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

Leadville 100 2012: Race Report Part 2: Inbound

Note: Read Leadville 100 2012: Race Report Part 1: Outbound, if you haven’t already.

1. Winfield to Twin Lakes – ETA: 6:28 PM

Having made it to Winfield in 10:49, exactly 20 minutes ahead of schedule (despite a 20 minute longer trail), it was now time to turn around and head for home. 81.6 km to go.

My goal to get back to Twin Lakes was to run it in 3:19… 1 minute faster than my goal of 3:20 for the outbound was (which I beat by 20 minutes.)

Running out of Winfield was slow going. First there was lots of finicking around with my pacer (my sister) and her bag. She had lots to carry, and a poor pack to carry it with. In retrospect she should definitely have had the Gregory pack, with lots more pockets and room for various shits.

The other thing was that we had to hike the hell out of the valley, up to the trail. This took quite some time. According to the Garmin, it took in fact 17.5 minutes and just over 1 mile! (1.87 km). Ouch! From there, thankfully, things got a lot better.

The trail was really very runnable, much more so than I’d remembered from the outbound ascent. We made great time, as this was the type of terrain I felt good on. I passed various people, and everyone I met coming the other way (them still moving outbound) was very encouraging. They were all asking “how much further!” and my sister kept telling them “4.3 km!” and then trying to do the conversion … finally I told her “stop telling them, it doesn’t help…” so every time they would ask, she would say “Keep going!” cheerfully. After about 4 of these, I told her “Ok, that’s worse… just tell them in kilometres…” Luckily they stopped asking, anyway, because we were too far along the trail.

My pacer leading me through the new trail section, killing it.

And what a trail. It went on forever. I marked our split at the base of the Hope Pass hike (called “Sheep Gulch” on this side) and it took 0:51 minutes to get there, a total distance of 6.28 km. Compare that to when I ran it in training camp, this same bit took only 35 minutes for 4.32 km! And I was more tired on training camp day! So there you have it, the new trail added at least 15 minutes and 1.96 km (1.22 mi) on the inbound side.

My pacer was doing great, and not having to carry shit was wonderful. I think I had a single handheld in my hand, and was feeling wonderful.

Then we reached the trail, and I started moving strongly upward… and promptly left my pacer in the dust.

This was a concern we’d had previously. How tired was I going to be? And how fit was I going to be? My sister has been running a bit, and Crossfitting a fair bit, and is in pretty good shape, but no acclimatization and no real hill trailing had me worried. Well, since she’d been doing great on the trail section, I had stopped worrying, but now it seemed my fears were well founded. I slowed to wait for her for a sec. She caught up. I hiked on… I waited. She caught up. No. It was too slow. Even with my burned out lungs, the pace was too slow. I grabbed the pack, and my Garmin. She took the bottles, and her jacket. And off I went.

At one point some idiot woman came careening down the hill, yelling something more obnoxious than “Head’s up!” … (My raging mind has blocked the memory. I can barely remember at all.) I yelled at her “It’s my right of way!” (see how I refrained from swearing?) and didn’t move at all. I didn’t want to get DQ’d for knocking some dumb bitch into the woods, down a cliff, but it was close. The lead runners have the right of way, and everyone but a very few people were really gracious about that. Thankfully there wasn’t much passing to do, really. I did drop a shoulder a bit into one guy, but I don’t even think he noticed. Most people were zombies up there. I’ll have you know I got out of the way of every single runner ahead of me, like a good boy.

I passed and passed and passed some more. I thought I saw Matt, but it wasn’t him. I did see Jen Segger, and so I made it my goal to catch her. She was moving moderately. I passed lots of dudes. Including a guy who was chatting the whole way up. Talking about being a Leadman. “It’s ok if he’s passing me. He didn’t bike 100 miles last week!” Whatever man, see you later. He was actually friendly, just being chatty and making jokes, but I ain’t have air to spare with idle banter. I passed him, and finally hit the switch-backs. And shortly thereafter, caught up to Jen.

Her pacer gave me mad props for moving quickly, which made me feel good, because Dude had insane calves. I have to respect that, because I have calves like a stork. Jen didn’t recognize me, so I introduced myself, told her we’d run together once in Squamish. Blah blah, have a great race and I left. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s oxygen, talking. She does inspire me though, to some extent, and I wanted to try to pump her up with “you’re a badass” vibe. But again, talking is wasting.

