Category Archives: observations

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…

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

bear chase race 50 miler thoughts: part 1

on saturday, before the race, my lovely wife melanie and i took a drive through the mountains to see the fall colors with my amazing sister, carolyn.  carolyn had flown in to visit, to run the baby bear 10k with melanie, and to be awesome and supportive for me during my race.

while we were out there, in those glorious mountains, carolyn said something about how they’re just sooo big.  i responded that pictures always, always fail to capture the scale.  and it’s true, you know…  pictures just can’t capture it all. like this one:

and so, yesterday was the race. i completed 50 miles in 11:21:46.

melanie asked me this morning how i was doing, not physically, but how i was feeling about it all.  and i responded that it just kind of doesn’t seem real, like it didn’t really happen… and today, i’ve struggled to put together thoughts about it all.  i sort of had a private moment or two in my office today where i nearly wept…

i intend to write an actual “race report” kind of post soon, but for now it just feels so big, like those mountains. it feels as if the scale of such an experience just can’t quite be captured in a post, or pictures, or stories.  it’s just something that someone has to experience.  that’s the only way to really know.


so… yeah.


in less than a week i’m going to run 50 miles at the bear chase race out in lakewood. four 12.5 mile loops, starting at 6:30 am and finishing sometime before the 12 hour cut-off.

and by “run” 50 miles i mean “run / jog / trot / walk / shuffle / stumble / crawl / whimper / cry / laugh / pray / keep moving forward” in varying degrees and capacities for 50 miles.

heading out of last aid station at the aspen backcountry marathon. photo courtesy of ross odegaard.

i had originally signed up for the 50k (31 miles) but that distance (and the time it would take to complete it down here in town) is so very near to what i experienced at the aspen backcountry marathon (which was MORE than a marathon), it seemed a shame to not set my sights higher.

i wanted to be able to write something witty and insightful about why i’m doing this, what’s driving me, what i hope to learn and experience…

but frankly, i’m a little freaked out.  it’s intimidatingly far, and i just freaked myself out further by looking up towns that are 50 miles apart… like colorado springs and highlands ranch, or cincinnati and dayton.

and it’s going to take a long time. yesterday, as i got ready for church i thought, “this time next week, i’ll be a little way into lap 1.”

then, later in the day, after church, i thought, “this time next week, i’ll be part way through lap 2.”

then, much, much later in the day, after lunch and running an errand and watching a bit of the broncos game and working around the house cleaning the gutters for a few hours i thought, “this time next week, i’ll have about an hour to go before i finish.”

so, maybe the wit and insight will appear after the experience.  i don’t know.

until then, i’ve got several days of wigging out to do…

thanks for reading,