|These three ladies were my rock the entire race.|
This story will begin at the end. I finished my second LT100 in 23:18 (40th place) thanks to a stellar crew (Tanya & Kacey) and pacer (Leila). There is no mistaking the power and importance of being surrounded and supported by individuals that will set aside their comfort and desires, and focus solely on helping you reach your goal. I admire those that can run 100 miles with no need for support. I'm not one of them. I need people to come along side me and laugh, hug, high five, fist bump, and tell me it's all good.
These ladies were top notch in all those areas, although I don't think they appreciated my purposeful "stinky hugs" at the aid stations. I needed a tangible way to show my appreciation and Kacey was an unconvincing liar telling me that I didn't smell.
This story begins on Thursday night when I arrived at our accommodations, "The Saloon". This VRBO find was the best. What better way to take in the Leadville experience, then by sleeping in a bar...or former bar. Do you think I'm kidding? See below...
The Saloon was small, but perfect for our needs. And how appropriate that it backed right up to a beer distributor!
Friday morning was medical check-in, and then the pre-race, hot & steamy meeting. I'm sure it was pushing 90+ in the 6th Street Gym. As my friend Carrie pointed out on my Facebook page, all it took was one smelly flatulence from nervous energy, and a bad situation was made much worse! Thankfully, after much ado, Cole Chlouber brought down the house by filling in for his dad (Ken) and delivering the ever important pep talk. Cole rocked it!
I actually got about 4-5 hours of sleep on Friday night and was ready to go when the alarm sounded at 2:50am. Coffee, breakfast and a 3/4 mile ride to the start....it was go time! All I remember is standing in the starting corral mesmerized by a remote controlled helicopter camera hovering overhead. That's how much of a spectacle Leadville has become!
|Tanya's ready and waiting for the shotgun.|
5-4-3-2-1 - Here we go!
Start > Winfield (Mile 50)
My plan this year was simple. I didn't want to run the race any harder than last year. I just wanted to run more. I was shooting for 22 hours, but figured by running more of the small hills and flats, the time on the clock would take care of itself.
To that end, I got in a good groove early and ran 99% of the sections from the start to Mayqueen (mi 13.5). I didn't feel like the lake trail pace was too much and I just followed a few other guys who were cruising it. I came into Mayqueen about 6 min ahead of schedule and just blew through since I had no one there crewing.
As I made my way to up to the CO Trail stretch, I now noticed a bit of an ache in my quads. I was baffled. I had been running easy and there was no downhill during those first 13 miles, so how could they be hurting already? Unfortunately, it was the first sign of something I'd be dealing with for the rest of the race.
I hiked a bunch of the Sugarloaf climb and ran down Powerlines nice and easy. Even so, I came into the Fish Hatchery AS over 20 min early with some twangy hamstrings to boot. I was so early that I caught my crew totally off guard and caused a bit of scrambling.
Next up was the road section over to Treeline, and I settled into a light jog while eating a bag of Ramen noodles. They were cold and not nearly as tasty as when I last ate them on a training run. I got most of them down, but knew that would be the end of my noodle shenanigans.
I came into Treeline feeling good everywhere but my legs. I was running, but the ache was much more than I ever expected for being only 27 miles in.
|Coming into Treeline (mile 27)|
A very quick stop here to get ready for the next 13 mile stretch to Twin Lakes. I was warming up and I guess I was sweating buckets. The video below doesn't lie.
I felt solid on the traverse to Twin. I ran out of water at one point, but only had a mile or so before the Mt. Elbert water stop. I guzzled a bunch and started the descent into Twin Lakes (mile 40).
In a repeat of 2011, I dropped down into the aid station chaos earlier than planned and my crew was no where to be seen. I wandered up and down the road and finally saw Tanya sprinting with my empty water bladder towards the AS. She told me where the crew was stationed around the corner, but I passed right by them and crossed the road while scanning the crowds. I turned back despite everyone yelling at me that the course went the other way. I found my crew back in the village and we tried to make fast work at getting me ready for the next six hours of being on my own. I would not see them again until I returned to Twin Lake at mile 60.
|The Fab Four!|
Off to Hope Pass I went. If I was going to hit 22 hours in this race, then I needed to own Hope Pass by hiking strong and consistent. Haha! It took about 10 minutes of hiking before I heard a roar of laughter from Hope Pass chewing me up and spitting me out on the trail. I got to run/hike a bit with Kieran and he was on hiking fire! Out of sight in seconds.
