Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Leadville Trail 100 Run and the Leadman Series Finale

Running the road to Treeline... still smiling after 27'ish miles.
Leadman is over.  The LT100 run is over.  I finished both.  Right now it is challenging for me to separate the two events and even more so to write an understandable account of it all but I will try.

I went into the 100 run with a few thoughts in mind.  The first was that only 100 miles separated me from my Leadman trophy.  As the miles wore on through the day I kept modifying that number in my head.  Nothing short of losing a limb was going to keep me from getting to that trophy.  But could I really do it?

After the 100 bike I felt pretty beat up.  Especially my knees and up to the 100 run, my right knee was questionable.  My right IT Band was also feeling tight.  And if you can imagine it, I was feeling pretty tired as well.

Fortunately I was able to get two solid nights of sleep on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Friday night, which is always the toughest night to sleep before the 100 run, I managed four good hours.  So when I got up at 2:50 am on Saturday morning, I felt probably the best rested, sleep-wise, than I have ever felt before a 100.

Lisa had loaned me an ice-compression machine thingy that I used a lot on Friday too which helped to take out the inflammation in my right leg.  Just imagine a super large blood pressure cuff that is colder than hell on nearly your entire leg for 15 minutes at a time and you get the idea.

Saturday morning though the legs felt, okay... and I felt like I had some decent sleep behind me when I went to the line ready to go.

I had calculated a finishing time of 24:10 based on my 100 ride the week before.  That was my goal.  I had an index card with all of the splits in my shorts pocket geared to that finish time.  My goal was to run each section and make each split the best I could one by one and though my times drifted a little here and there, I viewed those split times as absolutes and non-negotiable.   On top of it all my goal finishing time, total time for Leadman was 46 to 48 hours.  I really was going to have to push it and a Big Buckle effort was about the only way to get me in that range.  To be clear, 46 was completely best case, 48 was a safer bet.

Race time...

The gun goes off and so do a ton of runners.  I had put myself close to the front so it wasn't as crowded for me running down 6th Street.  My strategy for this segment to Mayqueen was to average about 9:15 per mile and keep my heart rate in check as much as possible.  Running down The Boulevard I was feeling pretty good... one mile down... 99 miles to my Leadman Trophy.  Keep moving.

It felt like I was going a little hot around the lake but I kept checking the HRM and yeah it was a little high but nothing to be too concerned about yet.  I factored in the excitement and adrenaline to be adding and extra five beats per minute.  I liked the part of the pack that I was in.  Nobody was talking and we were sort of spaced out a little.  It just didn't feel as crowded as it has in the past.  So even if I were running harder or faster than usual, it was more comfortable overall due to those to things.  I made Mayqueen on my goal split pretty much.  Refilled my bottles and kept on going.

Up and over Sugarloaf and the power line descent I tried to really keep it controlled.  Again, diligently watching the HR, not running but hiking the parts I knew that I needed to and then running all of the parts I should.  Running down Sugarloaf I had a couple of jackasses... just FLY past me down the mountain.  In my mind I just thanked them for reminding me to slow down some.  I knew I'd see them again... and I did and then never again after that.

Fish Hatchery/Outward Bound was a cluster fuck.  Not so bad for me really but for my crew and everyone elses crews, I imagine it was a nightmare. (Lifetime will have to fix this for certain.) I made my split and now had the few miles to go to Treeline on the hard road.  Mentally a tough section but made worse by all of the cars parked on the sides of the roads, other cars and traffic trying to go to and leave Outward Bound and of course runners trying to just get down the road.  Again being smart, I ran with my heart rate pretty much right at 145 all the way to treeline.  It didn't seem any faster than other times in the past but I covered ground and it was comfortable.  Well as comfortable as you can be 30 miles or so into a 100 mile race.

Pretty much kept the same pace/level of effort from Treeline all the way to Twin Lakes.  After the Half Pipe Aid station, the dirt road is not steep but it gains in elevation regardless and always just wears me down.  It is also in here when the day starts to warm up as there are many areas without shade.  This would have been a low point if I had one.  I just kept going and once I got to the Colorado Trail I was able to run comfortably again.  I think that in the end I had my best run in this section ever.  I usually lose time dropping into Twin Lakes but this year I seemed to be steady the whole time getting there.

