Leadville 100 Mile Race Across the Sky 2010
A First DNF
Start Line to May Queen (mile 0-mile 13)
Toeing the line at the start my nerves were more calm than any race I can recall. The altitude was not a problem; everything felt like a go. The air was in the 40's and a beautiful full sky of stars shone bright at the 4:00am start. The gun went off and away I headed down the paved road towards my destiny. From this moment I sided up next to Keith K (440) and Andrew H (239) for the couple of miles on the paved section. Ken A (111) was already ahead of us and pulling away quickly. Keith made a comment about the pace being an easy comfortable 11 min per mile. Just think that holding that pace I would finish in under 25 hours. A short distance in the course turned into a dirt road and the pace held smooth. The darkness really kept the mountains at bay so I could not see what was ahead except for the what little light my headlamp provided. About 5 miles in I caught up to Ken and another Michigan runner/friend Ed B (###). The five us merged into a single file as the trail turned into a singletrack. Next thing I can start to hear people cheering as we start to make our way around Turquoise Lake. Campers were lined up cheering us on. Soon the sun was rising the view of the lake was incredible. I stopped to take a picture of Keith. The pace held around 11 minutes and I pulled into May Queen at 6:39 a.m.. Filled my hydration pack with water, ate some cookies and grabbed a couple pbjs for the trip to Fish Hatchery. Two minutes spent at May Queen!!
May Queen to Fish Hatchery (mile 13-mile 24)
Coming out of the aid station I was back in the grove quickly moving on the paved park road towards the trailhead. At this moment the group of us had all become separated in the MQ aid station and I was alone.Once my feet left the road the trail turned into a quick climb of singletrack. I kept the pace a run/walk up the climb working my way up to Hagerman Road. The forest section was beautiful and the temp was still modreatley cool. Upon reaching Hagerman Road the course opens back up. It is a low grade so jogging was still easy through here. Turning to head up powerline the grade increases quickly and I slowed to a quick walk aka 17 min per mile. Throughout powerline I kept thinking I was reaching the summitt and then to my amazement it was a fals e moment. I started to eat a pbj to since the walk was an opportune moment. That's when I learned that breathing at 11800' isnt too difficult for me, but eating a pbj while walking up a mountain at high altitude is a challenge. Upon reaching the actual summitt I had then partnered back up with Andrew for the journey down powerline. The nice thing about climbing a few thousand feet is that you get to descend back down. The descend on powerline is wide and very passable so I sped up to a 10 minute clip and powered on down the couple of miles and into the Fish Hatchery Aid Station. Pulling into FH the crowd was growing and so was my excitement for this race. I once again filled my pack with water, eat a bunch of fruit and grabbed a togo bag of potatoes for the trip to Half Moon. Coming out of FH I was running with Andrew, Ken was refueling and Keith was arriving.
Fish Hatchery to Half Moon(mile 24-mile 33)
Now moving out of the aid station and onto the road I shared a quick cup of soup with Andrew, tossed the cup away properly and down the road we headed. The next few miles were long black top section and I held a solid 12 minute pace down the road. Looking ahead it looked like the Badwater Ultra Marathon. A long flowing single line of runners along the road with the sun beating down. I could feel the temp rising up into the 70's now, but it just felt like a lot hotter out. Near the end of the paved road section it turned into a short dirt road. At this point I was now running with Ken chatting away. A few short turns lead us off the dirt road and on to the trail section towards the aid station. Mostly through here I was running still. Slowly down for one of my walk breaks I noticed my fingers were looking puffy and turning almost white/blue. Trying to mentally figure out whether I needed more or less electrolytes was like doing calculus with a paper in the woods. So I pushed on to the aid station drinking from my hydration pack. Reaching Half Moon I found a volunteer and asked him about my hands. Without hesitation he said more electrolytes! While filling my pack there I then realized that at the last two aid stations I had not given the volunteers and electrolytes to add to my pack. So I had been drinking straight water from May Queen to Half Moon (about 18 miles). Stupid mistakes happen I see now when running these longer races. There is an amazing amount of things you must pay attention to and since I have never have a crew it is all dependent upon myself.