I passed through the llamas at the Hopeless AS, grabbing multiple cups of my go to source of calories at all the aid stations....Sprite! I easily drank two liters or more throughout the day. I knew from last year that I'd feel horrible on top of Hope Pass (12,600'). Yes, I did again this year. Thankfully there was no bloating though. My legs weren't thrilled with the steep descent down the backside of Hope, but they also tolerated me running quite a bit, so I couldn't complain.
The new trail over to Winfield about did me in. I heard it was longer and introduced a new climb/descent that just isn't there when running up the road. The trail wasn't all that tough, but the mental piece exposed my weakness for dealing with change. I liked the shorter and much easier route I ran last year. Adding close to three bonus miles sent me to a low point heading into the turnaround.
Winfield > Finish
I took about 5-7 min at Winfield and tried to get moving before I got too comfortable in a chair. Instead of turning right and heading down the road, the new section has you turning left and going about a half mile beyond Winfield before beginning a nice climb up and up. My low point from earlier was getting lower. The two-way traffic on the new singletrack exacerbated the problem that has always been present on the backside of Hope. I couldn't get into any rhythm as I had to step to the side of the trail about every 30-45 seconds.
There's not much to say about the rest of the climb back to Hope Pass. I was completely embarrassed and demoralized by the time I reached the top. I felt like a slug could zip past me with ease. My day was done and I had decided to end the pain and call it quits when I got back to Twin Lakes. The short descent down to the Hopeless aid station confirmed my decision as my legs just couldn't run anymore. Perfect excuse to drop.
Well, thankfully Twin Lakes was over five miles away. That gave me time to rebound and start running. I started remembering my Bandera DNF and the mental agony that plagued me in the days/weeks/months after. And the thoughts started pouring into my brain...if I dropped at Twin...they'd cut my band...I'd tell my pacer Leila that her drive up to Leadville was for naught...I'd pour a bucket of cold water on the energy and excitement my crew had for getting me to the finish...I'd drive back to the Saloon defeated...and I'd forgo the awards ceremony, finishers sweatshirt, and buckle. Who was I kidding? That all sounded like a total nightmare. I had gobs of time on the clock and I wasn't going to let some sore legs stop me now!
I crossed the river and arrived in Twin Lakes to the best therapy I could have asked for. PG and Leila met me at the road and immediately gave me a mental boost by jogging with me over to our crew stop. PG has a smile that goes from ear to ear. You can only feel good when you see it. And Leila, well I was going to have the honor of her pacing me for forty stinkin' miles...and she's a total ultra rockstar...not to mention one of the coolest people you get to meet.
With my Hope Pass demons left behind, I was in my happy place running with PG and Leila.
Tanya & Kacey worked their magic with a shoe/sock change and donning me with new shirt and hat. I felt fresh and ready to rock.
|Slurp, slurp - down goes the EFS.|
Leila set the pace heading up the climb from Twin Lakes. I was easily distracted by our chatting and catching her up on all my drama from the first 60 miles. The legs continued to be my #1 issue and I still couldn't figure out what caused such early problems.
Once we passed the Mt. Elbert water stop, we started running. And we ran, and ran, and ran. Leila was in front and knew just how fast to push it through all those rollers. We walked a few steeper parts, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to run that much. Her energy & laughter was contagious and the positive affirmations she gave me hit the right spot in my brain that translated into wanting to run more.
Early on I joked by asking Leila what was her babysitting rate. I figured a theoretical $20/hr was worthy of taking care of me. Well, by the end of the night that rate skyrocketed to $50+ as she constantly went above and beyond my expectations. I had refused to let her mule for me, but then she'd counter with something like this, "Well, Ken Cloubler says I have to. And this is his race so we should listen to the rules..." Ah, what joy it was to be in such good hands.