Twin Lakes... 40 miles into the race.  60 miles between me and my Leadman trophy.  I found my crew and got what I needed and started to take off.  Lucho was there and he pointed up to Hope Pass and more or less said, you have to deal with that now... don't screw it up, or something to that effect.  But again, I planned to just keep things in check and move on.

Now here is one of my absolute least favorite, I hate and loathe sections of this race. Running across that damned meadow to the river crossing and then the meadow after that to the trees.  It is always hat and muggy going across it and I just don't enjoy it at all.  But hate it or not I still had to cross it and I kept my heart rate at MAF and finally made it to the shade of the trees to climb my first ascent of Hope Pass for the day.  I didn't even try to run once I hit the trees pretty much... hike, watch the heart rate, slow steady pressure, keep moving.  The climb took time and was tedious but I never felt like I was getting killed by it either.   I just imagined that I was pedaling the mountain bike up a steep grade pushing a big gear and just kept it going.  I also tried to keep my steps as smooth as pedaling as well.  I made it to the top of the pass in about and hour thirty and started running down the south slope.

Not long before the trail leading to Winfield off of the Sheep Gulch trail, it was time to take an internal inventory.   I asked myself, "Andy... you know what smoked feels like in a race, is that what you are feeling now?"  I took a bit of time checking out how I felt overall and my answer was a solid no... I did not feel smoked.  Everything was going perfectly.

I am not such a fan of the new trail to Winfield but it is what it is.  I kept reciting my mantras in my head... 24:10 do not stop... get the Leadman Trophy, get the Big Buckle, get the title and get that sweet Leadman Jacket at race headquarters... Using lots of carrots and foregoing the stick at this point to keep going.

In an out of Winfield... I was there early and it was chaos.  Ray was to be my pacer from Winfield back to Twin Lakes and we didn't mess around getting going.  I told him my strategy which was working... run everything we can but we would be hiking per my heart rate the entire time up Hope Pass.  Ray had to catch back up with me as he stopped to help another runner who was struggling and then we started our hike up.  Again, smooth and steady pressure... I would tell him more than a few times on the way up that we needed to soft pedal a bit to let the heart rate go down.  We made it up again in about an hour and half, I still felt pretty good and we stared out run down in earnest after a really brief stop at the Hopeless Aid station.

Back into Twin Lakes, Ray took off a bit ahead of me to let everyone know that I was coming in.  It did give me a bit of breather to relax and jog a bit with a little less effort for a change.  Running across to that meadow again I nudged myself along by telling myself that after that day I would never have to run across it again.  I liked that.

At twin lakes I sat down for the first time of the day to re-tape my feet and change my shoes and socks.  This is where I also picked up Neeraj who was to pace me from Twin Lakes all the way to Mayqueen.  It was a blur as we were leaving but I explained to Neeraj the plan and what was working.  We would HIKE the four miles up out of Twin to the top on the Colorado Trail then run like hell, the best we could the sections that were a grind earlier in the day.  Of course, keeping an eye on the HRM as much as possible.

We made it to the Half Pipe Aid Station while it was still light out.  We made it to the Treeline crew access point at dusk.  We were moving.  At Treeline I stopped again and sat for the second and last time of the race to touch up the tape job on my heels and putting on a warmer shirt before moving on.  Annie walked with us a bit while I slammed a Mountain Dew and then Neeraj and I were on our way to Outward Bound.

Again that pavement is a grind.  Outward Bound was a Zoo and rather dick around I decided to just leave and keep going ahead of Neeraj.  He caught up and we now had to get the power line climb.  ugh... didn't I just do this last week pushing a bike???

Same strategy... slow and steady pressure.  Do not stop.  We made the top of Sugarloaf after leaving the pavement in an hour and ten minutes.  The run down Sugarloaf to Haggerman Road stated to wear on me a little.  I had hit that part where I was getting tired and even more tired of trying to dodge rocks in the trail so getting to the relatively smooth dirt surface of Haggerman Road was a great incentive to keep going.

We made it through the rocky Colorado Trail section to the Timberline Trail Trailhead a lot faster than I was expecting.  Neeraj went on ahead to Mayqueen to let them know I was on my way and to get Ray ready to take me the rest of the way in.