I hit the top feeling fantastic. Hope was done, and it was basically easy as shit. Shame my lungs were so fucked up, I could have gone probably 10 to 15 minutes faster in both directions. Probably for the best that I couldn’t, today. I wonder why my lungs hurt so bad?

The top was crazy, with super high speed winds, and a massive cloud rolling in. I hit the timing mat at 12:48, and started down before that huge cloud caught me. I had run out of water (because of losing my pacer), so refilled my pack at Hopeless. Would have been nice to have a pacer, but no worries. The dude took care of it. He was quick, obviously had lots of practice!

It had taken me almost exactly 2 hours to hit the top of the mountain. Considering it had taken me 51 mins to clear the trail, that was 1:08 to reach the top, from the trail junction. Not bad. I hadn’t stopped at all, just a slow, steady climb, with a few seconds of brief jogging.

I think this photo is actually me on the outbound section. However, we can all pretend it’s me running inbound, and be happy about it.

I jogged down, feeling mediocre on the downhills. Jen and her pacer were right behind me, so I tried to put some distance between us. I started to feel some rain drops, and then started to feel some guts churning. Uh-oh.

It was poop time. Incredibly, I hadn’t gone yet in the race. I knew there was good spots to go along the Hope Trail, I just needed to find them. I wasn’t in a great location, so kept running along. I passed various people, but they were fairly spread out now, and it was slow going on that rough downhill. And it is a looong descent. Just goes on forever. Finally I stopped and did my # 2 out there in the woods. Thank goodness for TP stashed in my shorts pocket. It wasn’t too time consuming, and I was back on the trail quickly, but Jen and all the people I’d passed were now in front of me. I made some effort to catch them, but then stuck with them for the rest of the way down, rather than run past.

Once we hit the marshy / grass flats, I put the hammer down with my Meb Tempo run song playing in my head, and tried to put some distance on them. I wasn’t feeling very good, having run out of both water and fuel. Some guys in the field were losing me, and though I tried to pass them, they held on and kept away. I was feeling pretty shit, I think.

Is this my best photo of the race? Can you tell I am suffering? Marsh running, inbound.

That little faint speck of white with perfect running form, off in the distance, is me. Inbound to Twin Lakes. I really needed a person to take photos…

I eventually reached the aid station, after plunging through the river and navigating the parking lots. My crew were all together now (other than my sister, alone on Hope Pass). I sat down for the first time in the race. I rinsed my feet in some water, dried them, and then couldn’t find my clean pair of socks. My g/f was yelling at me “They were right in the shoes!!” and I was like “Ok, thank you, they are not there now, I don’t know what to tell you.” Finally they showed up, I put them on, slipped on my shoes (exact same model and size) and then tried to get some catch-up fuel into me. I drank a bit of cold flavourless Pedialyte and some coconut water. I perhaps tried to eat a chomp or two. My brother was ready to go, as pacer # 2, however, so we just headed out slowly instead of waiting around. Twin Lakes inbound was complete.

Turns out I had run into Twin Lakes in only 3:11, a good 8 minutes ahead of my planned split (even with a 15 minute longer course!) I didn’t keep track of the time (or know my planned splits by heart) from Winfield on, however, so I didn’t know I was so early. I just did my thing, and moved on.

My legs were fairly thrashed at this point, so we climbed that little hill really slowly. It took me a lot of mental effort to break into a jog at all, on the flat bit before the climb. I just really didn’t feel like running…

Timer: 14:00 vs 14:28 – 28 minutes ahead of schedule
Split: 3:11 vs 3:19 planned – 8 minutes fast
Outbound split: 3:20 vs 3:11 inbound – 9 minutes fast, 9 minutes ahead
Split distance: 19.68 km (12.22 mi)
Total distance: 101.25 km (62.91 mi)

2. Twin Lakes to Treeline – ETA: 9:20 PM

The climb out of Twin Lakes felt tough. Mentally, I really had to fight to break into a jog. But my bro had all my gear under control, and things were good. I was moving, however painfully, and feeling encouraged. The race was in the bag, I figured. At least until Powerline. But it was still only mile 60… still a long way to go. Three half-marathons. Doesn’t seem so bad…!?

Then I started feeling a crappy. I started sweating. I took my shirt off. It got really hot. Oh crap, I realized I was getting nauseous. I really, really didn’t wanna barf. I hate being sick. I am the ultimate man-sick. I just want to lay down and cry when I get sick. I hate barfing! I told my brother, “I … really … don’t wanna barf…” (Just as I said this, he glanced down, and watched me walk past a pile of half-chewed rice and carrots.)

