Leadville 2013 race report

Just attempt­ed the Leadville 100. It’s 100 miles all above 9,000′, climbs to 12,500 at the high­est. It’s got sin­gle track, dirt roads, and paved high­way. I got to mile 75 and missed the time cut­off so was pulled from the race, but at that point I was hap­py; I was in a fair amount of pain and hypother­mic. It’s the first time I’ve been in that much pain or been that cold since I was 18, and while it was a fail­ure from a fin­ish­ing stand­point I’m OK with it. I gave it my best (I usu­al­ly quit long before that) and that day my best was­n’t good enough.

Long term I’m aim­ing to go back and win, luck­i­ly for me there’s a LOT to improve upon.

This was my first race over 13.1 miles, so I picked up a bunch of new expe­ri­ence, bro­ken down here into weak points, strong points, and points of con­sid­er­a­tion:

WEAK:

Down­whill speed: I need to work a TON on my down­hill speed. For every per­son I passed going uphill, 3 to 5 peo­ple passed me on the down­hill sec­tions. This is a com­bo of tech­nique and strength; it ain’t mag­ic, just some­thing to work on. If you have any tips I’m open to hear­ing ’em.

Hik­ing speed: Lots of peo­ple passed me while we were both walk­ing. My slow shuffle/run speed is about the same as many folks’ fast hike. I had no idea there would be that much “walk­ing” in a “run” so was com­plete­ly unpre­pared for it.

Gear prep: I had planned out the race on the assump­tion that most of the time I would run a 10:30 pace. Total­ly unrea­son­able, and because of this I did­n’t pre­pare my drop bags (bags that go at the var­i­ous aid sta­tions along the route) prop­er­ly. At the mid­way point I saw I had­n’t thought to resup­ply myself with my elec­trolyte pills in the bag so marched the next 10 miles (over Hope Pass, from 9k up to 12.5k and back down) with no elec­trolytes. Prob­a­bly was­n’t a huge fac­tor (I nev­er bonked or felt total­ly out of it until the last sec­tion, 15 miles lat­er), but it was def­i­nite­ly an exam­ple of piss poor prepa­ra­tion.

Prepa­ra­tion in gen­er­al: This was a huge les­son that final­ly got ham­mered home for me. I’ve lived for a long time now with­out real­ly wor­ry­ing about prep­ping for any­thing; it’s always seemed to me to be a waste of time and more effort than it was worth. For most of life you can get away with that atti­tude and method, espe­cial­ly if you’re con­fi­dent and have a decent expe­ri­ence base. For the hard stuff it’s a stu­pid method, and I found that out the best way, which was by hard expe­ri­ence. The last leg, between miles 70 and 75, I was lucky I did­n’t go down hard with hypother­mia. I was lucky that Lee marched out into the night to find me, got me into a car and then to a warm­ing sta­tion ASAP. With­out her effort I won’t get melo­dra­mat­ic and say I would’ve died, because I was on a high­way and some­one would’ve stopped if they’d seen me go down, but I was damn lucky. I should’ve stuffed a warmie, hat and gloves into all of the drop bags “just in case” along with dou­ble rations of every­thing else.

STRONG:

Uphill: Uphill work has always been good for me. It’s straight hard work and I’m a light guy with strong lungs and stringy legs; I was built to go uphill fast.

Men­tal game: While I went out a lit­tle faster than planned (9:15 miles vs 10:30) I don’t think that had much to do with my ulti­mate fail­ure. I was super con­scious the whole time of the effort I was putting in and was also alert to “down” peri­ods, fight­ing back with basic refrains like “I can do this” and count­ing 10 steps at a time over and over. And over.

Nutri­tion: With no expe­ri­ence to base on I was a lit­tle wor­ried about this, but advice from Dave, Jelani, Kurt, and Nell kept me out of trou­ble. I ini­tial­ly want­ed to go strict Paleo, but I aban­doned that plan in the face of wis­dom and went with Ham­mer Nutri­tion Per­pe­teum, Endurolytes, Endurance Aminos, and Anti-Fatigue caps. That was my food out­side of aid sta­tions, and then I gob­bled fruits, ramen, pota­toes, and Gatorade-like prod­ucts while in the sta­tions. No prob­lems with ener­gy flag­ging until the last sta­tion, no prob­lems with bonk­ing, I felt good and fueled up the whole time. I saw plen­ty of white-faced peo­ple slumped on the side of the trail (calm down, I checked with ’em before mov­ing on) as well as dudes just 1,000 yard star­ing in the aid sta­tions, so I either got lucky or my nutri­tion plan worked.

