The 2014 Leadville Trail 100, Part 4

(This is Part 4 of my Leadville Trail 100 race story.  Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here, if you want to catch up! Also, I’m verbose. I hope I don’t lose those of you who’ve read these so far!)

Part 4: On Top of Hope Pass (45) to Winfield (50)

Do you know that feeling when your car just starts kind of running rough… it’s not too dramatic, but something just doesn’t seem right?

That’s sort of how I felt as I came over the top of Hope Pass.  I believe the time was already after 4:00 pm, which meant there was no way I was going to be able to make it down to Winfield at my hoped for (get it?) 4:30 pm.

I’d not felt super great coming up the front side of Hope, but then again, I chalked it up to the fact I’d done more than 40 mountain miles and that I was climbing to the highest point on the course.

But, I figured I’d make good time down the backside of Hope and into Winfield, so I started making my way down.  Almost immediately, I came upon Becki, who was absolutely crushing it!  She was cruising uphill, very near the top and was about to bomb back to Twin Lakes, hours ahead of me! We said a super quick hello, without stopping because we were both super focused, but it was a boost to see a familiar face!

I started running/ hopping/ jogging my way down, but there is something to note about the backside of Hope Pass… it’s freaking steep.  And, the further down you get, the steeper it gets… steep enough that solid running became somewhat impossible… especially with the steady stream of runners making their way back up the trail on their way towards Leadville again.

Backside of Hope, Trees section. Taken a few weeks after race...

Backside of Hope, Trees section. Taken a few weeks after race…

But, I made good time.  One runner, who made it plain to everyone in earshot that she’d run this race many, many times, shared that she thinks of the backside of Hope in 3 sections: the switchbacks, the rocks and the trees.  This is actually a pretty helpful understanding.  After you crest the top of the pass, the trail meanders back and forth and back and forth in a series of switchbacks, and it’s quite runnable.  Then, the trail enters a series of very, very technical rocky areas with some scree and some large boulders.  Finally, the trail enters a gorgeous aspen forest, and begins to tilt precipitously down.  And along with the tilt, the constitution of the trail switches from rocks to deep, dark, rooty earth.  The beauty of the forest belies the treacherousness of the trail.

If you’re not careful, you can easily catch a toe and fall.  Exactly like I did!

I had not fallen since much earlier in the morning with my mishap on the road, but this was a different sort of fall.  The first time, I’d lurched forward.  This time, because the hill was so steep, and because I keep my weight shifted back when going downhill, the effect was to drop me onto my butt, so it didn’t hurt at all.

But, because my fatigued left leg had instinctively shot out to catch me, my left calf seized into a giant knot, a massive Charlie-horse, locking my lower leg up completely.

The kind souls in front asked if I was okay, and I was…

Mostly…

Sort of…

I was just waiting to see if my left calf was going to release itself.

I actually wondered if this was it.  If this was how it was going to end, with me miles from an aid station with a locked up lower leg giving me a clubfoot.

But, with a few wiggles of the toes and some massaging, it loosened up enough for me to stand and get walking.  And with a little walking, I jogged a bit.  It loosened all the way up and I was good to go!

Phew.

Shortly after this, we came to what I thought was the bottom of the trail, where we turned right to make our way to Winfield, at last.

You see… the only time I’d gone up and down this section of trail was a couple of years previous, and the course had changed since I’d scoped it out in planning for Ben’s running of Leadville.  And this little spur over to Winfield was completely new to me.

And so, I kept moving to get there.

With the excitement of the fall fading, and with the reality that I (thought I) was at the bottom, I began to notice the “rough running engine” a bit more.  My chest had been tight and my breathing had been shallow, but again I had chalked that up to being up higher.   And here I was down lower and it wasn’t getting better.

But, I was still moving well, and I was still eating and drinking okay, so I kept on.

I found myself in another “conga line” with a bunch of runners.  And it was clear none of us had ever done this section of trail before.  The girl who was in the lead of the line, just a couple of runners ahead, kept asking the runners coming towards us how much further to Winfield. “Just a mile or so…”

Great! I’ll pick up Luke, and we’ll get back up and over Hope again…

Luke and Chris waiting in Winfield

Luke and Chris waiting in Winfield

But, quite a bit of time went by and runners kept answering, over and over again, “Just a mile or so…” or, “about a mile, not much further,” or “your so close!”

And more and more time went by and the answer didn’t freaking change!  And since none of us had been on that section of trail, it became infuriating.

And something subtle happened, and in hindsight, it’s very clear to me, but at the time, I didn’t pick up on it… Negativity started seeping in.

The girl out in front of the line began complaining loudly about how much further we had to go.  And I didn’t have the energy to pass her.  Others around chimed in with some negativity.  I felt that negativity.

And I began to feel crappier, and crappier.  My chest hurt more.  My breathing was shallower.  I was struggling.  Hard.  I began to have those thoughts that I mentioned way back in Part 1 of this series… that I just wanted to be done.  I just wanted to be finished.  Maybe I DID have HAPE and I was about to die?

And still people kept freaking answering, “Just a mile or so more!” so cheerfully… but by now we knew it was all LIES!

Winfield would never come.  And if it did, maybe I could just be done because I had a life threatening medical condition.

Oh, the histrionics of an ultra.

(Side Note: I’m absolutely astonished at the massive power of negativity to derail and distract.  It’s crazy how low I got in such a short time.  I attribute much of how terrible I felt to just swimming in negativity for a while…)

Eventually, we’d made it… the trail markers turned left and we dropped off the trail, down onto the road into Winfield.  Well, we’d sort of made it… it was still another quarter mile down the road to get to the aid station/ turn around point.  Grrrr.

Although this pic is from earlier in the day, this is me and my friend Deanna!

Although this pic is from earlier in the day, this is me and my friend Deanna, in the pink top!

I found Luke, and my aforementioned seminary friend Deanna and they were ecstatic to see me.  I also saw Chris Doucet, who was there with Luke and Deanna, waiting to pace Joey back up and over… he stayed along the road to keep an eye out for Joey.

I was, as I’ve shared, in a bit of a dark place. So, we got my numbers checked in the med tent (see Part 1 for the full story), and once I was cleared medically, there was no doubt, no hesitation… it was time to get going again!  We just had to keep an eye on things to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack.  No big deal.

Luke and Deanna helped me repack my pack with some of the stuff that Luke had carried with him when Sara dropped he and Chris off earlier.  A few sips of this, a nibble of that and we were out and on our way once again, with encouragement from Deanna and Chris.

 

Winfield (50) to Twin Lakes (60)

Luke freaking Giltner.  Luke is awesome.  While I was still in a pretty negative headspace, Luke was great.  Encouraging and pushing, but not too hard…

We got back up on the trail spur towards the base of Hope and started making pretty good time.  My chest was tight, but it was manageable.  Luke kept asking about the symptoms of a heart attack that the medical personnel had shared: “Are you just short of breath, or is your left arm getting numb?”

Halfway up the Backside of Hope, looking back towards Winfield. Photo by Luke. He had all kinds of time, waiting for my slow ass...

Halfway up the Backside of Hope, looking back towards Winfield. Photo by Luke. He had all kinds of time, waiting for my slow ass…

Just a ways above Winfield, we finally ran into Joey, who looked just a little rough… or maybe it was concerned?  The time had to have been close to 5:30 (and WAY past my anticipated time for getting out of Winfield), and the cutoff for the Winfield aid station was 6:00.   We didn’t really think about it at the time, but in later conversations, Joey said that working hard to stay ahead of that cutoff was one of the hardest things he’d ever done.

