself that he went out too fast and is paying for it way too early in the race. As it is warm already (about 8:30am and about 60F), I decide to ditch my mid-weight top.  I grab a pack of shot blocks, refill my EFS bottle and then head out of the aid station. The vibe in the station is not good.  Confusion about the bags, where is the food? Why are folks going in opposite directions?

Just as I am leaving, Duncan shouts out to me.  He walks me out of the aid station, asking how I am doing.  I then realize that I did not get any food at the aid station. Doh! I ask him if it’s ok to go back in (worried about dual reading for the timing chip) and then head back into the station.  I fight my way into the food tent (why is the food inside a tent?).  Tons of people make for a difficult time in getting to the food.  I spot my PB&J and grab half a sandwich.  I run out of the station, stowing the food in my pockets to eat as I run.  The next section is great for running. About 2.5 miles of road, before I would hit the trailhead where I had run with Adrian a few days before.  I am able to make up the time for my aid station double dip, and hit the trail feeling relaxed and ready from trail running.  It was good to be on a familiar trail, knowing where the turnoff would be (about 1.2 miles from the Halfpipe aid station).  I noticed it getting hotter in this section and was thinking about what I would need when I got to the aid station.

Halfpipe aid station (mile 31)

At this point, I am hot and start to notice some chafing between the legs.  I get to the aid station and am pleasantly surprised when someone asks me if I want my drop bag.  I say yes, and then go to find some vaseline and get some food. I lube up, get some potatoes and bananas and then wonder where my drop bag is.  I have to go over to the area and ask again, and someone quickly brings me my bag.

Crowds are starting to thin out now, and this aid station is manageable and organized compared to the two previous. I ditch my compression long sleeve, wrap my head in my buff and head out for the two mile climb up to the Colorado Trail.  Along the way, nature calls and I scamper off the fireroad to do my business.  It takes a little longer than I want, due to my vest and getting TP out, etc.  It must have been only 10 minutes, but it felt longer.  I was anxious now and picked up the pace.

Aspens on Mt. Elbert

In the last mile before the Colorado Trail, I ended up chatting with a SoCal runner, Dewan.  Nice guy – both of us first-timers at Leadville.  He helps pass the time over the next few miles.  The portion of the Colorado Trail that winds it’s way along the flanks of Mt Elbert (2nd highest mountain in the lower 48) is gorgeous – shaded with groves of Aspen.  Fire road leads to single track before the aid station, just as the climb tops out at 10,350′, we reach the Mt. Elbert mini-aid station – a water-only stop.  Since I still had plenty of water left, I ran past this aid station without stopping.  I knew that it was only 3.5 miles down to Twin Lakes at mile 40, and I wanted to make it there on schedule. The initial descent continued through the Aspens and you could now see the reservoir above Twin Lakes and Hope Pass beyond.  I was feeling great and completely dialed into the run. Quads were good, no AP pain.  Other than the chafing, I was in good shape.

The nice trail was short-lived, as the descent got steeper and steeper.  The single track started to dry out with nasty water ruts. The going was tougher and  more technical now.  It was harder to run on this steep section, as the footing was loose stone with narrow ruts. As soon as I hit the jeep road, I know it was only about a mile to the last drop before the aid station.  Picking my way down the jeep road, running when I could… I finally saw the short climb up the knoll before the aid station. Twin Lakes, party central was beckoning!

Twin Lakes aid station (mile 40)

I descended down the short, steep hill and came into the aid station area.  Tons of people all around.  I entered under the blow up archway to a directional chute, ushering me into the station. As I entered the garage door, I was directed to the scales for weigh in.  “Five pounds under – looking good,” the volunteer told me. I stepped off the scale and wondered how long it was going to take me to find my drop bag, when I saw Duncan there.  Duncan came into the athlete area to see how I was doing.  At this point, my lack of calories was catching up with me.  I told him that I needed my drop bag with recovery drink.  He sat me down and gave me my bag – he had retrieved it before I arrived.  I figured that Adrian was still out crewing for Denise Bourassa, so I was glad that Duncan was there to make sure that I was doing well.  We chatted a bit about timing – I was right on schedule at that point.  I drank half of my recovery drink (135 cal), a small chocolate milk (150 cal) and ate some potatoes.  I was feeling better after that. I packed my cadbury dairy milk chocolate bar in my pack and dumped out my excess shot blocks – I was so sick of them, I could not imagine eating any more of that product unless I really needed to.

I grabbed my poles (wizard sticks) and headed out for the river crossing.  Total time in the aid station was around 15 minutes – a little long, but not too bad.  When I started running, I noticed that I was tired for the first time that day.  I figured that I just needed to get to the river – the cold water crossing would wake me up.

