Thursday, August 21, 2008

Leadville 100 2008, What ?

I have been back for 3 days so far and I am still trying to come to grips with my feelings about the race. For one I will say it is truly a classic in the world of ultra running, heck I would even say a classic in all running. When you ask people if they have ever heard of ultra running both Western States and Leadville will be what comes to mind for them. In doing Western States 100 mile trail run back in 2003 I was very focused on knocking Leadville off my list of things to do. Maybe that is what makes it so hard to except how it ended for me. This is my race story.

The day started at 3am. With a 4am start time I did not end up with a ton a sleep. We got to the start with temps in the low 30's and light rain. After we got going in the race for about 2 miles the rain stoped and heck it seemed very nice. It was fun running with my friends Steve and Paul. Paul and I had trained for this race all year together Knocking out many long runs and lot's of hill repeats along the way.

At the begging of the race I was feeling great !! We got to the first aid station and I was super happy to see my wife Sonya and my brothers. I got in and out very quickly and started off to the first big climb up Sugarloaf pass which is just over 11,000 feet.

Going up the mountain we got to run in some mix of rain and light snow. I have never run in snow in mid August. We next got into the aid station Fish Hatchery at mile 23.5 and it was pouring rain once more. Not what I was hoping for but I was dealing with it.

I was still feeling good as we next made our way back up to like 10,500 feet before drooping down to 9,500 at the Twin Lakes aid station, mile 39.5. At that point I was doing great, feeling great and was in 57th place. We got into our cold weather stuff as we were told in would be cold on top of the next mountain, Hope pass which tops out at 12,600 feet !!!

I can not tell you what it feels like to make your way up this beast. To make things worse we got pounded with hail and snow on the way up. At the top you can't believe you eyes. It is so crazy to look around. I tried not to do much looking around as I was very light headed at the time. I believe this had more to do with needing more food in my body. Coming down on the back side is not much easier as you can imagine trying to run down something so steep.

As I got to the 50 mile mark and the turn around point of the race I was happy to see my family, but thinking I might feel like stopping as I was now off my goal time pace. I cam into the Winfield station at 11 hours 33 min's. About 1+ hour slower than I was shooting for. Not to mention I was now 103rd place. I had 46 people pass me on the last 10 miles during that climb. That sucked. But lucky for me Sonya jumped in to help me over the top of the mountain. Thank God !!

The next 10 miles up and back over Hope Pass was not to bad now that I had Sonya with me. I was feeling better and happy to have her with me. Even though I still wanted to stop by the end of this section I was enjoying my time with my wife. Maybe things would turn for me ?

Durning the next 10 miles from Twin Lakes back to Halfmoon things sure did turn. It got dark, cold and started to rain more !! Things went from bad to worse as I could see Sonya was getting very cold. Once we made it to Halfmoon we got Sonya into the medical tent to be treated for hypothermia. While there I saw that Paul had also been in the tent and was done. At this point it became the perfect storm of what to do for me. I could go home with them in the warm car, or go walk/run 30 more miles in the cold rain by myself ? I choose the going home option.

This was not easy but is what I have done. I still am mad at myself for not pushing on but in a way know that I needed to live to fight another day. I could sit around forever thinking of what I could have done differently but that will not change things. The fact is that I was way off what I wanted and know I am able to do. Sometimes life just goes that way. I am glad to not be hurt and am looking forward to the fall. I do not know if I will be back next year at Leadville. But if I was a betting man I would put money on it. Plus as bad as I feel about myself all I have had to do is sit back and watch these runners at the Olympics and think they have to wait another 4 years to try and right a wrong. I guess it could be worse huh.


keith said...

That is a great race report, no matter how it ends up you still toed the line and ran through some pretty harsh conditions.

Recover well and start getting ready to take revenge!

SteveQ said...

Most people seem to make it over Hope Pass the second time, but stop at one of the next two aid stations; I think it's psychological - they think they've done the hard part and haven't prepared for continuing. Plus, 70-85 miles is hard on everyone.

I learned in my first ultra that you have to choose between caring about your crew and caring about the race. That's why I wouldn't have family as pacers.

I might give it a try next year.

MN Ultra Runner said...

Distance is tough. Distance with altitude is worse. Distance with altitude, cold temps and pouring rain? No thanks. Nice work getting as far as you did. The fact that you're already thinking about going back tells me it's as special as everybody says.

Matthew Patten said...

Great recap Kurt.

Leadville has been on my "dream list" for a long time. Reports like this are also what has kept me slowly tackling the longer distances.

It seems like everybody who has been to Leadville has a grueling story to tell from it.

It sucked seeing all of your names come up as DNF's on Sunday morning.

Having a wife as a pacer must be interesting.

phillip said...

I've found these ultra trail runs put all of the other challenges in life in perspective.

One sure doesn't think of those mundane human and business issues when out there on trail with no air and heavy rain and footing a bear. . . .

Your story makes one realize the worst that happens when one competes in these events is improvement, become stronger, develop the mind -- which is a form of winning.

And cherish the real trophies: the family.

True Winning at the Ultra of Life.

Best on the Trail,
Phillip Gary Smith

Helen said...

Well done Kurt. Thanks for sharing your story. It can't be easy recapping how it ended. But it'll just make the finish (next year?) even sweeter!