I kept moving, but it was slow going. I could see people coming up behind me. No! Must not slow down! Jen was there, and various other groups. I didn’t want to get passed. I told myself to stop being so competitive, just focus on your own race. I kept moving. It kept climbing. It’s almost as much of a climb as Powerline, though it feels a lot shorter.

Finally we hit the trail section, where there are a few runnable bits, though in general it’s still a long way to go to reach the top. I jogged a touch. Just a touch. I felt crappy. My guts felt crappy. I hiked some more. Some people were in front of us. I jogged some more, and felt a bit better… and so on. I ate some gels, and drank some water. I jogged the flats and the downhills, and kept walking the uphills. And soon, I felt better. No one passed us, and we caught the people in front of us. We were back in action.

From here, the trail up-and-downs a lot. It’s hard to get into a rhythm. You do what you can though. We ran with the guys in front of us, not wanting to pass the prematurely. At some point, we made our move. We were moving well again.

My brother refilled a bottle at Mt. Elbert station, and I never missed a step. Finally we hit the long, gentle single-track descent, and it was go time: the fastest section of the course.

Now, this kind of terrain is just my favourite. It’s like a long tempo run on a track, except without the effort. The slight downhill removes all need to push. You just flow like water. Meb soundtrack was playing full fucking blast in my skull, and I was hauling ass! I don’t have my splits on a per km basis, though my pacer did, but the Garmin shows a few 5:41 min/km sections (almost 9 min/mi). Might not seem fast, but it is for a 100 miler! (At least for me!) And it felt effortless. Fran had to slow me down. I could have run 4 minute km’s! (6:30 mi, for you US’ans!)

I met Matt, and his pacer, near the end of the single-track section, I believe. My brother had told me he’d only been about 5 mins ahead of me at Twin Lakes, so I must have gained a ton of time on him up Hope the second time… because he’d been almost an hour ahead of me when I was at Winfield. (I just checked: I was 47 mins behind at Winfield, but only 18 over Hope, and just 2 mins at Twin Lakes. When we passed, he said his quads were destroyed, and that he’d gone through Fish Hatchery in only 3:30 (versus my 4:22!) He still looked great though, and I was sure he’d be fine.

From here it was just a long slow battle. I would see dudes off in the distance. “Prey…” my brother would say. And we would slowly reel them in. They always put up a fight, now though. Where before guys would just fall by the wayside as we blasted past, now they were hanging on. I was more tired, and these were the fit boys, probably most of which had run sub 10 to Winfield, too! Some hung on, and a couple guys even passed us again, moving really quickly. I was bummed, because they were the first people to pass me in the race, since the start of Hope Pass.

We kept movin’ though. It was really hot, much hotter than I expected. I was running without a shirt on, and was still cooking. The sun was setting slowly, and we continued on without headlamps. We passed Half-pipe station at the 33.62 km mark (115.2 km total) in 16:03, versus a planned 16:47, and my brother once again filled up bottles and grabbed some supplies while I kept moving. The guy who had passed us had stopped for something or other… we left him in our dust. Fuck you, dude, ain’t no one passes me.

We met a guy I knew.. Blake. He was walking, looking kinda rough. His pacer was saying something about walking the entire course from here on in, and still having time to big buckle. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about “Big Buckle”, I just wanted to run even splits. Actually, I wasn’t even thinking about that. I didn’t think about times, or splits, or buckles. I just … kept running. It was weird. You want to stop more than anything. You’re so tired. Tired of running, tired of being hungry. You are in pain. But you just don’t stop. It just never felt like an option. It’s not that I was like “I must not stop!” … It just didn’t even register. Like a fly, banging into a pane of glass. It’s not that he’s thinking “I gotta get out there”, it’s that the glass isn’t figuring in his mind. It’s a non-thought. That’s what stopping was like. A non-thought.

Anyway, enough metaphysical bullshit: we were nearly to Treeline, and still moving strongly.

My brother was starting to work a bit harder now. The altitude was getting to him, and the toll of a lot of km’s at quite a fast pace. When he would stop for something, he was working hard to catch up to me. This made me feel good. I still felt really good, and could have run faster, had I wanted. I started to a bit, but my bro held me back. He reckoned “Save yourself for after Powerline, push the pace then, instead.” This is rock solid advice, and I heeded it.

