2013 Leadville Trail 100 Run

"the real victory isn't the act of smashing through the tape and crossing the finish line; it's not seeing your name first on the list or standing on the highest step on the podium.  this is not what makes your legs shake with fear and excitement.  victory, the real victory, is what is deep down inside each one of us.  it's what we can't believe will ever happen despite all the training and will on our part, and yet it is finally what happens.  despite all the thinking and brandishing of calculators, after so many hours of preparation, after so many days of training, of telling ourselves that we can win - or simply finish the race - it is as if something in our unconscious is constantly telling us that it is impossible, that it would be too wonderful, too brilliant, too incredible for it to become reality.  that what we want to achieve is only a dream.  and when you cross the line, when you look behind and see that it is real, that you are flesh and blood, and that what seemed possible only in dreams has become real, you realize that that is the true victory"

-Killian Jornet

the start of the race is announced with a shotgun blast on saturday at 4am, and ends in the same way at 10am sunday, allowing 30 hours for completion.

we flew from illinois to colorado on thursday morning, made a stop at golden city brewing, had some delicious healthy food truck fare, and did some tubing on clear creek before heading out on my favorite stretch of highway in the usa, crossing the continental divide and ascending from 650ft above sea level to 10,000ft within a few short hours.  we rolled into leadville, elevation 10,152ft, picked up my packet, weighed in, and soaked in some good vibes.  friday morning was much the same... the coffee shop, chillin around town, and greeting friends.  

this spot at 6th and harrison would soon be transformed into a start / finish line and the gateway to (and hopefully from) a dream.

early friday afternoon, we had already completed the aid station tour, and everything was ready to go.  at first, this felt great. nothing to worry about!  the crew was familiar with the plans, scott seemed oriented and understood the driving directions, checklists were reviewed and in place, gear and nutrition bags for each aid station were labeled and loaded in the car, and bib #397 was already pinned to my shorts.  

and then, free of any preparatory tasks or to do lists to mentally keep track of, the only thing my brain could focus on next was that dream, which was, at the time, expanding as an anxious contemplation of possibility versus reality.  
the crew was talking about dinner plans, and i was suddenly too full of anxiety to know what to do, so i decided stay back at the cabin in order to think things through one more time.

flashbacks to leadville 2012...

hunrdeds of hours of training 
too many hours away from family 
family-work-sleep balance on the verge of breakdown
repeated bouts of intentional exhaustion during long runs
thousands of dollars on travel, gear, a coach, altitude training setups
friends' weekends spent away from their own family and friends
an emotional investment beyond my narrative description abilities
out of town on the weekend and day of our wedding anniversary

all for nothing

yet i think this might be what makes this worth it.  the risk.  the unknown.

how low will we feel?  unknown (probably the lowest).
how high will we feel?  unknown (probably the highest).
will the dream come true?  will we cross the line, simply finishing the race?  unknown.

most of the nearly one thousand runners that make the annual pilgrimage to Leadville for the 100-miler bring a support crew of loved ones, family, friends, training buddies, and/or future adventure seekers looking to catch a glimpse of what it's like.  as the day unfolds, hundreds of carloads of moms, dads, girlfriends, boyfriends, bros, bffs, kids, and babies will nervously glance at their watches (maybe not the babies), eagerly awaiting a runner that won't make it in before the cutoff.  or maybe their runner will arrive in that certain state that at first glance will crush the hearts of their supporters: staggering, desperate for something, too full or too empty, a blank stare foreshadowing the inevitable difficult decision that maybe next time will go better, that this time it's over.
a year's worth of hopes and dreams immediately dissipate as the timing chip is cut from the wrist by race officials, signifying the end.  
Did Not Finish.
last year, it was my hopes and dreams that faded into disappointment.   
hardly a day went by that i didn't replay it in my mind.  
to wish that this or that could have been only a little different.   when the goal, as a middle of the pack flatlander, is only to make it in before the 30 hour cutoff, it only takes a few simple logistical mistakes, or a few bad miles, before the minute hand has ticked a few too many times.

as i sat there reflecting on all this and sort of freaking out, ann said something like:

"just relax.  it's going to be a good day.  find your zen and know that you'll have a nice and chill run tomorrow, and you'll get it done.  my premonitions are always right, aren't they?"

yes.  perfect.  next thing i knew, positivity was all i could think.  back in action.

caught up with the crew at the saloon for a beer, some fries, and to rehash the checklists one last time before trying to get some sleep.  the goal of falling asleep at 7pm was too ridiculous.  8 seemed reasonable, and then 9 seemed reasonable, and next thing i knew i was telling myself that 10pm to 3am was pretty reasonable.  
fortunately, it was!  i woke at 3:15am feeling well-rested and excited for the big day.  

rolling into town at 3:40am!

a few chilly minutes of exciting (and possibly anxious) send-offs

the countdown starts...  now it's real:

ready, set...


and we're gone

i can't adequately describe the level of positive energy at the beginning of this race.  all of us know that only half of us, at best, will make it back here before the cutoff.  there are some elite runners here, there are some bad ass peeps competing with their friends, or with their previous times, and there are also a bunch of normal people who just want to see if they can even finish in time.  while leadville is one of the larger 100 mile races, and some smaller races have a special vibe of their own, the fact that there is no qualifying standard and that anyone who feels adventurous enough can throw their name in the hat adds a bit of depth to the excitement and the "unknown" of this race.  regardless of anyone's backstory, we all want everyone to make it.  as ultrarunning is both a competitive and communal endeavor, we are here for each other almost as much as we are here for ourselves.  we've all just started, we all feel great, we're all full of hope, and we're doing it together, racing across the sky in the pre-dawn hours

in the first mile, as crews and townspeople line the street cheering and high-fiving, i was overwhelmed with emotion, just so thrilled and scared and happy to be trying it again, and so regretful that i messed it up last time, yet spurred on with a new force of will to make it right.  as the first few miles ticked by, i ended up finding an appreciation for what happened last time, because it made this real to me.  it's not easy. it's not a given.  the mountains harness a deep, natural power of their own, and attempts to conquer them, be it by hiking, biking, climbing, or running 100 miles through them, must not be taken lightly.

after a mile or two down 6th street, we switch over to a wide, off-road jeep style trail.  i'm ready for a good day, to give it my all.

around mile 5 or so we get to the trail that goes around turquoise lake.  a lot of people gather to cheer at tabor boat ramp, 7 miles in.  for those 2 miles or 20+ minutes, from miles 5 to 7, we can hear the cheers echoing  across the lake, and we can't wait to get there.  


6.5 miles ahead at 13.5 is the first aid station, May Queen.  final preparations are in progress, as the lead runners will soon be making their way through, followed by the hundreds of the rest of us.

crews assemble early and wait for their runners.  if you look closely in this picture, there's a lady on crutches with one leg.  she was crewing for someone, by herself.  there are some pretty badass people around here.  

the sun rises over turquoise lake.  tomorrow morning, 24 hours later, i'll hopefully be here again, for a second sunrise.

crews and supporters (and babies?!) eagerly await their runners

oh hi!  it's mimi and adam, in shay's photo (she volunteered at may queen and put together a great post and some pics here! )

it sure is exciting to arrive to an aid station and to see your buddies jumping up and down with excitement!

out of may queen and on to the first big climb, feeling great

the elevation of the course looks like this, and the powerlines are the bump between May Queen and Fish Hatchery:

making our way over the powerlines, looking down on turquoise lake at sunrise

near the top of the first big climb!

the next aid station is at 23.5.  the course flattens out and moves to the road for a while.  last year i was feeling invincible and had bombed down the powerlines.  steep, fast downhill running for 15 or 20 minutes can really take it's toll, and i had found myself struggling to get everything back together on the road.  this year, i took it easy on the downhill, and while dozens of runners sped past, i chatted with a new buddy, kathleen, and we reassured each other that our conservative approach for this first big downhill was a smart one.
i arrived at the aid station feeling great.

so many people supporting their runners!

