Sunday (8/22) concluded another successful year of Leadman events and with that I became the only 4 time Leadman finisher. The Leadman events are a huge undertaking so it always a great feeling when the last event is in the books and I have finished all of them.
The season started with the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run. This run is held in early May in Buena Vista. There is a 50 mile course (which is what I foolishly signed up for) and a 25 mile course – to complete the 50 mile course you turnaround at the 25 mile point (the finish line for that group of runners) and run the course in the opposite direction. Perhaps because it is early in the season and I have not done much trail running by the time it rolls around, I always struggle with this run (the one other time that I did it, that is). 2010 was no exception. It took me 11:26 to complete the 50 mile course and although I was not dead last, I was much closer than I would have liked to have been to that position. So, the season started with a sputter.
The next major event was the San Juan Solstice (June 19th). This 50 mile run is held in Lake City, Colorado – a beautiful place to visit; a wretched place to run (unless you love climbing – once you get to the top of those climbs you do have beautiful 360⁰ vistas – the views are spectacular). The climbing on this course is brutal. The first time I did it was in 2008. I said then that I would never do it again, but when Trygve was signing up for it this year, I decided to join him in a moment of weakness. Did I say that the course has a ridiculous amount of climbing!! It was probably good for me, but it definitely does not play to my strengths (to the extent that I have any). By the time this run rolled around, my plantar fasciitis on the left foot was bothering me a fair amount. I started taking Tramadol early during this run and continued throughout the day. Although the run was going reasonably well, at mile 42 (as I was headed up the last major climb of the day) I got light-headed and nauseous. I slowed to a crawl and ultimately had to sit down for 5 minutes. I got up after my predetermined break time, but I was not feeling much better and managed to puke shortly after that. I felt a little better after puking (at least I was able to move), however I could not for the life of me muster a run, so it was mostly walking until after the Vickers Ranch aid station. Finally, on the way down into town I started to feel better and I was able to pick up the pace some and by the finish I was feeling pretty good.
The Leadman events start in July with the kickoff event being the marathon. It is a horrible, sufferfest of an event with a long climb to the top of Mosquito Pass. I used trekking poles for the first time on the way up to the top of Mosquito Pass and back down. I had read several articles about how much they help so I was curious to try. I found that they were useful and decided to include them in other training runs and events. My time for the marathon was my slowest yet (6:25), but I finished so that was the main goal for that event. The PF was a pain (literally) again for this run.
The next day (July 4th) I did the Firecracker 50 mountain bike ride in Breckenridge. It is an early season ride for me and one that I tackled with only a modest number of training miles on the mountain bike (far less than the course distance). I generally felt pretty good on the course and finished around (6:40), with the precise time not being known since I missed a time cutoff at the 34 mile mark (by 5 minutes) that was new this year. I wasn’t too perturbed by the missed time cutoff (it was not like I was going to win) since they said that I could still finish the course – I just wanted the long training ride and I was able to get that. Nathan Reed (neighbor) and David Rubenking (office cohort) were out there riding and I think they both have a newfound appreciation for the difficultly of a 50 mile mountain bike ride.
The next Saturday (July 10th) was the Triple Bypass. It was a good ride for me. Although it rained a little (starting between Frisco and Copper Mountain and continuing about half-way up the climb to Vail Pass), I felt good all day. I moved through the aid stations quickly (always well stocked and plenty of friendly volunteers) and finished with a total ride time of 8:40 and a total elapsed time of about 9:10.