It started to get dark, but headlamps were still packed away. We got them out to help our crew find us, but they were annoyingly dim in the fading sunlight. The pipeline road was rough, and is a lot more uphill than you’d think. And very long. I was glad when it was over.

My crew was ready. Then I asked for a cold towel, despite not having a shirt on. I was hot! Here they were, worried about me getting hypothermia and not having my warm clothes on, and I’m asking for an ice towel! I stopped for only a brief second, then just ran off, I didn’t need to stop. My brother could deal with fuel and water.

Distance to Treeline was 119.1 km and we crossed at 16:29 (5:40 from Winfield), so it took me 26 minutes to get from Half-Pipe to Treeline, a distance of 3.9 km (2.42 mi). My planned split was very slow for this section… but really, I was ignoring that plan now, because it was a 24 hour plan, and my goal was even splits. Fuck your 24 hours! I want sub-22!

Timer: 16:29 vs 17:20 – 51 minutes ahead of schedule
Split: 2:29 vs 2:52 planned – 23 minute fast
Outbound split: 2:10 vs 2:29 inbound – 19 minute slow, 10 minutes behind
Split distance: 17.85 km (11.09 mi)
Total distance: 119.10 km (74.00 mi)

3. Treeline to Fish Hatchery – ETA 10:21 PM

He caught me eventually, a little ways down the fence-line. It was dark now, and we had our headlamps on. (What a difference 15 minutes makes!) We could see tons of cars all along the road but no runners, which is actually pretty depressing and lonely. It was still very warm.

Once we hit the pavement, I was excited to just put the pedal to the floor, but … oh god it hurt! So hard on the shins and ankles. I still had no injuries at all, but god was I sore. That pavement just hurt. I could have turned up the pace a bit, but Fran kept me back. It’s hard to run on that road, quickly, because it’s not really flat. It’s all dips and humps, but really subtle, so you think you’re dying, and it turns out you’re on a slight incline. Which you can’t see because it’s dark. Shame too, I wanted to just fly along that road! I guess I should have done that this morning!

Gels were getting really nasty. I was having to really steel myself mentally for each one. The timer would beep and I’d go “Fuck…” out loud each time. “Has it really been 24 minutes already!?” I kept on my fuel plan though (100 cals every 24 mins) and was drinking lots, to keep them digesting. Unfortunately, I was peeing like every 15 damned minutes. At least I get to rest for a second… Not that it helped in any appreciable way! But I must have pee’d about … 20 times at least for the entire race. That’s too much.

Finally we saw some dudes on the road, and inched up to them, then blew past them. In good racer fashion, I wanted to establish my dominance whenever I passed someone, and do so quickly and strongly, but I kept myself held back, and would often be stuck on a walk break shortly thereafter, only to be passed again (however briefly). Run your own race!

Finally, we turned the corner and could see Fish Hatchery (or nearly) in the distance. After a short while I told Fran what I wanted at the next station, and told him to run ahead. It’s an uphill section there, so he didn’t get very far ahead, but I took it easy, to give my crew time to get ready.

I got passed by a girl who was absolutely flying, at one point. It really pissed me off, but then she said “Pacer on your right!” and I felt somewhat better.

I power-walked up the driveway to the aid station, feeling spectacular. I just loved calling out my number “635!!” to the volunteers. Got me ultra pumped up every time. And I loved cruising out of there, just flying, feeling fresh (for at least a few minutes) no need for drop bags or any of that other shit. See ya!

I’d made it in 56 mins, which was just 2 mins slower than on the outbound. Not bad, not bad. Recall I was no longer observing the time, just monitoring pace, but otherwise running by “feel”. My pacer was keeping track, but only really to say “we’re doing fine.”

Crew getting ready for our arrival into Fish Hatchery.

My crew was ready with my gear. I threw my 6 Foot Track singlet on, and my pack with my headlamp. My bro dropped off, unsure of whether he could handle Powerline after that long run from Twin Lakes. My sister’s b/f, Jesse, had the conch. He seemed a bit nervous, but I had a good vibe, so wasn’t worried at all. He had bottles and clothes and all types of shit hanging off him, but we were ready to tackle this last crux: Powerline inbound.

My g/f was like “take your arm sleeves, take a jacket!”, and I was like “No, fuck, I’m too hot!!” but it would start to finally get cold, once we started hiking.