And as Luke and I kept going, it was extremely sobering to realize that many of the people who were still streaming downhill towards Winfield were not going to make it.  They were done for the day.

Luke and I did great until we got to the left turn where the climb up Hope starts in earnest.  I’d still be moving well and I’d still be eating okay, too, but once we hit that wall of a climb, everything slowed to a crawl.  It was like there was a limiter on my breathing.  My heart rate was staying pretty pegged.  And I just couldn’t go uphill very quickly at all!

Waves of people were passing us.  When I tried to eat a gel, I had to stop because there wasn’t the breathing capacity for eating and moving at the same time.  And still, Luke was awesome… “Hey buddy, ummmm… can you do that while you’re walking?”  He patiently goaded me into keeping moving.

Looking up the trail in the "Rocks" section of the backside of Hope.

Looking up the trail in the “Rocks” section of the backside of Hope.

But, my caloric intake began to drop off… Gels were becoming harder and harder to choke down.

Luke kept trying to get me to eat, but I just felt like I could. Not. Do. It.

Our movement was barely perceptible as forward progress.  More and more passing us…

It was just so very hard.

We inched our way up through the trees section, and finally came to the rocks section.

One foot.

In front of the other.

Slow or stop to eat part of a gel.  Stare off into space.

There wasn’t thought of stopping or quitting here.  It was just so hard to keep moving.

Luke titled this picture "Grinding" on Facebook. Apropos. Also, note I'm not wearing my pack because Luke is carrying it.  He's awesome.

Luke titled this picture “Grinding” on Facebook. Apropos. Also, note I’m not wearing my pack because Luke is carrying it, and taking the picture. He’s awesome.

At one point I’d stopped to eat a gel and Joey and Chris had finally caught back up to us.  It was great to see them, but I could barely register that thought or emotion.  I heard from Joey later that was deeply, deeply concerned.  He thought I was a goner.

Seeing them got me moving again, though.  Step by step.  Inch by inch. Foot by foot.  Yard by yard.

We made it to the switchbacks section.  I remember a pacer singing loudly, so very, very loudly, a song from “The Sound of Music” through here… it was kind of funny.  But, I wasn’t entirely amused.

Luke, gently encouraging… “Come on buddy.  You’re doing great.”

I asked him to count the switchbacks for me, so I could have a countdown to the top.  He said there were five.

Step by step… 4.

Inch by inch… 3.

Moving forward… 2… but… that was it!  We were on the last smooth slope to the top!  I could see the prayer flags streaming out in the glowing, evening light!

And then, it was done!  I’d made it back to the top of Hope Pass for the second time!  The fourth great beast… the biggest, gnarliest beast was finished!

We crested the hill and began the descent.  And I was transformed!  I was ready to run again!

Luke very, very wisely had me slow my roll a bit, just to get my legs and muscles used to the change in motion.  So, we held on for a bit, but we were moving downhill again!

Soon, though, we were really running.  55+ miles into this thing and we were running.  That felt so, so good.  We came up on the Hopeless aid station once again, and Luke got me some soup and noodles while I filled a bit of water.

Back from the dead... Running again!

Back from the dead… Running again at the top of Hope Pass!

A quick stop and we were cruising again.  After eating a bit, I felt better once again and we started flying.  Passing people, picking them off a few at a time.

And suddenly, there was Joey and Chris again!  We had a good bit of chatting with them for a few minutes, and then we were off.  Running downhill, as I’ve shared, really is one of my favorite things, and with the fading light, we wanted to take advantage as much as we could.

As we entered the trees, night fell fully and we donned our headlamps.  We were still moving better than most others we were encountering, so we were carefully passing people when the trail allowed.  There are sections that are simply too technical and rocky to move very quickly, though, so we chose our passes well.

Meanwhile, back at Twin Lakes, Sara is ready for action!

Meanwhile, back at Twin Lakes, Sara is ready for action!

The change from just one hour before was astounding.  There’s an old saying in ultras: “It never always gets worse.”  And it hadn’t.  I had come back from the brink.

Soon enough we were down to the base of the climb, and we were onto the flat field (which had become a swamp) where the only water crossing that had turned into seven water crossings was to be found.  I gave Luke my pack and sent him ahead to run into the aid station to let them know I was close and to begin repacking things for the next stage of the race.

With night fully set in, and the air temperature dropping, that water felt twice as cold now as it had hours earlier in the heat of the afternoon.  And upon exiting the second crossing I had to pee sooooo bad… amazing how cold, cold water does that!  And I also believe there were some Seinfeld jokes with other runners about shrinkage.

After making our way through the water, and then through the stinky muck, I jogged/ walked my way through the last mile back into Twin Lakes… to a hug and kiss from my wife and into the helping, loving care of the #WCE.

Attempting to touch my own feet.

Attempting to touch my own feet.

 

Failing to touch my own feet, resolving to let Melanie and Trenton help...

Failing to touch my own feet, resolving to let Melanie and Trenton help…

We had planned for this to be the longest stop of the race, where I would clean up from the water crossings, change shoes and socks and get geared up for the long night ahead.  I sat in a chair to tend to my feet, and oddity of oddities, when I tried to actually touch my feet, my leg just went kind of crazy and started locking up on me!

I was trying to deal with a massive, massive blisters on my left heel, but I just couldn’t get to my own leg.  And here, I was introduced to the brand newest member of the #WCE, Trenton Kennedy aka Dolphin.  Trenton is an “ultra-curious” friend of Luke’s who wanted to come out and see what this was all about and suddenly, he’s helping me pop a blister and apply super glue to my disgusting, beat to hell after 60 mile stanky feet.

(Also, Joey and Chris came in very quickly after Luke and I arrived and then they were out ahead of us!  Amazing!)

A thousand words...

A thousand words…

Sara was closely watching the clock.  We were now approaching 9:30, a full hour later than my anticipated 8:30, and dangerously close to the 9:45 cutoff time.

I changed clothes, added layers, got fresh batteries, stocked up on food and water and we were about to leave.  Someone asked if I wanted any éclairs, which are a favorite of mine during an ultra, and so I said “YES!” because I was so glad to be able to eat something.

And with Sara’s strong encouragement and reminders of the time, we were done with this aid stop.

We made our way out of the #WCE camp, across the highway and into the actual aid station, where someone asked if I wanted noodles… and again, I said “YES!” because I was so glad to be able to eat something, to actually want to eat something.

This seemingly simple little innocuous would turn out to be not so innocuous.

Suddenly, Sara appeared again with Joey’s bib.  We took it figuring we’d catch up to them shortly… and so we made our way up the short, steep hill out of Twin Lakes and on to meet the fifth beast of the day… the climb out of Twin Lakes…

Elevation Profile - The Beasts

Elevation Profile – The Beasts

The 2014 Leadville Trail 100, Part 3

(This is Part 3 of my Leadville Trail 100 race story.  Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here if you want to catch up! Also, I’m verbose. I hope I don’t lose those of you who’ve read these so far!)

Rolling into Outward Bound (24.5) and onto Treeline Crew access (29.5)

I saw Emily (aka Pandora) first. Well, actually, I heard her before I saw her.  She was out at the road, just at the turn off before the aid station.  She cheered and yelled and I let her know that Joey (aka Oso) was not far behind.  She, in turn, notified me where the rest of the #WCE was set up…

As I turned onto the dirt driveway into the aid station, I saw Sarah (aka Lynx) as reports were being shouted back and forth and the crew was springing into action.  I gave her my pack with instructions about food and a notification that I would definitely NOT be eating the breakfast burritos Melanie (aka Golden Retriever) had carried up the mountain from Santiagos in Arvada a couple days before, and that she had carefully and lovingly heated up for me that morning… because all I could consider eating at that point was gels.  But, in glancing at the aid station table, I saw watermelon, and I can always eat watermelon. Always.

