Leadville 100 Mile Ski Race: A Resounding Success

FasterSkierApril 3, 2003

Fast skis, incredible grooming and unbelievable snow conditions led to an extremely
fast inaugural Leadville 100 mile ski race. Race sponsors, Hammer Gel, Ibex
Wool, Smartwool, Petzl, Tracks Café, Osprey, Land Art, Neptune Mountaineering,
Colorado Mountain College, Whole Foods, Timberline Motel, The Mountain Gazette,
and Ideal Health, must all be ecstatic for jumping on board for the first Leadville
100 mile Ski Race. It was a complete success. Race Director Bill Perkins, founder
of the Leadville 100 mile Ski race, did a phenomenal job with the organization
of this epic event. Perkins is responsible for gathering the funds, the sponsors,
the grooming equipment, and putting together the advertisements that got his
race rolling. Perkins is also responsible for that incredible feeling of a full-body
endorphin race. He certainly came up with a fantastic idea in keeping with the
Leadville tradition. The weather cooperated and the snow stayed extremely fast
throughout the whole day. The aide stations were stocked and staffed without
a single detail being overlooked. The race packets and awards were first class,
with thousands of dollars in prizes being awarded. Indeed, the Leadville 100mile
ski race is an epic adventure that is run first class and will certainly continue
to grow. Way to go to all who entered, raced and finished. It is a sensational
feeling to know that we were all part of the FIRST LEADVILLE 100 MILE SKI RACE.
Thank you to all race sponsors for your belief in this event. A special thanks
goes to Bill Perkins for fusing a combo of energy, knowledge, and organizational
skills together to put on a tremendous event. The following is an account of
my adventure of the Leadville 100 mile ski race. I certainly hope you enjoy
it. I most definitely did.

Friday, March
14th and I am in a daze as we drive to Leadville. Is it a long drive? Nope.
It is only a two hour drive from Western State College in Gunnison. Why was
I in a daze then? TOMORROW I WAS SCHEDULED TO SKI 100 MILES. This would be 100
miles of perfectly groomed and fantastic trails. It was to be a "four lapper"
with each 25mile lap measured out precisely to 25.000001 miles using GPS navigation
tools. At least I knew it was a true 100miles. But, did I know I could ski it?
Yes. I knew I would be able to finish. The question is, could I race it? I guess
I will find out tomorrow. We headed up to the pre-race meeting at 6pm the night
before the race. It was an exciting time; people milling about looking anxious.
Me? I was just anxious to go lay down and prepare. I knew all my gear, food
and wax was dialed in. I just wanted race morning to come. I slept restlessly
the night before and was up at 4:45 the next morning wide awake and ready to
go. I knew what I had to do. I could not go out like a 20 year old punk college
kid. (to reader: insert thought: "you are a 20 year old college punk")
I had to respect the distance. I needed to make sure I did not get caught up
in anyone else’s race. I had to go out and do my own thing. The night
previous, race Director, race founder and racer himself Bill Perkins informed
me that seeing how I was by far the youngest solo entrant, I was going to be
the ceremonial race leader on the first mile of the course so that no one would
go out too fast on the ripping starting downhill and break a pole. I knew at
least that I would be the race leader for 1 mile.

As soon as I passed that first mile marker though, I slowed down and let some
other guys pass me. One of the skiers that did pass was skiing on a team and
therefore would be only skiing 50 miles. I knew not to let that bother me. The
other guy though had me worried. Jon Brown is his name. He took off like there
was no tomorrow. I sat back, and thought about relaxation, technique and energy.
I V-1’d while I looked ahead and saw a powerful V2. I was filled with
panic for a minute. "What if I cannot make it?" "Relax,"
I said… "just calm down and let it go." "Be relaxed and
smooth." I passed the first few aid stations and realized I was loosing
ground fast. At mile 15ish, I was told I was 15min. down. 15 min. down!!!!!
"Wow," I thought, "nothing I can do about that one." I kept
skiing. I started to really get into a groove and feel fine. Meanwhile my heart
rate was an extremely low 115, and I knew I was not even working yet. I came
to mile 20 and heard nothing about where I was. I knew I was in 2nd overall.
I had passed Sam. (that other skier who took off and was a pair skier.) I did
not know though how much I had on the people behind me, or how far behind Jon
I was. Mile 24 came quickly and I could see a skier ahead of me. "No way,"
I thought, "that must be another skier just crewing for someone."
I got up a little ways farther to the steep hill that we would have to do at
the end of each lap. I could see it was Jon. He looked like he was skiing well
though, and perhaps 2.2 hrs. into this race, decided to wait for someone to
help with the pacing duties. We headed out on the 2nd lap together. My crew
member also from Western State College, Jessica Gray was doing a fantastic job
of forcing food into me at every road crossing. She gave me liquids, food and
gels and I kept a high-energy flow for I knew that every 5 miles I would see
her. At the lap, my skis were still great, but Jess had waxed some up for me.
I switched skis and could feel an incredible difference right away. As Jon and
I headed out on the 2nd of four laps, I knew I had the edge. My heart rate monitor
kept flickering on and off, but I could tell I was just starting, and I could
tell that Jon had worked hard on that first lap. Advantage: me. My skis were
bomber.(Way to go Jess) The glide was unmatched. Every downhill came and I could
feel I was relaxing and pulling away while Jon kept skiing and could not keep
up. I played this game for 16 miles of lap 2 and then at mile 41 into the race
there is a long gradual downhill followed by a pretty steep and somewhat long
uphill, followed again by a long gradual, and very fast downhill. My skis were
flying and I knew I had to make a break for it. I did. I opened up 1 min. by
the bottom of the 1st downhill. I was basically going all out, but I knew I
had to get away. I kept hammering on the next uphill and went right over the
top. I skied the next downhill probably the fastest I did the whole day and
by the time I started skiing out of a tuck or free skate again, I was told no
one was in sight. That is all I needed to know. Now, I could focus on skiing.
I knew I needed at least a 5-10min. lead at mile 75 to have a shot at winning
this thing. I put my head down and kept pushing. My heart rate felt high, but
I felt fantastic. I kept having goose bumps, and Jess kept me fed. I was eating
and drinking some great food and energy product and my energy reserves stayed