Timer: 17:26 vs 18:21 – 55 minutes ahead of schedule
Split: 0:56 vs 1:01 planned – 5 minutes fast
Outbound split: 0:54 vs 0:56 inbound – 2 minutes slow, 12 minutes behind
Split distance: 7.74 km (4.81 mi)
Total distance: 126.84 km (78.81 mi)

4. Fish Hatchery to May Queen – ETA 12:59 AM

At this point were were like a full hour ahead of our splits, so I thought I would take some of that banked time and not go crazy, and potentially save myself a lot of suffering. So I decided to take it really easy over Powerline.

After cleaning that road section fairly quickly, we hit the trails and started walking pretty much right away. I told Jesse that we were going to go damned slow, and we could power our way down the backside, if we felt good. I really did not want to puke!

I was hiking really slowly. My screwed up lungs felt terrible on the hike, so I just walked really, really slowly. It was kinda nice, actually. Gels were still brutally nasty, but we’d hold off eating until a flat section, where I could catch my breath. I kept up my drinking, and was doing good. No nausea whatsoever. I just kept my headlamp down, looked at my 3 foot diameter ball of light, and kept moving. One of my other goals was not to stop to rest a single time during the entire race, and so I just kept it going, slow and steady.

People were around us. Some behind, several in front. Could see lots of headlamps. Incredibly, we were catching the person in front of us. Some dude with ski poles, and no pacer, that turned out to be a chick. She was coughing almost as much as I was. My wrecked lungs sounded wheezy and broken. Dry cough. Itchy and irritating. Impossible to take a deep breath. Just could not do it.

No matter, my legs felt solid, my will still strong. We passed her, then passed another runner and their pacer, then caught another group. And hey, next thing you know… it was over. The crux of the race, the dreaded Powerline, was done. Sure, it took me a while, but I felt fine, and was ready to make some moves.

It had taken me 1:26 to go 8.13 km to the very top of Powerline. The time was 18:51.

So we started running down, strongly. The time for playing it safe was over; let’s pass some dudes.

We passed a couple of people, but then one guy put up a fight. I was actually feeling really crappy on the downhill Hagerman Pass road section, and stopped to walk for a bit, which was irritating. I just didn’t have the mental strength to run that endless road section. During this break, him and his pacer caught up to me. When they were flush with us, I started running again. “Oh, I like it, 635!” his chick pacer said. I assume she meant my competitive spirit, and not my washboard abs. Although she liked them too. I kept up with them, and could tell he was labouring. He was moving well though, for sure.

[Aside: During a Tae Kwon Do tournament I went to, a long, long time ago, I was fighting some dude. He was taller than me, and decidedly more ninja-like. I was getting my ass kicked, and couldn’t get close to this guy to beat his face with my fists. And I was exhausted. I could barely hold my hands up. I could barely stand. Like Leonidas’ helmet, my uniform was stifling. I was ready to quite, when suddenly I heard my friend’s voice above the crowd: “He’s fucking exhausted! He’s got nothing left!

Time froze, and I looked at the dude in a new light. Objectively, I saw his face, and his posture, and I realized “Holy shit. He is actually more tired than me.”

And I went Berserker rage on this guy. I just laid into him like a beast, and I won the fight. And since that day, I don’t think I’ve ever been outworked by anyone of equivalent fitness. They are always as tired as you are, and once you can see that, you can beat them.]

Anyway, that’s a long winded story to say: I knew this guy was fucked as soon as I heard him breathing. I should have known before it, but I was too absorbed in my own suffering. But if he’s out there, with me, in the dark, I should have known he was as tired as me. And if he’s as tired as me, he cannot beat me, because I have heart like Rocky.

So we hit the trail turnoff together, and I was in the lead, but I stopped to pee for the 1 millionth time, and eat a gel, which was a slow, drawn out battle also, so he took off. Another group caught up too. But their lead was short lived. Jesse and I were absolutely killing it in the trees. Despite the super-pain in my knees and quads on the awful uneven rocky sections, any flat trail was killing grounds. I kept moving fast (for me). We passed a bridge, then another bridge, and finally: the last little stream appeared. From there, a few minutes of rocky descent, and we were on the road to May Queen!

I sent Jesse ahead, with instructions. He took off at a sprint, and left me to jog by all the parked cars and sleeping crew. It was kinda creepy and disconcerting. No one in their cars really said much. They just kinda stared. I guess after 20 hours of encouraging dudes, it gets a bit old. I felt stupid though, running out there, alone. Like “what the hell is the point of this?”, people just staring at me like I’m an idiot.

My crew was positioned before the aid station tent, so I just ran passed them and through the tent, all of them just hollering like I hadn’t seem them. (I had, I just didn’t care.)

