Thursday, August 28, 2014

Leadville 100 Race Report - Through the Eyes of the Crew

The plan for Leadville this year was to keep it simple. Nothing fancy, nothing over the top, no outside distractions. So we arrived in Leadville on Wednesday giving us a few days to ourselves to get prepped and to enjoy Leadville. And also to get me some good training. 
Ken Chlouber photo bombing Dan


Thursday Dan weighed in 20 lbs less than he did in 2013. This past year Dan has worked harder than I've ever seen him. He watched his weight, he trained...hard, he studied the course, he practiced his nutrition, he dialed in his gameplan. Everything had been thought through at least a dozen times...and then perfectly laid out in an 11x17 spreadsheet, complete with splits, nutrition, gear and notes. Friday was the pre-race briefing. I was pretty impressed with Lifetime. They didn't try to hide all the complaints from last year. They took responsibility for the way everything went down and talked about where they had worked to make improvements. With some final words from Ken Chlouber the runners were sent off to get some food and rest. At the last minute Dan decided he didn't want to stray from our weekly diet of pasta bolognese so instead of cheeseburgers we cooked up another big batch of gluten free pasta with my almost homemade bolognese sauce. He figured if it hadn't given him food poisoning yet it was probably safe. Good thing I made a Costco size batch before we left.

Dan at the starting line
The 2:00 am alarm rang bright and early on Saturday morning. Dan double checked all his gear, adjusted his headlamp and tried to get down some good calories. As we walked to the starting line you could just feel the energy coursing through the air. If you've never been to the start of a 100 it's hard to describe the electric energy, but everything is just buzzing and everyone is super excited. It was hard not to be a bit jealous that I wasn't lining up as well, but this year was about Dan. Then right at 4:00 am the gun went off and the runners took off down 6th street. I watched as they crested the hill before heading back to the car. I needed to try to get some sleep before heading to Outward Bound. 

A few hours later I was getting all of our crew gear ready when I quickly remembered to check the runner tracking. A slew of profanities flew out of my mouth as I read Dan had blazed through Mayqueen in 2:16...well ahead of his goal times. I yelled at the rest of the crew that we had to go if we were going to make it to Outward Bound in time. I have to say Lifetime did an outstanding job of re-configuring OB. The runners weren't playing tag with the cars and they were able to file us all in pretty quickly. Dan came through OB a little bit closer to his splits, but still ahead of schedule. We quickly refueled his bottles, switched out his EFS flask and sent him off through the fields, promising to see him in 4 miles.

Dan arrived at Treeline 40 minutes later and was starting to not look so great. We topped off all his fluids and calories as the sun was really starting to heat things up. I knew the 'climb' to Elbert wan't bad, but it's not as easy as it looks either, especially when you go into it not in a great place. Dan thought he just needed more calories and would be out of his bonk soon. The rest of us headed to Twin to get setup for Dan's pit stop before Hope and to get Ben off to Winfield.
Coming into Twin

The shuttles at Twin worked great, especially with us having James! The shuttle pulled right up to our car, we loaded all the gear and were set up at Twin within 10 min. I double checked all of Dan's gear for Winfield, made sure Ben got enough food and went over Ben's directions a couple more times. We had arranged for Ben to get out to Winfield with David's crew to hopefully not contribute to the Winfield parking lot. We ended up having a long time at Twin, James made loads of friends as he ran all over though. Finally Dan came through, about 10 minutes behind his splits, but still 5 min ahead of where I had been the year before. He was not looking good. He had bonked pretty hard on the Elbert climb and his legs had been cramping so for us it was all about getting him refueled, resunscreened, and geared up for Hope. Dan was still in good spirits just hoping that the hike would loosen up his legs a bit. He was stopped in Twin longer than I would have liked, but we still got him out pretty quickly.

While we waited for Dan to take on the double crossing Jason and I had to tend to James and maybe get some sleep ourselves. I was pretty nervous after seeing Dan at Twin so there was no way I could fall asleep. I just kept checking the tracker to see if Dan had made it to the top of Hope. Finally after I saw he made it I was able to get a restless 30 min of sleep. Then it was time to feed James, get him ready for bed and head back to Twin Lakes. 
Crew setup at Treeline

