Turns out packing and preparing for a 100 race is actually a momentous task in itself.
-A racer needs to worry about what they are going to wear for the entire race, racing at Leadville makes this difficult because even on the best days you can expect 40 degree swings in the temperature, and on the worst days you can find yourself in a blizzard. My solution to this was to bring every piece of running gear I had with me. Hats, gloves, winter coat, wifebeater, you name it. Easy enough.
The only real issue I had here was my shoes. About 2 months ago I started breaking in the shoes I was planning on wearing for the majority of the race; a spiffy pair of New Balance MT100's. I guess you could say I broke them in a bit too well. On my last big training run a 3" tear appeared in the heel of my left shoe. I didn't think much of it at the time and figured I'd just get another pair before the race, but it turns out size 11 MT 100's are nowhere to be found any more ). Not even on the webernet. So I panicked for a few days until I stumbled upon some very stylish white on white NB 790's (the granddaddy of the MT 100's) from the internet. Not perfect, but at least I'd look good while running in non-ideal, not broken-in shoes.
-Then there's all the gear. Fannypacks, hydration packs, flashlights, headlamps, batteries, butt lube, first aid kit, watch, Ipod. The list goes on and on. Again, I brought the house. Well, except for the watch. I Totally forgot that.
-You also have to worry food and water. Rough calculations resulted in me needing to find a way to ingest 15,000 calories during the race. To put that in perspective, that’s about 15 chipotle burritos, in one day, while running. I decided to accomplish this mostly by ingesting a hammer gel every 30 minutes while I ran, in combination with drinking sports drink and eating some solid foods and more gel crap at aid stations. I also needed to address my caffeine habit. Normal people rely on caffeine late in these races to get them through the night. I, on the other hand, was going to need a constant, high supply of the stuff. To accomplish this I brought Red Bulls (no vodka) & 5-Hour Energies.
This is about 30 gels and such. I ate these, plus about 10 more & a lot of other stuff too.
I took all of this stuff and semi-scientifically packed most of it into 5 drop bags; throwing the rest in a big bag for my crew. Packing complete.
Race weekend started when I picked up my good friend Rich from DIA on Thursday afternoon. Rich is a good old friend of mine from Arkansas. He's working on getting in shape for the Memphis Marathon in December, and we decided that made for a good opportunity to pace me for a portion of the race. Rich & I were greeted in Leadville by a very chilly windy thunderstorm. We found some small Italian restaurant for dinner, and went to Bed.
I got up around 8am the next morning and went to the Med Check. Here they weigh you in (so they can monitor your weight during the race) and give you a bunch of stuff (shirt, keychain, crappy vegan energy bars, oils, creams, pills, paper…). My starting weight was 150 lbs. They also give you a wristband. The wristband is kind of like your life-line. If it comes off before you cross the finish line, your race is over. If you miss a cut-off time, or give up a volunteer will cut it off signifying an official DNF. Although worried about both of those possibilities, I was more worried about being a dumbass and ripping the thing off on accident.
After that Rich and I met up with Ed and Terra-My Crew. They are the ideal combination of personalities for a crew. Terra is the nicest, positive person on earth, and Ed is a logistical mastermind. We ate some breakfast and then sat through an hour or two of pep-talks, race previews and such. It was exciting at times, but boring most of the time. After that, we all jumped in a car and drove to a few aid stations, and definitely discovered a few driving routes NOT to take on race day.
Also- There's a sign at the Fish Hatchery that tells you to keep your hands out of the ponds. I recommend you obey this sign. Those little fish may look cute, but they tried to eat my hand off.
After our beta collecting excursion went back to the Silver King Inn, and I was forced to sit in the room and watch TV for the majority of the night. My girlfriend Yelena showed up in the early evening with Jeremiah. Both would be pacing me the next day. We all had some pasta, and then I tried to sleep. This proved quite difficult. I was wound up and anxious, to say the least. eventually fell asleep at around 10:30 pm.
Me, Yelena, Rich, Ed, Terra and Jeremiah (L to R). Good company.
2:30 am- That's when my 1st alarm went off (I had set 3). I got up immediately and started getting ready. It wasn't that difficult, as I'd laid out everything the night before. I hit the head, lubed up all crevices on my body and got dressed. I then headed down to breakfast in the hotel lobby.
That's right- they were serving breakfast that early.