I’m sure my crew thought I was out of it, but actually I was just ignoring them. I, sadly, did not hallucinate or go crazy once this entire race 🙁

The funny thing is that when they saw my pacer rushing towards them, without me, because we’d “Taken so long”, they figured I’d smashed my head on some rocks or something, and were super worried. Not sure why they thought I was slow, since I’d gained another 5 mins on my goal… Perhaps they were starting to go crazy.

Timer: 19:59 vs 20:59 – 60 minutes ahead of schedule
Split: 2:33 vs 2:38 planned – 5 minutes fast
Outbound split: 2:06 vs 2:38 inbound – 22 minutes slow, 34 minutes behind
Split distance: 16.27 km (10.11 mi)
Total distance: 143.11 km (88.92 mi)

5. May Queen to Finish – ETA: 3:56 AM

At this point I was really freaking cold, so I threw some arm warmers on, and kept the gloves and beanie. I’d have put them on sooner, but Jesse didn’t have them with him. I should have put my Salomon soft-shell on, but alas, I did not. I wasn’t too cold, and I was too preoccupied with not stopping. I guess you could argue this was a poor decision, but without significant repercussions, thankfully.

My g/f was going to pace me in from here. I was worried about this, because I didn’t want to become a rage-monster and yell at her, and she was nervous as hell, because of the pace, mostly. She was shivering like crazy when we started, but ready to go, so we headed out.

The g/f and I, ready to leave May Queen on the last half-marathon of the day (of 8!)

Ok, now we started to do the math. I was exactly 1 hour ahead of my splits, but most importantly, it was exactly midnight. I figured it was 21 km from Fish Hatchery to the finish line, though I wasn’t sure. That means I had ~ 3 hours to get back to the finish, and break sub-23! I hate the number 23. I wanted 22:xx. I wanted that sub-23. Could it be done!?

I thought that from Matchless boat ramp to the finish was 10.5 km. I knew that on the inbound, it had taken me 1:10 to run from Matchless to May Queen. So if it took 1:30 to run it now, that left only 1:30 to run the entire uphill section from Matchless to the finish… Damn! That was… impossible. I truly didn’t think it was possible.

I said as much to the girlfriend, and she’s like “Well, it’s a good thing you are a great uphill runner” and I argued some more and she said “Well, good thing you’re so fast on the road.” … “You can do it!”

Fuck. Shit. Fuck. God my legs hurt. Holy God did my legs hurt. My lungs hurt, and weren’t functional. I couldn’t stand the thought of eating a gel. Each uphill was a brutal soul-rending hell, no matter how shallow. In fact, the more flat they were, the worse it was, because I felt worse for not running them!

Anyway… We ran. “You see an agent, you do what we do: Run. You run your ass off.

I wish I could say I thought of something inspirational. But that would be a lie. It was just pain. Just all encompassing pain. I couldn’t even sing my Meb pump up song to myself, because I couldn’t breath properly. Just panting, painful, painful panting. Lots of coughing. And running.

The lake is endless, and the km’s go by ever-so-slowly, especially in the dark. I switched my watch to “Time of day” and watched the minutes tick by towards 3 AM. I would never make it. It was so far. And we hadn’t even passed Tabor boat ramp!

I did the math… 3.3 km from Tabor to Matchless… that’s like 24 minutes… then 1:30 from Matchless to the finish, at very best… Nope. It’s impossible. It’s impossible.

I kept shaking my head, my light actually waving back and forth in the dark. I wanted my g/f to see that. I wanted her to know this was stupid, a waste of effort. We’d never make it. I wanted her to see my shaking head and say “You’re right. It’s crazy. Let’s just jog in, for sub-24.” So I kept shaking my head.

But goddamnit, every time I wanted to slow down, I ran harder instead. We passed people who were walking very slowly. Absolutely crushing them, leaving them in the dark. “What kind of headlamp is that!?” I got one time, as we ran by. Don’t waste my oxygen, fool! “Lenser H14!”

I was amazed my g/f was keeping up, actually. Of course, we were only doing about 6:30 per km, if that, but it felt incredibly fast, and she was doing fine. It was incredibly fast, I suppose, for the last half marathon of a 100 miler. And next thing you know: Tabor boat ramp.

Holy shit, it’s nearly over. But so much more pain to come. The trail was hard to follow. The markers were terrible, I could barely follow the trail and I’d run it about 50 times. We didn’t take any wrong turns though, and kept our blazing pace. So much more up and down than I remembered… so painfully slow. I just wanted it to be over. And the clock kept ticking.