Chomping watermelon, drinking Sprite

Chomping watermelon, drinking Sprite

Lynx trotted ahead as I chomped watermelon and grabbed a big handful of extra gels.  If gels were all I was going to be able to eat while running, I had better make sure I had enough…

I hustled over to the crew area and the #WCE was in full effect.  My niece Chelsey (aka Marmot and the newest member of the #WCE) asked me my series of questions I needed asked at every stop (Nasal spray? Eye drops? Antacids? And something else, I can’t remember but seemed really important when I asked her to ask me the night before as we were packing and planning…). Lynx helped with sunscreen, Golden Retriever refilled bottles and managed my pack… it was organized chaos for a few moments and I was off again…

The #WCE has ultra-crewing completely dialed in.

And some of you may be asking yourselves, what’s with the “aka’s” and this weird hashtag WCE thing?  It’s kind of hard to explain… A club?  A family? A community? A cult?  All of the above?

Some of the #WCE

Some of the #WCE

The #WCE is a group of people that have loosely gathered around this idea of shared struggle and the celebration of effort and achievement.  The name is an inside joke that would take some time to explain, and would really not be that funny.  #WCE is short for “hashtag Worst Crew Ever” and it is exactly not the worst crew ever.

The #WCE is an assemblage of some of the best people I’ve known.  I love them all very, very much.

And to make your envy complete, we all have “spirit animal” names, too.  I’m Grey Fox.

Any ultramarathon is such an undertaking that it becomes a team sport, and the #WCE has seen me through every one… Today would be no different.  I would simply not be able to attempt Leadville with them…

I was filled with such gratitude and at every station I thanked them and told them that I loved them, because they could have all be doing something much more fun than watching a pasty white middle aged man shuffle through the mountains.  These friends and family sacrificed their time and energy and sleep to see me through.  It’s an overwhelming gift.

With their support, I was on my way, and I was working to re-hydrate and re-fuel after having been out of water for so long.  But, it seemed that no damage was done and I was feeling good.

This year, the race was re-routed off of a road section and across the property of Outward Bound, which sounds awesome, but was actually pretty terrible.  The course was not routed along a path or gravel road, but ran directly across a cow pasture.  I don’t know when was the last time you made your way across a cow pasture, but let’s just say it’s not conducive to moving quickly.  They’re filled with ankle-endangering holes and rough, uneven and uncertain terrain.  It was absolutely treacherous and took great concentration to not snap one’s lower leg.

But mercifully, it was a short section and I was soon back out along the road.

In a quirk of how the course is laid out, the next stop for crew access was only 5 miles from Outward Bound, and as the #WCE drove by me, the snapped this pic, one of my favorite on the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was super sunny, but not overly hot.  It was turning out to be an absolutely glorious day.

A turn off the road, onto a gravel path for a short bit, another turn or two and I was at the Treeline crew access, which is just an open field where your crew can meet you.

Getting help at Treeline

Getting help at Treeline

I learned that Joey was moving well and was only a few minutes behind me, and I also learned that Becki was crushing it, flying along WAY ahead of me.  Great news on both counts.

We took a bit of extra time here, as I wouldn’t see them for another 10 or 11 miles.  Sunscreen applied, pack packed, drinks drank and I was on my way, once again.

Treeline (29.5) to Twin Lakes (40)

But essentially, I’m not thinking of a thing
All I do is keep on running in my own, cozy, homemade void
My own nostalgic silence
And this is pretty wonderful thing
No matter what anybody else says

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I heard this quote this summer, as I listened to this book on my commutes to and from work, and I had to stop the play back, rewind a bit and listen again and again, and then making into a note on my phone so I could come back to it later.

Heading out of Treeline to Twin Lakes

Heading out of Treeline to Twin Lakes

Murakami perfectly sums up those certain beautiful, glorious moments where the world simplifies into self-locomotion.  It’s one of my favorite aspects of this sport… that everything is boiled down to simply getting from point A to point B.  Such simplicity is beautiful and creates a space for thoughts to come and go freely, or not at all.  It’s wonderful.

I moved through most of this section alone like this… occasionally striking up conversation or sharing and receiving encouraging words from other runners.  The vast numbers of runners seeking to get back to Leadville means that you’re never actually far from others at any time during the race.

But here, for a while, I experienced these wonderful things: movement, beauty, mountains, effort, glory, difficulty, struggle, internal silence, nostalgia, memory, anticipation, hope…

And then I began to be aware again that it was getting hard.  Like, really hard.  I realized that we’d been going up and up and up for a while.  It wasn’t steep… well, occasionally steep, but mostly gradual.  Up.  And it was beginning to take its toll.  I began to feel just kind of terrible.

I’d fallen into something of a conga line with half a dozen or so other runners, as the gravel road we’d been on narrowed into trail.  We must have been somewhere around the 35-36 mile mark and I was right on schedule with my feedings and my water intake was good, but I was in a real low patch. But, I was in a line with people who were moving strong, so we kept making our way.  Blah.

This stretch of trail runs through stunningly beautiful aspen forests and the crisp, cobalt blue sky peeked through the shimmering leaves, dappling the sunlight hither and yon.

If you’re going to feel awful, there’s really no better place to do so…

At 3 miles out from Twin Lakes, around mile 37, we finally came to the top of the hill, ending the long, slow climb up from Treeline.  The last 7 miles had all been up: sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes dramatically, but it was all up, and I felt it.  But, the second of the day’s six great beasts had been slain.

Now, we got to go down and I absolutely love going downhill!!  Soon, my low patch faded and I felt great as we made the rather extreme descent into Twin Lakes.  It was good to run hard again for a bit!

Coming through Twin Lakes

Coming through Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes during the Leadville Trail 100 is really something.  The usually sleepy little town is transformed into an endurance athletics mecca as hundreds of runners and their crews cram the streets along the course.  There’s music, cheering, shouting, yelling, whistling, hooting and hollering.  There are dogs and kids and strollers and wagons and carts and coolers and tents and shelters.

After being inside one’s own head for a couple of hours, it’s all a bit much to take in!

I made my way through the aid station, grabbed more watermelon and another handful of gels and headed through the streets to where I knew the #WCE camp was to be found.  Twin Lakes is our longest “base camp” of the day, as the crew sets up there to see us runners through outbound and then waits for us to return inbound.  All in all, I believe our camp is set up for around 8 hours or so in Twin Lakes on race day.

Ultramarathons take a long time.

The #WCE helping and cheering.  Note the lump of cheese bread in my hand.  I ate like 4 bites, then donated it to the birds...

The #WCE helping and cheering. Note the lump of cheese bread in my hand. I ate like 4 bites, then donated it to the birds…

Once again the #WCE was in full effect, loading my pack, feeding me, cleaning me, entertaining me, cheering for me, encouraging me, and most of all, loving me.  It’s so humbling.

And once again, despite the low patch I’d felt, I was spot on for my projected times for the day. It was 1:00 pm.  I’d been on my feet, moving through the mountains for 9 hours. I’d covered 40 miles.

Now, it was time to attack the third great beast on the day: Hope Pass.

