Mark Jones, winner of our Golden Ticket raffle, completed the Leadville Trail 100 this weekend! Read his story below.
Before the raffle (when the initial email was released):
Just a few months ago I received an email, from Runners Roost Boulder. This email released a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in a raffle, for a fully comp’d entry into the Leadville 100 trail race, how could I say no. At the end of the day, they were having raffles for other goodies, discounts on gear, a La Sportiva shoe test, trail run, and of course a nice beer selection. In my experience, this event was a rare site and something I could not miss out on, plus this was an all-around win for just showing up.
Day of raffle:
Planning ahead, the goal for today was to enjoy a trail run, with some new friends, go to the raffle, and enjoy the festivities after. However, when I went outside, my car was missing. WHY would someone want to steal my car? Of course, this was my first thought, but soon I found out that it was towed for not having a permit, that I should have known about a year ago. Go figure, today was the tow day, for this specific violation.
Luckily, my fiancé was coming off a shift and able to help assist with this recovery. After a morning of driving around and almost convincing myself that I should just go home because there was no way I would make it to the raffle. Luckily, my car was finally recovered, quicker than anticipated, and I barely made it to the start of the trail run.
Once our trail run group got back to the store, before the raffle, we did a quick room introduction. At this time, I listened to so many others who have had the Leadville 100 bug for years. Many first-timers, like myself, and others seeking redemption. Since I am more of an adventure racer, than ultra-runner, this race was on the bottom of my bucket list, however, I still had a solid WHY and was anxious for the drawing.
After a brief drumroll, of course, my name was called and I had won the raffle. WOW, what a morning it had been! When asked if I would be able to complete the Leadville 100, prior to registering, I never had a doubt in my mind, confidently said yes, and registered immediately.
Training for the race:
Training was something that had to be shifted fast. I was currently coming off a 48hr event I did that required some more beefy strength, putting me at around 175# rucking/lifting athlete. I knew that my miles needed to increase and lifting needed to take a step back. As a result, I started putting in 60-70 quality miles in per week, along with about 3 strength sessions. This still made me nervous because of when I used to specifically do ultras, I would put in 100+miles per week and not lift weights at all, along with my very small 140# stature.
With all this physical work to figure out and fine tune, it seemed dam near impossible to get where I would feel comfortable in just 3 short months. So, next I determined by biggest attribute which is my mental game. I knew with just a goal of finishing this race, if I studied the course, ran on sections, pieced together a rough outcome, and of course have a bulletproof plan for my pacer/crew, this would easily facilitate a few hours in the green for me.
Not much to say here, I was pretty nervous about the long day ahead and the miles I have not traveled for a long time. However, none of that mattered because 3……2……1…….GO!!!! Being conservative and cautious, again the intent of just finishing healthy, after 11.5hrs I was in Winfield. I witnessed a lot of pain, suffering, and DNFing there. From what I read about previously, I needed to get back on the trail quickly so that this setting did not affect me.
After a long journey, through rain and hail, I made it back to Twin Lakes to pick up my pacer.
This was a reboot to my journey, full of positive vibes and a great fresh mindset for me to adhere to. Hours later, I found myself on the last turn with the finish line in site. With complete disbelief, pain, and sleep deprivation, I crossed the finish line in 27 hrs and some change.
Pros and Cons:
C-IF you are going for a time, you need to be in the front of the pack. Otherwise, you will be stuck behind a ton of people on the single track that is just 5 miles or so ahead.
C-Coming back from Winfield, I dealt with a lot of people trying to make the cutoff. This meant that when I was going up the steep side of Hope Pass, others were bombing down and trail etiquette went out the door a bit. This is a very nerve-racking time because there really is nowhere to go and injury risk increases significantly.
C-Award ceremony. All the details are given to the T, but I was not able to hang around and they would not provide my award for my situation. However, there is a shipping option that I will be using.
P-Course markings were flawless, never guessed what trail or got lost the entire time
P-Aid stations!!!! Top-notch and one of a kind. This was the very first race that I have ever done where you could tell the community and people truly support and love what this race is all about
P-Lamas, c’mon, what race do you get to beat yourself up at and laugh at the same time when you see a pack of Lamas at a much-needed aid station?
P-The red carpet……YES, I was surprised to finish on a red carpet, but hell it was awesome!
P-Runners Roost burritos and recliner (I took full advantage of both)
Lessons Learned (Top 10):
1) Even if you have a solid game plan to just consume liquid calories, always have a reserve. I did this with rom n noodles and camping dried meals
2) Anything can happen so be prepared to be wet, cold, and beaten with hail at any moment
3) Change your shoes if it makes sense, but don’t feel forced to. (I had a plan to do so, but did not and my feet were fine)
4) Truly use the aid stations and be kind to the volunteers, they were absolutely incredible and there to help in any way. I have never been treated like royalty, during any race, like I was in Leadville.
5) Get a hotel for 2 nights, not one. Also, do this extremely early before they triple the price
6) Bring a camera for all the epic views along the way.
7) Enjoy the journey for the first time and be competitive the next. With no pressure on the horizon, this was a much more enjoyable race, than previous ones, and I made a lot of friends/spoke to so many.
8) Use poles out of Twin Lakes, super handy at that point out and would not have been much prior to that.
9) Space Station is a very special place. IF you feel up to it, take full advantage of everything they have to offer. It symbolizes a very big moment in the race and if you know you know.
10) Bring a pacer who is an ultra-runner himself and a DJ on the side.