THE LEADVILLE 100 TRAIL RUN: A PRIMER

You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.

-Ken Chlouber, Leadville 100 Trail Run Co-Founder and one sick puppy

 

Guess who has raised $11,766 of awesomeness for the Life & Hope Fund to help cancer patients?  Well, that would be YOU!  So proud of your support.  Wanna learn more and do more?  CLICK HERE!

And on with the blog…

As of this blog entry we are less than 10 days away from the 4:00 AM start of the Leadville 100 Trail Run (or #LT100, as the twitterati would tweet) on Saturday, August 18.  Since January 1, 2012 I have run over 2000 miles, worn out 4 pair of shoes and have gotten very sick of most of the songs on my iPod Shuffle.  Especially The Prayer by Celine Dion and Josh Grobin.  That one really gets a tad annoying after 80 or 90 plays . . . I keep it on the playlist because I run faster when I’m a little ticked.

Most of you have been very supportive of this effort to complete my first ultramarathon.  Many of you have contributed generously to the Life & Hope Fund.  Some of you have joined me for one of my 30+ marathons — in Chicago or Boston or New Orleans or St. Louis or Duluth or at Pikes Peak — this last group understands the inescapable, magnetic allure of looooong distance.

But, judging from the questions I am getting, it is obvious that I have not done a very good job of filling in family and friends on what this race is all about.  That’s right, you are pretty much Leadville-clueless.  So, in a effort to illuminate and educate, I share your actual FAQs.

So, how long is the Leadville 100?  Well, Sparky, that would be 100 miles.

Are you off your freaking rocker?  Quite possibly, next question.

Why?  Besides the obvious answer (getting out of cleaning the house, duh), this is a tough one.  I posted a fully inadequate answer previously (CLICK HERE for that post).  The first time I heard about the Leadville 100 was on the shuttle to the Denver airport following my first Pikes Peak Marathon (CLICK HERE for the vid on that climb to 14,115 ft.).  I was proudly wearing my finisher’s shirt when a guy on the shuttle inquired.  A bit more full of myself than normal, I shared in gory detail every reason why the PPM was billed as “America’s Ultimate Challenge”.  When I asked him if he was a runner he responded “yeah, I did 100 miles in Leadville this weekend…congrats on your race.”  What he was really saying was “oh, you ran 26.2 miles up and down a mountain, that’s cute.”  Imagination captured.  A few months later I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  He tells a great story that will make you want to take off your shoes and run 20 or 30 miles to chase down an antelope . . . or maybe just a latte on the other side of town.  Part of the story centers around the Leadville 100 Trail Run and the wild west characters who started this race to help a down-on-their-luck, boom-to-bust mining town set at 10,200 feet in Colorado.  After the Pikes Peak Double (CLICK HERE for the video on that sufferfest) I knew Leadville had to be next.  Registering was easy.  Telling Tami I had registered . . . well, I’m still working up the nerve on that one.

Where is the race held?  Leadville, CO, south of I-70 about 25 miles . . . 2.5 hours from Denver.  The only reason you would build a town at 10,152 ft above sea level is if you found gold, which is exactly what happened.  Leadville boomed in the late-1800’s and at one point boasted over 80 saloons in operation . . . with no sheriff.  Alas, the good times did not last.  The Leadville Race Series has provided a nice boost to the economy over the past few years.  I am pleased to make my contribution.

How many days do you get to cover 100 miles?  Days?  Try hours.  Runners have 30 of these to complete the distance.  They set up the start line at 4 AM on August 18 and break it down at 10 AM on August 19.  Finish within 30 hours and you earn a silver belt buckle.  Under 25 and the belt buckle is even more impressive.  Earn one of those and you have ultra-serious trail cred.  You’ll be wearing that sucker to work, to bed, in the shower, pretty much everywhere.  Forever.

When do you sleep?  You don’t.  Outside of sleep-walking, no one running the Leadville 100 has any expectation of snoozing until they get back to Leadville with 100 miles under their (silver, I hope) belt.

