Leadville Phil Part 3
I had finished the Leadville 100.
It took a while for that to sink in. I had also pretty much decided that I needed to run it again. This time better prepared and better trained. I almost even put my name in the HardRock 100 lottery, but I hesitated knowing that I had barely survived what Leadville had thrown at me let alone HardRock’s 33,000 ft of climbing. (Looking back, I deeply regret not starting the HR100 lottery process, as it is now extremely difficult to get in and Leadville is no longer a qualifier.)
That summer New Balance had given us a sneak peak of their new trail shoe called the Leadville 1210, designed with ultramarathoners in mind. They had been riding a wave of popularity from their Minimus collection, designed with help from Anton Krupicka, very lightweight, almost barefoot shoes that were capturing part of the Born to Run market. The 1210 was a different shoe all-together, lots of cushioning, protection and even a little extra room to accommodate the inevitable foot swelling that happens in ultras, basically a shoe designed for middle of the pack (or in my case, back of the pack) folks. They were releasing it in spring of 2013, and were shooting some promo videos up in Leadville. Greg Tyndall, our local New Balance rep had contacted me to see if I would be interested in driving up to Leadville and telling my story. I spent a cold early December afternoon in a booth at the Silver Dollar Saloon repeating my story over and over for the camera and talking about a shoe that I had yet to run in. (luckily they got it right!) The video also featured race founder Ken Chlouber as well as Anton. They filmed both of their parts the next day, but Anton joined us that evening for an exquisite dinner at the Silver Dollar.
The video was released on New Balance’s website a few months later, it was my 15 minutes of fame in the ultra community and every once in a while it pops back up on my facebook feed. Kind of neat being immortalized in a video with two of your heroes.
Runners Roost partnered with New Balance in sponsoring the Leadville Race Series and rented a house to use during the summer up there. That took away the necessity of camping, plus gave me a home away from home to train at in the summer. I decided to tackle the 2013 race with more vert under my feet before race-day, so I added the Leadville Marathon as well as Speedgoat to my schedule. I also got to join the Leadville Training Camp on their run up hope pass, where I met Englishman, by way of Fort Collins, Nick Clark. He approached me at Winfield to ask me about my “Wizard Sticks” (trekking poles), nice fellow, and I would go on to run a couple of his races down the road.
The week before the 100 we were up there to cheer on some friends at the mountain bike race. I missed seeing Lance sitting at my booth at the Silver Dollar. I also had the honor of having dinner made for me by Scott and Jenny Jurek as they ended up being our house guests that weekend. We basically drove back down to the shop on Monday to load up the truck to set up shop in Leadville on Thursday and Friday. I had decided to simplify the amount of pacers that I had to my friends Ed (whom I had raced with the year before) and Alex, each one running 25 miles with me.
There was a ton of frenzied activity at the New Balance/Roost House race weekend, and it was hard to focus on the task at hand. I knew that I could run a hundred miles, now I wanted to see how fast I could go. The problem was, I couldn’t even focus on getting my drop bags ready.
Saturday morning came much too quick and I found myself distracted the first five miles trying to get my Garmin to work. (ALWAYS try new things on race day!) I was also running in my Leadville 1210’s that I had been running in since before their release that spring. On my way around Turquoise Lake, my legs felt heavy. I could tell that my head wasn’t in it, I just did not feel like running that day. By the time that I was a quarter of the way into the race I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to finish and that it wasn’t the end of the world. I walked pretty much from “Outward Bound” aid station to Tree-line. Ed and Alex were waiting to crew me there, I whined that my legs felt dead and that I didn’t want to run anymore… Alex was very sympathetic, offered me a change of shoes, as well as validation that I didn’t need to prove anything. Ed , on the other hand, basically kicked me out of the chair and told me to man-up. Their good-cop/bad-cop routine somehow worked. I snapped out of my funk somewhere between the base of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert. Instead of ending my race at Twin Lakes, I came in faster than I had the previous year. The double crossing of Hope Pass went well, and I was stoked to make back into Twin Lakes Aid Station before dark. Alex had picked me up at the halfway point at Winfield, and got me all the way back to Tree-line, where he doubled back, thinking that we had missed our crew point. I ran the next four miles with the goal of beating Alex to “Outward Bound”. While running alone under the star-filled sky, the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th popped up on my playlist, it made for one of the most transcendent running experiences I have ever had. My spirits lifted by a little Ludwig Van. I beat Alex to the aid station a few minutes only to find out my buddy Ed had decided not to pace me the rest of the way (to his credit, he had paced a mutual friend over Hope Pass earlier that day.) He had a replacement for me though, a member of a local training group named Lisa. Despite my hesitations of running with a total stranger, Lisa proved to be a great pacer, as we made it around Turquoise Lake before sunrise.
I ended up knocking two hours off of my previous year’s time right behind race founder Ken Chlouber’s son Cole, and had somehow managed to beat my crew to the finish. Luckily for me Ken and Merilee have a way of making one feel like part of their family.
I haven’t ran the Leadville 100 for a few years now, but have gone back every year to participate on some level. I have paced one of my original crew to a solid finish, I have seen Rob Krar, Ian Sharman and Mike Aish battle it out. Saw upstart Clare Gallagher cruise to victory fueled by frosting. I have seen many friends and teammates dig deep and achieve their dreams. I plan on going back this year to add to the story and get one more buckle. Until then,