The weekend of July 17th was the weekend of the Silver Rush events. The mountain bike ride (50m) was on Saturday and that went pretty well, although there were a lot more riders this year (762 registered riders; 620 starters; and 505 finishers versus 358 finishers in 2009) and a lot more congestion on the long climb up to the Mt. Sherman trailhead. I arrived in town the morning of the ride with plenty of time to spare, but by the time I messed around getting ready (putting on my makeup or whatever it is that I do), I did not get to the starting line until 5 minutes before the start. At that point, I realized that I forgot to check the air pressure in my tires and I luckily spotted a nearby pump, so I quickly put some air in the tires (and I am glad that I did since they both needed it) and then resumed by place at in the starting throng with a few minutes to spare. I finished with a time of 7:06, my slowest time ever (but not my much and most of that time slow down I would blame on the additional traffic congestion) and sadly 16 minutes slower than Duncan Callahan would finish the 50m run (with a time of 6:50) on the same course the following day.
The 50m run was on Sunday. I did not need to finish this event for the Leadman competition since you are only required to do the Silver Rush bike or run (either, but not both – of course, youi can do both and some do). Last year I finished both the bike and the run, but this year was a different story. I slept like shit Saturday night and I am sure that did not help any. The first 10 miles of the run went well and I was feeling pretty good. The boys (barely) met me at the mile 18 aid station (they drove over from Breck that AM and then went to the wrong aid station before realizing their mistake and racing the 3rd aid station in the nick of time) and it was nice to see them and to hear their words of encouragement. At mile 20 you hit a steepish downhill and my plantar was really bothering me. I felt like I was barely moving down that hill, which was demoralizing as hordes of people were passing me. Then for the rest of the run into the turnaround point, I just did not have much energy. I saw CP with about 1m to go to the turnaround and got some cold water from him, but told him that I thought I was probably done. When I got to the turnaround, the boys were there. I told them that I was pooped and that my foot hurt – they knew that I did not need this event for the Leadman competition and they gave me the thumbs up to stop. We waited for Jurney to come through and she was looking good. I think she was hoping that I would suggest that she stop too and that we should go celebrate her birthday with lunch somewhere in town, but no such suggestion was forthcoming, so she carried on. We next met Jurney at the mile 27 aid station (and had a big birthday balloon for her) and I was glad that I was no longer running. We then headed into town, stopped by the Hendrickson abode and met a surprised Katie who did not expect to see us. She was on her way to the finish line to see Christian finish so we joined her and Gustus and hung out there for a bit. Christian finished in 8:16 and was 9thoverall – an impressive run.
On July 29th, I had a cortisone injection in my plantar. The injection seemed to help, but after 2 long training weekends (15.5m run up and down and up and down Hope Pass on 7/31, followed by 53.5m mountain bike ride on 8/1; and then 28m run on LT100 course on 8/7, followed by 42m mountain bike ride on 8/8), it was pretty sore again. I talked to my doctor and he was okay with a second injection, so on August 13th (the day before the LT100 mountain bike ride), I had another injection in the plantar.
The next event was the LT100 mountain bike. It was definitely a zoo this year. The event continues to draw bigger and bigger crowds and this year had 1557 registered riders (with 1328 starters and 909 finishers versus last year with 1223 starters and 890 finishers). The race meeting on Friday had lots of nervous energy to it and, as always, Ken did a great job of firing up the riders. Also, lots more booths and tents by all of the race sponsors. Lance Armstrong was originally scheduled to race (to defend his win from last year), but he bailed earlier in the week due to continuing injuries from the TdF. However, Levi Leipheimer was there (although I did not realize it at the time) and he would end up setting a new course record (6:16). Christian was nice enough to let me use their house as a base of operations for the ride and, as always, it was a great staging venue. I hung out in the afternoon; got the drop bags (Pipeline and Twin Lakes) ready; and then ran them up to the staging area as part of a 3 mile run just to get the legs moving.