(above is another one by /skin/ /ˈpōətrē/ photography)

getting back to badass people.  amy palmiero-winters.  even though she didn't finish this year, she has an impressive running resume, and just having the courage to even try this, or any hundred miler...  
let's just say, if you're thinking of skipping out on your run or on going to the gym this week: no excuses.

after 4 or 5 miles on the road, we turn off and face more beautiful scenery.  
mt. elbert, the highest peak in the rockies, straight ahead, and mt. massive, the second highest, just to the left.  

after gaining some logistics experience last year, the crew went to treeline this time.  it's a crew-only area, just short of the next aid station that is not crew accessible, and people hang out here to cheer on the runners.  it's a cool scene, very motivating to run through.

adam seemed to play the role of scout at most aid stations, and it was always exciting to see him and run a bit of it in together, each time with the same sincere, calm, collected, and supportive "how are you?  what do you need?"  adam also took most of these amazing pictures.

now we make our way through the section of the course i always forget to mentally plan for.   10 miles, mostly in trees, reasonable footing.  1500ft of climbing and 1900ft of descent over 10 miles.   for me, without any mountains to look out on, this section gets a little ___

as the 3.5 mile, 1900ft descent begins, we know that it's all downhill to twin lakes, the mile 40 aid station.  

as i was descending, the gang was driving and hitching their way in to twin lakes.  

the guy in front of me headin down the final steep drop before the aid station.  this is such an awesome scene to arrive to.

about to make it over, and ann is at the top of this hill!

the crew went nascar at this aid station.  we had to add vest, poles, change water bottles, prepare extra gear, etc.  i slammed a 20oz bottle of water, said hi to karen, waited a second for susan and ann to catch up, and before i could ask what else we needed to do, they were pushing me out of there.  they had already filled up my pockets, had everything set.  when you're going for 29 or 29.5 hours, every minute saved in an aid station by the best crew ever is helpful.


no aid station visit is complete without a heart-to-heart check-in with mimi

the whole gang was at twin lakes: crew, pacers, and supporters.  go team!

random picture of a beautiful mountain view from twin lakes:

out of twin lakes and making the way over to the base of hope pass

stream crossing:

next it's time for the first of two climbs up and over hope pass.  the following few miles include 3,000+ ft of vertical climbing.  a few miles take a few hours.  then we turn around and come right back over.  

how tall is hope pass?  for anyone who lives in or grew up in illinois, maybe this comparison to the sears tower will add some perspective.

or as glover said, maybe hope pass is more like this:

last year i learned a lot from greg in this section.  he was climbing very slowly, yet very steadily.  i would power hike past him, and then run out oxygen and need to stop to catch my breath.  time and again, he'd slowly walk past me, eventually making it over the top ten or more minutes ahead of me.  so this year, i went with slow and steady, and with a lot of pilates breathing.  even when i wanted to stop, i always told myself to just keep moving, even if it's slower.

and this worked great!  
i wasn't wearing a watch and wasn't keeping track of time, as my goal was to focus my mind on existing at the threshold of overexertion, to stay just below that.  i felt that if i was trained well enough to get it done, it would happen by only concerning myself with simple and positive things, like each next step, being in the moment, and the oxygen i was taking in.  i thought that any energy i could use to look at a watch or think about times and cutoffs and aid station arrival goals would just be waste.

in reviewing my times after the race, i was about 12 minutes behind schedule at twin lakes/mile 40.  and after doing hope pass the first time, i got to winfield/mile 50 feeling great and ahead of schedule by 4 minutes.  i'd made up 16 minutes on the craziest section of the course!

one of the aspects of doing an event like this that i love is all of the awesome people you see just hanging out cheering on runners.
making our way up, we heard some cheering up ahead.  figuring the front runners were back on their way down being cheered on by runners like us still on the way up, the guy next to me said "front runners must be coming down; no way someone is all the way up here just to cheer for me."  
a few minutes later, we came across a few youngsters sitting on the side of the trail, the boy wailing on a harmonica and the two girls with him cheering loudly for everyone who passed.  
"well, i guess someone is here to cheer for me after all," the guy said.
then even higher up, we came across a group of 5 or 6 teens, just hanging out in the mountain and telling everyone they are awesome, ambushing the runners with encouragement and good vibes..  (4 hours later, on the way back in, they were still in the same spot, doing the same thing!)

near the top, right around the treeline, is an aid station.  because this area is not accessible by roads, llamas volunteer to carry an entire aid station up the mountain, and humans volunteer to camp here with the llamas for 3 days to setup and then help runners. 

sat down for a few minutes for some shoe or sock adjustments, and a runner sitting across from me was looking back and forth and just beaming with a huge smile.  "this is one of the most special places on earth," we agreed.

onward and upward

12,600ft doesn't come easy at mile 46, though it sure feels good to get to the top!

and headed down the back, flying down the mountain, a completely different person than the guy who was just out of energy, yelling out an occasional WOOHOO from the part of me that is still a kid


gets a bit tricky here and there 

especially when this guy shows up

remember this lady?  she made it here too

meanwhile, the crew prepares at winfield, the midpoint


it's nice to have a crew that brings all your stuff around, so i didn't have to fish through this (though at most aid stations race staff are conveniently ready ahead of time to radio back your bag/bib info):

"i just dicked down hope pass":

woohoo!  headed from the midpoint back to the start/finish, right on time, now with a pacer



more smiles



at least whenever we turn around for a second, we get to see this:

back at the top! 


on the way up, we leapfrogged some of our buddies, kyle and flynn, also middle-western flatlanders, who we had met and spent a bunch of time with at the north face 50 miler in wisconsin last september.  neither of us knew we would be in leadville, and it felt really special to randomly cross paths them.  several times we called out up or down the mountain to each other: "north face for life!"  and then we peaked hope pass together!

sadly, and with it being so hard to believe that just two weeks ago we were in one of the most beautiful places on earth and having the time of our lives together, flynn (the guy between mimi and me in the above picture) is no longer with us.  it seems that there is a special kind of bond that forms between people we meet on the trails at ultras.  our guard is down, we're all on the same team, we all are human, and we're all doing these crazy things because we are our own kind of crazy. for the most part, the usual social barriers don't exist on the trails.  no fronts.  just our selves, and our stories, our pains, and our motivations, and we share them with each other quickly and comfortably.  and because of this deeply connecting nature of what we do, the death of a guy who i've really only spent a few special hours with at 2 races feels like the loss of a best bro. 
too soon. 
run on in peace, flynn schulz.  
we'll be together in spirit at every starting line i toe. 
thanks for the inspiration.
north face for life, and beyond...

meanwhile, back at twin lakes, emmy is still hula hooping!  she was at fish hatchery at 8:45 in the morning when i came through, and was still hula hooping, bringing smiles to everyone's face, at 8:20pm when i rolled through twin lakes on the way back in.

mimi and i were making our way down hope pass, having the time of our lives.  we felt like kids.  just letting gravity take us, flying down the hill, yelling out with pure joy to the trees and mountaintops.  and then, we got to the bottom of hope pass, and we looked across the valley to the twin lakes town and aid station a mile or two ahead, and it was still light out, and i knew with 100% certainty that i would be crossing the finish line this time.  mimi yelled out a loud "WHOOOOOHOOOOO!" and many runners far up ahead called out in return.  

a few minutes later we crossed the stream on the way back in, and rolled into twin lakes feeling like a million bucks.

i could sense that i was way ahead of schedule, so i took it easy while changing into night gear.  

caption contest?

amy takes over pacing duties for the next 11 or 16 miles (ended up being 16)

as we head out of twin lakes, emmy is still ultra hula-hooping!

more of that section that i don't mentally prepare for...

and finally, the aid station at mile 70.9

back at treeline, the crew area just past the last aid station. it's late.  things are slow.
crewing for a race might be as hard as running it.  hours and hours in lines of traffic.  keeping stuff organized.  being alert and ready to think on the fly on no sleep.  spending so many hours helping with something and only seeing your runner for a few short bursts of 1- 5 minutes of excitement.   the value of a good crew, as part of a race stategy, cannot be overstated.  thanks scott and adam!

around treeline is where i really ran out of gas.  however, i knew there was enough time in the bank so there wasn't too much worrying.  this section went like this:

amy: "how 'bout that thing?"
cory: "what thing?"
amy: "well, it starts with an r, and it's what you're supposed to be doing."
"it's not easy to run in the middle of the night after getting up at 3am and running 60 miles through the mountains, ok?" i thought to myself.
i am pretty sure everything i said made no sense, and amy always managed to make it seem like we were in the midst of an ongoing, engaging conversation.  beyond having fun, we also kept moving forward, and at a pace much faster than i would have done if i was on my own.  thanks buddy!

mimi switched back to pacing after we made it back to fish hatchery, and it was time to get farther than we made it last year.  
and we did.
no problem.
the powerlines make for a long climb in the middle of the night, there are many false summits, yet we kept moving the entire time.  at one point i said "ok i gotta stop and rest," and somehow we just slowed down a bit and kept moving.  
from there it was slow going over many really long miles over infinite roads, in the middle of the night.  
a few times we scurried away from other runners, turned off our headlamps, and stopped to stare up at the close, bright, bold, shimmering, beautiful stars together.  and we kept marching forward.

at one point, the power lines were loudly clicking or crackling overhead, and there was a baby evergreen tree off to the left of the trail, and i hallucinated that this little tree was a rooster running along the trail with us.  later, even after the sun came up again, i hallucinated that there was a silhouette of an old fashioned photographer up ahead on the side of the course.  and i kept looking ahead to groups of people and feeling certain that "hey, our crew is there, we weren't even expecting to see them here!"  mimi sort of hesitated each time, and then politely suggested that that might not be our crew.

