Leadville, CO - July 9, 2017. An 'out and back' course with a few extra twists and turns. Over 50 miles, starting altitude of 10,200 ft and the highest point at a little above 12,000 ft. Total elevation change during the race: 8,000 ft. It had HARD written all over it.
And I was at the starting line, about to start the race with an incline that seemed like a wall....
The Story of How I got there, and then some:
The thing was, I wasn't even going to run this race until I saw an Instagram post from Orange Mud. It said that they were giving away a free entry for the Silver Rush 50 to some lucky individual that gave a good reason for them to vote on and decide. I told myself, "Might as well test my luck!" and wrote a post about how it would mean a lot to me because a few years back, I was going to run the Leadville 100, but my dad had a stroke, so I cancelled the race, instead, flying to Japan to be with my father, who was in a coma-like state. Since then, he's gotten better, but there's still been something missing since that race... and they decided that I was worthy! They messaged me asking if I was serious about running the race, and I said yes! It fit perfectly between a 10 hour night race and a 12 hour day race and a trip to Leadville would be definitely fill up that spot that I was missing from years back. I trained hard, and despite having a sprained ankle two weeks prior to the race, I felt ready. I was okay when I was running around Colorado Springs, and hoping that Leadville would be similar.
GEAR (and Nutrition):
2 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Injinji socks with a generic sock covering it
Nike Combat Compression Shorts
Long Sleeved Underarmour Compression Shirt
fav tech t-shirt
Orange Mud Endurance Pack
SWORD Mixed Berry
Peanut Butter Crackers
Yurbuds Focus 200 Earphones
First of all, I needed to understand that the altitude would be a factor. I was going to be slow... but I didn't know how slow. Worst case scenario, I put myself at finishing in 10 hours because the elevation would be too much, but meanwhile, use the first half of the race to see how I do and take it easy, and use the latter half of the race to play catch up and go hard. Walk as many of the uphills on the way, and on the way back, make it so that I would run up the easier hills. Fortunately, I got to talk to Anthony Kunkel who told me that on the way back, the last 10 miles would be pretty much all downhill so I should be able to totally own that area of the race, should I survive the first 40.
and now, the race report! (disclaimer: due to me being all woozy, pictures may not be in the correct places)
Start to PrinterBoy
The start was as slow as a tortoise running through syrup as the first thing we had to go through was a hill. It took me over a minute to hike up the hill, because hey, I wasn't going to waste my energy here. There was a 50 miler to run! After we went up, we went through the woods a bit, only to get on a paved part, and then we started going up. During this time, I was still getting used to the whole breathing deal because it seemed a little harder than usual. I went back and forth with running and walking, depending on the steepness of the hill, and bit by bit, I was able to find a place where I was suppose to be. Since the first 10 miles is a slow uphill, I knew I had to stay smart. I wanted to go faster and run more, but I needed to listen to my body, which was telling me that something was a little different. I was a little weak, and so I began phase one of slightly hyperventilating as to maximize the oxygen intake during this uphill portion. Through the run/walks, I saw the sunrise, big horned sheep, and my wish of running in the front vanishing.... this was time to survive. Getting used to the thin air was part of my calculation, so I expected myself to be a tad slow... but this was beyond my expectations. I thought to myself that I better utilize the downhill portions as best as I could... and then it finally came! There was a U-turn at the ten mile point and it was mostly downhill, so I had to bust it all out to get to better oxygen and utilize gravity's power and explode. I passed by many of the people that had gotten ahead of me during the uphill portion, but still needed more. I continued on my reckless running and for about 3 miles, I caught up with a lot, gaining ground on those that were way ahead. By the time I had gotten to the aide station, I was a little spent, but knew that if I was going to walk the uphills, I needed to feel somewhat like this.
PrinterBoy to StumpTown
StumpTown back to PrinterBoy
Well, by killing people, it's just a game where passing people counts as a kill, so my goal was to be a mass murderer... in a totally non-violent Christ-like manner. So I started off. I saw my first kill. He was running up a hill and I decided that for the return trip, I didn't care if I couldn't breathe, if I thought I could run while climbing, then I would go for it. It was only a 50 miler. Not a 100. I could afford a mistake or miscalculation. I passed him and counted '1' in my head, but number 2, was right in front of me. As it was, there was quite a number of people that were taking the first uphill with a walk, and so I continued to kill as I crept up towards the highest point. As I was only counting people, and not time, I had no recollection of where I was going, and how much time had passed, I didn't really pay attention too much to the beautiful scenery, as I was wanting to survive. Climbing to the highest point was not so easy, as breathing became harder, but I thought to myself, it's only for a little bit, so as long as I could somewhat hold on, I could get over that and begin my descent... but alas, I was too rash in making that decision. Part of the journey took me to this lonely single track route on the side of a steep incline. Fortunately, we were going across, but as I made my way through, I stumbled, almost falling off multiple times. This was a lot more dangerous than I bargained for... but I needed to get through it, and so slowing down only slightly, I made my way through the 'treacherous' area and finally came to a point of descent, which I flew through, as gravitational pull generally helped me go the right direction and I wouldn't trip too much. It was a glorious downhill, and following that downhill, a slight uphill to the next aide station, where I would restock and make sure everything I had was maxed out, because from that point, I was going to go without stopping too much. It was go time, and I had passed about 18 people.
