"Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not."

Leadville Day 5 – Camp day 1: May Queen to Twin Lakes

So I didn’t blog yesterday (day 4, if you were counting) because not a whole lot happened. I spent most of the day writing and editing photos (well, resizing them) and sitting around. I did take the dog to the lake for a quick swim, although we didn’t stick around too much. I didn’t like the rocky spot we were at, and I was bored. Oops, sorry Tona.

I checked in to the Leadville 100 training camp. I showed up at 11 and they weren’t ready, did some shopping and came back at noon, and was told that they couldn’t find my registration number. Me and two other guys weren’t “in the system”. I had a little panic attack, then calmly found my receipt in my email. Turns out anyone who registered for both at the same time wasn’t on the girl’s list because of only having a race confirmation number. Whatevs. I got my “race” package, a bib, and that was that. Race package was pretty good, the t-shirt is awesome.

I went to bed at 10 ish, after a long time getting ready. Slept pretty well, but was still really tired in the morning when the alarm went off. I wanted to get the dog out before I left her crated for 8 hours, so I got up.

We did our morning thing, then I put her away and walked up to the 6th St. gym. It was already packed with people eating plates of unhealthy donuts and muffins and other shit I don’t eat. Oh, but how I wanted to. I took a picture instead, and had 3 strawberries.

I guess when you run a million miles you can eat whatever you want for breakfast?

I tried to poop but it wasn’t happening, which sucks before a run but hey, if you don’t gotta go you don’t gotta go (isn’t that right, Tona?!). After a bit of meandering I sat down and randomly started chatting with some guy. Eventually they started their little announcements, then we loaded into the bus.

A room full of people who can run for a very, very long time.

Running freaks lining up for the bus to May Queen Campground.

We got May Queen campground and then after they told us “Use the porta-potties, not the woods” there was a massive 50 person line-up moving super slowly. I’m not sure why it was so slow. Ultra runners do everything really slowly, it seems.

Trying to stay hydrated would turn out to be a critical move today, but this porta potty line up was WAY too slow.

Anyway, eventually Ken Chlouber himself came over and joked about “go in the woods gentlemen, we’re waiting for you!” and so 20 guys ran off into the woods to pee, myself included.

Then we lined up a bit, and we were off. I hung around with the guy I’d met earlier, who was named Jeff. He’d done Leadville once before, roughly a 28 or so hour finish I believe, and had done a nearly 12 hours to Winfield (the halfway mark) so basically was a good guy to listen to, in terms of walking and pacing.

The starting gates are open. Two guys I met, out front.

LOTS of walking. More than I thought. I knew walking was good, but man, we walked a lot. Everyone did. And we were still on pace for a 25 hour finish, which is still very rare. So on race day, I must Slow. Down.

The course was actually quite good. Lots of it was dirt/forest roads (the vast majority) but still very nice and enjoyable. Not much shade though. Almost all of it was very runnable, but we walked anything even remotely uphill. Which was fine, I knew it was the way to do it if you wanted any chance of running after 70 or 80 miles, unless you are a sub-20-hour sponsored ninja. (I am not.)

Sugarloaf? I have no idea. No one tells me anything. Haggerman Road?

Lots of sections were quite nice. The “sugarloaf” section was good, the powerline section (downhill, on the “outbound” portion!) was a bit steep but not nearly as bad as I’d anticipated (it’s hell on earth after 75 miles though) and even the road section was really enjoyable. We did lot of walking on the road which I didn’t really agree with fundamentally. I think you’re better off walking the downhills than walking the flat road! People were running quite quickly downhill and I just don’t get it. It’s hell on the quads, the joints, risky for an ankle, hard on the feet… if you’re walking on the super easy flat terrain, why not the descents?

Onward and upward. Got my race gear on, for good luck. I would regret this later.

Anyway, after the road section there was an aid station, but I just grabbed some Gu chomps and we kept going. We were a pack of about 3 or 4 guys, generally. One guy had a hurt foot that was really stressing him out and giving him a lot of grief. I tried to say some shit to make him feel better, but next time I’ll just leave an injured runner to their misery. Ain’t nothin’ you can say, or do, so no point wasting your breath, and pissing someone off with platitudes. He certainly didn’t seem appreciative at all of my efforts to help, which I suppose I can understand. Injuries make me suicidal, pretty much, so I know where he’s coming from.