as the night wore on, i was really tired.  at one point i said "i don't know how i'm moving forward because i am in deep REM sleep right now." 

mimi suggested that we just keep moving, and that after the sun comes up, everything will be ok.   and as the sun came up, that is exactly what happened.  i felt great, ran many more miles, and had a blast during the final miles from may queen (mile 86.5) inbound.

between mimi's wisdom shared as the the day progressed, her good vibes, her careful advice about rest in the weeks and months leading up to this day, and the spring in her step on the way up hope pass inbound, i can't help but think that we'll be crossing the finish line together again next year, only next time i'll be the pacer.

after we left may queen and made our way around turquoise lake, we enjoyed the second sunrise.  with the beautiful early morning sunlight illuminating the mountain backdrop, i was back to running, blasting minecraft parody songs and thinking of julian and jordan back home in illinois.  and i was thinking about how we are apart for another weekend, nonetheless weeping with pure joy for the love that we share whether we are near or far.  just as the social barriers fade away during an ultra, for me so do any sort of emotions about emotions.  we can get right to that raw, core feeling in our souls.  sometimes i feel like we're actually still just kids.  we became adults and our brains got all fancy, allowing us to think about what we think about.  and beneath that, there are just the raw, pure, innocent feelings.   to me, running 100 miles is a way to break it all down, remove the complexities of life, and to just enjoy being.

we finally made our way into town, and found ourselves on 6th street.  finally, "almost there."  (in my mind, the only time you're almost there is when you can see the finish line.  and even then, it's still not a 100% guarantee.)

as we made our way in, i heard a guy next to me say something like "nice job, way to go," and we looked over to see:

a bright green race bib with the words 


for anyone unfamiliar with these trails, the magnitude of those words might not immediately be evident.  rocks and roots protrude at all angles.  there are 20%+ inclines and declines.  there are congested trails with dramatic drop-offs on one side, wide enough for only one runner, yet dozens of runners hop past each other in both directions, brushing shoulders, leaning on one another, tangling trekking poles, and occasionally bumping into one another.  entire sections of the trail are composed of nearly unnavigable giant boulders temporarily laid to rest while tumbling down the side of the mountain from some natural and mysterious source higher up.  
in other words, other than the 10 or 15 miles of road, and even there, there is no easy footing on this course.  it's tricky at best, even in daylight.  even with good eyesight.  
i remembered hearing, back at the start of the race, 
"ok there's a pothole here, step to the right a bit."  
"we're going to pass some runners on the left and you have about 3 feet fo clearance from the edge of the road"
"is this working for you?"
it was this guy's pacer.  
and here he is, getting it done. 

and here's walter (who karen paced for 20+ miles). you can read about his 12-million step recover program here.
"A few years ago, Barrera was addicted to drugs. He used crystal methamphetamine, and then he discovered crack cocaine. He was homeless for a time, and then he was a thief. He lived in doubt and fear, in paranoia and darkness, until one morning in 2010, when he went for a run.

he did it

and remember this lady, who was crewing at may queen, 24 hours earlier?

ok. back to me.    almost there...

the gang is all together!  (pics by scott kummer.  thanks for the good vibes out there!)

and finally, we're there, 29 hours and 18 minutes later!

let's think back to the dream, to those feelings, to the unknown...

too wonderful?

too brilliant?

too incredible?


what seemed possible only in dreams has become real?


deep down inside each one of us?

2013 LT100 Plans

Crewing Guide

Pacing Guide

Directions to Aid Stations

An article about the 2012 Race

Cory's 2013 Pace Chart / Aid Station Times

? info: 


Cory's Crew and Pacer Guide (Edit)

Stuff to bring/plan/etc (Edit)

Gear checklist/stuff identification (Edit)

Coach Weber's section by section guide

Cory's Aid Station Instructions:

beast of burden winter 100, Lockport NY



“It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.” 

-  Haruki Murakami






Stepping into a crowded elevator Monday morning, about to ascend 27 floors, to where the winter sun rises after arrival and sets before deparature, a colleague offers a hushed elevator-speak greeting, asking "how was your weekend?"

sounds and images of the present disappear.  goosebumps on the surface my skin and the sense of a chill in my bones, as it all comes back...

Feelings and memories that are hard to put into words.   a weekend where multiple winter sunrises and sunsets are also observed, not from the comfort of a climate controlled home or building, but outside, where the below-freezing climate is controlled by layers of gear and levels of effort. 

the first scene that comes to mind is 8am sunday monrning, when i had been on my feet, attempting to make forward progress, for the last 22 hours and 78 miles.  it's cold.  so cold that water vapor from exhaling freezes onto my hair, and so cold that my eyes freeze shut every time i blink. 

many miles and many hours remain, and over the last few hours, the temperature has rapidly dropped from a comfortable 15-20 down to single digits, with a "feels like" of -1.  adam's thermometer reads 3 degrees, we are far from an aid station, far from any other people, and i sense that we are both quietly worried that we are going to freeze.

"let's try to run for a few minutes" adam says, trying to get us to generate body heat.  it can be hard to continuously run though, 70 or 80 miles into a 100-miler.  

as in life, i turn to music.  a motivating song comes on, and we run.  this usually lasts for the first 30 seconds of the song.  then, we talk about the song and about music and about life, and wait for the next song to get us moving, so we can warm up a bit.  then we run for a whole song, and we are warm.  then i walk for a whole song, and we begin to freeze, and adam reminds me to run again, as we both get just a bit too close to the edge.

adam joined me as a pacer at mile 62.5.  previously, his farthest distance run was 8 miles, and he paced me for 25 miles.  wowow!

before he started pacing, he crewed for me, so i saw him every 12.5 miles at the aid stations, and every time i came in he was either helping another runner or laughing with another crew or some volunteers, yet he never missed a beat in taking care of me.  can't wait til it's his turn and i'm crewing or pacing for him.

62.5 to 75 was what you'd expect from a couple of old friends catching up at 3 in the morning after one of them has been running for 18 hours and the other is crewing and pacing at an ultra for his first time.

we had left the aid station at mile 75 well-preapred to do some run/walk in 15 degree weather, as we were perfectly comfortable during the previous 12.5 miles.  we didn't know the temp drop was coming, so we had left without enough layers, leading to 3 hours of being on the brink of freezing.

getting to the beginning...

this is michael, who i met at umstead 100 last year, have kept in touch with, and who i spent some time DNF'ing Leadville 100 (2012) with.  he introduced me to and previously DNF'd this race, dropping around mile 80 (same thing at the summer version as well).  

We saw him each out and back, and finally, 23 hours in and during the cold snap, he was headed back in on the last leg (mile 90 or so for him) and would certainly make it to the finish line this time. 

as we first saw him approaching this time, he exclaimed "THIS FUCKING SUCKS!"  we exchanged some high fives and congrats, and it sure felt good to see a friend who was confident and happy to be breaking through whatever it was that limited him last time around, knowing that this time he'd cross the finish line.

adam and me at the start:

early on, it was nice to have runners nearby. the crowd thinned quite a bit after the first two out-and-backs, and after 12 hours most of the 50-milers were done.  35 people finished the full 100.  not sure how many FD's ("fuckin' done," the colloquial term for DNF) there were.

the picture below shows what the scene looked like the whole time.  run 100 yards of this course and you've seen what the entire course looks like, with a bit of variation added when the canal is on the left (back) instead of the right (out).

dramatic change in scenery, a lock:
 we'll come back to this part: 
mile 50 aid station:

i had forgotten to eat for the last few hours, or just didn't care to, so i ate nearly an entire pizza and a grilled cheese sandwich or three.  eating 1000 calories at once is great to get things back to normal, though it's not too helpful when you need to keep moving forward, preferrably by running.

imagine being in the cold for 3 hours (after being the cold for 12 hours).  then imagine sitting in front of this:

then imagine convincing yourself to go back out into the cold for 3 more hours.

many hours earlier, around mile 22, i reached down to untie or change the knot on my shoe, because it seemed like the shoelaces may have been digging into to some tendons on my left foot.  the shoelace was perfectly loose, so the ankle pain didn't make sense, or maybe had a different cause.

after standing up from a bit of rest in a foldy chair near that cozy heater at mile 50, it is revealed that the previously felt ankle pain was due to twist on an uneven surface (packed snow) , and is maybe something more like a sprain.  every step hurts.  every step fucking kills. heading out after mile 50, it hurts a lot to run, and walking hurts more than running.  it is also quite cold.


gasport aid station.  just like the previous heater, imagine being freezing, and then seeing this, and knowing there are miles and hours to go...