Twin Lakes (40) to the top of Hope Pass (45)

The first mile and a half out of Twin Lakes is across a flat field and brings you to what is supposed to be the only water crossing for the race.  But, this year’s high snowfall and plentiful rains meant that flat field had been turned into mostly stinky, mucky marsh, and then the one water crossing was extended into 6 or 7 water crossings over the space of a quarter mile or so.

So, that was awesome.

The town of Twin Lakes sits at 9,200’ above sea level, which is the lowest point on the course.  Hope Pass sits at 12,620’ above sea level.  And subtracting the flat mile and a half out of Twin Lakes, that means we had to climb 3420’ in the space of 3.5 miles.  That means an average slope angle of 18%.  But, there are long sections of trail where it is significantly less than 18%, which means there are also sections of trail where it is significantly steeper than 18%.

For reference, think about that big, long, sloping drive up out of Denver into the mountains… there, the slope never exceeds 7%.

But, I knew this.  I accounted for this in my training.  I worked at long, slow, arduous climbing.  I worked at power hiking my way uphill as efficiently as possible.

And I had read from others that the best strategy was to find and hold a pace that was just quick enough to make me work and just slow enough to keep me from needing to stop and catch my breath.  Forward progress.  Keep moving.  Don’t stop.

And so after clearing my shoes of the massive amount of sandy gravel accumulated from the water crossings, I got started and I didn’t stop. I hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked.  I ate when I needed to and drank often.  But, I kept going, up and up and up and up and up.

There’s not much to say about this other than it is really freaking hard.

Well, there are a couple of things to note.  One, race leader Rob Krar came FLYING by me on his way back towards Leadville, where he would be crowned champion in the second fastest time ever.  It is astounding to see how fast those leaders roll through the miles.  So cool.

It was also massively encouraging to see Matt Trappe just below the Hopeless Aid Station.  Matt had hiked up to the top to shoot the race for New Balance and his encouragement was a great boost as I was slogging my way up.

Hopeless Aid Station is a fascinating place, too.  Crazy people pack all the aid station supplies up to nearly 12,000’ or so on the backs of Llamas.  So, there are tents and volunteers and llamas everywhere.  It’s kind of awesome.  I topped up a bit of water and kept moving.

PSA to any and all that attempt Leadville: Beware of Hopeless Aid Station.  It’s kind of awesome, but it’s also kind of treacherous.  You’re going to feel awful because you’re 40+ miles into an ultramarathon and you’re at 12,000’ and so it may seem like a good idea to stop.  It’s NOT!  It’s a TERRIBLE idea.  Because you’re up so high, you’re never going to feel better up there.  The only way to feel better is to get DOWN to a lower elevation.  At 12,000’ a single breath only delivers 40% of the oxygen as at sea level.  There’s no way to feel “great” at 12,000’ apart from significant acclimatization.  So GET DOWN!

So, since we in the #WCE have all drilled that into one another’s heads, I moved on out, and the only way to get down is to continue up and surprisingly soon I was at the top of Hope Pass!  The third of the six great beasts was done.  There were volunteers manning the timing station, underneath strings of Nepali prayer flags.  The gulch below stretched out before me.  It was glorious.

But I only recognized this on a vaguely intellectual level.  I knew it was beautiful, but, I couldn’t quite take it all in… I had to get down to Winfield, to the turn around where Luke (aka Wapiti) was waiting to haul me back up and over this hill once again…

IMG_0993

 

Night is falling, and still the #WCE waits...

Night is falling, and still the #WCE waits…

The 2014 Leadville Trail 100, Part 2

(This is Part 2 of my Leadville Trail 100 race story.  Part 1 is here if you want to catch up! Also, I’m verbose.)

Pre-Race Prep

Pre-Race Prep

For the last couple of weeks before the race, I had been running and living somewhat scared… of anything that might derail my race.  I was afraid of torqueing an ankle or breaking a leg while running and afraid of catching some sort of cold or flu or monkey virus.  After months and months and months of focus, it was nerve wracking to be so close to the start line.

And overall my training had gone quite well.  There were a few niggling injury issues that cropped up here and there, but some rest and a few treatments from the chiropractor, the masseuse and the acupuncturist had kept me going.  I had put in the time and I rolled into Leadville on Saturday morning ready to go.  I had made it to the start line healthy, and that’s the first huge hurdle of completing an ultra.

Eggs scrambled with bacon, my current fav pre-race meal!

Eggs scrambled with bacon, my current fav pre-race meal!

The morning of the race Joe Bearss (my summer running bro-mance… we shared hotels and tents and races and experiences. I love that we got to have this summer running together!), Emily (his crew chief for the day and mutual loved one) and Pam (Emily’s Mom) picked me up in Frisco, and at 3:00 we were off.  That’s AM. It’s so early it’s dumb.  It’s so early it hurts.  Why they think starting this race at 4:00 am is a good idea is beyond me.

Anyway, we headed to Becki’s place (she’s an amazing LeadWoman participant who ended up finishing 2nd overall in the LeadWoman standings and 4th woman overall in the LT100 run!!).  And glory upon glory, we made it there in time for me to evacuate the system properly before walking to the starting line. Victory #1 on the day.

Me, Joey and Becki at the start!

Me, Joey and Becki at the start!

I’m thrilled with the fact that we timed it all just right… we strolled up to the starting line in time for a couple of pictures, hugs for our friends and loved ones, then the national anthem, and then a big ass shotgun gets fired to send us off to our collective fates…

(For the remainder, I’ll be breaking the race down from Aid Station to Aid Station)

Start to Mayqueen (Mile 13.5)

The Leadville Trail 100 is the largest 100 miler in the USA, even with scaling back the number of entrants after last year’s debacle (side note for ultra-nerds: This year was awesome. Leadville is back.).  So, Joey and I found our selves trotting along about 2/3 back with nearly 800 souls.

It was such an ethereal, surreal feeling, to finally be embarking on this journey, with hundreds of headlights bobbing along in the dark, stringing out both before and behind.  We were on our way.

After several minutes, Joey’s GPS watch beeped, signaling the passing of the first mile, and he murmured, “I got 99 problems…” And that was soon followed by, “We’re out of the triple digits!”

Hilarious.

Do yourself a favor and run a race with El Oso some time.  He is, quite simply, the best.

The first five miles are on gravel roads, and were dispatched uneventfully. We then made our way up a short pitch to begin running the trail around Turquoise Lake.  Because of the large number of entrants, and since it’s still early and everyone’s still bunched together, it’s a bit of a conga line around the lake, with lots of position shuffling and passing and people stopping to pee and passing again and on and on and on.  But, all in all it was fine.

Headlamps around Turquoise Lake

Joey and I were separated by one of those pee stops (the first of a zillion on the day…) and as I caught up to him again a couple miles later, he looked like a trained seal flapping its flippers.  When I approached and called his name, he looked at me with a rush of relief and asked me to help clasp his hydration pack again… in the 40-degree morning air, his gloveless fingers (oops) had gone wonky and he was having severe trouble trying to re-engage the clasps after getting into his pack for food.  And then he had tried to run without it being connected.  I don’t know if you’ve tried running in a hydration pack with it disconnected, but the effect may be akin to the females of our species running without appropriate support.  There’s jostling.  There’s bouncing.  There are strange noises.  And it’s wildly uncomfortable.  So, needless to say, Joey was glad to see me.

It finally became light enough for us to run without headlamps as we drew near to Mayqueen.  But, unfortunately, even though I had evacuated my system prior to the race, I was now being chased down by a big brown bear, if you know what I mean. (I just head that joke today and fell in love with that euphemism.)  So, I let Joey go as I stopped into one of the Mayqueen campground’s facilities.  With the appropriate products applied to all the potentially troublesome spots, I continued on into the aid stop, filled my hydration pack and was on my way again.