On race day, I arrived at the start/finish area about 6:10 (for a 6:30 start). It was cold. I had on arm warmers, leg warmers, a light coat and gloves over my biking gloves. I took off the leg warmers before the start, but kept on everything else. As always, all of the riders were pretty amped up – bikes were lined up all the way to the gym on 6th street and everyone was itching to get started. The first climb up St. Kevins was SLOW. I definitely could have ridden it faster, but I had to just stay in the pack. I tried not to sweat the pace since I knew it is a long day and plenty of time to push it if the legs were feeling like it. I took my coat off at the turnoff from Hagerman Pass Road onto Sugarloaf and dumped a little water from the bladder in my pack (in addition to the bladder, I had two water bottles). At Pipeline, I put the arm warmers and leg warmers in my drop bag, but I did not need to get anything out of it. At Twin Lakes, I topped off the water bottles (one having water and the other having Gatorade), but kept moving. The climb up to Columbine Mine felt great – it can be a real slog – I had the tunes on and plugged along and felt like I was making solid time. When I got to the top, I turned in my best time ever from Twin Lakes to Columbine Mine (1:57).
The second half of the course went about as well as could be hoped for. I hit Pipeline at 7:25 (elapsed time) and was thinking that I had a shot at a sub-11 hour finish (previous best for me was 11:10 and that was back in 2006). I walked the first pitch up Powerline (as does everyone), but was still climbing strong and powered up the rest of that climb. When I hit the climb around Turquoise Lake), the legs were feeling good and I was dropping lots of riders on that climb. At the Turquoise Lake aid station, a camera man (doing a movie on this year’s race after the wildly successful film from last year) stuck a camera in my face and asked how the day was going, how the legs felt, etc. I chatted with him briefly, but kept moving. It was about 9:30 into the race by the time I left that aid station. When I crossed the finish line the clock was showing 10:33 (only 3:08 from Pipeline – definitely a PR time for that stretch) and it proved to be my best year ever. I did a bunch of weekday road bike training rides (with the primary route being a 33 mile loop from my house out to Golden and back) this year and I think it really paid off on the mountain bike. The drop bags at the aid stations worked well – the volunteers were really on it and seemed to have your drop bag quickly.
The 10k was on Sunday after the mountain bike. Not much to say about that run. The legs felt great despite the ride the day before and it was over in 0:55:38.
That left the 100 mile run as the one remaining Leadman event to be conquered. As you might imagine, a 100 mile run is a huge undertaking. Every year, I have been blessed with an extremely supportive group of friends and family who have helped me survive the event. This year was no exception. Travis, Cameron and Grant were my crew and did an AWESOME job. My parents were there. Jurney and Chris, along with Jurney’s sister Beth, were there and Jurney would be my pacer from Winfield to Fish Hatchery (26m). The Kjellsens showed up later in the day and Jennifer was my pacer from Fish Hatchery back to the finish (24m).
This year there were over 800 registered runners, with 647 starters and 363 finishers. The largest field ever.
The run starts at 4:00am and Jurney, Chris and Grant were there to see me off. The run heads out of town on the “Boulevard” (which is a hard-packed dirt road that fortunately accommodates lots of runners) before dumping out onto trails that get you over to Turquoise Lake. The run around Turquoise Lake is a pretty one, although it is entirely in the dark at that time of day so you don’t get to see too much of it. I turned my ankle several times and tripped on numerous rocks and roots, but I felt like I was moving pretty good. I hit the Mayqueen aid station in a time of 2:14 and I was surprised that I was not there slightly earlier (last year I arrived in 2:10). Joe Hendrickson, Christian’s dad, was there with my pack (in which I had my trekking pole – that’s right, just one – I realized in a training run when one pole did not work that one pole works great for me), and I handed off my flashlight and headlamp to him, thanked him for being there and kept moving. The run up the Colorado trail, to Hagerman Pass road and ultimately to the top of Sugarloaf felt like it was going good. I felt like I was moving at a reasonable pace and was looking forward to seeing friends and crew at the Fish Hatchery aid station. At the top of Sugarloaf, I pulled out the trekking and use it for the downhill. The use of a pole has not converted a slow-downhill runner into a fast one, but it definitely give me a little more stability and I feel like I can move just a little better.