POINTS OF CONSIDERATION:

Cloth­ing and equip­ment: I wore shorts and a t‑shirt until mile 40, when I added a truck­er’s hat to keep the sun off my face. I used the Ulti­mate Direc­tion AK vest on the advice of Jelani and real­ly liked it. I wore Altra Sam­son shoes and was hap­py with those. I used a BD head­lamp that worked real­ly well, and BD trekking Z poles that saved my legs from con­sid­er­able dam­age. Oth­er than a small chaf­ing issue with the head­lamp rest­ing on my ears and a five minute chafe in the lin­ing of my shorts I had no gear prob­lems.

Shoul­da coul­da woul­da: “If only coach had put me in…” Think­ing back on it, if I’d had the fore­sight to stash a warmie with hat and gloves at all the aid sta­tions I might have been able to fin­ish. I did­n’t, and it’s nowhere near a cer­tain­ty; by the time they cut the tim­ing chip off my wrist I was real­ly thank­ful for the excuse to quit; I was cold and hurt­ing.

Train­ing: The train­ing I did was REALLY low vol­ume: 3 work­outs a week, one of which was a “long run”, usu­al­ly 7–12 miles over rough ter­rain, one was a set of inter­vals, any­thing from 40–1200 yard repeats, and one was a weightlift­ing ses­sions, either dead­lifts or squats. The longest train­ing run I did was the Rim-Rim-Rim, at about 34 miles. This next year I can see that I need to include at least one more 20+ mile run per week as well as includ­ing lots of down­hill speed work plus work­ing on fast walk­ing. If my week­ly mileage total before was under 20 I still don’t see a rea­son to go beyond 50 miles a week.

Post race pain: A week lat­er I’m hurt­ing and I’ve done some dam­age to my right knee and left ankle, but it does­n’t seem that any­thing I did is a long term prob­lem.

High tech recov­ery: I was intro­duced to Nor­ma-tec pres­sure boots by Kevin Mont­ford, they’re toe-to-hip com­pres­sion boots that are sup­posed to flush out flu­ids from your legs through peri­staltic com­pres­sion. They felt good while they were work­ing and my legs felt REALLY good after using them before the race. I used them post-race but my legs were so painful I don’t think any­thing would’ve made a dif­fer­ence except a shot of mor­phine. If I can get my hands on them I’ll use ’em for the next year as recov­ery aids. At $1,700 for a pair, Paleo Treats is going to have to have a few ban­ner months in order to sup­port its sole spon­sored ath­lete. 🙂

The run­ning tribe: The run­ning “peo­ple” were all super nice and con­sid­er­ate, I did­n’t get mad-dogged at all like has hap­pened in almost every oth­er sport I’ve been involved in, and I’ve nev­er been in a race like this one where it did­n’t mat­ter how many peo­ple passed you, it was total­ly based on time and per­son­al effort. I real­ly dug that.

Am look­ing for­ward to more longer dis­tance push­es in the future.

Liv­ing off the ‘net: Final­ly, I spent just over three weeks liv­ing in a van up at ele­va­tion in Col­orado as prep and recov­ery time for this race. I turned my phone on when I want­ed to reach out, and oth­er than that stayed off of the inter­net. It was just as incred­i­ble as I thought it would be, and has real­ly caused me to re-ori­ent and eval­u­ate how I spend my time, whether I’m at home or on the road. I’m still not “anti-tech­nol­o­gy”, just had a good ref­er­ence point with which to eval­u­ate my for­mer liv­ing pat­tern.

Thanks for all your help and sup­port through­out this, I had good “con­ver­sa­tions” with many of you in my head on the trail.

Cheers,

NFH

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