I had given myself 2:40 to get there and even with the brown bear battle, I was right on time.

Perfect.

Mayqueen (13.5) to Outward Bound (24.5)

Heading out of Mayqueen one encounters the first of six great beasts to slay on the day.   This first climb is about 5 miles long and gains 1200’ or so to the top of Sugarloaf pass, and then there’s a descent of 3 miles or so down the “Powerline” to the road, and another mile or so to the aid station.

It was still early enough that there were plenty of people bunched up on the trails, and I was feeling good and climbing well, so I actually began passing a number of people, hopscotching along the single-track trail.  I caught Joey here again a mile and a half out of Mayqueen and passed him again with his blessing and encouragement.

The trail pops out onto Hagerman Pass road, a smooth and sweet dirt road and I was feeling so great that I even jogged quite a bit of this section, and I don’t really do that on uphill segments.  But, it was race day, so why not!

Someone else’s picture of Hagerman Pass road, just for your reference of the glorious nature of this course…

The sun was out, and it was getting a bit warm, even at this early hour.  I was eating and drinking pretty well, but was beginning to sense some rebellion to harder, firmer foods.  It was becoming apparent that I was only going to be able to do GU’s today.

And that’s a good segue to have a word about fueling during these events… back at the 40-minute mark of the race, I began my feedings.  The plan, the ideal, is that every 20 minutes, I need to take on 20-30 grams of carbs (according to my size/ weight).  I subscribe to a “central governor” theory of fueling, that basically says, your central nervous system needs a steady supply of carbs to keep functioning properly, centrally governing the rest of the body into keeping going.  If you drop below that threshold, you “bonk” and feel terrible and things stop working properly.  In our little crew of friends, we’ve proven this theory over and again and at UROC last year, I never really did bonk during my 19 hours because every 20 minutes I sucked down a GU.  By the end, I friggin’ HATED GU’s but it got the job done.

Today, the plan was originally that Melanie, my beloved Crew Chief, was going to pop a breakfast burrito in my hands once I got to Outward Bound, but… I was already really not feeling like eating anything solid. At the moment though, that wasn’t a problem because I could suck down GU’s just fine.

(Literary note… this is foreshadowing.  If there were a musical score, the notes would have just turned dark and ominous and minor for a moment…)

So, I kept climbing, drinking chatting with people, asking how they were doing, answering the same question in return.

At this point, I had been going for almost 4 hours, and I had a thought… a thought that I had to immediately dispatch and then keep far from my mind…

A thought that went something like this: “Okay, 4 hours down, just 25 more hours to go…”

Blurgh.  Holy moly.  Heebie-jeebies.

You just can’t do that.  You cannot go that place and think that way.  You just can’t.

I think that the only way to get through something of this magnitude is to stay present to the moment, to keep in the here and now and take care of what’s in front of you.  So, I chased that thought away, and began to try and stay present in the moment.

A moment in which I suddenly found myself running out of water, with at least half an hour or more until I made it to the next aid station.

Ummmm.

We had crested the top of Sugarloaf pass and were beginning a bombing descent down rough terrain, and I knew I only had a few sips left.  I could tell by how my pack felt and by how air was entering the tube…

What was I going to do?  I needed water to keep sucking down GU’s.  And I was well past time for a feeding.

I kept bombing down the tricky, tech-y trail and kept moving quick, figuring that I needed to get to the aid station as fast as possible.  But, that put me on knife-edge… higher intensity meant higher need for fuel and water.

Was I going to blow up this early, not even one quarter of the way into the race?

Someone else’s picture of PowerLine

I finally swallowed my pride and asked out loud towards the few runners nearby if they had any water they could spare… Thankfully, a trail angel let me take a couple of swigs off one of her bottles and that kept me going.  Then, once I got to the bottom of the hill and onto the brief road section, I was able to grab another couple of swigs of water from some spectators.  I was close enough now that I knew I’d be okay until meeting up with my crew.

After navigating the tricky rocks and gullies of the Powerline, it sort of felt good to have a brief road section.  It felt good to have smooth ground.  It was nice to look around… WHAM!!!

I went down like I’d been shot.  All those rocks and roots and gullies, I was fine.  5 minutes on asphalt and I went down on a little uneven section where the road had been repaired.  Good grief.

But, it was minor. Just a scrape on the left hand, and nothing crushed inside my pack.  No harm, no foul, just the humiliation of hearing some runners behind talking about the fall.

I came around the corner and saw that the aid station was a full half-mile or so further down the road than I had been expecting, since it had changed locations from the previous year.  Grrr.

And then I ran along with Bill.  Bill Finkbeiner.  Bill freaking “I’ve run Leadville 30 years in a row” Finkbeiner.  Incredible.  Last year, when he passed the 30 year mark they gave him a special 30 year buckle the size of a Honda Civic.  And I had the chance to run with him a bit… so cool.

But, Bill wasn’t doing well.  He had a hitch in his giddy-up from a bad left knee.  He had already struggled with getting ready for the race and wasn’t confident in his training, and then just a week or so previous he’d messed up his knee a bit.  He told me he had ultra-LEGEND Ann Trason waiting to pace him at Twin Lakes, but he wasn’t sure if he’d make it there ahead of the cutoffs.  He wasn’t quitting.  He doesn’t quit.  But, he was pretty sure he was getting behind.  So, while it was cool to chat with a living legend around Leadville, it was kind of a bummer to see him struggle, too.

The Outward Bound aid station, with Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert as a backdrop. Spectacular.

The Outward Bound aid station, with Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert as a backdrop. Spectacular.

I checked my watch, again, and found that I was rolling into Outward Bound just a little ahead of my planned time…  I had made it through running out of water and was good to go.

I would now have my crew supporting me the rest of the way. (To Be Continued…)

Into Outward Bound, right on time, munching on watermelon and Sprite...

Into Outward Bound, right on time, munching on watermelon and Sprite…

The 2014 Leadville Trail 100, Part 1

It’s not exactly hot, but the sun is unrelenting at 10,000 feet, so it ain’t cool.

It’s somewhere around 5:00 pm and the medical professional staffing the med tent is asking me about the tightness in my chest… which is a little bit funny, because who’s chest wouldn’t be tight after 50 mountain miles topping out at 12,600’ in elevation?

But, I’m in the med tent because even though I’ve been eating and drinking well and still moving along at a good clip, I felt like hell, and I was a wee bit worried.

I explain that the tightness had gotten more significant over the last hour or so, causing my breathing to be a bit shallow, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t dealing with HAPE.

The very top of Hope Pass at 12,600', right before it drops precipitously down, down, down (and then up a bit) into Winfield

The very top of Hope Pass at 12,600′, right before it drops precipitously down, down, down (and then up a bit) into Winfield

HAPE, or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, is a potentially serious/ deadly accumulation of fluid in the lungs, afflicting people dumb enough to spend extended time at altitude.  The symptoms for HAPE are, unfortunately, also the exact symptoms of hauling oneself around the mountains as quickly as one can… shortness and shallowness of breath, high pulse rate, weakness or decreased performance, nausea, lack of appetite, thirst… general malaise.

And I must confess that I stepped into the med tent here at Winfield, (the mining ghost town that represents the 50 mile turn around of the Leadville 100 Trail Run) essentially hoping that I DID, in fact, have HAPE, so I could have a justifiable, honorable reason for ending this suffering.  If I had HAPE, no one would question my stopping here.  I would be pulled from the race with a serious medical condition and I’d still be applauded and congratulated robustly for my effort, my resolve, my blah, blah, blah…

Whatever.  I just wanted to be done.