middleport aid station, at the 12.5/37.5/62.5/87.5 mile mark, is a town hall type room connected to a laundromat, which comes in handy for runners drying clothes.


this was around 1am, just before adam set out to pace me.  i asked if there were shifts here, because these ladies were at the start 18 hours earlier, and they explained that this is their aid station and they are proud of it and that's why they do it their way, for the full duration of the race.

adam made it 25 miles and did great!  around mile 85 the cold snap broke and i was feeling good.  here he is, guiding me into the aid station at 87.5:

rolled out of the 87.5 aid station, blasting eye of the tiger, dancing along the trail, and excited to get it done...

co-ban!  hanging out after the finish.
getting back to the part that i said we'd get back to...

the reason i was really hungry at mile 50 was because i didn't take any calories from miles 30-50 (+/- a few miles), becasuse i was in some outer-space, zen-nirvana-runner's high-alternate reality. 

the monotony of the landscape combined with the challenge of 100 miles seemed to push things to a deeper level.

as i was running along, i felt a flood of emotions, and just found myself weeping.

weeping for all that is good and all that is bad and all that will be and all that won't be and all that may be.  for everything wonderful i've ever experienced, and for everything i've ever fucked up, or will fuck up, and for the beauty that is my kids' faces, and for beauty of being alive.  

there are no words for this part of the day.  the closest thing i can liken it to as an adult is being on LSD.  the closest other thing i can liken it too is the memory of being a kid.

i remembered this feeling of tripping on acid and it was like the physical universe just sort of rotated away, and i found my self peacefully and conteplatively floating in space-time.  now was almost the same, with the added challenge of trying to float a pile of limbs forward in some coordinated fashion towards some defined end.  i don't know where time went and with every song that came on, i felt like i could feel the pure expressiveness of the timbre of every instrument of every song, and that everything in the music and beyond was expressing universal joy.

and the being a kid part...  
pure emotions.  
before we learn to think this or feel that, we just are.  
we exist and we know what is true and what is right and there are no excuses.    
it feels good because it is good or it feels bad because it is bad.  
this felt good:




getting back to reality...

my tired legs notice the elevator sublty begins to slow.  

reality starts to fade back in.

"how was your weekend?" i remember someone asked.  

unable to find the words to explain the meaning, i answer: 

"pretty good." 



javelina jundred 2012

it's 3 am.  i'm sleeping.  can't though, no sleep.  i'm outside.  there is a chill in the air and it is dark, save for the ambient glow of a full moon, softly illuminating an alien desert landscape.

must. wake. up.  i'm 78 miles in, and there are 23.4 miles to go.

i fall into stride with some runners and make some new friends.  we chat for a while.  one of them is falling asleep too.  they're playing "name two bands for each letter of the alphabet," to try to keep their brains moving, and they're stuck on x.  they are from new mexico, and they know leadville like the back of their hand!  they know karen?!  socializing keeps us awake for some minutes.  we play leapfrog with our paces and can't keep pace.   alone again.   

an erosion-prevention log built into the trail looks comfy.  sitting down to find that it is comfy, i nod off.  right away the next runners wake me up.  seems like they thought it looked nice and cozy too, though the middle of the trail is probably not the best place to sleep, they advise.

what they don't realize is i did try sleeping off the trail, but the desert's version of fall leaves is something like spent cactus spikes, and those are not nearly as cozy as a log built into a rocky trail for erosion prevention.

around this time it occurs to me that a bench is up there somewhere.  i just have to make it to the bench.

in addition to being tired, foot smash thing is starting to really hurt my left foot.  it's happening too soon.  we're not even close to "almost there."

time passes, and there's the bench.  something feels not quite right about the bench prospect though.  passing runners will see the bench and they will be concerned and ask "are you ok?  need anything?"  "yes, sleep," i'll reply, and they'll have woken me up.  

the aid stations is just a couple hundred feet up.  i recall that another runner was snoozing on the water resevoirs last time i passed (the course is 6+ loops).  earlier in the day the ground under that aid station canopy was covered in discarded gel packets and was swarming with bees, and we had to dance around a bit to avoiding getting stung while filling our bottles.  

now, that same area of ground, composed of coarse gravel, looked like the most comfortable bed in the world. as i stumbled in, so did another guy in a similar state.  "can we just nap for 10 minutes?" we both ask the aid station attendant to help us out.  i set my alarm to wake me in 9 minutes, lie down on the gravel, and rest my head on a water bottle of a pillow.

9 minutes later, my phone quacks, and i wake up.  foot smash pain is gone, i'm not tired anymore, and my legs feel...  almost fresh!?  wohooo!  i'm up and out, runnig the next 15 miles, no problems.  11 minute miles uphill at mile 95?  why not?!

eventually ran out of gas, and hiked it in for the last couple miles, getting to the finish line in just over 27 hours. 



collected some new bling!




there were highs and lows throughout the day, and it may never cease to amaze me how the body and mind can oscillate between the highs and lows.  moments of elation are balanced with moments of pain so intense that it becomes clear that the best choice is just to stop and go home.  i saw a runner near the halfway point that i had spent some time chatting with earlier who now said things were going poorly and that she was going to be happy just getting the 100k done and calling it a day.  the race has a 100k option so that your results still count instead of outright dnf, and she and i had both dnf'd our previous races (western states and leadville respectively).  i cited a story of my friend michael who i remembered seing go from being a complete stumbling zombie at mile 60 or 70 to then blazing up hills a few hours later.  and hours later, i saw her again, smiling, feeling great, and well past the 100k mark.   she finished the full 100 miles.

i had several moments like that.  texted mimi during my first low, which was at mile 18.  18?!  i have run a least one 20 miler once a week just about every week for the last year now, so to be feeling defeated at mile 18 was absurd.  in my head i was telling myself "something must be seriously fucked up if i feel like this already, so it's fine that i'm done.  sometimes it just goes like this."  fortunately, this happened:

karl meltzer said this in a recent interview, and sometimes all it takes is a little mantra like that, replayed over several miles, and suddenly you can find yourself back in action.

exercise patience.  exercise.  patience.

as bad as the other lows were, they were well after the 50 mile point, and well within the cutoff limit, so i just dug deep and pushed through.  at one point, probably 14 hours, i found myself just balling, so thrilled to have pushed past some wall of pain and the subsequent mental challenge, that i couldn't contain my emotions. 

a bunch of (mostly sorted) pics from the day:
midwest crew, (holly, me, carrie, brian)

how to stay cool:

second sunrise (i think?)

i did this one solo, without a crew or pacers, because of some thing i made up about how doing it solo might at least partially make up for happened at leadville, presumably by making it harder and by leaving me with nothing and no one to fall back on.  while i missed my running bffs, i feel good about getting it done on my own.  i went to some new place by msyelf, watched the sun rise in the desert having never seen such a landscape before, and met the challenge of me vs myself for 27+ hours.  

was this really a solo effort though?  unless you are in 1st place on a point to point trail in an unsupported race with no aid stations, i don' think there is any such thing as solo.  the local high school track team helped fill my water bottles at one of the aid stations.  new mexico friends help me stay awake.  LA Lakers 'WORLD PEACE" uniform costume guy gave me a gu roctane in the middle of the night at a time when i couldn't even remember what kind of product roctane was (i've consumed a fair share of this in the past).  friends sent me encouraging and funny texts.  zombie doctor (who as of this year now holds the men's world record for most hundreds in a year, which he referred to as "have run a few of these this year") shared some important lessons about bloodflow.  the lady who had lost 3 close people to her, 2 that week, and was still out there, reminded me to be thankful and made me think that if she's out here getting it done, i sure as hell have no excuse not to.  karen (dnf redemption!) and vicki and tommy countless others helped me pass the time, sharing gear reviews, race reports, dreams, goals and life stoires.  during those times together the pace unknowingly picks up, the concept of mile markers fades away, and we temporarily forget about the pain.  we're just there, in the now, and we're together.  beyond each individual runner, the human spirit is putting its best foot forward.  

the editor's note from this month's issue of ultrarunning magazine, by tia bodington, captures this well:

"one of the most striking things is that you can never know, just by looking at sombeody, how they will do in a race.  they may be fit, but injured.  they may be carrying 20 pounds more than optimal for their frame, yet be so well-trained and determined that they beat the socks off of everyone else in their age group.  they may be a novice and not know the meaning of that special kind of ultra pain that creeps up after mile 82 or so.  

the runner next to you could be a junk-food junke, vegan, omnivore, or cavement diet proponent.  maybe they're just getting over chometherapy and out jogging a 100-miler anyway, or just getting over the flu.  mabye they're a top triathlete or sub-three-hour marathoner checking out another sport.  

you don't know, just by looking at sombody, excatly "who"  they are, only that they are here on the trail next to you, deserving of your consideration and respect as a fellow ultrarunner.  you don't ask if they are a republican or a democrat before you say "good job, stay strong, you can do it."  you don't ask if they are gay or straight, pro-choice or antedilvuian before you ask them what they'd like in their bottle at the aid station.  you choose the common ground - without juding other aspects of their lives.  that's one of the great things about the ultrarunning community"

leadville trail 100, 2012 - did not finish

all i ever wanted was to pick apart the day, put the pieces back together my way

-aesop rock





the plan

finish in 29 hours or so, with 30 being the cutoff.  a reasonable goal based on previous ultra experience and time available for training and fitness improvement.  so starting off, we've got one hour in the bank.  let's maybe have two hours in there for next year.


race morning

no sleep!  4am start.  woke up at 2:15.  

both at silver rush and here, greg (a friend of matt's and mine from ny, who finished last year) and I managed to find each other with no set plan to do so, amidst hundreds of other runners coming and going from all directions.  yay!