13 miles to go to my Leadman Trophy and bonus, I was definitely on pace to come in under 25 hours.  Ray and I started working some math and a sub 24 hour finish even seemed possible.    We decided to make it so.  Run it all, as much as possible.  It was a strange place to be as even looking back up on Sugarloaf we didn't see that many headlamps.  We didn't see too many behind or ahead of us either.

I know I must have been bugging Ray as I kept asking how long since we left Mayqueen, how much time do we have left, etc.  I was just running the numbers through my head as we kept moving.  Again, a very fast segment around the lake and we met everyone at the dam before the last push home.

Lucho was there, Annie and Neeraj were there and Melissa was there squealing like a teenager at Beatles concert in 1964.  Everybody was excited.  Ray and I just kept pushing along... we walked down the baby power lines to be safe and then ran all the way to the bottom of the Boulevard.

Now comes the push... Fatigue is setting in.  That hill up the Boulevard is a grind and really I don't want to run anymore.  But we do our best... run/walk patterns... me just trying to keep a run sustained and just trying to cover ground.  It is all starting to come true believe it or not (choking up now as I even type this.)  I am going to finish Leadman, I am going to get my Big Buckle and I am going to do it with a time that I could have only dreamed of.

Crossed the line at 23:18:39.  Also a new 100 mile PR.

It was over... I did it.  All of it.

Someone once told me about three years ago that I was yet to have the race of my life.  The one where I not only surprise a lot of people but also surprise myself.  Folks, this was it.  Just a few days later and I still can not get my brain wrapped around it.  Surreal is an overused word I think but it does seem appropriate in this context.  I even surpassed my Leadman goal time with a total time of 45:36.  Again more good stuff that I can't comprehend yet either.

Leadman was quite the trip for me.  Learning the bike, racing the bike.  Running the races.  Looking back I can proudly say that I ran or rode each race as it was an A race.  Each race, even that nasty 10K last weekend were solid efforts.  The 100 run, the Big Buckle... that is the icing on the cake... hell that's the stripper inside of the cake!

But I have to also give credit where it is due.  No way in hell could I have done this without Melissa.  Her patience with me is limitless it seems and she stood by me and supported me 110% the past ten months of training... she was always there.  I bet there isn't another woman out there who is more tired of hearing "Leadman" than she is.  Same goes for my daughter Annie who was out there kicking ass crewing for me for the 100 bike and the 100 run.  She's only 19 but a pro when it comes to crewing ultras.  Again, her support and patience, and she probably heard "Leadman" about as much as Melissa did too.  Annie has seem me foul up a lot in life so I am always happy when I can do something positive in her eyes.

Lucho... the best coach in the world.  If I had to describe the training process that we went through since December 1, I would call it surgical and precise.  Step by step we got here.  He told me way back that he was going to make me damned near unbreakable and he kept his end of the bargain.  Thankfully I was able to fulfill mine as well.

Hawaiian Shirt Ray... he and I have been crossing paths consistently in the ultra game since I started it back in 2009.  He has always been a good friend, awesome friendly competition and an inspiration.  His contributions to this as a crew member and pacer were invaluable.  Not to mention I really got a kick out of the confused expression he had on his face when I came into Treeline at dusk and I asked him about times and he said, " I don't know... I've NEVER been here before!"

Neeraj Engineer... Neeraj paced me last year from the dam to the finish when I was at the lowest point of that race and I knew going into this year that I needed him on the team.   The guy is a super strong runner and I only expect great things out of him as he furthers his ultrarunning career.   I seriously owe this guy some crewing and pacing time on the trails.

And for everyone else who have been supportive these past few months... my mini Leadman family, other running friends, mentors like Larry Dewitt... thanks to all of you too.

It's been a great year.

Annie and Melissa and I at the finish.  We did it!  


  1. Great race report- (link from Lucho). Yes, he knows his shit! Congrats to you on the execution. Well done!

  2. I feel all warm inside now. Nice.

  3. I'm so proud of what YOU did man. You worked so hard all year and then executed every race day to perfection... well done sir.

  4. so proud of you! it was great to do some training with you and I can't believe it wasn't that long ago we first met on sugarloaf. you're stuck with me as a friend now, and a leadman family member! Congrats man, you looked fantastic out there!