Skarunner.com on the long, hot road section.

After the long road section we headed back into some forest roads, and I think eventually popped out at what they call “Treeline”. There was a stocked aid station there again, but I just grabbed a couple cups of Gu Brew and kept going. Oops. It turns out I would run out of water shortly thereafter, and have to run about 8 km without any. That sucked, a lot. (More on that soon.)

Oh god how I loved this short section.

I never got this guy’s name but he was so pumped up, I just loved it. He also had quads like Conan the Barbarian. (Not Conan the comedian.)

After Treeline it all gets a little fuzzy. Lots of forest roads. It was really, really sunny. I later got in my car (at 4 PM or later) and it was 27 C out. Oh man, it was hot. I was cooking! The one guy we were running with, Dan, who was a super nice guy, was going just a hint slower than I wanted, so I left him with a couple girls and sped up to catch up with Jeff. Jeff was feeling pretty sick though, a combination of various factors, certainly including the epic heat, and was doing lots of walking. When I ran out of water, I was thinking to myself “goddamn, I do not want to spend another minute more out here.”

This is about the point where we were just about dying of dehydration. Jeff also puked, which no doubt sucked.

My arms were burning, my shoulders were burning, my thighs were burning… Goddamn race outfit is too revealing! Also I had a bit of a headache, and so I was like “Ok, I’m taking off, see you at the finish line man. Good luck.” and basically raced the last 8 km or so. My HR went up pretty high but in general I felt quite good. I was running pretty quick (< 6 min/km?) for trails, and managed to pass about 10 people that had passed us earlier. I know that is completely irrelevant and meaningless in every way, but it was still fun! Although on race day, I must let them go, knowing for certain that otherwise I will pay for it later.

The trail turned into some really tight single-track kind of terrain, and wound it’s way down to the valley floor (the lowest point of the course, in fact.) I think I blew the side of my shoe out with my little toe, which is irritating. The trail was really sloped hard downwards to my left… hence, left pinky blowout. Should be fine for tomorrow but a new pair is a must, and soon.

Great terrain out there. Too bad is way too goddamn hot to enjoy.

I finally sprinted my way into the finish line, grabbed a bunch of cold (way too cold!) Vitamin Water and whatever else I could get my grubby mitts on, and then chilled until the bus left. I wanted to wait for Jeff and Dan but I needed to get on that first bus to let the dog out. I saw them as they arrived, missing the first bus by just 3 seats. Bummer. I hope they didn’t have to wait too long. I think I’ll bring my truck tomorrow, don’t feel like leaving my schedule at the hands of a bus and 100 other runners.

So anyway, in the end I did about 41.4 km in 5:28. Here’s my May Queen to Twin Lakes Garmin plot.

The 24 hour finish schedule says about 5 hours for this section. I don’t think I would run it much faster than I did, on race day, so 25 hours is going to be a miracle. I mean, I could get to Twin Lakes (or the halfway point) well within the 25 hour cutoff, but obviously making it home is a whole other story. I think the best strategy is just to cruise along, don’t do anything faster than the 25 hour goal on the way out, and just accept whatever happens on the way back in. If you have to walk the whole return trip, than so be it.

Now I’m writing this after a short visit at the Lake with the dog. I have a headache and am pretty exhausted, but my legs feel quite good. The training camp dinner starts at 6:30 (hopefully not just pizza… I might have to bail and grab a steak at Quincy’s if so!) and then the “Q&A panel” with Anton Krupicka (2 time winner and previous Leadville record holder, AKA famous ultra runner) is going to be the main dude, so I’m curious to see what I learn.

Ok, well wish me luck tomorrow. We have to do a double crossing of the crux of the course: Hope Pass. The worst 21 miles of my life, no doubt. I will bring more water this time!! And maybe we’ll get lucky and it won’t be 30 freaking degrees C out. My sunburned body is going to be quite displeased, as it is…

A busload of very, very tired runners. The other bus had to wait almost 2 hours for the remaining runners. Boy am I glad I hurried to finish.

Mitch out.

1 Comment

  1. ak

    Great write-up!

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