River Crossing

After about 15 minutes, I got to the river.  Just as I was arriving, Dewan passed me and said hello again.  I noticed that he had taken his insoles out of his shoes, and thought this was a good idea.  Before crossing the river, I sat down and took off my socks and took the insoles out of my shoes.  I crossed the river, which was only thigh deep and hustled out of the other side to sit down and reverse the sock/insoles process.  I was fumbling around with my wet feet for a few minutes before I realized what a waste of time this was.  My shoes were wet anyway, and I must have lost about 15 minutes with the change up between both sides.  Not a smart move.  I then realized that I was slowing down and not thinking straight.  Why now? It was only minutes after the last aid station.  I ate some food, and felt ok leaving.  My problem was that I was not taking in enough calories up to that point, and I was about to crash as my energy stores were depleted. I rushed as much as I could to get going again, managing a slow running pace across the meadow and up to the start of the climb up the drainage to Hope Pass.

As I got to the base of the climb, I thought to myself that I needed to maintain an even (but slow) pace up the 3,600′ climb to the pass.  I dug in with my wizard sticks, and methodically picked my way up the trail.  I was cursing whoever designed the trail – obviously they didn’t like switchbacks.  The trail would head straight up for long sections.  It was hot.  I was drinking a lot.  IT felt good to be passing so many people, but the good feeling was short lived.  I ran out of water (1 liter was my carrying capacity) with another 1.5 miles before the next mini-aid station.  My only choice at that point was to risk dehydration and go for it, or venture off trail and get to the stream to refill.  I decided to bushwhack my way to the stream.  This was a crucial decision, as I now know that I was in a pretty bad state by that point.  Water was the only thing that kept me going.  My little side trip cost me in time – I was now 35 minutes behind schedule because of my detour.

The remaining 1.5 miles to Hope pass aid station were slow going.  I was spent.  No energy.  Could not think straight.  I just

"Hopeless" Aid Station - el. 12,300'

kept moving forward, one step at a time.  Finally, I came out above tree line and could see the aid station below the pass.  The pass looked a long way up from the aid station, but I was only concerned with getting some food in me.  I arrived at the aid station, which resembled an army MASH unit.  There were people laid out around the aid station, interspersed with Llamas. People were throwing up, moaning and passed out.  I overheard one of the volunteer nurses saying that she had never seen it so bad.  At this point, you are trying to hustle/hike/run at 12,300′ elevation.  Not an easy task.  Many of the fallen would not make it over the pass.  Since most of the action was happening outside of the aid tent, I found my inside and was able to get a half cup of coke.  They were about to run out and were asking folks to only take what you needed.  Lucky for me, there were potatoes here, and I grabbed 4 wedges and jammed them down. At this point, I also started to pop M&Ms.  Within a couple of minutes my energy came back up and I moved out of the station.

Hope Pass el. 12,600'

Hoping to make up some time, I concentrated on a steady upward pace.  I was able to push hard to the top of the pass, which seemed a lot longer than it looked. I crested the pass with a smile on my face, because I knew it was all downhill to Winfield from here.  What I did not count on, was how steep the descent would be.  After a short running break, I was back to picking my way downhill with my poles and making slow progress on the downhill.  I was starting to crash again, as the M&Ms and coke were wearing off.  It was slow going from that point onward for me.  Near the road at the bottom of the pass, Duncan met me on the trail.  I told him that I was not doing well, energy-wise.  He told me about his ordeal in getting to the aid station at Winfield.  Complete chaos on the access road created gridlock.  He ended up running the last few miles on the road to the aid station.

When we hit the road, I was intent on getting to the aid station as quickly as possible.  I was not able to run, but we power hiked in to the station.  Cars were lined up 2 abreast, all the way into the aid station.  At points we had to squeeze through the cars sideways it was so tight!  Things were completely messed up when we arrived.  They had run out of coke, potatoes and soup.  Everybody was falling over each other, due to lack of space in the aid station. Duncan sat me down and started to look for food for me.  He brought me my drop bag, but I could only sit there looking into my bag.  I was done.  Spent. Nothing left in the tank. I know that I had fallen behind my outbound pace by 40 minutes, and it was not looking for my inbound return.  50 miles? The way I was feeling?  Luckily I was not thinking straight, so I did not contemplate dropping.  Duncan brought me turkey and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla.  I took the cheese out and ate almost all of the simple sandwich.  Within a few minutes I started to come back from the dead.  I could now think of eating and drinking more.  Duncan brought me some ramen noodles, but that did not go down well.  He then started to feed me M&Ms. Within about 15 minutes I was feeling a lot better.

