Leadville 2015 Race Report

As usu­al, suc­cess doesn’t teach as many lessons as fail­ure.  After two years of fail­ure, (2013 & 2014) I made it this year in 28:46:45 (that’s 28 hours, 46 min­utes, and 45 sec­onds), or about an hour and 15 min­utes ahead of the 30 hour cut off.

As con­text, where does that put me in the pack?  Just aft of the mid­dle.  Out of 650 who picked up race pack­ets, only 319 made it across in under 30 hours. I fin­ished in 185th place, or at the 57th per­centile.

As a “wow” tid­bit, that means 134 peo­ple out of 319 fin­ished in the last hour and 15 min­utes.  The win­ner (Ian Shar­man) knocked it off in 16:33, which gave him 12 hours to sleep while I slogged on.

The major take­aways aren’t ground­break­ing; long term plan­ning (8+ months out from the event) increas­es your odds of suc­cess sub­stan­tial­ly, focused & dis­ci­plined train­ing pays off, and hard work works.

I had intend­ed on putting in a max week of 70 plus miles, but about a month and half before the race injured my Achilles and had to take a few weeks off for it to heal.  That meant my max week­ly dis­tance was just over 50 miles, and most weeks after March were 40+.

I had a great time with alti­tude prep at Cross­Fit Flagstaff, in Car­bon­dale, on top of Ajax Moun­tain and up at West­on Pass Hut; if you’re look­ing for a beau­ti­ful place to stay above 12k’ in Col­orado and don’t mind not hav­ing elec­tric­i­ty or run­ning water then WPH is a rip­ping­ly good choice.

The two unusu­al pieces of race prep & exe­cu­tion this year were the exper­i­men­ta­tion with fat adap­tion, which made race day nutri­tion pret­ty much stress free, and the pow­er of com­mu­ni­ty.

Fat adap­tion starts with the idea that most of us priv­i­leged First World denizens eat a car­bo­hy­drate rich diet and focus on spe­cif­ic carb intakes on race day, but it’s not the ide­al or only way to fuel for per­for­mance.

By slow­ly adapt­ing your body to burn fats instead of carbs you can burn longer, stronger, and clean­er.  It’s a fair­ly com­plex top­ic and it did take some sig­nif­i­cant lifestyle changes (what you eat, when you eat it, and edu­ca­tion as to why it works) but it worked very well for me.

As a teas­er, for the entire 100 mile race I ate 2 GUs, 4 bananas, 4 cups of ramen noo­dles in chick­en stock, and a hand­ful of chips.  I drank water (20 oz of water to 1/4 tsp salt) through­out, but that was it.

That’s all that pow­ered me through almost 30 hours of steady ener­gy out­put above 9,000′ ele­va­tion.  I had no GI issues, ener­gy nev­er dropped rad­i­cal­ly, and I felt strong through­out.  In fact, from mile 60 I start­ed to gain in strength and speed while my heart rate dropped down below 140.

I did slow down in the last 5 or 6 miles, but hell, I nev­er ran more than 26 miles in train­ing so 95+ miles was new ter­ri­to­ry for me.

If you’d like to know more about fat adap­tion for endurance per­for­mance I strong­ly sug­gest check­ing out Bar­ry Murray’s view­point, here. We did a pod­cast for the Paleo Treats show a while ago and I was so intrigued I fol­lowed up by hir­ing his ser­vices for Leadville.

Bar­ry was kind enough to take me on as a short term case (less than 2 years of fat adap­tion and not a full time ath­lete) and his advice & diet plan were inte­gral to my suc­cess at Leadville.   He is a wiz­ard out on the bleed­ing edge of nutri­tion­al per­for­mance and I’m grate­ful for his help.

The oth­er big piece that I under­es­ti­mat­ed was the pow­er of com­mu­ni­ty.  The past two years (2013 & 2014) it’s just been Lee crew­ing me.  Lee is awe­some, and the fault for not fin­ish­ing those 2 pre­vi­ous years was entire­ly mine. Real­iz­ing that I was putting a lot of work on Lee to crew the race, this year we called for rein­force­ments and had my sis­ter, her boyfriend,  as well as my Mom come out along with 2 friends (Dave Ruther­ford & Shau­na Sledge) to pace me from mile 60 on.

That made a HUGE dif­fer­ence; all that ener­gy and love at each of the aid sta­tions was a strong ral­ly­ing cry, and it allowed me to focus more on the race and less on the strug­gle.  Hav­ing some­one to chat with dur­ing the sec­ond half of the race made it eas­i­er to keep going, and I trea­sure the con­ver­sa­tions I had deep in the wee hours of the night with my pac­ers.

I wish I had more wis­dom to give, but as I said before, suc­cess doesn’t teach as much as fail­ure, and I’m thank­ful that this time I suc­ceed­ed at a tough race.  Should you or any­one you know have any ques­tions about Leadville prep please feel free to reach out.

Cheers,

NFH

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