Sunday, September 5, 2010


photo taken of the course the day after the race

"On a good day, running 100 miles is f*@%ing hard. Period. On a bad day, it's borderline impossible." -Tony Krupicka
This race report has been challenging to write because I have never DNF'd in a race.  I am writing it with hopes of capturing my experience while it is still fresh, so that I can later reflect on it...and gain valuable insight into the training and recovery processes that are required to run 100 miles.  I am releatively new at running the 100 mile distance - the Leadville 100 would be my second attempt.

Shortly after I finished my first 100 mile trail run, Rocky Raccoon 100 in February of this year, I was wanting more...I mean, come on, who wouldn't want to experience that rush again!  Tara and I had just found out that we were going to have a baby in early October, so the timing of running another 100 miler in 2010 seemed doable.  I had a talk with my friend Steve Rose about doing another 100 miler and the Leadville 100 trail run in August would allow us to train all summer long.  Before I knew it Steve and I found ourselves registered with  two other guys, Ken Arble & Andrew Harding,  from a local running group that we were a part of - "R.U.T." 

The thing with Leadville, is that you have to deal with the altitude - the town rests at 10,200 feet!  My approach going into the Race Across the Sky was to run a boat load of trail miles...this I thought would lead to a Leadville 100 finish.  So in May I ran 315 miles, in June I ran 304 miles and in July I ran 341 miles.  Looking back at my training now, I can see that I peaked in early July and never really rested...just kept on running on tired legs.  The taper was difficult for me.  I was experiencing quite a bit of soreness and fatigue...and at the same time I really wanted to keep on running, so as not to loose any fitness.  This is a really a crazy sensation that most ultra-runners experience.  Also, during my taper I began to experience a sharp pain at the tip of my big toe due to a problematic toenail that had become infected.   

Two weeks prior to Leadville I had decided to make a shoe change.  I was informed that a road shoe may not be suitable for the Rocky Mountain terrain. After trying on every trail shoe known to man, Steve offered up a pair of Mountain Masochists that he had laying around in the back seat of his car.  Oddly enough they worked fine on a 9 mile trail run, so I had decided that these were going to be the shoes!

We're off...Ken, Steve, Chris, Andrew and I arrive at Denver, Colorado on Thursday - you could feel the excitement! Chris and Ken drove separately, since they were going to make a couple of stops along the way to visit friends and family.  While Steve, Andrew and I headed directly to Leadville.  Once we arrived at the Leadville Hostel late at night and realized that most of my running gear, contained in a black carry on bag, was left behind at the Hertz car rental.  A call to the Hertz manager lead to a sleepless night - they had not found any luggage that matched my description.  The best that they could do was to have me follow up with the lost and found department in the morning.  All night long I kept going over in my mind the type of gear that was missing and how I was going to replace it.  Probably the most critical item was my orthodics.  The shoes, the garmin, the shorts, the water bottles, etc. could all be replaced.  The next day a phone call to Hertz would reveal that the black carry on bag was found!  Ken's pacer, Chris, volunteered to make the two hour drive to Denver to pick up the bag, so that I could go to the medical check-in and then rest before the race.
Keith, Ken, RD Ken, Steve, Andrew
Other than being a bit tired and having a slight headache, I thought that my body was adapting well to the altitude.  I wasn't really sure if my headache was caused from not getting enough sleep or if it was my allergies, or if it was due to the altitude.  Anyways I was told to drink plenty of water, so I continue to stay hydrated.

The night before the race we got our gear situated - I was extremely relieved to have my running gear at my bedside!  We all hit the bed early, so that we could get a good night's rest before our 2 a.m. wake-up call.  I only got about 3 hours sleep, but felt pretty relaxed and ready.  We all did our own pre-race routines and then headed down to the starting line.  Andrew, Steve, and I spotted Tony Krupicka warming up the hills.  We asked Tony if he minded getting a photo with us and he was cool with it! 
Andrew, Tony Krupicka, Keith and Steve
Start to May Queen (13.5)
The gun went off at 4 a.m. and we were on our way!  It was really exciting to be finally running the Leadville 100!  I was amazed to be running with so many runners and I can remember turning off my headlamp, because the pavement was pretty well lit up by the 750 other runners that I was running with.  The first few miles were on paved road and my legs felt fresh and strong.  Steve and I were running side by side maintaining an 11 minute pace, while we played leapfrog with Ken and Andrew all the way to the May Queen aid station.  Once we left the paved road and started running on the trail  I turned my headlamp on, so that  I could see the terrain more clearly - it was mostly roots and rocks.  In this stretch, Steve and I commented how this felt like the morning of the Rocky Raccoon 100.  Daylight broke and we could look across Turquoise Lake and see the runners beginning the climb up Sugarloaf.  We stopped to take a few pictures and to take in the was going to be a long day, so I had thoughts that I was just going to enjoy the process!   Once we arrived at the aid station I took my headlamp off, filled my hydration vest and bottle and grabbed as much melon, bananas, and pb&j's that i could carry...and away I went!
pretty much an out and back 50 miler!
May Queen to Fish Hatchery (23.5)
This was the first big climb of the day up Sugarloaf at 11,071 feet.  I power hiked most of this uphill.  I wasn't too concerned with my pace at the time, because I knew that there would be a good downhill stretch, once I reached the top.  The views from the top were amazing and the downhill section was really fun!  At this point, Ken had been running next to me and he mentioned that he would have to run this section carefully, because last year a runner had fell into him - injuring his knee causing him to DNF at Mile 50.  Ken's comment made me run this downhill section with caution and with some hesitation as I wanted to conserve my quads for later in the race.  Once I hit the pavement I continued running / walking into the Fish Hatchery aid station.  As I was entering Steve was exiting.  I quickly sat down and asked for my drop bags...i noticed that my energy level was a bit low and that I had a mild headache.  After changing out of my knit hat and long sleeve shirt I then fumbled through my drop bag and switched out a few items from my hydration pack that I thought that I would need later in the race (i.e. warm jacket, gels, dry gloves).  Just as I was wrapping things up I saw Ken asking for his drop bag...unfortunately, they couldn't find it, so I asked him if he needed any of my items and he just smiled and continued on.  I filled up with water, grabbed some melon, pb&j's and bananas and I was on my way...and then mother nature called, so I had to take care of business.  