Yelana volunteered to be the one to get up and drive me to the starting line. We got there WAY too early. We got rockstar parking, but I ended up sitting in the car for 45 minutes before going to check-in. Yelena came with me. Soon after I shed my warm clothes, handed them over, gave her a kiss goodbye and made my way towards the starting line. I had time to say hello to a few friends, including Katie O, and before I knew it we were counting down from ten. We took off at 4am.
Start to Mayqueen (o-14 miles)
We headed out of town on a dirt road called the boulevard. It’s mostly downhill for the first 4 miles until we arrive at Turquoise Lake. It was dark the whole time, but I was in a mass of 700 headlights. I tried to behave myself here and run really slow, and let the 'fast' people get out of sight and concentrate on my own race. I also made sure to start eating. I also wanted to take in the scene before the pain and reality of what I was doing set in. After the BLVD, we made several turns on some roads and then went up this ridiculously steep gravel pitch until we arrived on some single track that runs along the lake. We follow this single track for almost 10 miles into the Mayqueen Campsite, our first Aid Station. This is a fun trail to run, not a lot of up and down, but pretty technical, with a gorgeous lake alongside you the entire time. I was surprised to feel some general soreness and tiredness in my legs already. It didn't make any sense; I was only just getting started. I just tried to keep it slow and hoped it was some weird side effect of tapering. While running, I came upon 10 year oldish girl waving a flashlight and yelling "Puddle" at all of us runners. Sure enough there was a huge puddle straight ahead. There's no way I would have seen it in time to avoid soaked feet. I don't know what 10 year old girl gets up at 5am to do such a thing, but that girl was a life saver. Shortly after that I stopped for my first potty break of the day. As I stood off to the side of the trail it was mesmerizing to see the long string of headlamps working their way around the lake. Soon the nice single track around the lake opened up to a big parking lot and road and we were greeted by a bunch of cheering people wearing stocking caps and holding coffee cups. I'd made it to Mayqueen, the first major Aid Station in 1 hour 57 minutes, 63rd place.
Mayqueen to Fish Hatchery (14-24 Miles)
I grabbed my drop bag and dropped off my headlamp, but couldn't quite part with my long sleeve; grabbed a bunch of gels, some endurolytes & filled up my water bottles before heading out of the warm tent at Mayqueen. I had purposely avoided caffeine before and early in the race hoping to be so tired that I wouldn't caught up in the early race excitement. It seemed to work up until Mayqueen. Coming out of Mayqueen, however, I felt a big rush of excitement. I finally let myself come to terms with the fact that I was racing in the Leadville 100. It was a long build up and a lot of talking the past 18 months and race day was finally here. Not long after the aid station we turned off of a paved road and headed up a steep single track section of the course that was about 2 miles long. This is one of my favorite sections of the race; really technical and you can hear a creek running almost the entire time. The single track dumps you out on a nice gravel road that leads to the top of sugarloaf pass. The grade is flat enough that you can run up the entire thing. I did just that, trying to take it easy. Time came to eat a gel and as I was getting the last bit of it down, I came across some folks with fancy cameras and such. Turns out they were taking awesome photos as people ran past with the sunrise in the background. In typical Ryan fashion, I ran by with a mouthful of gel looking like a goon. I’d post it here, but it costs a small fortune for the rights. One of these days I'll get a good running photo...
A turn or two at the top of Sugarloaf, and I was running down the powerline road towards the Fish Hatchery. This section is steep and the road sucks; it’s all rutted out. I took my time going down and before I knew it, I was at the Fish Hatchery in 3 Hour 54 Minutes, 66th Place.
The next stretch of the race is my least favorite. It was getting hot and we were running on wide paved, dirt, and tarred roads. I was starting to have a bit of a down turn during this stretch. My legs were still feeling really tired, and I just didn't like the scenery. There were these buggy-airplane-helicopter type things flying around which was kind of cool, but that lost my interest after about 5 minutes. Then a stupid limp biskit song came on the I-pod and my mood turned positive again. After what seemed like an eternity, I was at the Halfmoon II AS in 5 hours 16 minutes, 65th place.
Halfmoon II to Twin Lakes (33ish-40 Miles)
I made a really quick exchange at the AS, grabbing the typical gels and endurolytes and downing some coca-cola.
The next section of trail was along the Colorado Trail. I felt right at home on this section, running on single track surrounded by trees and mountains. This section seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, I could see Twin lakes. Key word being "see". I swear I could see the damn aid station for a good 45 minutes before I finally got there. I passed by the RD Ken on this section. I'm guessing that he was on his way back from trip up on the course to fix some mismarkings that caused several runners to take a substantial detour. After a steep short drop off I was at the Twin Lakes AS in 6 hours 47 minutes, 57th place.