Finally, more and more recognizable trail, and the suddenly: Matchless boat ramp. Just as I hit the pavement, I stubbed my left big toe on a perfectly immovable but tiny object. Slam! Whatever it was, it didn’t budge. I was sure I broke my toe. “Fuck! Fuck!” I started yelling. I swear to God, I actually pulled my left ass muscle, I stubbed my toe so hard. “Fuck!” I yelled some more. But, much to my dismay, it didn’t hurt enough to warrant slowing down. We padded across the cement. One more km of trail to go.

Faster still, we ran, if you can believe it, and next thing you know: Number 4 road. Then the shitty, rocky, dusty descent down the powerlines. Then, the gravel road section.

This was awful magnified by a million. A billion. I was in so much pain, and we were running so, so fast. I was coughing continuously, unable to breathe. At least I convinced my g/f that I didn’t need any more damned gels! I didn’t think I’d get away with that one! But this minor victory was like a little mini-finish line in my brain. No more gels!

Now, I know how ridiculous this is but: our pace was about 6:18 min/km. And it felt like Ludicrous speed. I seriously felt like I was running sub 6 minute miles. The g/f was fighting hard to run with me, and we were blazing a pace. It was pitch black, and there were almost no other runners. I think we passed one person on that gravel section, maybe two. I kinda had tunnel vision, and was just totally in my own pain-universe.

And I could go on and on like this. Every other section of road stands out in my mind. Each dip, each section of pavement, train tracks, you name it. Every section horrible. The pain just unbearable, but we didn’t slow down, or take any breaks. We just ran, and ran. Until finally we reached the Boulevard…

We had lots of time, but it was still impossible to know if we could make it. How long would it take? From here it was all uphill to the finish line. In my mind, it would be a slow, painful fight, probably in vain. The g/f had really no idea how far it was, so she was still just as desperate as I was! There would be no reassurance for a ways, still.

Well, we got up the steep hill much faster than I thought, and it wasn’t as steep as I thought. Then the boulevard wasn’t really that steep. I was able to jog it, almost in its entirety. I actually had to stop and wait for the g/f a few times, although I was extremely glad to stop any time she did! And finally, we saw the street light. I had heard it was 3 km away, once you see it. Or was it three miles? Shit!

We ran hard still, but we were maintaining a solid pace, and the uphill wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. We jogged, we walked, and the light got closer.

Finally, incredibly, I saw a white plastic bag in the ditch. I recognized it as Steve Peterson’s 2 mile marker! We had only 2 miles to go. We would make it!

Finally, we were at the paved road. We (incredibly) passed yet another dude. We passed Steve’s 1 mile marker (stand of trees at start of Boulevard) and then started hiking the bottom of 6th. To hike felt easy. The night was perfect. My g/f started crying like a newborn when I told her there was only a mile left. A combination of relief, joy and excitement, I’m sure. Here she was thinking we were never gonna make it, and we had like 40 minutes left!

We could relax, enjoy ourselves. We had made it. The g/f got overexcited and started running a bit early, and then wanted to stop because it was too steep! “Nope!” I said, “We run to the finish!” and so we ran up, then down the little crest, then up the entire rest of the way! It was slow going, and pretty tough. The g/f was working hard, but was a trooper.

As we approached the line, I could hear my family freaking out. I had to laugh as we crossed the line, in an expectation blowing 22:35:05 (chip time). The announcer said I had a smile on my face, which put a smile on my face. Shannon gave me my medal and a hug, and then my crew celebrated and cheered for me like the true champs that they are.

Stoked to have made it over the line! 22:35:05 chip time and one very tired pacer.

It was over! My first 100 miler, in the bag, with a sweet finishing time as icing on the cake.

Timer: 22:35 vs 23:56 – 1:21 minutes ahead of schedule
Split: 2:36 vs 2:57 planned – 21 minutes fast
Outbound split: 2:36 vs 2:16 inbound – 20 minutes slow, 54 minutes behind
Split distance: 20.32 km (12.63 mi)
Total distance: 163.43 km (101.55 mi)

Got my finisher medal. Here I am dying of hypothermia, actually.


Here’s the Garmin plot from the inbound direction:

I had made it back in a time of 22:35, which basically exceeded my A goal of running sub-24, and destroying my B goal of sub-25 and my C goal of “just finishing”.