Start to May Queen (13.5 Miles)

802 cheering runners, even more cheering onlookers, and the stream of headlamps were all electrifying.  people in their yards in pajamas and nightgowns, screaming their heads off and high-fiving us to get us moving.  


as we headed out of town and into the turquoise lake area, tons of people were camping out, fires burning brightly at 5am, awake and ready to cheer on their runners.


Start to MQ Results: 2:37 (target) / 2:29 (actual) / 3:15 (cutoff)

May Queen to Fish Hatchery (23.5 miles)

the first signficant climb, sugarloaf, went smoothly.  hung with greg, sunrise in the mountains is beautiful and  feels even better with friends

the powerlines up there are where we're headed

out there

 up there

if it looks like i'm weeping, i probably am.  i remember that beastie boys were playing (on random) at this point, and everything felt super

powerlines down (where my day would later end on the way back in)

off the trail and on the stretch of road into Fish Hatchery.  

one of the hardest parts of the race for me to think about.  was feeling great, on schedule, and 100% sure that i would finish.  playlist on random left me listening to time to pretend by mgmt and feeling indescribable excitement and joy.  i find it fun to play with song lyrics and make them about running.  pretend you got this, and you got it.  

not long after this, along the road, there were cheerleader girls yelling for people just before the aid station.  must have been pros because it's like they looked into everyone's souls and called out whatever might be the most inspiring thing for that person to hear. neat.  


MQ to FH Results: 4:55 (goal) / 4:37 (actual) / 6:00 (cutoff)


Fish Hatchery to Half Pipe (29.1 miles)

this is the road section, and first time with doubles of nutrition (plan = refill bottles with water at a remote aid station and fill it up with powders myself, instead of doing a quick and easy handoff and receiving fresh bottles like at the crew-accessible aid stations).  wasn't quite prepped for storing the extra powder bags, and luckily matt passed in the car and was able to find and deliver my other belt thing.  it took 2 miles out of FH to get all stuff situated and to fall into a rhythm.  body was struggling a bit from the powerline downhill and mind was frustrated by 10s of minutes of trying to organize stuff.  did some run/walk.  the road is deceptively long.  

and then, a right turn, and finally we're off the road:

some guy hanging out "yeah man, you gotta stop and take a picture of that view" along with fist bump #2 of 6, dunno how or why that guy was always around.  
shortly after, got to a section where it seems that the locals unofficially party and crew.  there were a couple of kids, maybe 7 and 9, hanging out in a rock field, playing catch with a rock.  kids from colorado love nature so much and are so happy to be at ultras that they have fun playing catch with rocks!  another kid strolling to the family cheering section with a coloring book.  no need for backlit screens.  RVs and vans and SUVs and cars with flags and banners, full of loving peeps waiting for their runners.  

FH to HP Results: 6:26 (goal) / 6:15 (actual) / 7:20 (cutoff)

Half Pipe to Twin Lakes (39.5 miles)

i studied the course enough to know about most of the obvious parts, and paid no attention to this middle section, full of rolling ups and downs.  it dragged on forever.  i began to daydream about seeing my friends faces at twin lakes.  then, seeing my friends became the only thing that kept me going.  

and then there i was, on the famous (ha) descent off of the trail and into the twin lakes partytown area, 40 miles in and right on time.  this aid station is huge and full of crew and family and friends and supporters, a thrill to approach, especially when you know your buddies are in there.

tried to get through quick.  took off nb110s and put on Hokas.  crew was asking which of the "extra stuff" in one of bags i needed.  thinking this was the emergency bag, i thought none.  "i need 1200 calories of solid food for the next section."  something seemed weird about this exchange, like we were not quite talking and thinking about the same thing.

HP to TL Results: 8:44 (goal) / 8:23 (actual) / 10:00 (cutoff)

Twin Lakes (to Hopeless) to Winfield (50 miles)

heading out of the aid station and into the meadows.  wtf?!:

thought about nutrition.  the gu's, stingers, perp solids, etc were supposed to be in the belt.  i had already picked up the belt on the road, so they said it was all in the pockets of the rain jacket they gave me.  checked pockets.  realized that i indeed had the calories, though in the form of the powder that gets mixed into handhelds, and i had the hyrdation pack on instead.  mimi raced back to get glover, or glover was there and raced back, or something.  either way glover caught up with me a while in with 12 gus in 2 flavors.  not what was planned and better than nothing!

back in action.

so many people hang out at twin lakes.  every time i said to a cheering onlooker "thanks for being here," even in the middle of the night, they always said "thanks for inspiring us."  
 the trail and the beautiful backdrop
peeps scouting for runners
hope pass is the farthest back and lowest notch, a few miles out and 3000+ft up from here
stream crossing was low this year.  stopped to enjoy a glorious 3 minute natural ice bath with a couple guys before getting moving
 ran into greg again on the way up (ran ahead and looked back for this pic).  that stream is rushing right along the trail for much of the way up, beckoning runners to stray from the course, cool off, relax a bit.  why stick to this plan and this artificially constrained timeline when you could just freely frolic in a crisp, refreshing mountain stream?  the stream is always just a few too many rugged steps from the trail, so we continue upwards.

got to see tony on the way up, on his way down, with dakota jones pacing him, neat!  he was in the lead at this point.

nearing hopeless

llamas (or alpacas?)

hopeless aid station, one of the most magical places on earth, because it exists only one day a year and is full of smiling helpful volunteers, even though it is located at 12,000ft+ and is inaccessible by road (hence the llamas). 

headin out, looking down on hopeless

lookin up at greg, making his way up

at the top!

over the peak and ejoying the view on our way back down
as beautiful as this scenery was, this is where my day fell apart.  the shoes that i switched into at mile 39.5 were too small.  way too small to be trying to run down a very steep descent.  tried anything, eventually just had to really slow down.  due to the slow down, i ran out of water and nutrition.  there were a few more vanilla bean gu's and these could not be consumed and surely would have resulted in puking.

luckily we had good weather.  even though i suppose that it's statistically improbable that lightning hit that tree while people were runningb by it, there is a tree right on the trail that got struck by lightning. 


ryan and mimi awaiting my arrival at winfield.  go team!  these two did a top notch job for first-timers crewing and pacing.  they attended to my needs, thought ahead for me, made me feel good, stopped me from feeling bad, made sure i had what i needed, made me eat, gave me something to look forward to, kept me company, solved problems on the fly, had to be ready to run many miles, and on top of this gave up a whole weekend away from their families.  it's hard to explain that in addition to making sure i have the right stuff, and have someone there to functionally run along side me, that being there means adopting and eminating a certain positive attitude and unique approach to a challenge.  even though i can't explain it now and didn't define it for them up front, they were it, and that made my day.  mutliple times they brought me back from having fully accepted that it was ok to quit.  wish that i could have finished, if only to make it worth their while.

this is karen, who personifies all that is great about the ultra community.  we met her while she was volunteering at check-in on thursday and chatted for a few minutes.  she's in town from new mexico, was in chicago last weekend, is pacing someone for the full 50 (this is often split between 2-3 pacers), and is doing run rabbit run, another harder hundred miler in steamboat, in 3 weeks.  later we saw her at the italian restaurant.  the next morning we met up with greg, and there she was again; she's greg's pacer!  we parted ways and coach weber took us out and about to see aid stations.  while we were driving through downtown, there was karen, helping some volunteers set up the gates to close off sixth street.  she just happened to be walking by and thought they could use a hand.  more on karen later...
quote unquote almost there to the winfield aid station / midpoint, pretending like i feel ok on the colorado trail section that was introduced this year and seemed to take forever  

ran into http://www.dailymile.com/people/MMCDUFFIE/entries/17405037" target="_blank">michael on the way out, who i met at umstead 100.  we saw each other on the way up hope as well, and spent some time catching up.  hope all the runners enjoyed our chatter "michael and i fell in love at umstead earlier this year, and now we're rekindling our romance here on the trail in leadville, unplanned!  how special!"  also the rock stars were all passing us on their way back in at that time so we were acting like 14 year olds about tony, nick clark, and anna frost.

being so far behind schedule, ryan and mimi headed out to figure out wtf is going on with me

this lead to a much appreciated, advance (before the aid station) mountain dew and honey stinger waffle thing.  ryan was also trying to convince me to eat some honey stinger gel thing.  hopefully when he saw people puking 20-40oz at a time later, he understood what i meant when i said there was no way i was gonna try to consume that thing until i was feeling better later.