Twin Lakes to Winfield (40 to 50 Miles)
I once again met up with my crew at Twin Lakes. I blocked up again, downed a bunch of coke, ate a bunch of gel, got some hugs and then headed out toward the top of Hope pass. If the Leadville 100 was a climbing route, Hope Pass would be the Crux. I think it tops out at 12,600 feet, with several thousand feet of climbing. Thin air. I like to fancy myself an uphill runner, so I was looking forward to this section. Before I got to the climb I had to navigate through several creeks and puddles and one substantial water crossing. Right before the water crossing, there was a cloudy puddle in the middle of the trail. I decided to just run right through it. Turns out it was a lot deeper than I thought, and at the bottom was a bunch of thick mud. I nearly fell face first into the damn thing.
The climb up hope pass went as I would have expected; slow and steady. Soon I was at the Hopeless Aid Station. It was one of the most surreal settings I have ever seen. The volunteers haul up all of the supplies on the backs of Llamas. First time I've ever run across nearly 20 llamas at 12,000 feet. I downed a bunch more coke, filled my water bottles and went after the last few hundred feet to the top of the pass. I got within about 20 feet of the top, just close enough to see over to the other side when the race leader Anton was approaching on his way back! I kicked it into high gear to avoid being "pass lapped' and barely beat him to the top.
The next 5 miles were by far the worst 5 miles of the entire race. I had a steep descent down Hope Pass, followed by nearly 3 miles of slightly uphill dirt road to the turnaround point. Altitude does funny things to people. One of the things it does to me is suppress my appetite. I'd started to get behind on my gel every 30 minute schedule, and my stomach started acting up. The steep, jarring downhill only added to my discomfort. I felt like a balloon ready to pop. I should have been running down the trail and enjoying the scenery, but I just felt miserable and bloated. So I walked a bunch of this descent, and started to neglect my eating schedule even more.
After about 20 minutes of this I decided something needed to change or I was going to be in BIG trouble. I stopped, stepped of the trail, took off my fanny pack, took a potty break and did a little soul searching. I knew that if I didn't start eating I was likely looking at the Leadville 50 Mile, and a DNF. After I was done peeing, I took a couple deep breaths, grabbed 2 gels out of the fanny pack, opened them both, and downed them. It sucked, they tasted horrible and they made my stomach feel even worse, BUT I honestly think that move saved my race. The 3 miles along the dusty dirt road were torture. I'd try to run, my stomach would balloon up and I'd walk. I repeated that sequence perhaps 1 million times. Eventually, however I did make it to Winfield in 9 hours 57 minutes, 50th Place.
Winfield to Twin Lakes (50 to 60 Miles)
I guess now is a good time to talk about goals. I had a primary and a secondary goal for this race:
Primary Goal- Finish the Race
Secondary Goal-Drink a beer with my friends, crew and pacers at the Silver Dollar before last call (2 am) Saturday night, which calculates to a 22 hour finish.
I'd spent some time perusing the webernet and previous results before the race to get an idea of some splits at various Aid Stations. I'd hoped to hit the turnaround in about 9 hours 15 minutes. I was nearly 45 minutes behind. Boo. I was greeted at Winfield by my extremely energetic friend Becca (who was pacing another racer) and my first pacer of the day, Jeremiah. I think they could see the concern and suffering on my face. Nevertheless, they were nothing but positive and full of encouragement. They weighed me at 150 lbs, so exactly where I started. A pretty good sign that I'd been eating and drinking enough. I took a seat at the AS, took off my shoes and socks and attempted to remove the all of the rocks I had been unintentionally collecting over the past 10 hours. I filled Jeremiah in on my stomach woes and expressed my concern about my ability to reach the Silver Dollar in time. This was the first AS where I saw some genuinely hard-up runners. One dude had lost 13 pounds.
I decided I'd wallowed in my self pity long enough, so Jeremiah and I headed out back towards Hope Pass. We tried some running, but my stomach still wasn't cooperating so we switched between walking and running. I slowly started realizing that the running segments were growing longer with each cycle; a really good sign. The dirt road back to the Hope Pass trail was like a Who's Who of the Colorado running Blogosphere. I pointed them out to Jeremiah as we ran by.