I came into mile 70 with only a 4 min lead. And decided I needed to hammer the
next 4miles in order to have a solid lead going into the last lap. I pushed
hard and by the time I lapped through for my final 25mile lap, people were telling
me that I had at least a 7min. lead. Wahooooo! That was goal number one only
a few miles ago. I knew I had to at least put myself in position to win and
I knew I had done that. Now the hard part came. I had to keep skiing hard with
25miles to go. Fortunately, all solo skiers are allowed a pacer on the last
lap. Jess jumped up to the plate and skied behind me the whole way, keeping
the pace honest, and forcing me to keep skiing well. Without that help, I sure
would have faded. With 10miles to go in the race; with 90miles behind me, I
knew nothing could stop me. Jess kept me eating and drinking, even when I did
not want too, and that kept me pretty much firing on all cylinders. With 5 miles
to go, I was told that no one was even close. I hammered it out. I was redlining:
as best I could, and knew I was starting to struggle. I told Jess to peel off
and meet me with 1mile to go. I was by myself, and some hot shot went by me!!!!!
Fortunately he was the 3rd member of one of the teams of 4 who was skiing this
and my heart started beating again. I not only wanted to beat all of the soloists,
but also all of the pairs and teams, and be the first person to cross the finish
line at the Leadville 100 mile ski race. I kept skiing. By this time, I was
really fighting and clawing for every stride. I came into view of the last mile,
which as I said before consists of a steep uphill, some rolling hills, then
a 180 degree turn and a stride or two across the finish line. Wow, I was almost
there, and with 1mile to go so was Jessica Gray who had been helping and encouraging
me every pole plant of the way. She skied behind me that last mile up that steep
uphill, and now I realize that she was just walking behind me going up that
steep hill. I must have been going so slow. Of course it was all mental: I mean
you are supposed to look awful at the end of a 100 mile ski race, right? So,
I made it to the 180 degree turnaround with a substantial amount of people screaming
right by the finish line. I crossed the line with a pump of both fists over
my head, glided to a stop and kneeled over. I was tired. My feet instantly hurt
and my legs were sore. My shoulder was numb with pain and my arms felt like
Jell-O. But, I had done it. I had skied way beyond my expectations and skied
100miles in 9hrs. 38min. and 22 sec. I won by 20 min over Kirsten Ames who also
broke 10 hours and won the women’s race. It is remarkable that she was
2ndoverall. She put about 17 min. on Jon who was third overall. Way to go gal
and guy. I had won the first Leadville 100 mile ski race, and had done so in
better then 5:50 minutes per mile. However, I did not feel like I had won any
bragging rights. The only thought was that everyone who was to finish won the
bragging rights. There were men and women still on course, who would all finish.
There were CLASSICAL SKIERS ON COURSE. One of these skiers: ROCK is his name,
would finish. And, as I look back at this adventure, my most vivid memory is
seeing Rock’s head-lamp still out there at 10:00pm that night when I was
going to bed and he still had 3 more hours. I have an immeasurable amount of
respect for that type of will and mental outlook. My most vivid memory was watching
and learning from these truly great people. Each and everyone that entered,
persevered, and finished earned each other’s unquestioning respect. Each
one of us gave it our all and tested the limits of the human MIND: and body.
Incredible. I am getting goose bumps even as I write this some 3 weeks later.
Way to go everyone. We all respected the distance, the course, each other, and
most importantly ourselves as individuals. I look forward to future races and
skis with you all and I look forward to all new entrants, as this race will
undoubtedly grow. It will be incredible. Life is incredible. Keep on keepin’
on. I would love to try and answer anyone’s questions: duncan.callahan@western.edu
. Give this race a try and you will forever be a part of the Leadville Experience.


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