Monday, August 19, 2013

THE Leadville Trail 100 mile run

It's been a few years since I've been into long distance running but it's only been a couple years that ultra-marathons have become a huge part of my life.  I've only completed three ultras but plan on running a few more, and while as of now, the distance I'm the most comfortable with is the 50k (the shortest of ultra's), I know I'll work my way up.

It's been years since I read the "Ultramarathon Man" book and loved it.  It was at that time when I found out about all these epic 100 mile races and became "curious".  After my first 55k race, I couldn't imagine doing it again and declared myself a road runner and got into Ironman races. Shortly after finishing my 2nd Ironman, I remembered how "easy" it was to just run. I knew I was in good shape and attempted an "easy" 50k. I was incredibly satisfied with the result and went after a 50-miler.  

I'm not gonna lie, it hurt and thought it'd never cross my mind again, but here I am a month later writing about potential 50-milers that I'd like to put on my schedule. Life is too short to not attempt what seems to be impossible and so I'll publicly say that the Leadville Trail 100 mile run has been in the back of my head for years and I'd love to one day feel ready enough to toe the start line. Will it be my first and last? Will it even be my first? Will I attempt to give the distance a shot in a more forgiving environment? Who knows. All I know is that one day I will be showing up at the start line. 

The 2013 Leadville Trail 100 mile run took place this past weekend and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to help time the event. I was assigned at the Outward Bound Aid station which was at mile marker 24 on the way out and mile marker 76 on the way back. 

It was a surreal experience all around. As I gave my 2-week notice at work on Friday and decided to take on newer opportunities in a field that is truly my passion, I found myself driving up to Leadville to work in the one event that I'm truly scared of.  Not knowing what to expect, I was hoping it'd scare me off.  Running 100 miles can't look pretty, right?  But I believe, it did everything but. 

The 2:45am wake up call came a little sooner that I would've wanted to, but I wanted to make it to the start by 3:30 to see my friend Laurie start her race. I saw her, hugged her and positioned myself at the start line by the timing tent. At 4:00am sharp the runners were off... I got the chills. I wanted to be lined up badly. 

Off they go in the dark and all you see are little lights bouncing up and down. 

The start line of the Leadville 100
I then drove over to the Fish Hatchery outside of Leadville, which was Aid Station #2 and where I'd be spending the next 24 hours. Once the first runner showed up around 7:00am it was non-stop til 10:15. Runners were mostly in good spirits, but as the 10:00am cut of approached, you could see some of them struggling.  It was beyond heartbreaking to see Sandy "the cut-off lady" cutting wrist bands with chips of those runners who didn't quite make it and I've never seen so many tears and disappointment looks. I wanted to hug each and every one of them. 

Scott Jurek leaving the aid station at mile 24
I had a chance to lay my sleeping bag in the medical  tent and take a short nap before setting up again and get ready for the first runner to hit mile 76. Ian Sharman, 2x winner of the Mt. Hood 50 and course record holder (it got crushed by this year's winner though) was the first to get to my aid station with a lead of 20 minutes. Scott Jurek, who was the one expected to win all along, showed up in 4th but eventually lost some time and finished 8th. 

Ian Sharman looking fresh at mile 76
While it's impressive to see the "pro's" crush it. I was more impressed by the "normal" people.  Those with a full time job, those with their kids on the sidelines... Those who's bodies were giving up before their minds did. It was impressive to see their souls exposed and look like they couldn't take a single step more yet they'd fuel up and continue their journey.  Impressive to see pacers sprint into the aid station to have water bottles ready for when their runners showed up 30 seconds behind. 

Outward Bound Station at sunset
Heartbreaking to see the tears of those who against their will had to call it good and be smarter about the way they race. Heartbreaking to see those who wanted to continue but didn't make the cut off... Taking away chips was no easy task and I hugged every single one of them. 

Once all the runners came in, those who made the cut off and those who didn't, it was time to pack up. It was already 4:00am and I somehow got a second wind.  I drove back to the start line to see if I could meet some of the timing crew. Not many people there, but got to see the last few runners that earned the big gold buckle, meaning those finishing in under 25hrs. I'm not gonna lie, if you had paid close attention you would've seen a tear or two rolling down my cheek. I wanted to be them BADLY. 

LAST finisher to come in under 25hrs. 
I then drove to Avon to sleep at my parents' place there... I slept from 6:15am through 3:00pm and was a lazy bum the rest of the day. 

All in all, no. This experience did not scare me off, if anything it made want to try harder. I know deep in my heart that as much as I want to go online on January 1st and sign up, I shouldn't. I am not ready. I should conquer the 50 mile distance first. And by conquer, I mean be comfortable. I ran it once and it hurt. I'll run it twice and I'll understand it. I'll run it a third time and I will race it. After that anything is possible.  Dream big I guess... that's the only way you'll accomplish something. 

Special thanks to RaceRite for the amazing opportunity which was not only a job... it was an amazing experience and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

That's me... working. Yes. I worked. 


  1. "Those who's bodies were giving up before their minds did" - love that line.

  2. Thanks for helping out at the race Gaby. Sorry I didn't see you and say hi as I passed through. And CONGRATS on Mt. Hood! Awesome job out there getting it down. Regarding the LT100, I can't say I've ever finished a 50 miler and felt like I could go a step further. It's a distance that you definitely respect, but maybe a little too much. The second 50 is just a mental thing and I bet you could do it. Don't put it off while waiting to master the 50, since in my experience, that day of feeling confident after a 50 may never come. If you can run 50, you're ready for the 100. Silver Rush is a great training run for the LT100. :-)

    Good luck at the Bear Chase and Denver Marathon. That's a great fall lineup and you are in crazy good shape to tackle all the races you've done this year!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Woody! Nice to see you swing by.

      Well... As scared as I may be, I may enter one of these 100 mile races. :) I'm definitely planning on running Silver Rush though... Will keep you posted!