Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Leadville Saga Begins

The legendary "Race Across The Sky" 100-mile run is where it all started back in 1983. This is it. The race where legends are created and limits are tested. One hundred miles of extreme Colorado Rockies terrain — from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet. You will give the mountain respect, and earn respect from all.

You heard it, straight from the Leadville Race Series website.  This year I secured a spot via the lottery for the 2016 race.  I was surprised to gain entry through the lottery and I am looking to make the most of it.  I know many who want to run who will not be running this year simply because of luck.  Many people see me as a runner and very much believe that I can cover the 100 miles.  I appreciate their support and while I've run up to 50 miles at once, it's been awhile (5 years) and anything can happen.  People who've won the race some years didn't finish in other years.  I'll be doing my homework to say the least.

How did I contract the Leadville 100 bug?  Last year I paced my friend Tim from miles 50-70.  The picture below is of us at Twin Lakes at mile 40, just before Tim has to head up and over Hope Pass for the first time (runners must run up and over the pass twice).  I met him on the other side in Winfield and ran with him back up and over Hope Pass to Twin Lakes and on to the next aid station where we missed the cutoff time by 14-minutes.

Tim at mile 40 (Twin Lakes aid station), August 2015.

Wearing my very American sunglasses and enjoying the August sunshine.
It's fun to just be a helper at this event.
Despite throwing up already during the race, Tim was in high spirits at the Twin Lakes aid station.  They say almost everyone throws up at some point in Leadville.  We will see, I have a "no-throw up streak" going since 2001.  I only broke it once in Afghanistan in 2012 after what I believed to be bad chicken cordon-bleu.
Tim and I arriving back to Twin Lakes aid station at mile 60.

I carried Tim's lunch meat, cheese, and crackers in a gallon zip lock bag and handed him food periodically.
It was pretty funny as I kept thinking a tired runner with lunch meat
was a perfect target for a bear in the woods.

Excited to have made the 60-mile Twin Lakes cut-off, considered the hardest cut-off spot in the entire race.

The Leadville motto is, "You're better than you think you are.  You can do more than you think you can."  Do I believe it?  Yeah.  I believe it.  It's why I would ever try to get in the race in the first place.  It's why I'm going to attempt to run twice the furthest ultra distance I've ever run.  Many people I know well and not so well have inspired me to go for it.  I will prepare and I hope to post my progress to NPR's blog over the next several months.  That said, understand that I am more of a journey person than a destination person.  While I hope to get to the finish line, I'm less focused on the goal and more focused on the process.  In the end, despite all preparation, there will be the unexpected.  The question always remains, what do I need to do right now to get there?

For all practical purposes, I expect to mainly work on a solid aerobic base (HR-training via the Maffetone Method) for most of the year.  Time on my feet learning to stay relaxed and maintain good form when I am tired will be the bulk of my training.  If everything holds up I will add speed work to the mix in the summer to help sharpen the legs.  I'd also like to do several long training sessions in the mountains, either Pikes Peak or the actual Leadville course, to prep the legs and lungs for lots of time at altitude.

Last year I made the transition from injured runner to barefoot/minimalist runner.  By the end of the year I could handle quite a few miles and even the occasional intense workout.  This year I expect that journey to continue and I'll write as much about my feelings as I will my actual metrics.  In my 50-miler experience at the 2010 Rocky Raccoon, I ran 52 miles (added extra) in 7:59 without running more than 22 miles in training and never doing two long days back to back.  I don't really run like that anymore but it doesn't mean I can't get there again some day.  Leadville is very much a different course than the Rocky Raccoon.  I know somewhere deep down I have speed for ultras, but for me, as with many others, staying healthy is the name of the game.  And so it will be good form and good endurance and strength as my foundation with speed playing a smaller role.

I have registered for one race thus far (a 50k in early April) to prepare while several are slightly more tentative on the calendar.  A few of my friends may run the 52-mile "rim to rim to rim" at the Grand Canyon at the very end of April and I might try to join them.  There are many other race options in the area where I can practice my nutrition to get an idea of what works on my stomach.  Last I remember...I love Oreos when I run ultras.  Like a whole pack.  Never touch the stuff outside of ultra-racing but during a run an Oreo always seems to sound tasty.

Stay tuned over the next 8 months to watch the saga unfold.  I will try to keep all of my updates light and fun - while I appreciate good preparation, I never take my running or competition too seriously.  It's a gift to be able to run and I will not complain about pace or distance or some other arbitrary metric.  I am getting from point A to point B on my own two feet and that is a blessing in and of itself which I cannot fully express in words...

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