So, they slapped a pulse oximeter on me, to quickly and easily report the amount of oxygen my blood was carrying.  I was hoping for a low number… like a golf score, indicating HAPE. They also started taking my blood pressure.

Luke Giltner, my ultra-friend that Ben and I met exactly 3 years previous and planned pacer for the next 27+ miles, and Deanna Adami, my friend from seminary and former LeadWoman, watched on in concern.  I’d told them how I was feeling as I came shuffling into Winfield.  They said I looked good, which just a little annoying.

BING. The test was done. (I don’t actually know if the pulse ox device made that sound, but it’s nice for effect…)

The device read 96%, which is perfectly and amazingly healthy, and my blood pressure was also spot on.

The (tremendous, kind, generous, helpful, sensitive, concerned and awesome) medical professionals explained that it was probably some sort of exercise induced asthma, exacerbated by breathing trail dust, etc, etc.  They debated for a moment about having me do some sort of an inhaler, and then decided against it.

Ultimately, the reality was that I was free to go.

Son of a… That meant that I’d have to keep moving.

The thing is… up until the last hour or so, things had gone incredibly well…

(To be continued…)

At mile 25.5, when it was going well...

At mile 25.5, when it was going well…

White Ranch Run 6.5.2014

6.34 miles. 1:22:10
1400′ vert
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140605-1838.”target=”_blank”

Pretty easy outing overall, but body is carrying some fatigue. Knee felt a little loose/ sloppy. Time to start resting towards LT26.2.

Glad I was paying attention at one point because the herd of 6 or 8 mountain bikers flying down the trail sure weren’t.

Gorgeous evening and lots of runners out. Most I’ve seen. Found out it was the Denver Trail Runners club. 6:15 every Thursday apparently, but at various parks around town. Met a dude doing the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning! Fair play to you, brother. .

20140605-203733-74253993.jpg

Updating in a Mobile Fashion

So, for some time I’ve wondered about using a mobile app to update this blog. And so, now, here we go!

It’ll be a bit of time to really feel out the app to see what it’s capable of…

Here’s a picture from a run the other morning!

20140605-140756-50876174.jpg

This is on the way up Belcher Hill at White Ranch Open Space in Jeffco, looking back east.

So. Let’s see how this goes when I post it!

#LT100 Training Update – Week(s) Ending May 11, 2014

The source of my angst.

The source of my angst.

May 12 - 8:34 PM

And just like that, it’s been a month since I’ve updated!  Aaaacck.

But, one of the main reasons I’ve not posted is that I’ve been discouraged because I’ve been battling (unsuccessfully) a sore knee.  Internet research and anecdotal evidence seems to point to Patellar Tendonitis, aka “Runner’s Knee.”

I had a long, flat “fast” run that started the issue off, followed by a week of “strength” training, pulling a tire, that moved it from “discomfort” to “pain.”  So, I’ve rested a bit, done a bit too much, and am now resting more.

I’ll confess that it’s so hard a) to actually admit that there’s a problem and b) STOP running to do something about it.  We’re such strange creatures.  We hurt but we try to push on like nothing’s wrong… because sometimes nothing actually IS wrong.

 

Me, with Christoper McDougall, who wrote a little book you may have heard of, and Scott Jurek.

Me, with Christoper McDougall (of “Born to Run” fame) and Scott Jurek. I got to run (read: huff and puff and hike slowly uphill) with Scott while he told stories. It was incredible. It was also really cool of him to laugh and/ or look bored while he waited for my slow ass to chug up the trail.

Several years ago, in a Q&A with ultra-legend Scott Jurek, I asked his opinion on when to keep running and when to stop and rest… His answer actually appears above. He stated that he’s had to learn the difference between discomfort and pain.

I love this differentiation, this designation because it is very personal.  Quantifying pain on a scale of 1-10 is always hard for me, but for whatever reason, this description of the difference between discomfort and pain is incredibly helpful to me.

And, I believe it might be helpful in other areas of life… maybe in dealing with things like grief or depression?  Hmmmm…

Anyway, here’s a brief recap of the training… and this is long and boring.  If you can get through this, you’ve got what it takes to do an ultra.

Monday, 4.14 – Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.15 -7.06 miles @ To Pomona High School, Track Workout, Then Home
Jogged over to the high school, then did 4 miles worth of “speed work,” meaning hard on the straights and recovery on the curves.  Then jogged home.  Was still super sore from The North Face workout.  Felt pretty funky.

Wednesday, 4.16 – Cross Training 4 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Still so sore.  4 miles on elliptical machine.  Core and upper body circuits between.

Thursday, 4.17 – Massage!
Had a great massage at Denver Integrative Massage School.  Postponed run until Friday morning to fully benefit from massage.

Sun rising on the Flat Irons in the distance, with Standley Lake in the fore.

Sun rising on the Flat Irons in the distance, with Standley Lake in the fore.

Friday, 4.18 – 6.14 miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140418-0605?r=d

Did this run early, to make it as close to Thursday as possible. So rough to get out of bed, but got it done. Felt okay by end.

Saturday, 4.19 – 20 miles on Big Dry Creek bike path
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140419-1711?r=d

Did this run as late in the day on Saturday as possible, to allow maximum rest from Friday morning.  By far the fastest I’ve ever covered this distance.  Pushed pretty hard the whole time.  Also, used “home made” food as fuel, which was AWESOME.  I have more to share about THAT later…

Sunday, 4.20 – 2.6 miles walking around neighborhood
Leisurely walk around with friends/ fan for Easter!  Super-fun day, taking it easy after hard effort yesterday

Monday 4.21 – Rest Day!

IMG_2018Tuesday 4.22 – 6.89 miles Tire Pull @ Arvada Reservoir
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140422-1815?r=d

First hints of knee pain.  Pushed through.  Used this as a chance to scout out Arvada res for fishing!

Wednesday 4.23 – Cross Training – 3.41 miles @ The Pond
Jogged out and back from house, then did TNF Mountain Athletics Core and Upper Body Circuit, Repeat.  Made my own sandbags and pull-up bar.  Pretty friggin awesome. And exhausting.

Thursday 4.24 – 7.35 miles Tire Pull @ Standley Lake and Surrounding “Hood
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140424-0543?r=d

My note in Runmeter was simply “Tired.”  Also, my knee was beginning to bug me, too.  It’s funny to write this all out and see the downward spiral I was in for these several days.  Just getting beat down.

 

Elevation profile of Table Mountain Double.

Elevation profile of Table Mountain Double.

4.25 – Rest Day!

 

4.26 – Early Afternoon: 8.02 miles Table Mountain Double Cross Tire Pull
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140426-1342?r=d

Knee didn’t feel great to start and got worse.  Had to straight up stop and hobble a couple of times.  Also, didn’t eat enough and it was hot, so I got a bit bonky.  And, I spooked two different horses with the strange sound of the tire dragging the gravel.  That was a bit strange…

Went to Bryce Boyer’s 40th birthday party, had some good food and time with friends and then planned on going back out for another 16 miles with the tire.

 

This is what I look like with that stupid tire...

This is what I look like with that stupid tire…

Night time: 4.55 miles Up and Down Green Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140426-2136?r=d

Shut it down after one lap because my knee felt terrible.  Finally realized that if a friend was telling me about their knee feeling like mine did, I’d tell them to stop running and rest.  So, I did.  Sigh.