Half Moon to Twin Lakes(mile 33-mile 40)
Coming out of Half Moon I started off walking while trying to get the right fluid balance back into my system. Within a few minutes the puffiness was gone and normal color had returned to my hands. At half moon I passed through the aid station within minutes so at this point on the trail I was back to running solo. Having a friend to talk to makes a big difference. True I can run solo, but when someone else is there to break up the monotony of silence it is a bit nicer. The first portion of the leg to TL is minimial so I ran for some periods and would take a walk break to keep my legs feeling fresh. Planning on a long day I didnt want to come out to fast and suffer in the later hours. About 4 miles before TL Ken rejoined me and helped push my pace in the descend into the aid station. This was a long flowing down section with some wicked drops on the left shoulder of the trail. Passing several runners through here in the final portion of the leg was uplifting. There were a lot of beautiful sections of foliage with small stream crossings that made the race more of an adventure than a normal run. Pace was holding around a nice 10 minute again as I hit the Twin Lakes AS. Coming in I was focused on two things: walking sticks for the ascend/descend of Hope Pass and getting some more food. A few minutes were used in the station and I came out of there just a few minutes pass 1:00 pm.
Twin Lakes to Winfield (mile 40-mile 50)
Heading across the road and into the meadow I could fully see what was ahead. One big climb into the sky!! TL sits in a meadow at 9200' and the top of Hope Pass is 12600'. It is basically is one long straight climb with minimal switchbacks. Working my way across the meadow to the trail I encountered a few stream crossings. My initial reaction was they were freezing cold. Then I realized that the pain in my toes was gone because of the numbness. The largest of the streams was just over my kneecap deep and about 60' wide. They had a rope across it to aid in reaching the other side. Once through the all the stream crossings, putting me at 41 miles into the race, Anton Krupicka the leader of race was coming at me. Anton had already reached Winfield and was on his way back, now at mile 59! My jogging pace at a 12 minute mile was nothing compared to him flowing across the meadow probably at an 8 minute pace. Working my way across the meadow I reached the base of the climb and quickly I slowed to a death march up Hope Pass. There was a silence unlike the rest of the course I had been on up until this point. It was a downright depressing feeling. Runners were moving up the pass slowly, many stopping to sit and rest, others just quietly moving. Not a lot of passing in this section. Many times I would stop to take in the few and look for my friends, but mostly just a lonely walk. All of sudden after three miles of climbing I see two guys and a runner. The guys are holding him one on each side of the runner yelling at him that they are trying to get him down to TL before he goes into a coma. This I can say was not a moment I wanted in my life to be seeing or a moment I wanted to see happen to anyone on this course. Standing there evaulting in my head on what still laid ahead for me in the next two miles at the top. Reaching the Hopeless Aid Station at 12000' I stood there and felt that this race was over for me. It had taken me over two hours to cover just over four miles. I had lost my appetitie and was barely drinking any fluids. Checking out the llamas and the views around me I headed towards the last 600' climb before descending down to Winfield. Starting down the backside of the pass there was a flowing line of runners coming working their way up. I would travel a few feet and then yield to several runners. This process repeated itself all the way down the pass to the dirt road. A very long three mile descent taking me almost another two hours. The footing was rough in the section and with the feeling back in my feet I could feel the pain in my toes. I had misplanned on my feet swelling that much in the race and with each downhill step I could feel my toes being crushed in the shoebox. In addition, each of my pinky toes had grown a blister almost the size of itself. This was another factor in me deciding that Winfield was my stopping point. Once down the pass I walked the two mile dirt road into Winfield. Those two miles had to have been the worse two miles I have ever covered in a race!! I checked into the aid station just under 13 hours from the start of the race. The volunteer took my weight. I was at 160lbs down 3lbs from the medical check-in the day before. I asked her to cut my bracelet off and that I was dropping. Instantly four people surrounded me and said, "you are doing great and can keep going." In my mind I just wanted the run to end. They informed to go get something to eat and drink then head back out. I did all but the latter. Finally, after being there for awhile it was eating at me for quiting and needed the bracelet off. A volunteer said she would cut it off, but only for a hug. She could sense that this was an extremely difficult choice for me to make. Now with the bracelet off I thought it was over. NOPE! I was then informed I still had to run across the mat to check out of the course. UGH, after all that time in the aid station and the clock ticking away it was like another blow to me. I headed over and walked across the mat closing out my run.
Looking back I see no reason that I could have not suffered through the remaining 50 miles. I had 17 hours to get the job done; after it had only taken 13 hours to go the first half. There is always pain in running a 100 miles; it really comes down to pushing through the it.The motto of the Leadville race is simple: Make friends with pain and you will never run alone. The pain and emptiness I feel for not trying harder is worse than the feeling when I chose to drop out. I am returning in 2011 to face the course again. This time no matter what comes about I am not chosing to DNF.