Do they have porta potties?  Funny you should ask.  A rather obscure rider tacked on to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allowed for the installation of public facilities throughout the national forest lands.  Apparently, after extensive governmental study and think-tank review it was determined that bears do, in fact, do their business in the woods.  In order to maintain the pristine nature of our public lands, fully equipped high-tech Nature Ops Service Centers for Animal Toiletry units have been constructed throughout the Leadville area.  The contract for design and installation of these NOSCAT units was awarded to QUIKTRIP and many of the units come equipped with frappuccino machines and friendly attendants trained to make change at an alarmingly fast rate.  While wildlife utilization rates of the NOSCAT units is low at this point, fed officials expect a quick ramp-up as training, signage and various incentive programs reach full implementation.  In the meantime, hikers and runners can enjoy these comfort stations when nature calls.  OK, I just made that all up.  You go in the woods with the bears.

100 miles in 30 hours, that’s only an average of 3.333333333 miles per hour.  OK, that sounded more like an accusation of slothfulness than a question.  Sure, buddy, what’s the big deal?  Most of us walking at a brisk pace can hit 3 1/3 mph.  Well, Mr. Math Major, not all miles are created equal.  Let’s start with something basic, like OXYGENThere just isn’t much of it to go around at +10,000 ft. above sea level.  Actually, about 35% less than what we enjoy in the flatlands near sea level.  Your respiration rate increases accordingly to try and make up the deficit.  It is no use.  The only true fix is for the authorities to find who stole all of Colorado’s air and make them give it back.  NOW.  OK, next is climb or elevation.  Click on that graph up near the top of this blog entry (or CLICK HERE) . . . ever climb up a 20% grade where your heels don’t touch the ground for miles at a time?  Give it a try if you are yearning for a seriously painful lactic acid burn.  And then add in 30 degree temperature swings, cold rain (maybe hail), lightning strikes, technical trails (i.e. “where’s the trail?”), inefficient hydration, not enough caloric input, new-moon darkness, river crossings, lack of sleep, a severely weakened mental state, the threat of bears, Britney Spears on your iPod . . . and you start to get a sense for how brutal maintaining that average pace can be.  Oh yeah, and did I mention it’s one hundred miles?

So, are there just 3 or 4 others who run the race with you?  I can understand where this question came from.  After all, could there possibly be more than 3 or 4 others who would have any deranged delusional desire to do this?  The answer may surprise you.  1100 runners have registered to run the 2012 LT100Would you like to get in on the action?  Too late, it has been sold out for months.  I do not consider myself to be a serious athlete.  I am serious, but I am not an athlete.  The people I am surrounded by?  They are serious and they are athletes.  Some of them will finish the race in less than 20 hours.  That is crazy.  But most will never make it to the finish line.  Despite training for the past year to get ready for this race, only about 450 will make it back to Leadville under the 30 hour time limit.  That’s a pretty high attrition rate.  After my last Leadville training run (CLICK HERE for that video), I can thoroughly understand the complete mental and physical despair that sets in when you enter that dark place.  There are times when everyone on the course is just one thought away from quitting.  The pull to just stop is incredibly powerful.  Often there is a good physical reason to shut it down.  But sometimes the demons inside take advantage of your weakened mental state and convince you that the deed cannot be done.  That’s when I pull out the iPod and crank up Britney Spears . . . hit me baby one more time.

Life & Hope Fund Update:  $11,766 of AWESOME raised to help cancer patients make ends meet.  I continue to be humbled by your tremendous support of this effort.  Thank you so much!  Special thanks this week to Greg & Marian Snapp, Heather P, Jean Brislance (the #loonwhisperer) and LT100 running buddy, Ben McCaux for your very generous support.  I am verklempt.  Want to learn more?  CLICK HERE

Training Update:  With 13 days to go I did my last long training run this past Sunday . . . 37 slow and easy miles on a very warm, humid day in Missouri.  Ran last night and felt like a kid, it was just downright fun!  The rest of this week and next will be very light on the mileage.  Headed to Breck tomorrow and hope to get a climb in with Tami on the +14,000 ft Quandary Peak, if weather permits.  Looking forward to a full house of crew and pacers >> Dan, Linda, Collin, Susan, Todd and Ben.  Physically, there is very little left to do.  Mentally, the heavy lifting has only just begun.

Thank you all for your continued encouragement and support.  I feel truly blessed to 1) be able to do this, and 2) to have such great friends and family with which to share this journey!

Eric

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Eric August 9, 2012 Uncategorized