I pulled into the Fish Hatchery aid station in 4:23 (8:23am). Travis was the first one that I saw and he had his camera out taking pictures – he has become quite an accomplished photographer. He took my water bottles and told me where I could find the rest of the gang after I cleared the aid station. It was nice to have everyone there. Travis and Cameron had the gear laid out and I could see that I was going to be in very good hands with them running the show. They ran through the list of items that I might want as I changed shirts (dumping the long sleeve shirt and vest) and cleaned some rocks out of my shoes. They loaded me up with GU, crack cookies and a half of a sandwich, took the pack and pole and off I went down the road.
The road from Fish Hatchery to Pipeline is a well-known nemesis of mine. After I ate the sandwich and cookies I started to run, but I was not all that inspired. Like last year, I felt like I was losing time on that road. This year it was hot and I was not feeling all that good. When I arrived at Pipeline, I was feeling a little worn down and beginning to feel the soreness in my quads – not a good sign when you are 27 miles into a 100 mile run. I had another half sandwich, more crack cookies, got the pack (along with the hydration bladder for a little extra water) and pole and more GU, swapped out the water bottles and got on my way. Once I got off the main road down Pipeline, I started to feel better and by the time I cleared the Halfmoon II aid station, I was happy to be on the trails.
I arrive in Twin Lakes at 11:54am (elapsed time of 7:54), approx. 10 minutes ahead of my 27 hour self-imposed schedule. Everyone was a little surprised to see me (due to the earlier than expected arrival), but they had it all going on. I switched shoes and socks, ate, swapped water bottles, downed some DP. Loaded up on GU and then headed down the road with Chris and Grant who walked with me for a bit.
The river crossing was uneventful and the cold water felt good. The climb up to the Hopeless aid station went pretty well. I was passed by several folks early on, but managed to catch most, if not all, of them by the time I got to the aid station. I climbed with the trekking pole since it seems to help on the steeper inclines. It took me 1:58 to get to the aid station (my best time from Twin Lakes to that aid station), but I felt like I was moving faster than that. After cresting Hope Pass, the trail down is steep and not particularly inviting, but I moved along okay with my trekking pole in hand. By this time, lots of folks were headed up and I crossed paths with Beuche and Christian as I was headed down.
When I hit the Winfield road, I felt pretty good and ran (shuffled) most of that stretch. I pulled into Winfield at 11:34 (3:34pm), approximately 26 minutes ahead of my 27 hr schedule. The boys were there with everything laid out. I was feeling pretty good and it was nice to see everyone and to hear their words of support. Jurney was there and was ready to start her pacing duties.
I ate a sandwich as Jurney and I headed down the road to the Hope Pass trailhead. Jurney and I plodded up the trail – it is a brutal climb and a major effort. It took me 2:33 to get to the Hopeless aid station. According to the records that is my slowest time (I am surprised by that since I felt like we were moving pretty good), but I was able to set a better than normal pace on the way down to Twin Lakes (although it did not feel like it – I wonder if they messed up the times?) and it turned out to be a reasonable up and down time. We got into Twin Lakes at 7:20pm which was 30 minutes ahead of my 27 hour pace. Once again the boys had it all together on the crew front, but Travis later conceded that he was reading a book and Cameron was doing homework when Chris announced that he saw Jurney coming down the road. They quickly sprang into action and everything went well – I was certainly none the wiser.