This time the shuttle wasn't running so I got in a nice 2 mile very fast hike in to the aid station. As daylight started fading I was beginning to get worried. I knew Dan was with Ben now so things should be good, but I just wanted them to come cruising in. When Dan finally emerged into Twin he was looking better than he had a day. I quickly re-fueled him, cleaned his feet, changed his shoes and loaded him up with his headlamp and warm clothes. And then off into the darkness Dan and Ben went. I had a long hike back to the car. I knew the wait at Treeline would be the longest and was hoping to catch a few minutes of sleep here. Unfortunately I didn't prepare for just how cold it would be waiting. I set everything up, grabbed a Dales and curled up in the backseat to try to sleep. But now I was worried that if the tracker didn't update fast enough that Dan had gotten into Half Pipe that I might miss him. I was way to paranoid to get any real sleep. Dan and Ben came walking in and I saw them right away. Dan was beginning to look exhausted so I knew we were going to be in for a long night. 
Dan coming down mini powerline

Four miles later, around 2:00 am, I was ready and waiting to take over pacing duties at Outward Bound. Dan had decided his malto mix wasn't doing it any more and he wanted ensure and more caffeine gel. Of course we were out of these by now so I did my best to reassure Dan that we were all set for the last 24 miles. We slowly walked out of Outward Bound as Dan munched some sandwiches to prepare for Powerline. Over the couple mile hike to Powerline all I heard was how Dan was going to dominate this climb. We didn't set any land speed records but Dan kept a really steady pace the whole time. I desperately tried counting the false summits but I think I counted around 10 so I must have been off somewhere. As we were nearing the top, just like every other runner out there Dan started to get really frustrated. He was exhausted and bonking, but didn't want to eat and was ready for the climb to just be done. And then seemingly out of nowhere we arrived at 'space camp'! It was awesome! A group of guys had setup this 'aid station' at the top of Powerline complete with whiskey, PBR, coke, water and pretzels. I grabbed a handful of pretzels and yelled at Dan to eat them. The first part heading down Sugarloaf is a pretty rocky jeep road and in the dark can be really frustrating. Dan kept wanting to go faster since it was a downhill, but the reality was it was slow going. Finally we hit the smooth Hagerman road and were able to start a shuffle/run. As we neared the Colorado Trail it got really quiet behind me so I did a quick check over my shoulder before nearly falling over laughing. Dan was completely asleep standing up in the middle of the road. I shook him awake and we proceeded down the CT to Mayqueen. 

Dan and I hit Mayqueen just before 6:00 am, giving us around 4 hr to get back to Leadville. I knew that was plenty of time, but we had to keep moving. Ben met us at the aid station and I felt terrible as all Dan wanted from the array of goodies was his sunglasses. I sent Dan ahead while I waited for his turkey wrap to get finished and tried to down some noodles myself. Dan had been worried that we didn't have enough fluids so I hadn't drank or ate anything since we left OB. I wasn't exactly moving very fast so I wasn't super worried. But I was really starting to get exhausted. I needed him to keep at least shuffling so I would stay awake. 
The Boulevard

The way back around Turquoise is LONG! It seriously feels like it never ends. And thinking about how fast you ran it the morning before makes it even worse. Dan's legs were tired, he was tired and he just wanted to be done. I would make him run some and then he would sit on a tree stump insisting he needed to rub out his legs. Eventually we made it to  the Boulevard...that's where the wheels started to fall off. Apparently Dan had over looked the fact that the Boulevard is basically a gradual uphill for 5 miles. Needless to say he was not impressed. So we started playing the run to the next flag game, then everyone around us joined in and before we knew it there was a sizeable group of runners all running down the Boulevard joking and laughing. Okay maybe it was just the pacers that were actually joking and laughing. But either way it was a great time and made the miles go by a bit faster. As we turned onto 6th I shot out a quick text to the crew so they'd be there waiting. And then we crested the hill and headed down to the finish line. Dan wasn't sure of his ability to hold James as he crossed so we all crossed together, James running the red carpet!
Finisher!

Merilee may be one of the most beloved figures at Leadville. After she hugged Dan and hung his medal around his neck she pulled me aside to wrap James and I in a hug. She just stared at James, stroking his hair and then turned to look me in the eye and tell me what a an amazing and special child he is. She didn't need to say anything more, it was a moment that made my heart melt. It was the moment that makes Leadville what it is. You can't explain it, it's just a feeling that whether you're a runner, a pacer or a spectator you feel it and it keeps drawing you back. Leadville...we'll see you next year! 

Week August 11 - 17

Miles Running: 80.8
Hours Hiking and Running:14.5



No Leadville 100 is complete without cheesy fries!




James was the most exhausted of all of us!

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