The climb up Hope Pass was difficult. I was still feeling bloated, but more than anything, it's simply steep and rocky. It's supposed to be difficult. I concentrated on putting one step in front of the other. I also started to 'unbloat' during the climb. This was quite a relief, at least for me. I also had to stop for a Bio-break on the way up, which helped out a bit.
Jeremiah may be one of the most positive people I have ever met. The dude was even complimenting me on my 'unbloating' efforts, and full of encouragement. I don't think 10 minutes went by without some comment from Jeremiah about how much of a good time he was having. At one point he went off for about a minute about how much he liked the Juniper bushes along the trail. It really started to wear off on me. Here I was trying to concentrate on my suffering, but this guy was simply too happy and positive to ignore.
By the time we had reached the top of Hope Pass I was a new man. I left all of the suffering and pouting on the south side of Hope Pass. We stopped briefly at the Hopeless AS, and then bombed down the pass towards Twin Lakes, passing quite a few runners along the way.
Hope Pass in the Background. A Llama too if you look close.
We made sure dunk our heads as we crossed the creeks approaching Twin Lakes. A few hundred yards from the AS, I heard someone yell out my name. I turned to see my Stepfather, Dan standing in a meadow taking photos. It was a nice surprise to see him there. An even bigger surprise was awaiting me up the road. My mom had hauled up my dogs Nemo and Floyd for the event as well. I'd like to pretend they were excited to see me, but I awoke them from their naps with a few quick pets and proceeded on. I arrived at Twin Lakes in 12 hours 53 minutes, 43rd place.
The photo Dan took as we were coming into Twin Lakes. Look at Jeremiah. How can one be in a bad mood in his presence?
Twin Lakes to Halfmoon II (60 to 67ish miles)
The second Twin Lakes stop was scheduled to be my longest stop of the day. I was more than happy to keep to that schedule. Ed and Terra had secured a prime location in the shade, which allowed me to rest my feet while I changed shirts and shoes. I also chugged a red bull and blocked up again.
Jeremiah and I headed out after maybe 10 minutes. We ran to the end of the road, and were faced with the side of a mountain. I was confused where we were supposed go. Some lady pointed straight up the mountain. "I ran down that this morning?" was my response. It had already been a long day...
Jeremiah and I trudged along the Colorado trail up to the Halfmoon II Aid Station, walking a lot of the climb, but running when we could. It was the last single track I would be running during daylight and I made sure to soak it in. I stopped for another bio-break at Halfmoon II while Jeremiah took care of water and supplies. I grabbed a bit helping of ramen noodle, and we headed down the dirt roads toward the Fish Hatchery. I arrived at Halfmoon II in 14 hours 46 minutes, 37th place.
Halfmoon II to Fish Hatchery (67ish to 76 Miles)
About 4 miles down the road we met up with the Crew, and my new pacer dF. Jeremiah ran ahead once they were in sight and gave Dave the rundown and all of my gear. I didn't stop running. I waved to everybody, and just kept trudging along. Dave caught up to me in a minute or two and we continued along the crappy roads for 3 or so miles to the Fish Hatchery AS. You can literally see for miles along this stretch, so it was fun setting goals in the distance. I would run to a sign and then take a short walking break. Or we'd catch a runner before taking a walking break. Exciting stuff.
I'm going to digress a bit here... Somewhere along the boring road section Dave mentioned that my friend Keith was heading up from Denver to witness me finish this race. Wow, that's really cool, I thought. Turns out running for 16 hours makes me a bit emotional. I suddenly found myself holding back tears (for the record I did hold them back). Keith is a good friend, and he genuinely tries to support my "superjogging" efforts. When I started training for the race, and spending a lot of my free time running I got quite a bit of flack from my friends. They didn't quite understand my motivation. I get it; it is a pretty strange hobby. Anyhow, it meant a lot that He'd come up there to support me. It is also important to note that Keith likes his beer. If I didn't make it in town in time for last call, I'd never live it down. I definitely had a little extra motivation the remainder of the race.
I arrived at Fish Hatchery in 16 hours 10 minutes, 35th Place.
Fish Hatchery to Mayqueen (76 to 86 Miles)
I was looking forward to taking a nice sit-down break at the Hatchery. Fortunately I am easily distracted. I didn't realize it at the time, but every time I made a move towards a chair Terra would distract me with something, and I'd forget about sitting down. This made for a quick AS stop. Dave and I grabbed Headlamps and were on our way in no time.