In no time, we were jogging back up to Treeline...in the DAYLIGHT! Last year, my roughest patch of the day had me arriving here in the dark. I was totally energized by getting there much earlier.
|A little birdie told me that Kacey LOVED my crew binder. She's going to get a copy for Christmas this year.|
|Notice Leila's red Talons (shoes). More to come on those...|
|And here she is springing into action grabbing all my junk that needed to be swapped out.|
Treeline was a fast stop and we jogged almost the entire stretch (except when I stopped to do my weird burping thing) to the Fish Hatchery. We needed to turn our lights on about halfway there. With a half mile to go, Leila informed me that I had been running so well, that I earned myself a five minute sit down in a chair at the AS. Can I tell you how HAPPY that made me? Can I tell you how much that motivated me to earn future AS prizes?
|My five minute reward! The baked potato soup was scrum-didilly-uptious.|
By the time we summited Sugarloaf and started running the backside, my legs were more than done. But Leila had me believing that new muscles were pushing the old, tired ones out of the way, and I had no excuse for listening to them anymore. We had a ongoing joke that when she felt a little "runnish", the "Woodsicle Shuffle" would begin. The shuffle would slowly increase in speed until I reached "cruising altitude." Once I worked my way there, I didn't want to stop and start all over again...so we ran a bunch more. During the stretch on the CO Trail, I kept my eyes glued to her red Talons as she would talk me through each and every technical spot on the trail. Easy peasy with Leila in front.
We reached Mayqueen and I was once again informed that I had earned another five minute sit down. Yahoo! I even offered to cut that short since I knew that much time in the chair might make achieving "cruising altitude" on the Lake Trail an impossible feat.
As we cruised through the campground, Leila stopped to make a pit stop and told me to keep going. So I ran on ahead and hit the Lake Trail all alone. I thought it would be a fun game to see how far I could get before Leila caught back up with me. Well, 5 minutes turned into 10, and then into 15, and then the game wasn't all that fun anymore. I wanted my pacer with me, so I quit the stupid game and walked until she caught up. I think she was just hanging out back there thinking she'd boost my ego by making me think I was running really fast! Haha!
There were some sweet memories made out there. Leila knew just how to encourage me and we marveled at the stars that were littered all over the sky. The lake trail came and went (after a brief crew stop at the Tabor Boat Ramp) and soon we were down mini-Powerlines, along the dirt road, past the dirt road paralleling the railroad tracks, and heading up the Boulevard.
We were cold. Very cold. I'm sure the temp was in the 30's. After moving okay for the first half of the Boulevard, my legs finally called it a day. Not bad to have that happen around mile 97. So we walked and talked. It was somewhere around here, I said, "oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that I went backpacking last weekend with my cousin and our kids. And I carried 50-60 lb pack up about 2000' over four miles." Leila about smacked me in the head. Her response was something along the line of, "well, DUH, there's the source of your dead legs today! You never want to introduce new stimulus to your body during your taper." She was spot on correct. Lesson learned!
We shivered our way to the top of the Boulevard (and later found out Leila was going borderline hypothermic!) and met a very chipper and enthusiastic Tanya & Kacey at mile 99.5!
|This is what you do when you're just so excited to run the last half mile of a 100 mile race.|
|Or just to stay warm when your runner is very late! Either way, she looks great!|
|Time to give Tanya & Kacey an exhibition of the "Woodsicle Shuffle".|
Here's what "running" looks like at Mile 99.5!
|Almost 24 hours of running - and this was all that was left. Yeah!|
|My response to the medical person's questions? My name is Kevin, I'm from Ohio, and I believe today is November 22nd. Nah..I think I had it together a little more than that!|
After a fitful two hours of sleep back at the Saloon, we were up and getting showered and re-fueled by Tanya's amazing pancake and egg breakfast complemented by some smooth coffee. Someone went outside and came back in to tell me that my shoe (Hoka) and underwear were in the middle of the street. What? We had put all my clothes outside when we returned due to the overwhelming awful smell they produced. Well, it seems that awful smell was quite tasty to some critter as they made quick work gnawing on all of them. I'll spare you the shots of my underwear.
Another Leadville has now come and gone. While I run many ultras throughout the year, there is something special about a 100 miler. And there's something truly unique about Leadville. I know it gets knocked by many for the circus atmosphere, but at the core, it is Ken, Merilee, and the 30 years of tough as nails runners beating themselves into the ground running 100 miles through the Rockies. I'm honored to be a part of such an event. To Megan, Zoe, Sharon, Kacey, Leila, and Tanya...THANK YOU. I can't think of any other runner that had SIX ladies for support. How cool is that? You all made this experience everything I hoped it would be and more. I'm grateful.