At this point, I started to assess myself physically and emotionally.  My chafing had become so bad that it was both painful to run and walk.  My left foot was also bothering me – a blister was forming on the top. That was the good news.  Mentally, I was struggling. With the fact that I had crashed at mile 50, I was wondering how I was going to get up and over Hope Pass again.  Duncan started talking with me and had no doubt about continuing.  “Let’s get as much calories into you as possible and then we’ll head out.” It was good not to have to think at that point.  With all of this drama (with me and with everyone else around me), time started to get away from me.  Before I knew it, I was starting at my first cutoff.  I did not want to go there – chasing cutoffs for another 15 hours.  As Duncan was still looking around from some coke, I stood up and told him “Let’s go. Now.” I knew that I needed to get going if we had a chance of making the next cutoff at Twin Lakes inbound.  We power hiked our way back to the trailhead, dodging cars and streams of people all the way there.  Just as we got to the trailhead, Dennis popped out looking good.  We exchanged good wishes and I told him to hustle – we were only 15 minutes ahead of the cutoff at this point. As soon as we hit the trail, the reality of the task at hand was apparent. The trail on this side of the pass is relentlessly steep.  It does not matter if you are just starting out or if you have already gone 50 miles.  This trail is a mother of a steep trail!

Duncan was right behind me on the way up – encouraging me and feeding me chocolate every 20 minutes.  He told me to keep going – slowly and steadily.  Don’t stop.  Keep it up.  Dig deep.  I was able to get up the pass in one push – mostly because I was coherent enough to ponder the consequences of going too slow.  I was not ready to give up and wanted to make it to Twin Lakes where Adrian would be waiting for me.  We arrived at Hope Pass aid station and it was now in complete disarray.  They had pretty much run out of everything, including cups and bowls.  There was a smidgen of potato soup left, and I asked Duncan to find a cup in the garbage for me to use.  The soup was so good.  I could feel the energy coming back after a few minutes.  I was able to have 2 cups of soup before we headed out.  I took out my cadbury bar and gave it to Duncan, so he could dish it out to me on the descent from Hope Pass aid station.

We were able to make up some time on the downhill.  Duncan was asking if I could run a little more, and I struggled to do so.  We were able to get down pretty far before daylight wore out and we needed to put on our headlamps.  I was happy with my progress at that point and knew that we had recouped some of the time needed to remain ahead of the cutoffs.

I was able to run for stretches across the meadow to the river, and this time we just charged across without delay.  I was now energized at the prospects of getting to the Twin Lakes aid station and seeing Adrian with my food!  It was go, go, go at that point. Just before getting to Twin Lakes, Adrian was there to meet us at the trailhead.  Duncan started to tell him of my situation, but Adrian could already see by face and by the time we arrived that things were not going well.

Twin Lakes aid station – Inbound (mile 60)

I arrived at the aid station at 8:36pm.  I was able to make up a lot of time on the return over Hope Pass.  I now had 1h:24m before the cutoff… Or so I thought.  Almost as soon as I sat down, I started hearing people talking about the looming cutoff.  I knew what I needed to do – get food into me, change my shoes and socks and then get out of there. Again, there was no coke, no soup.  I did have my recovery drink in my pack and a half an avocado.  At each drop bag, I was also looking forward to another cadbury chocolate bar.  Feeling better and ready to go, I said goodbye to Duncan and thanked him for getting me back over the pass.  We were out of the aid station within 15 minutes of arrival. Ahead of me was the climb that I was dreading.  1,300′ climb on steep and nasty trail.  I was ready.  Adrian gave me new confidence, and he settled into a pace right behind me as I power hiked like a madman.  I felt recovered and strong again.  I was able to get a surge with each party that we passed on the way up in the dark.  After a while, there were no more headlights ahead of us.  We were nearing the top of the climb, and Adrian was telling me that we would be able to run on the backside down to Halfpipe – or so we thought.  I only realized how bad my chafing was after we crested near the Elbert mini-aid station.  There was no way I could run for extended periods of time, due to the chafing.  My hopes of making up more time were now dwindling.  It would be a struggle from this point onwards.  The amount of running that I could do got shorter and shorter.  By the time I reached the Halfpipe aid station, I was in constant pain from the chafing.

Halfpipe aid station – Inbound (mile 68.5)

The first thing that I did when we reached Halfpipe, was to seek out the vaseline. I grabbed a fistful of the slimy stuff and jammed it down my pants.  There was no relief.  I was so numb at this point that it did not matter.  I knew that I had some time buffered against the cutoffs, and that I would make it as long as I kept moving forward.  Much to my surprise, Adrian was able to find potatoes here for me!  I asked him to bad a bunch, after I had my fill.  We headed out with a plan of running bits and walking when needed.  This quickly turned into walking long stretches, with some running interspersed. I could see that Adrian was starting to get worried.  This was the most runnable section of the course, and I could barely run for a minute at a time.  By the time we hit the road, after 3.5 miles on the trail it was clear that we were going to have to watch the clock in order to finish ahead of the cutoff.  Adrian pulled out all of the tricks to get me to run – “Run to the next house,” “It’s downhill now,” “Run to the next road sign…”  It was becoming more and more difficult for me to run for any duration.  It was taking a long time to get to the next aid station.

