Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Leadville 100-Part II

Leadville 100- Talk about highs and lows. I arrived in Denver on Thursday before the race to find that my checked baggage was lost. In the bag, was all my nutrition, my trekking poles, cold-weather gear and headlamps. After five unsuccessful attempts of contacting United about my bag and going out to Walmart to purchase some backup gear, I finally get the call that they'll be delivering it within the hour. I get my luggage, prepare my drop bags and am ready to go. To the bathroom...

Leadville is located at 10,200 feet above sea level. Therefore, I was very nervous about getting altitude sickness before the race. So I did what most(or at least some) sane people would have done-drink copious amounts of water. Good news? Didn't get sick. Bad news? Had to pee every hour making sleep difficult. I actually had to stop on my way from my hotel in Frisco to Leadville-a thirty minute drive!

I went into Leadville with two goals: 1) Redeem myself from last year's VT 88.6 and finish and 2) Not die.

With low standards like that, I will always be successful.

To the race itself: The race starts off with a five mile downhill and paved and dirt roads, I knew better than to go out too fast so just ran at a comfortably slow pace. We soon turned onto the first trail of the day and "holy crap" there was this 1/4 mile ascent probably as steep or steeper than anything at Washington. I thought to myself that I didn't remember seeing that on the course map. And of course it wouldn't be there due to its brevity but nonetheless it was a wake up call for what was to come.

After coursing through trails alongside Turquoise Lake, we began our first ascent of Sugarloaf and 11,000+ feet. It was at the point that I knew I was in for a long day. Actually it was the first of many lows. As I jogged into the 24 mile aide station, I was seriously considering quitting when I saw Chad Denning from NH cheering me on. What on Earth was he doing here? Supposedly he was running the TransRockies race and had a couple days to relax and came to watch. Clearly, I couldn't quit now. Or at least until he was out of sight.

Luckily at that point the course become mild and a good portion of flats allowed me to get in a bit of a rhythm and was able to almost forget that I wanted to quit until Hope Pass shook me violently to my senses at mile 40. Picture Mt. Washington. No not Jewell Trail or even the Access Road. Picture the Great Gulf Trail and the precipice that you're skirting alongside. That precipice or cliff was Hope Pass; sure there was switch backs but it only made looking up and seeing runners 3,000 feet above you, that much more devastating. Additionally, it was about that time that it occurred to me that I must be attached to some wheezing little asthmatic school girl until I looked around and realized that little school girl was me. I subsequently got passed by nearly the entire field on the remainder of the way up.
The only consolation for those that didn't' pass me on the way up was that they then had the opportunity to pass me on the way down-which they did.

I finally reached the far side of Hope thinking I'd quickly hit the aid station and then head back, only to find that I had 3 more miles of gradual uphill prior to the fifty mile mark. DAMN IT! I whimpered as I dragged my downhill torn quads up the road.

Finally making it to the turn-around provided limited relief but looking at the bruised and battered fellow runners, I realized that I better not quit quite yet. I needed some bruises or at least some genuinely shot quads. So I took off, down three miles, back up 2,400 feet over Hope, down 3,000+ feet to the 60 mile mark. At this point something weird happened. I started feeling good. The miles 60-80 were probably my favorites where I alternated running with jogging and walking, laughing and joking with my somewhat less amiable runners. I was feeling really good as the sun set and I knew that I could now finish even if I walked the remainder of the race.

The moment that I realized that something was wrong was when I realized that I had just passed Leadville High's Cross Country coach. He and I had been running together for about 5 miles earlier but he had had to change shoes, use the rest room, and await a new pacer. As I didn't have a pacer, I had just taken off. So passing him at what I that was nearly the summit of Sugarloaf again throw me for a loop. It took a few desperate moments to realize what had happened. I had gone straight when everyone took a right causing me to loop back to nearly the start of this long arduous uphill. So instead of nearly at the summit, I had brought myself back to nearly the beginning. Tears welling up in my school girl eyes, I limply waiting for Kevin and we jog together. After a couple jokes and him offering me a beer( A beer at 11,000 feet 80+ miles into a race? Yes! Only in Leadville... ) I started to feel better again especially when he told me about Burro Racing.

Yes, Burro Racing. Apparently it is an old miner tradition to race with a mule(not on a mule but with it leashed to you) up a very steep and long mountain. And Kevin here was a two time winner. If that wasn't going to get me out of a bad mood, nothing was going to.

We ran, walked together until Mayfield the last aide station at 87 miles. I knew I could finish, I could also potentially finish under 26 hours, maybe even 25 hours! This is why I held back early so I had energy left now! Yes! No! That surge of energy lasted about three miles at which point my spent and wasted body proceeded to get passed by nearly every one's grandmothers(the grandchildren and children had already passed me).
One such grandmother.

When I finally got back to the road, I almost that I was there only to find that I still had five uphill miles ahead of me. I am really glad there was no place to quit because I certainly would have utilized it. As it was I was debating about throwing myself on the porcupine that I saw running beside(and yes, faster) me just so I would have a viable(and unique) excuse for my DNF.

Luckily? there were no such places and the porcupine quickly sauntered out of sight. I proceeded to walk all the rest of the way to the finish which I unceremoniously walked across.

I finished up in 27:43:23 which I was very content with until I realized that it was being printed on my sweatshirt. NO! I want 24:59:59! Damn it! Next Year! Or not...
Danny walking across the finish line.


  1. Hey little school boys cry too! I want to cry just thinking about doing this. I remember when the kids were little biking up that 302 hill toward Btown, and being almost in tears. It's all relative my dear. You couldda stayed home and watched The Rockford Files on dvd! Never feel badly, Daniel. You do more than 99% of the rest of us. I thought a good name for it would be 'get the lead out.' Do people still say that? Like gym teachers?

  2. Danny, thank you. Any ideas I may have had about doing a 100 miler have been successfully tossed to the curb. Thank you for inspiring me (to be sane again).

    Congrats on finishing!

  3. You da man Dan! Leadville with barely any training?!?! You're either very good or very dumb. I'm guessing, if you're like the rest of us, it's a little bit of both. Either way Congrats!

    Now, what next?

  4. Congrad's Dan. Better for them to print your time on the shirt then 88.6.....LOL