PrinterBoy to Finish
The final portion of the journey first was a climb, and this time, I had no real energy left, and so I trekked the climb, letting a few overtake me, subtracting from my kill count. It was about 3 miles of climbing followed by a 10 mile downhill sprint, and so I didn't feel like using too much energy on the uphill... but when the journey came to a crawl, I needed to change plans quickly. This was not going as fast as I wanted, and I needed to get to the U-turn as fast as I could. At some point in my dazed state, I decided that I would run for 100 steps, and then walk until my breathing came to control, and then do it again. Though seemingly small, it took a lot out of my mental energy tank, and I was able to give more than what I thought was possible, even overtaking one person who walked up faster than I could. I continued this for about a mile, and then came the turn around and down point, where I drank some dude's coke that he had ready for those in need, and I rushed down. With each step, I was feeling better because it didn't require too much, but it was still hard as I had used up some of my energy on the climb. The terrain was not so forgiving, but just enough so I could pull off a few 7-8 minute miles, and though we were still in the higher altitude, I was able to maintain a fast pace. I was hoping to not walk til I got to the final aide station, but unfortunately, I felt spent at one point and walked up a hill. Finally, about 3 miles after the turn, I made it to the aide station, gulped coke down, and asked the people manning the station how many were within 15 minutes before me, and they responded with about 5-6 people, so I knew I could do this. I announced (more for myself) that I would overtake all of them in the last 7 or so miles, and rushed off. The first was only an eighth of a mile in front of me, and I was going to blow past him. Despite the harshness of the altitude, my predator-like instincts kicked in, and I reeled him in. As I encouraged him, I began looking for my next victim (I really sound like I'm two faced right? I promise I'm not. I want them to succeed and do their best, but I also want to do my best too....) There were about 4-5 people that I could catch in front of me. However, little did I know that they were not in front of me... but waaaaaaay in front of me. I was going at a breakneck speed hoping they'd all be evenly spaced out, only to find myself chasing down dreams. After realizing that they weren't going to evenly space themselves out for me, I continued on my path, hoping that my quads and calves would hold. Up til now, my legs were fine, but I began noticing a slight tremor as my quads warned me that without enough oxygen, they would start writhing in pain, and noting that, I continued hyperventilating a little faster now, and kept on going after the people in front of me, whoever they were... and finally, I caught sight of someone wearing orange. My next victim! That person seemed to be doing a run/walk mix and so over time, I knew that that individual was mine, and so I chased and chased. That person had caught up with another individual, and so I thought of how fortunate I was to have a 2 for 1 deal in front of me and kept up the pace. Just a little bit more... and then 1... 2... I was able to pass them both. Still a little more than 3 miles from the end. I continued and went forward, hoping for more and there wasn't for a little bit, but another appeared. I was ecstatic! My quads and calves were telling me to stop, but I was greedy for more, and so I continued. I passed another, and there was about 2 miles left. It was now starting to be tiring. I was actually able to race and my legs were feeling it because my desire for speed had burst forth and carried me forward. Another individual passed, and my legs started screaming, and so after a little incline appeared... I said okay, let's walk for now. I continued breathing rapidly, so as to forcefully oxygenate myself, and then after I thought I was ready, I turned on my engine again. There might be one more person ahead of me.... so I started slow, and gradually picked up the pace until I managed to get out of the trails and was on asphalt. This was where I really picked up my speed, but it only lasted for a short while because sadly, the race director decided to add to my torture by adding a turn filled path all the way to the top. It was just enough uphill that I could still run, but not enough that I couldn't feel the pain and exertion. I had to twist and turn so many times, at one point, I just gave up and walked... but lo and behold, the final individual appeared. He was many turns ahead, but because it was such a twisted trail, I knew that at that pace, I could catch him before the final push at the end. I ran on in hopes that I was right, and little by little, I saw him get a little closer, and finally, I managed to catch up towards the last little bit before the 'final push'. After catching him and picking up the pace, I finally got out of the woods, and there it was. The final downhill plunge. I hoped that I could make it without falling, as it was pretty steep, but judging how my legs handled themselves, I thought I could, and push, I did. I pushed downhill and as I came off, one of my calves writhed in pain. So as to not make a spectacle of myself on the final 100m of the race, I glided through, hoping each step wasn't the last, and finally finished my 50 miler in 9:32:44, 39th place overall. It was one heck of a journey, and I'm happy that I came.
So my journey doesn't end here. After the race, I was dead and could hardly breathe, and so it took a long time to recover. My shoulders and legs were quite sore, but I was pretty well off when it came down to my feet. No blisters at all! I was glad this race was over but the thought of driving to Colorado Springs right away was a little too much. So I rested, ate a little, and drank a good bit. After hours upon hours of resting, I decided that instead of leaving, I would stick around and put my number in for the Leadville 100 drawing. Didn't think much of it... but when they announced my number as one of the final lucky winners, I smiled and couldn't believe my luck. I was coming back. Leadville 100, August 18, 2018... I'm coming for you.
Many thanks to the RD who made this race happen, Orange Mud for giving me not only the opportunity to run this race, but also how it turned into making the Leadville 100 a reality, SWORD for giving me all that my body needed physically so that I wouldn't run out of energy and keep the right stuff in me, and finally to my new and old friends from Colorado that helped me finish!