Made it there, completely bonked, and the +21 minutes in the bank (over the 29 hour goal) were now -61 minutes. Coach said "get some calories in you" and that was it.


TL to Winfield Results: 12:38 (goal) / 13:39 (actual) / 14:15 (cutoff))


Winfield to Twin Lakes (60.5 miles)

Still bonked on the way out.  Glover did a fantastic job of getting me moving.  having someone open your gu, hand it to you, and then take the finished packaging is the best thing ever!

"we're running to the next marker"  he kept saying.  "all i got," i kept saying, long before the next marker, returning to walking.  eventually things came together, and i was ready to move.

started getting ahead of him.  took all the nutrition he was carrying for me, not wanting to get too far out only to have no calories.  

even though it might be hard to choke down a gu or a few on a long run around chicago, when you are climbing a 2000ft steep ascent you can feel that factory of your legs cranking and you know you need to fuel it.  seems like i nailed the nutrition for the climbs, taking in 100 calories every 10-30 minutes, as needed based on feel and energy expenditure.  

should have thought about what else i might need before parting.  earlier, as we left winfield, we almost left without a headlamp, which would have been fine if on schedule and not an hour + behind.  ryan went back for it while i kept moving.  he temporarily put it on his head. 

after he got me back to life, and we got past the rolling CT section, i started scurrying up hope pass.  passed some people.  realized that ryan was behind me, out of sight, and that i had no headlamp and no salt.  

cruised up hope pass on the way back in.  never ran out of breath, passed a bunch of people, even jogged one of the flatter sections.  contrasted with running out of breath on the 4 12,000ft ascents at silver rush, this seems to be due largerly to a 4 week hypoxico tent rental (no thanks for the exploded eye blood vessel though) and months of altolab use.

luckily, before we split up, ryan gave me his shoes, and saved the day (it would be sunday when i dnf'd, so seems like it counts)



nearing the top,started talking with some people about extra headlamps or ideas for how to get one.  the guys in front of me said "find one to borrrow at hopeless, if you have only that microtorch, you are done."  

thinking that it was unlikely that i'd find one to borrow, i thought to myself: "you are incorrect.  i will do this."

asked for headlamp at hopeless.  no luck.  headed out into dusk, soon to be dark.  

time for the micro torch.  

held in my left hand while also holding and using a trekking pole for balance in the dark.  this particular light also has a convenient, battery saving, 5-minute auto off.  

what followed was a harrowing and exhilirating hour or two, running 2,500ft down a mountain in the dark, on rocky, rooty, uneven, winding trails.

in addition to having no light, we were also chasing the cut-off to get into twin lakes.  i could walk down and surely miss the cutoff, or i could go for it.

missing the cutoff would mean missing a chance to run in the mountains with one of my best friends, and i was not about to miss that.  "i have to make this cut off because mimi and i are going to run together here."

found a group in front of me.  pacer in front, then a girl with no light, then the pacer's runner, lisa.  the pacer was incredible.  "big rock to the right, lots of roots here, this part is really ... (as he falls on what he was trying to describe.)"  lisa kept checking on me.  runners would come up behind us, and when they had their bright lights, mixed with the bright lights in front of me, when i'd look down at my tiny dim area, i could hardly see anything.  at one point i made some dorky star wars reference, gonna just close my eyes and use the force down this thing.  

somehow, made it.  got to the meadows, and saw the stars.  the stars at 9,000ft elevation are like when you cross your eyes at one of those 3D book things; fully immersive.  saw the lights of the twin lakes aid station just ahead.  saw a shooting star in the direction of TL.  yes, really.  heard a conversation going on.  just wanted to zone out and feel the words of normal people talking for a few minutes, while keeping moving.  a few minutes later, still listening in on that conversation, familair sounds register.  it's greg!

hung with greg and pacer karen for a minute and couldn't really keep up.  at the stream crossing, i took my shoes off, because i knew i didn't have enough time to dig out a pair of socks and clean up/lube feet at TL.  so i lost greg.  when i got across the stream though, karen was waiting for me, waiting to give me her headlamp.  what a relief!  she ran ahead to get to greg, and i eventually caught them before we got into TL.    

as we rolled in to the aid station and crowds, there were still tons of families and kids hanging out, even after 9pm.  more of the thanks for being here!  thanks for inspiring us!  uhhhhh, chills.  you realize your baby is sleeping in your arms and it's the middle of the night and it's cold and you're in the mountains, right?  

checked in, and almost missed the checkout timing sensor.  

shoes were filled with sand.  

had to put on cold weather gear, an issue which mimi successfully forced.  thank you.

it was chaotic.  they put the barracade up, people were still cruising in for a while.  a few minutes later, even as we rolled out and up the climb, we heard the cheers for runners making the (extended?) cutoff?  it sounded good; it sounded like hope.

at winfield we were down 61 minutes, now at TL we're down ~80 (was in the aid for 10 minutes before hitting the out timer where this was registered). even though i had zipped back up hope pass, this time was largerly due to the bonk recovery time required from winfield to the base of hope

Winfield to TL Results: 16:27 (goal) / 17:58 (actual) / 18:00 (cutoff))

Twin Lakes to Half Pipe (70.9 miles)

started off bonked again due to that downhill.  couldn't stop for nutrition with only that dim light. needed to stick to the pace and attitude of lisa and her crew.  

TL inbound starts with a bit of a climb.  took a long time to get the calorie deficit back up.  with mimi's help, we finally got moving again.  

because i was using the headlamp karen gave me, it had different batteries than what i had backups for.  this made me nervous about the next leg of the course.

mimi kept me moving.

"hey look at that bridge, nice" i though to myself at some point.  as we got closer, the elaborate wood bridge i saw was simply a patch of tall grass.  haha.

even though it seems like we stopped too often to admire the stars, we got to the next aid station 20 minutes ahead of the cutoff!

TL to HP Results: 19:35 (goal) / 21:10 (actual) / 21:30 (cutoff))

Half Pipe to Fish Hatchery (76.5 miles)

at the HP aid station, we asked for batteries, and of course someone gave mimi more batteries than  we needed.  and so it goes, at ultras.

after HP the course mostly levels off, with a few miles of trails and then 6 or so miles of road.  that road back in is a total mindfuck at 3am.  the cars on the road into FH look so close ("i'm almost there!"), and then they look so far ("i'll never make it!").  FH looks so close, and then it looks so far.  We got some run/walk in here, quite a good amount.  apparehtly, just the right amount.  We arrived at FH inbound at 24:15:03 into the race; 3 seconds after the cutoff.  "We're letting you through, just be practical and get in and out of here."  i was feeling great, so i spent 2 minutes in the aid station, and headed back out.  

just fine relative to the cut-off, not so good relative to the plan.

HP to FH Results: 21:32 (goal) / 23:15 (actual) / 23:15 (cutoff))

Fish Hatchery to DNF (~80 miles)

saw ryan again, and got my headlamp back!

the road was ok, i had had enough of the pavement though and was excited to get to the base of the trail.  

before that, there was some weird house along the road.  during the day, they had a sign outside that said something like "more whiskey for all men" (greg says that this says "fresh horses and more whiskey for my men") and at night they were blaring music from a PA that we heard as far as 2 miles out from FH.  i work the county line?

after those sounds quieted, we heard a pack of wolves hooting and hollering in the mountains.   spine tingling.

this is where i really needed to have some time in the bank.  at the base of the climb, i knew we were chasing the clock and my nutrition was low again and body was a bit stressed from our agressive (if you can call 14 minute miles aggressive) approach to FH.  needed some time to do some flat walking, or really slow climbing, and there was so much pressure to keep moving.  

on my back, lying upside down on the ascent, desparately hoping to drain some of the ____ out of my legs.  dunno what it was.  just.  so close.

mimi tried her best. i could only go when i could go.  too many hours of chasing the clock, of going at peak to barely make it, instead of going slow and steady.  recovering from a few bonks is a lot harder than keeping it balanced, but i hadn't kept it balanced.

so, that was the end:

we stopped in one place on the way up the powerlines and i tried to get it back for some time.  by the time we decided it was more likely that we could safely get to where we came from than where we were going to, we saw some ATVs on their way up the powerlines.