4.27 – Cross Training 4 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Usual routine of elliptical and core and upper body.  Knee felt terrible bending over for exercises, etc.  But elliptical didn’t hurt it, so that’s good.

4.28 – Rest Day!

4.29 – Massage! 1 Hour
Another visit to DIMS, but this time was worked on by ultra/ trail runner Salynda Fleury, who won the Pikes Peak marathon a couple of years ago and who’s placed top 10 twice at Run Rabbit Run 100!  But, it was her first time giving a massage and she’s got a bit of work to do… It was still great, though.

4.30 – “Swim” @ Apex Rec Center
Got in the pool and flopped around a bit.  My efforts in water are frankly pretty pathetic but it was something to do that had no impact on legs…

5.1 – 6.27 “miles” on elliptical at Apex Rec Center
Put in an hour on the elliptical, which was fine on the knee, but that’s pretty rough to just do nothing but swing your legs around indoors for an hour.

5.2 – Rest Day!

5.3 – Morning: 2.88 Miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140503-1259?r=d

Went out to test the knee a bit.  Felt stiff for first half mile, but then felt quite good!  Was so excited!

Then went out to Ryan Kliewer’s party to celebrate his becoming a fireman.  So very proud of his sustained effort and patience through pursuing that process.  Very, very cool.

Evening: 6.62 miles @ Standley Lake
http://www.dailymile.com/people/GaryA3/entries/28533874

Over did it on the knee.  Had to walk it in the last mile or so.  Sigh.

5.4 – 2 miles while fishing
Headed down to fish the legendary Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch on the Arkansas River.  Caught a few, but the hatch was a bit of a bust.  Set back the knee a bit more with some scrambling around over and around rocks and up steep banks.  It was so great to spend time with my old friend, Paul Egy, and to do something non-running related.  Felt really good to be out in the mountains!

5.5 – Rest Day!

5.6 – Morning: 3.02 miles @ Standley Lake – Knee Tester
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140506-0538?r=d

Went out early in the morning, knee was not good.  Had to walk the mile and a half back in to home.

Evening: 5 “miles” on elliptical @ Apex Rec Center
Blurgh. Just getting it done, but discouraged about knee.  Didn’t hurt but didn’t feel great.

5.7 – Cross Training 4 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Usual routine of a mile on elliptical, followed by core and upper body circuit, repeat.

5.8 – Extra Rest Day
Felt crappy, like I was getting sick.  Took an extra day for the knee.

5.9 – Rest Day!

5.10 – Morning: 1/2 mile doing yard work, over course of 3 hours or so.
Knee felt okay, but just okay.  Good to get some yard work done, though!!

 

Here's another pic of me with Scott Jurek.  I mean, guys... we're essentially "besties."

Here’s another pic of me with Scott Jurek. I mean, guys… we’re essentially “besties.”

Evening: 14.5 “miles” on elliptical @ Apex
Just feeling like I HAVE to get some extended exercise in to try and keep up fitness.  Got to rec center a little late, but was still able to do 2:22 worth of training.  Did 3.33 miles, then walked a bit, just to loosen up and break up the monotony, repeat over and again.  Pushed the pace and worked hard on this, though.  So, in many ways it felt quite good.

5.11 – 18 “miles” on elliptical @ Apex
Thankful for a long Talk Ultra Podcast to listen to, because that’s the longest I’ve ever been in a rec center at one time… went at a bit slower pace today, as it was the second half of a “back to back” for the weekend.  A good, long sustained effort.  Makes me feel like maybe I’m not losing ALL of my fitness as I wait for my knee to come around.

———————————–

Overall a crazy month.  I ran faster than I ever have, and then… blurgh.  But, it was great to end with a strong back to back Saturday and Sunday.  I did the equivalent of a 50k and over 5 and a half hours of training over 2 days.

I swear, I’m committing to NOT running until my knee has felt GREAT for at least a week.  I have GOT to get this thing under control.  Too many big goals at stake!

#LT100 Training Update – Week Ending April 13, 2014

With our new bestie, Hal Koerner...

With our new bestie, Hal Koerner…

April 14 – 8:20 PM

Last week, I described how I’ve been training through weekly cycles… this week was a Recovery Week and I fully enjoyed it.  Here’s what the training looked like…

Monday, 4.7 – Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.8 – 6.05 miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140408-1810?r=d

We now live very close to a large reservoir called Standley Lake, and up to this point I’ve only run around the gravel roads below the dam.  But finally, the single track trails actually around the lake were dry and it was a blast to explore some new areas around our home.  An absolutely beautiful evening that inspired a bit of prose… Legs felt a bit heavy from last week’s effort, and I only intended to do 5 miles, but it was just so glorious out that I had to keep going!

Trails around Standley Lake

Trails around Standley Lake

Wednesday, 4.9 – Cross Training 2.5 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Pretty easy going, low impact effort on the legs but worked the core and upper body a little harder.

Thursday, 4.10 – EXTRA Rest Day!
Have just felt pretty beat down, so I took an extra rest day and I’m so glad I did!

Friday, 4.11 – Rest Day!
2 in a row! Hasn’t happened in a long while…

Saturday, 4.12 – 3 Runs/ Workouts

#1: 2.5 miles @ Wash Park
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140412-0645?r=d

Saw on the social medias that ultra-legend Hal Koerner was going to run at Wash Park in the morning and that if anyone wanted to join him… So I went stalking… I mean, erm… uh… looking for him but didn’t find him, so I just did one lap and called it good.  Not a huge fan of that park or track.

 #2: 5.34 miles @ Standley Lake
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140412-0931?r=d

Melanie needed to put in 5, as she’s training for both the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon AND for pacing me the last 13.5 miles at the #LT100.  So, I took her out to the paths I’d run earlier in the week.  Another gorgeous day!

IMG_1991#3: 1.75 miles @ BRC-CC and The North Face Mountain Athletics Event
The brand new Boulder Running Company store in Cherry Creek was hosting an event for The North Face, showcasing their new Mountain Athletics line of gear and training plans. I drove to the store and then jogged to the park where the event was to be held.  Met Anne and Sarah there after they’d done 13 miles out at Mount Falcon.  We had no idea for the smoking we were about to receive!!  The workout is very cross-fit-ish and was made to work the core in a functional strength kind of way.  There were sandbags.  There were weighted backpacks.  There were pushups an sit-ups in the goose pooh on the grass.  There were “Jane Fondas” (you don’t want to know…).  I’ve done more core and upper body work this round of training than any before and I was utterly unprepared for that workout.  I’m still sore 55+ hours later.  Can barely walk.  Unfortunately, I tweaked a niggling injury in my left quad… we’ll see how it goes but I don’t think it’s anything too threatening to the big goal.

You know, just frolicking on the beach... shirtless.

You know, just frolicking on the beach… shirtless.

The best part of the event, though, was getting the chance to just chat with two stars of ultra-running in Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe.  Hal’s written a book that’ll be out in August that’s a “field guide” to ultra-running and he shared more about that, and I picked his brain a bit about Leadville.  Mike Wolfe is another stud of the highest order and he shared more about how he mixes in these kinds of workouts into his training.

The fact that one can get so up close and personal with these guys is pretty amazing.  For golfers, it’d be like getting to hang around a putting green with Tiger Woods.  For baseball fans, it’s like playing catch with Jeter.  Hal and Mike are at the absolute top of the ultra-running galaxy and yet this is still such a niche sport, that you can just hang with them for a bit, no big deal.