Fish Hatchery to Half moon (31)
About a 1/2 mile from Fish Hatchery my pacer, Brain Hoffman and his coach Stacy,  pulled up next to me in their van and mentioned that they would meet me at Twin Lakes - so off they went.  It was great to have finally met Brian and Stacy - it raised my spirits and gave me something to look forward to, because originally I had planned on meeting Brian at the Fish Hatchery on my way back...and now I would be seeing them in about 16 miles.  The road out to pipeline was a bummer - it was mostly pavement and I was exposed to the sun (this was probably the least enjoyable section of the course).  Shortly after I turned onto pipeline my right heal started to ache.  It didn't matter if I was walking or running - the pain was still there.  My thought was that the pain would eventually go away, so I mixed up the running with walking.  Once I got to the Halfmoon aid station I filled up my hydration pack and water bottles and started eating...I sat down and realized that my energy level was pretty low.  I was hitting a low point in my run.     

Halfmoon to Twin Lakes (39.5)
I headed out of the Halfmoon aid station with a handful of melon, bananas, and pb&j sandwiches.  The combination of the heal pain and the low energy made going I just tried to focus on forward progress and continued to shuffle along - walking all of the uphills and running all of the downhills.  Finally I was able to get a decent rhythm together and found that it was much easier to concentrate on the beauty of the trails versus the pain that I was experiencing.  This was by far the most scenic section of trail that we had all day - there were some pretty cool creek crossings nestled in the aspens and some single track on soft pine needles.  At the top of the climb, I could see Twin Lakes below.  This gave me a boost, knowing that I could finally switch out of these shoes that had caused my heal pain and refocus.  I just let gravity do it's thing and I ran this downhill pretty aggressive.  As I was descending, I noticed that my hand was swollen and that my wedding ring was really tight.  My first thought was that this was the result of altitude.  I finally arrived into the Twin Lakes aid station about an hour and a half past my goal and was greeted by Brian and Cindy.  They really were positive and mentioned that I wasn't that far off of a 28 hour finishing pace.  I switched out my shoes, refueled, hydrated and I was on my only took me 20 minutes!  This was the story of the day - my transitions were slow and I just fumbled through my gear.  As I headed out, Brian walked with me and mentioned that he would meet me in Winfield.    

Twin Lakes to Winfield (50)
shoe high altitude
The shoe change seemed to have helped my heal...I was off and running.  Soon after leaving the Twin Lakes aid station Tony Krupicka and his pacer Dakota Jones came running towards me - I remember being pretty humbled by this, because I was at mile 40 and Tony was already at mile 60!  Anyways, I wished him well as he went running by and he nodded.  As I headed towards the climb up Hope Pass I entered into a stream crossing that was really refreshing and felt good on my sore heal...this was the last time that I remember anything about the pain in my heal.  I was now climbing up hope pass.  This was a 3,600 foot climb in 5 miles.  It took me every bit of 2 hours to reach the hopeless aid station.  On the way up, I ran into Ed Bartone.  He was a runner from Michigan that I had met in Leadville the day before.  Ed and I switched the lead several times on the way up.  Once we reached Hopeless aid station at mile 45, we both sort of realized that the next cutoff would be difficult to make.  We has less than 1 hour to make it to Winfield.  It was at this point that I started encouraging the runners on their return back to Leadville and then started to absorb the incredible scenery at the summit.  On my decent into Winfield from Hope Pass, I saw Andrew and then Ken & his pacer Chris and I wished them well on their return to Leadville.  Once I arrived at Winfield, I met my pacer Brian and I walked over to the aid station to have my wristband cut - I was 40 minutes shy of making the cutoff.
Ed Bartone climbing up Hope Pass
The following day Steve, Ken and I walked down to the finish line and watched our good friend Andrew Finish the Leadville 100...pretty amazing stuff - this was his first 100 mile run! 

Andrew - 29:04:00
Then at the 30 hour mark the race director shot off the gun, whiched marked the closing of the 2010 Leadville 100.
This is how badass the Leadville 100 is!

I do plan on returning to Leadville to finish what I started...this is a very unique run - that's more than just a run!!!


at the summit of Hope Pass 12,600 feet

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