FH to MQ Results: somewhere between 24-25 hours

DNF to May Queen (via 4 wheeler and SUV)

At May Queen we saw Greg roll through, what a bad ass guy!

We were freezing from our ride.  But some guys with legit hypo rolled in.  Their faces were pale and vacant and their bodies violently and involuntarily shook trying to generate heat.  

Ate some fresh flapjacks, yum!

how to DNF in 4 easy steps.

or, take any number of steps in these 4 pairs of shoes and you'll DNF

  1. start with the wrong shoes
  2. change into shoes that are no better at mile 23
  3. change into shoes that are terrible at mile 40, and then try running down a mountain in them
  4. change into shoes that are bad at mile 50

that was all it took.  one thing lead to another.  the mintues added up.  

#1 was because my salomon sense, which i love and fit like a favorite old pair of jeans, were falling apart. the smal hole above my right toe seemed like it'd be ok, and a then a couple of miles in, the side split.  on pavement this would be fine, but we're running through dirt and gravel and sand, and when your shoe fills with that, it's like taking a power sander to the bottoms of your feet.

#2 cost 5-10 minutes and gained nothing.  the nb110s  i changed into weren't laced right, didn't have gaiter velcro, and there was no time to lace them properly.  so these also let in tons of dirt and rocks and provided a fair amount of foot smash too from not being tied right.

#3 was a disaster.  the shoes i tried to go down hope pass in caused my toes to be smashed to the front.  i tried anything.  curling toes under, rolling forward from heel, etc. you just can't run fast down a steep mountain when curling your smashed toes under because the rest of your structure isn't ready for that base and it hurts.  it took me just as long to get down the back of hope as it did to get up.  and this is a steep 2000+ ft climb that goes up to 12,600ft.  

#4 didn't help either.  took 5-10 more minutes. 

stfu already...

the elevation profile was like this:




No Type Start
Duration Distance Elevation
1 Active 5:00:38 AM 0.00 mi 02:44:14.6 13.50 mi -17 ft +723 ft / -739 ft 12:09 min/mi -  Start to MQ
2 Active 7:44:52 AM 13.50 mi 02:08:28.7 10.00 mi -554 ft +1236 ft / -1790 ft 12:50 min/mi -  MQ to FH
3 Active 9:53:21 AM 23.50 mi 01:34:40.5 7.00 mi +323 ft +350 ft / -28 ft 13:31 min/mi -  FH to HP
4 Active 11:28:01 AM 30.50 mi 02:17:22.6 9.00 mi -591 ft +952 ft / -1542 ft 15:15 min/mi -  HP to TL
5 Active 1:45:24 PM 39.50 mi 02:20:02.8 4.50 mi +2986 ft +3000 ft / -14 ft 31:07 min/mi -  TL to hopeless
6 Active 4:05:27 PM 44.00 mi 02:36:10.5 6.50 mi -1996 ft +674 ft / -2670 ft 24:01 min/mi -  Hopeless to Winfield
7 Active 6:41:38 PM 50.50 mi 02:35:04.9 6.50 mi +1905 ft +2678 ft / -774 ft 23:51 min/mi - Winfield to Hopeless 
8 Active 9:16:42 PM 57.00 mi 01:32:35.1 5.50 mi -2860 ft +24 ft / -2884 ft 16:50 min/mi -  Hopeless to TL
9 Active 10:49:18 PM 62.50 mi 03:24:06.1 9.00 mi +512 ft +1520 ft / -1008 ft 22:40 min/mi -  TL to HP
10 Active 2:13:24 AM 71.50 mi 02:00:43.5 7.10 mi -173 ft +92 ft / -265 ft 17:00 min/mi -  HP to FH
11 Active 4:14:07 AM 78.60 mi 00:50:54.1 1.96 mi +282 ft +404 ft / -122 ft 26:00 min/mi -  FH to fail
Totals: 00:04:24.0 80.56 mi -181 ft +11654 ft / -11835 ft 17:55 min/mi -  

I am confident that i was fit enough to do this and that i had a solid plan.  Only minor tweaks are needed to ensure a finish next year.  like, wearing fucking shoes that aren't falling apart and that fit.  organizing aid stations a little bit differently will help with a few minutes too.  and who knows, if this year's female winner, tina lewis, can go from ~30hours her first year (second ultra), to 5th place in 2011, to 1st place this year, maybe i can make next year a bit more comptetive and exciting.

Planning for and doing a hundred like this is just incredible.  wtf are you gonna need at mile 60?  when are you going to be here or there?  when should your crew pick up the pacers?   what if this?  what if that?    extra.  backups.  spares.  matt did a great job of filling in all those blanks, thinking of the things i hadn't thought of, and making sure all of our stuff got to the right genearl place at the right time.


hours and hours away from my family, early morning runs, late night runs.  days of friends' lives.  thousands of dollars.  not seeing my wife on the day of our 12 year anniversary.  walking in the door with no shiny new belt buckle to show the kids.  

all for nothing.

or not.

finish or not, it was 25+ hours of being here now, being in the present, being truly alive.  we smiled some of the realest smiles (though not sure if next year will be just the same kind of smiles, as tony's presence (look closely at the background of this pic) is up in the air).  

a few times a year, this little mining town comes alive with a mass of people who are all there to do the same thing, to give it our all together, to try to see if we really can do more than we think we can.

until next year

and let's end with this.  

not long ago i was a fat smoker guy.  so mabye you want to say congrats when you read this.  please skip that because even though to you finishing 80 miles might seem like a thing, it's not. i set out to run 100 miles in the mountains and did not succeed yet.  i will next year, for sure.  

instead, for this year's effort, think about you, and think about how we're all (except for an elite few) just a bunch of normal people trying to find or test our limits.  finish or not, it feels great to give it a shot.  so many other great thoughts and moments and memories are left out this because it's just too much.  when's the last time your mind was overflowing with 24+ hours of non-stop exciting memories?

so the final thought is this (one that you think to yourself):

maybe i could do this

leadville silver rush 50





i want to stand as close to the edge as i can without going over. out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.

- kurt vonnegut










it begins

the only differences between the start of this race and the othefr recent ultras i've attempted were: the guy ready to announce the start with a shotgun, and the 200ft, 30° climb just beyond the starting line.  

around 60% of the starters are from colorado, so the one other difference was that everywhere i looked there were wiry, badass, mountain goat looking motherfuckers, seemingly ready to destroy this course, and i found msyelf seriously considering whether my... let’s call it midwestern frame, would be able to keep up.

spotted greg, in from new york, and it was great to catch up with him and to have a buddy there.  (was even better when we got to meet up at the finish line (he finished way before me))

along the way

seems fine to leave it to the pics for many of the sections:







at the peak of the first 12,000 ft ascent, i feebly remarked to the group:

“that was fun”

a few runners laughed, as best as one can laugh in an oxygen-deprived stated.  which is to say, i might be confusing a sharp exhale with a laugh.

even though it was hard, it really was fun to be soaking in this environment and experience for the first time.

coming down after the first 12k 
progress; printer boy aid station (mile 13.5)

next, ran through some forest and cruised down for a while, then climbed again for a while.  

the second climb seemed a bit harder, and fortunately i had met and was chatting with another guy from chicago, matt. he's an engineer who works at a construction firm in chicago, and the firm he works for happens to build trade floors for exchanges and financial firms.  ha.   amongst other conversations (nanoseconds per foot), i told him i wondered if the elevation would have a cumulative effect or if it would feel about he same with each climb.  little did i know.

i think matt said it first, and we both had the exact same thought in mind:

on top of the world

starting down after that second 12k.  the way down is steep and tricky.  as far as you can see in the picture, we ran, and then we ran some more.

 half way, stumptown aid station

things were going well at this point.  took my time with the aid station bag, realized i needed to switch music sources, merged unused vitargo, etc.


someone at the station to a runner: “how’s it goin out there?”

runner: “i’m really suffering”

me: “hey, isn’t that what we signed up for?”

runner “well in that case, i’m getting my money’s worth”

on the way out of stumptown, family and friends cheering on runners

from there, it's sort of level for a bit, and then it's all uphill, again.


12,000ft climb #3, or "out on the edge"

what edge?  

the edge of what i was capable of doing. 

what is there to see, out on the edge?

this time, i saw my self.  

there was nothing else to see. 

the lack of oxygen simplifies thoughts and feelings beyond words.

concepts of past or future fade away.  

there's no looking forward like "if i do this, then i'll ..."  or "i did x before, so i know i can do this now."  

it's just me.

it's just now.  


simple sentences play in the mind:

"can i?  





fuck it.  


find me,  






made it.  