1_robertsont_130804_6269--1030x690

Celebrating completing the John Muir Trail…

For perspective on what these guys can do, check this report of their running the length of the John Muir Trail (220-ish miles long, mostly above 9,000 feet, with stupid amounts of vert) all in 3 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes.  Most people do this trail in 9-14 days.

As individuals, they’re also ridiculous.

Check Hal’s race report where he schooled some youngsters on the toughest 100 mile race in the world.  Hal was also featured in a recent edition of Outside Magazine.

And apparently the girls find him dreamy. :-)

The Wolfpaw is hard-freaking-core.

The Wolfpaw is hard-freaking-core.

And then read through (or watch) this interview with Wolfpaw after he won a 50 mile race after cracking his head on a tree and bleeding all over his singlet.  He’s done more cool stuff since then and had big wins and great showings all over the globe.

The event then rolled back to the store where there was free food, free massages and more nerdy running conversations with other like-minded people.  A really fun event!

Sunday, 4.12 – Rest Day!
Was still so sore… took another rest day.

———————————————————–

I am pretty convinced that having a low-key recovery weeks is a real secret to successful ultra-running.  Embracing rest days and listening to one’s body can be a challenge though.  The down side of this week was getting so worked on Saturday that I’m still soooo sore here on Monday.  And I’ve got to start running again tomorrow!!

But, overall, I feel energized to step into another cycle of tough, tough training!  Looking to get speedy this week!

On an Evening Run

photoApril 8
7:36 pm

To run
With strong legs and lungs
And healthy heart

On an evening like this
With deep warmth and no hint of cold
And ample light late

Over trails dry and dusty
With breaths and breezes
And effort, but not too much

To hear
Water lapping shore
And birds and “dogs” and frogs

To see
Shadows long
And views stretching up and out and on and on

To return
To a place I love
To another’s heart who’s love is home

Today is a very good day

#LT100 Training Update – Week Ending April 6, 2014

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Table Moutain, from Long Lake Ranch Park to the north

I’ve been inspired of late by various training blogs (like this one, or this one, or my current fav…), where ultra-runners share their efforts and ruminate about running and life.  I’m not sure what it is about these blogs that gets me, but I love them.

And frankly it’s motivated me to get back to writing again.  So, here it goes, for tonight at least…

I’m deep into training for the 2014 Leadville Trail 100, and I’ve adopted a plan for training that works through a cycle of weeks, with each week having a different emphasis.  I’m now in the midst of my third cycle, with 4 more cycles to go…  it takes a long time to prepare for 100 miles at 10k feet.

The inspiration for this plan came from reading up about people calling out the need for speed work and strength work and endurance training and so on and on and on. There is, apparently, no shortage of advice out there for runners regarding their training.  And I was having trouble fitting it all into my training last year.  I did a wee bit of speed work, and a smattering of strength work, but mostly I just ran long.  And it worked, but I felt that there could be something more…

And so, as I began to think of how to prepare for this peculiar race, I knew I needed to be strong for the long uphill climbs.  And I wanted to be faster, because that could mean shortening up the time out on the course.  And of course endurance is the greatest need… it IS 100 miles, after all.

Pulling a tire during strength week.

Pulling a tire during strength week.

And somewhere the idea of actually making a weekly emphasis out of each of those facets rose to the surface.  I came up with a plan (along with copious input from Ben and Chris) to spend a week on speed, a week on strength, a week on endurance and a week recovering before another cycle kicked off.

Because nothing can replace pure mileage, I also planned to work up in weekly mileage for each of those weeks, and then shortening up the mileage again on the recovery weeks.

So, this is what it has looked like for this current cycle:

  • Speed Week, 3/17 to 3/23, 35 miles total
  • Strength Week, 3/24 to 3/30, 40 miles
  • Endurance Week, 3/32 to 4/6, 45 miles
  • Recovery Week, 4/7 to 4/23 24 miles

The following cycles will continue to ratchet the mileage up further until I begin to taper for the final 3 weeks into race day on August 16.

I fully realize this notion of cycles is somewhat unproven (apart from the ratcheting up of mileage) and that it may be hogwash.

BUT.

I am positively thrilled with the results so far.  I’ve felt continually stronger and stronger, and faster, too.  And on my endurance run yesterday, I had more in the tank to go harder at the end of the run than I’ve felt possible before…

And dang, ain’t I happy that this week is a recovery week.  Here’s the week that was…

Monday, 3.31
Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.1 – 5.51 Miles @ Table Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140401-1836?r=d

Small lake on top of Table Mountain

Small lake on top of Table Mountain

Legs still felt heavy and fatigued from the previous Saturday’s hard effort (4x up and down Green Mountain for 20 miles pulling a tire Marshall Ulrich style). And it was pretty breezy and cold, but not unbearable.  Since we’ve moved to Arvada, I’m really enjoying exploring new places to run, and I’m becoming quite fond of Table Mountain.  It’s close. There’s a measure of vert.  It’s sometimes techy, but mostly buffed out.  And for this evening I went off-trail to see where a little game trail led… and I jogged through a herd of deer and it always makes me think of persistence hunting.

Wednesday, 4.2 – Cross-Training 3 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Mileage is probably generous, being as how it was done on an elliptical machine… which has become something of my routine for cross-training days.  I want to get some cardio, and a bit of a sweat going, but with low impact to legs.  So, elliptical it is.  I do a mile on the machine, then work through a series of core and upper body exercises, another mile on the machine, more core and upper body, then one last mile.  I believe this cross-training is really helping my low back feel better through this round of training…

Thursday, 4.3 – 8.22 miles @ Table Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140403-1818?r=d
Was super bummed to see the predicted 1” of snow had turned into many more than that overnight… knew that the trails would be sloppy.  But, as Ben put it so succinctly, “Hope Pass in August doesn’t care about your snowstorm in April.”  So, I went out.  On my dailymile description of this run I stated that it was like running on horse shit the whole way.  Sticky, clingy mud made my shoes a pound a piece throughout the run.  I find myself really longing for dry trails, warmer temps and consistently sunny skies.  Legs still feel tired.  Looking forward to spring/ summer.

Friday, 4.4 – Rest Day!
Dinner out for date night at Amadeo’s Italian was glorious.  The migraine headache right before bed was not…

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Elevation profile from RunMeter…

Saturday, 4.5 – 26.42 @ Green Mountain
http://runmeter.com/656a52de6dd0d38c/Run-20140405-1134?r=d 
Head was still a bit wonky from migraine, and I wasn’t super psyched about heading out for this run.  Originally scheduled myself to do 25, but knew it’d be hard to not tack on extra to get to that magical marathon number.  Trails all over were still total slop from snow on Thursday, so I decided to reprise my route from the previous week going up and down Green Mountain, as I’d stayed mainly on the gravel road.  Last week that route worked for the tire, and this week they were the least mucky route on the hill. But, this week I did 5 laps instead of 4, extending my last lap to get to 26+.
Melanie joined me for my first lap, which is always great.  Second lap was uneventful until I ran into former classmate and 2011 LeadWoman Deanna Adami.  She joined me for the remainder of lap 2 and all of lap 3.  Lap 4, the temps dropped and the wind picked up and I began to fantasize about what food I would eat when I was done.  Last lap was okay but long, as I stretched it out.  Super happy with the day, though. Consistent energy, no bonks, good time with people, good time alone.  Great day on the hill!  Stopped and bought a feast at Boston Market on the way home and absolutely crushed dinner like one only can after a long trail run…

Sunday, 4.6 – Cross-Training 2.5 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Elliptical, core and upper body, repeat.  Very glad to be done with a tough cycle and greatly looking forward to a recovery week!