The climb from Fish Hatchery to the top of the Powerline is the last big climb of the race. Many a runner has met their demise on this climb. I don't want to toot my own horn, but dF and I killed it on the powerline. We were power-hiking machines.
At this point in the race I was more mumbling than talking. What was meant to be, "Hey dF, would you please hand me an Endurolyte?"
turned in to, "dF, Lyte"
Dave handed me a flashlight. I laughed and tried to express my needs more clearly.
As we approached the top of the climb my shins started to ache. A few miles down the descent, my shins were really hurting. I slowed to a walk and strangely enough my shins hurt even worse when I walked. This prompted me to run again, and the pain was slightly less intense. So, I kept running. All the way to Mayqueen. Even at night, the technical section between the road and Mayqueen was a hoot. That is some fun running. Dave took off once we reached the road into the Mayqueen campsite to give the Crew and Yelena the situation. I came into Mayqueen in 18 hours 28 minutes, 16th place!!!
Mayqueen to Tabor Boat Ramp (86-93 Miles)
I didn't know it at the time, but amazingly I'd gained 19 places since Fish Hatchery. I knew I'd put down a good pace during that section, but I don't remember passing 19 people. Looking back, I think several of those 19 people took extensive breaks at Fish Hatchery, and several more never made it to Mayqueen (including some of the front runners that called it quits hours ago, and were probably at home sleeping).
Mayqueen Aid Station was party. It was nighttime, but the abundance of lights and people provided a lot of energy. Keith was there to greet me as well. I Gave the duder a bro-hug. Yelena attempted to relieve some of the pain in my shins with some stretching and massaging while the crew stood over me and laughed at my pain. I chugged a red bull and headed out towards the finish line. I had 3.5 hours to cover the same 14 miles that took me less than 2 hours to cover that morning, and I was actually quite concerned about my ability to do it.
The 6-7 mile stretch around Turquoise Lake was great. I was running with my girlfriend, the moon was shining on the water, and I was closing in on my first 100 finish. I was a happy camper. Yelena was a stickler for the eating and electrolyte schedule, although I had her watch on my wrist since I forgot mine at home. I have to admit, I stretched the truth a few times when she asked me the time. Yelena and I didn't talk a whole lot during this stretch, but we really didn't need to talk. I was enjoying her company in silence. I pretty much ran this entire section. I had to, when I tried to walk the slight uphills my shins hurt too much. I was greeted at the boat ramp by my crew. We attempted some shin stretches again, but it didn't seem to be working. Yelena relinquished here pacer duties to Rich and we set off towards the finish.
Tabor Boat Ramp to Finish (93 to 100 Miles)
I intentionally planned on Rich pacing me for the last stretch for a few reasons. Dude flew all the way here from AR to pace me. I couldn't quit on him, but more importantly Rich is a funny guy. I knew he'd be able to distract me from any issues that would keep me from finishing. We ran along at an admittedly slow pace. I've walked faster, but we kept going. I did need to stop a few times to attempt to stretch out my aching shins. They were starting to become visibly swollen. Rich filled the air with cool stories and jokes. Soon we were on the BLVD. It is a long slightly uphill stretch of road. At the end of the road is a street light that you can probably see from the moon. It just wasn't getting any closer. Everything in my body was telling me to stop running and walk. But it hurt too much to walk, so I just kept running. Finally, I started to hear shouts of "SCOOP". A tell tale sign that drunken Keith is within a mile or so. Rich and I had made it to within a mile of the finish.
Leadville allows you to have 'as many pacers as you want' the last mile of the race. I wanted a lot. Yelena, dF, Jeremiah, Rich, Keith and I ran it in. I was a very slowly moving party. I couldn't have been happier.
Before I knew it I was on the Red carpet and then I was done. I may have shed a tear or two here. There was a lot going on upstairs; a rare occurrence for sure. Too many emotions for a 30-something guy to understand, let alone describe. Instinct quickly took over and I started concentrating on getting myself to the bar. I finished in 21 hours 23 minutes and 40.83 seconds, 15th place.
Finish to The Silver Dollar Saloon (100 to 100 Miles, 2 blocks)
They weighed me one final time-still 150 pounds. I guess running isn't good for losing weight. The Med staff wasn't so keen on my idea of heading straight to the bar. I humored them and warmed up around the heaters, ate some soup, and struggled as I put on some warmer clothing. It was probably a smart move. Those med people know what they're doing. Yelena had brought along a quart of chocolate milk. I downed some of that and then we headed to the bar!!!