(no words)"




over the peak and back in action.  it seemed amazing to discover how quickly our bodies can shift from near shutdown to dancing down a descent.





looking back, another runner (matt from chi!) is coming up the hill:


the fourth climb was slow and steady, so it was not as acutely intense.

nonetheless, it was hard.  all these people kept scurrying on by on the way up, just like on the previous climbs.  
"you guys are from around here, aren't you?"
being at high elevation relative to day-to-day life seemed quite different from midwest or sea level ultras, in that it's really hard to spend as much time chatting and getting to know people, and that is one of my favorite things about doing these things.  
it's hard because you are either throwing your body down a decline for 5 or 10 miles at a time, letting gravity do its thing, or you're pushing so hard to make it up an incline that you can't use any of the oxygen that you're taking in for talking.  
a few times i found myself saying "would love to keep talking and getting to know you, and instead i have to use this oxygen to keep my body moving."

many times i had to just stop on these climbs.  bending over with hands on knees seemed to feel the best, and to allow the most oxygen in.  every time, i heard the same thing:

"need any help brother?"
"nope, just collecting oxygen, thanks"
"i'd give you some if i had it"
of course...










finally over the last peak and making my way down, it seemed evident that i had done the previous downhills too quickly, as my body was in a lot of pain and as much as i wanted to run down, walking or stumbling was the only option for a while.



down below, the clouds were rolling in, or maybe that's the wrong perspective and it was that i was arriving where they had rolled in



lightning, thunder, and hail followed.
higher up and a few minutes before this, some guy who looked like a local said:
"we need to get down into the trees before this hits"
not knowing exactly what that meant, i headed for the trees, as quickly as i could


what followed was a warm light rainfall, then a cold downpour, then a freezing downpour, then hail, then more freezing downpour.  7 miles to go, wishing i would have grabbed my raincoat (was forgotten in the car, not even drop bag), wishing i would have snuck a trash bag from that aid station, was convinced that i would either have to run hard to stay warm enough or to get taken to the hospital at some point for hypothermia.  it was cold.  my hands were freezing at the beginning of the day as the thing started, and now they're freezing again.

an intersting thing can happen during ultras.  miles 40-42 before this storm were absolute torture.  body was busted and hurt badly all over. maybe it was the cold rain and hail, maybe it's just part of deal.  next thing i knew, i'd been running for a few miles, and everything felt great.


finish line

must be some kind of a cruel trick, we joked a few times, especially after thinking we were going to be making the final descent only to realize we still had several hundred feet of climbing.

even though we're racing for position # 250 or so, it's still fun to try to hold your spot at the end, and to pass people.  passed a dozen or so runners in the final miles, and when it came to more climbing at the end, i just let it go.  

the two guys in this pic passed me, one a leadman (did the 50 mile bike race the day before), and the other a leadville resident.

as the starting pic showed, there was a steep incline to start the race.  arriving back in at the top of this steep incline did not indicate that final decline of the race.  wtf???  meandered around the course a bit more, only to find an even steeper decline, on a surface that looked like it was fashioned for tobogan descents, not for running.  





after stumbling down that thing, finally, the finish line:







these are the things that when said repetivitely for some stretch of time (like in tune with every step for as long as it stays on the mind), or when brought to mind occasionaly, seem to help time pass or seem to help pain fade.

"pain just hurts"

"fuck yeah"

"this is what you signed up for"






course notes:

tricky.  most of the time, probably 75%, you really have to watch your footing so that you don’t trip.  lots of large rocks, loose rocks, uneven terrain, etc. 

a lot of times i wanted to look around at the mountains and couldn't because you have to watch where you’re going.  this is where it’s helpful that it’s an out and back course, because the part you’re running down you’ll be walking up, and the other way, so you really get to soak it all in.

with the widely varying terrain, there was no need for the usual tempo-synched long running mix, so this playlist of fun songs was used.  other than when a peak song hit in the middle of a 22 minute mile, and i had to tear my headphones off and throw them off a cliff, this worked out pretty well.

nutrition notes:

following the advice and research of tim noakes' new book waterlogged, tried to minimize sodium intake, and tried to drink to thirst and eat to hunger, with some minimal attentiveness just to make sure that really long periods of time don’t go by without enough water or calories. 

seemed to work fine.  salstick+ around mile 30, mostly for the caffeine.  happened one other time, and also had some perpetuem solids, again for caffeine and for change of pace (one flavor of vitargo can get boring).  so all in that’s only 500+mg of sodium, 10% of what might be recommended for this distance.  weather was not too hot, and there was a nice breeze, so sweat rates were low.    this is the part where i do not go on a tangent about “the establishment” or “the man,” or about gatorade being a myth-creating evil force in the sports world. 

beyond that, no idea how many calories of food or ounce of water were consumed.  

gear notes:

along with not tracking calorie and water intake, for the first time the gps watch was only used to show realtime elevation, just to get a sense for what different elevations felt like.  this worked out well.  drank when thirsty, ate when hungry, and ran as much as my body would let me, and didn't worry about anything else.  

food storage:  need to find a better way to carry the vitargo supply around.  maybe it’s because there was only one drop bag setup at this one.   though if there were more, i’d not want to keep going for a drop bag.  at start and mid departure, there are 4 bags with 2oz of powder each, and this gets bulky. 

two amphipod stretchy belts.  one with camera, and one with vitagro.  a bit too bouncy here and there.

used the back pocket of my shorts for my iphone (in lifeproof case).  bad move. it can get really annoying to try to open a zipper with one hand when you are carrying 2 handheld waterbottles and have been running for 9 hours.  the headphone jack on the lifeproof case is weirdly shaped, so it often took minutes of frustrating effort just trying to get the thing back in my pocket.  was taking it out to take pictures, to read msgs on uphills, and to make it start playing music again when it stopped randomly a couple of times.  can not deal with this during the hundred.  will probably just use 2x nanos and no pockets for music next time.  

is good to get msgs tho….




almost wrapping it up

no pictures even come close to feeling what it is like to be there, to be immersed in it.  

lost count of how many times i started weeping at the beauty of nature and the wonder of the challenge.  

even though it’s hard to get oxygen into your blood, the mountain air is crisp and fresh.  the water that flows throw streams or creeks or puddles you pass along the way, it reflects light without oil streaks or dirt or algae.  just clean and pure and beautiful.  dipping your hat in it and splashing your face is a nice way to cool off, and being that connected to the natural source feels pretty good too.




it always seems weird to me to return to the reality of day to day life.  happy to be home, happy to hug my family, and prepping to transition back into the normal kind of of work the following day, everything feels good.  the next morning, it all starts out fine as i bike to the train, arrive downtown, and order my coffee at the train station coffee shop (though the walk down the stairs prior to the coffee part is usually a bit of a reminder of what i've been up to). 

after getting coffee and being reminded what hot, fresh coffee tastes like (doubled up on years-old instant packets at the motel before the race sunday morning), i walk out the door of the train station and it hits me.  

flat sidewalks.  

equally spaced, artificially positioned trees.  

the peaks are the tops of buildings.  

machines take us to the tops of the peaks.

the view can be nice, though it is seen safely from behind a glass wall in stale, climate-controlled air.

we're no longer fully immersed in nature, sensing it from beyond periphery, soaking in the freshest air and seeing the brightest natural colors.  

want to be back there, want to only ever be there.



skipping back in time a bit:  haniging out right after the race, greg and i saw an old timer, a guy who he had seen at the training camp.  the guy was holding an age group award, and we guessed that it was for 60+.  aware that we're a part of a growing trend, we talked about how bad ass and inspiring the old timers are, and about what might happen with the trend, and about how we hope we keep coming back, finding our way to the edge, year after year. 



friends and i have joked about some of the peeps you talk to during ultras, when they say "oh this is just a training race, i'm really just getting ready for ___" 

___ is one race or another.

for me, it's beyond one race or another.  

it's getting ready for feeling alive.

for voluntarily and intentionally doing something that is really hard, and hoping at the start there's a least a possilibiliy of finishing, and right along with it, knowing there's also the possibility of not finishing.  and maybe that's what makes it real and makes it feel so good.  our parents or grandparents or their parents had some real shit to do.  they had to make their way out there, fight in wars, claim new land; it wasn't all certain.  

now, we don't have to do anything.  

but we can.   

and from what i've found, the reward is worth it.

the leadville trail one hundred is next.  comparing finishers' data from last year indicates that for me it might not even be advisable to try this, and that i'm in for the long haul if i do (<10 hours indicates under 25 hours/nets the big buckle, and >11 hours indicates closer to 29 or 30 hours, aka the cutoff; i'll probably be close to the cutoff). 

maybe this warrants one more of scott jurek’s quotes:  

"sometimes you just do things"  

in his case it’s win, in my case it will be just to try.  finish or not, it’s going to be an epic journey, and i am thankful and excited that some of my best friends will be there to help along the way.