Other than a minor pull in my foot (which went away) and general “aching”, I finished without any difficulties whatsoever. I had a 5 minute bout of nausea, which resulted in nothing at all. The only thing was my “weak lungs”. I don’t know if this was pulmonary edema!? They didn’t sound “wet”, but very dry, although they did get a bit “wetter” after I laid down to sleep that night. They also were bad before I hit Hope Pass, so wasn’t really the “high altitude”. I was obviously 100 % acclimatized, after spending 8 weeks at altitude… Perhaps I should not have spent a week at 12,600 camping? Who knows. I’ll have to do some reading and see what the deal was.

I ran strongly right through the very finish. My crew and pacers were wonderful, despite never having done either job before, other than my g/f crewing for me at the Tenderfoot Boogie.

I stuck exactly to my fuelling and pacing plan, and was over-hydrated if anything, coming in almost exactly on-weight at both weigh ins. I didn’t use 98 % of the gear I bought for the race, but it was all there ready to go.

I ended up finishing in 27th place. I had been in 40th place at May Queen, and so I ended up passing 13 people in the last half marathon. Rad. (Or I guess some people might have dropped, too. I wasn’t counting them as we ran by.) I also ran the 10th fastest splits from May Queen to home. (1st and 2nd place ran 1:58 versus my 2:36.) I’m quite proud of that.

Me in 40th place at May Queen.

I ran the return trip in 11:44, versus 10:50 for the outbound direction. I didn’t quite get my even splits, but pretty damned close. Although I need to take time to sit down and do a more in-depth analysis, it would appear I ran the most even splits of any of the finishers of last year’s race (still need to analyze this year’s results), with a remarkably low 5.4 % “split inequality”. I had found a mistake in my previous calculations, and it turns out Johnson splits were actually the best of all the runners, but even his splits were only 6.3 % even. Pretty cool! Maybe I set the new modern standard for an even split race?

We’ll save the full analysis of all my results for Part 3: Analysis. For now, it’s time to sign off and eat some sushi. Now that I’m back in the city, near the ocean, it’s time to eat some seafood before it all goes extinct.

Mitch out.

Tona modelling the big buckle. “I don’t feel comfortable with this, you guys.”

Got ‘er done.


  1. Kowboy Jackson

    Kick ass Miguel! Excuse my ignorance, but are there different belt buckle’s depending on what time you finish in?

    • Mitch

      Yeah. There’s a sub-25 hour “Big” buckle and a Sub-30 hour finisher’s buckle.

      I think the big one has more gold on it, the little one is just silver and smaller?

      Here’s the only photo I could find of the 30 hour buckle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rockcreek/1266552137/

  2. Robyn

    Thanks for the in depth updates, they are really great. You finishing this race inspired me to not give up on my crappy half marathon last weekend!

    • Mitch

      I’m glad to hear it! Never give up. This much I can assure you: it will haunt you forever if you do.

      • Siobhan


  3. Fran

    You are a champ bro. Glad I got to be a part of this with you!

  4. xtracold

    Stunning effort Mr LeBlanc.

  5. Tina H

    Wow! Awesome summary – I felt like I was there. I never, ever want to eat gels… You did awesome, you crazy mofo. So proud of you! Your crew was the best – hope you gave them lots of love.

  6. jess jess

    Yay! I read every word. Congratulations – you are a machine. I mean that seriously, I think you’re actually bionic. Humans shouldn’t be able to program themselves to do things like climb V13 and run 100 miles. However, I’m glad that, with your interests, you have found other bionic beings masquerading as humans to hang out with.

  7. Wilkinson

    Fantastic effort Mitch – and truly inspirational reading.

  8. mr. bob

    Damn, Mitch! Best race report I’ve ever read! I’m gunnin for 2013 race. Your Garmin data was extremely helpful, especially on new singletrack into Winfield. Great pics. Great psych stuff. I always wince when I observe or hear about crew/pacer abuse: You conducted yourself honorably. And you swear almost as much as I do! Thanks for sharing and Onward!

    • Mitch

      I’ve more and better data coming soon, for your 2013 race! Glad you liked it.

  9. Jen Fox

    In that picture of you showing off your medal:
    A) Why does your head looks so disproportional?
    B) Why do you look like you are in a German castle?
    C) Why are you such a show off?

  10. Keri

    Wow! You had a great race, congratulations! I really enjoyed reading your report. I too have a Husky and fully recognize the “I am not comfortable with this” pose.

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