Outward Bound aid station – Inbound (76 miles)

Adrian ran ahead to get things ready at the Outward Bound.  It was getting late and it was cold. Very cold.  I was freezing.  I had packed an extra top in my drop bag, and Adrian handed it to me when I got to the aid station.  I put on my hat, my gloves and my shell. I wore my buff as a neck warmer.  Not much happening at the aid station.  I was able to eat some hot chilli, which felt good.  Every 30 seconds the announcer would chime “OK runners. Get what you need and head out. Don’t hang around here. You’ve come this far, get going to the finish!”  I heeded his words and told Adrian to head out.  Adrian told me to run ahead and he would catch up.  I was not running at this point, but I was “walking purposefully” with short interludes of running when I could manage the pain. In short order, we made it to the base of the last climb – Powerline inbound.

Adrian was still hopeful that I would be able to run on Hagarman Pass Road, but first we had to get up this 1,500′ climb – the 6th and final big climb of the race.  I was able to hike at a good pace for a good stretch of the climb, but the many false summits kept sucking life out of me.  Every time I looked ahead I could see lights above me.  WTF?  I thought we were getting close to the top. Powerline just keeps on going.  I was becoming a zombie out there. Chink, chink, scuffle, scuffle. One step at a time.  I was crashing again.  Adrian was feeding me chocolate every 20 minutes to keep me going. By the time we got to Hagarman Pass Road, I was spent again.  The chafing was keeping me from running on this lovely downhill section, and time was ticking away.  We had estimated that we could make May Queen around 5am, giving me loads of time to “walk it in”, but I was going slowly now and we still had 5 miles to go before the aid station.  Run a bit, walk for a stretch.  Rinse, repeat.  When we got to the trailhead for the Colorado trail, I knew that we were a little more than 2 miles out from the aid station and thought we could make up time on this downhill section.  I was wrong – It was taking me longer on this technical section of the trail!  I burnt up most of my buffer in this section, and only arrived at May Queen aid station at 5:40am.

May Queen aid station – Inbound (86.5 miles)

We now had only 4h:20m before the final cutoff.  I was thinking that I needed to get some calories into me, and then start the march home.  We took about 15 minutes at the station to get organized and fill our water bottles.  One last application of vaseline for me (not that it made any difference at this point).  We headed out of the aid station just as the sun was rising.  It took everything in me to break into a run, but I managed to do so on the road leading up to the Turquoise Lake trail.  By this point, Adrian had devised a plan of running 50 paces every few minutes so that our average pace would get us to the finish line with a little buffer.  I would dread the order “50 paces!” that Adrian would bellow to get me to run.  Adrian was setting the pace now, up ahead of me.  I knew that I needed to stick with him and he would get me to the finish.

Just as we got to the Tabor Boat Ramp, Duncan popped out to say hello and give me encouragement.  Shortly after this, Adrian gave me the good news – at this point we could easily walk the remaining distance and make the cutoff.  The option was all mine on how much running to do.  I decided that I was done and from that point onward I only ran for a few short sections before the Boulevard – 3.5 miles to the finish with a gradual 300′ climb.  We came across other knackered runners who all were in the same shape as me.  We all were hiking as fast as we could. Purposeful walking. Relentless forward progress. I know this section of the course well, and started to get excited at the prospect of finishing.

Finish (100 miles)

As we headed up the last climb by the high school, Duncan showed up to walk us in.  Adrian wanted me to run from the crest of the hill, but that was too far for me (about 500m).  I walked it in almost all the way, and ran the final 100m over the finish line. Mentally satisfied, physically spent. Dennis and Michael were at the finish to see me arrive.  My job was done.

Epilogue

After the race, I had to take assess and take care of my injuries.  A painful shower and then a short nap before the awards ceremony was my reward.  I had a hard time walking around the remainder of the day. The following day I awoke to well recovered legs (no pain) a nasty blister on the top of my left foot and my chafing was already subsiding. The lack of pain in my legs was confirmation that I ran within myself in the early part of the race, and was spared the painful aftermath of blowing out your quads in a race like this.

I learned a lot from this experience, from my friends and mentors.  I was able to finish the race because of my friends Duncan Callahan and Adrian Lazar – they had the experience and drive to get me going and get me to the finish.  I also owe a lot to Dennis and others in my running club who shared their wisdom on running 100’s.  I now know what to do better in my next 100.

Finish Line 29h:33m

 

 

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