Jurney and I refueled, I changed my shoes and socks, got a new shirt, grabbed my vest, gathered the headlamp and flashlight and then headed off up the trail towards the Halfmoon II aid station. Grant walked with us until we hit the hill on the other side of the aid station. The climb up the trail went well. Jurney did a great job of leading me out. We have done lots of training runs together over the years and Jurney knows my gait pretty well. She led me out at a perfect pace (not to fast; not to slow) and I just focused on keeping the PI reflectors on the back of her shoes in my headlamp. We seemed to be moving along at a good clip and pulled into the Halfmoon II aid station at 9:31pm. I sat down and had a couple of cups of soup and then Jurney got me back on my feet and out of the tent. We probably spent too much time in this aid station, but the small break felt good. Again, she did a great job of leading me out and we were running (as much as you run after 70 miles) almost all of the way to Pipeline. The trusty dusty crew + my mother were at Pipeline and they topped off the water bottles and got us on our way to Fish Hatchery. We ran hard from Pipeline to Fish Hatchery – the running was feeling really good. On the road from Pipeline to Fish Hatchery, Trygve tracked us down and he drove along encouraging us and getting the report of the day while we moved along. We arrived at Fish Hatchery 44 minutes ahead of the 27 hour self-imposed schedule.
At Fish Hatchery, Jurney turned me over to Jennifer Kjellsen for the pacing duties. Originally Trygve was going to pace me, but he developed a blood clot in his gut and was in the hospital the weekend before the run. Needless to say, his doctors were not enthusiastic about him running 24+ miles. Jennifer paced Trygve last year from Pipeline and she jumped into the pacing fray this year as a ready, willing and able participant. Jennifer and I made good time up Powerline to the top of Sugarloaf. From there, we were able to shuffle down to Hagerman Pass road and managed to run pretty solidly down the road to the turnoff for the Colorado trail. The Colorado trail is a rock stretch with sketchy footing. Somewhere on Sugarloaf (I estimate around mile 80) my ankle starting bothering me and it was clear that I had sprained it. I don’t remember doing anything in particular, but I definitely remember turning it on the way to Mayqueen early in the day, so perhaps it was just the cumulative effect of the day’s activities. Anyway, it was not doing great on the Colorado trail, but Jennifer was encouraging and kept me moving along.
When we got to the trailhead for the Colorado trail, Trygve was there. He could see that the ankle was bothering me (probably from the rather obvious limp, plus Jennifer ratted me out) and he went into medic mode. We headed to the aid station and he rounded up tape from the aid station medics and began to tape my ankle. In the meantime, Travis and Cameron took care of getting me food and resupplying me for the last stretch into town. Trygve’s taping job made a huge difference and saved me on the way into town. I turned my ankle a few more times on the trail around the lake, but with the stability that the tape provided, I managed to keep going. Jennifer and I ran most of the way around Turquoise Lake and then all of the way into town – I kicked any number of rocks and roots on our trip around the lake and each kick was generally followed by a string of expletives (because each kick sent a shooting pain through the toenails) – at first, Jennifer would check to see if I was okay, but she learned to ignore the cursing and just kept moving down the trail. Jennifer did a great job on the pacing front and I was lucky to have her out there.
When I crossed the finish line (26:26), I cried – happens every time. The run is a huge effort and the ending is always a flood of emotions. I am always pleased and surprised that I have finished it and proud of my accomplishment. It is not something that I would want to do every day or even every month, but it is always something that I am glad I have tried. Lots of times throughout the day it would be easy to stop or to give up (when things are hurting or you have kicked a rock or root so hard that you actually feel the big toenail move – yes . . .that really does happen – ouch!!), but somehow I manage to put all of that aside (it helps to have a great crew and pacers who keep you moving along) and to keep moving. When I get to the end and I can finally stop it is really unbelievable that I have made it. The Leadman accomplishment is icing on the cake.
Again, another huge effort was put in by my crew (Travis, Cameron and Grant), the supporters on the course and my pacers (Jennifer and Jurney). Everyone’s contribution made a huge difference and made it possible to accomplish a task that many (perhaps most) would say can’t be done. A big THANK YOU to everyone that was out there helping and cheering me on. Also, I would like to thank my sponsors for all of their supports and encouragement – oh shit, I don’t have sponsors – never mind.
FOLLOW-UP: I now have a contract in on a house in Leadville and I will be closing on that in mid-October. It is a cool