Skate skiing for 100 miles? Am I nuts? At 10,500 feet? With vastly changing snow conditions? All in a 18 hour time limit? Well, that’s exactly the pointâ€”I am nuts. This is the 3rd annual Leadville ski 100 put on by race director Bill Perkins, the longest Nordic ski race in the World. No flash, no hype, no crowds, no megaphones .only you against four 25 mile laps with 1,600 feet of climbing in each with aid stations every 5. Awesome local volunteers with cow bells, and a beautiful course.
The day started at 6:00 when it was still dark with 35 other skiers, some solo, some on relay teams. The start chute was two wooden ski poles in the ground, and two volunteers holding a yellow rope across. As is tradition, the youngest solo skier is the pacer for the first mile and then you get into your own race. So far so goodâ€”18 degrees, good hard snow, the right wax, starting to hydrate and eat periodically and burn a 2:34 first lap. Puts me solidly in 4th place behind two pros and a tough localâ€”I then swap into different skis with super fast wax that fly! I continue to focus on technique and what I can controlâ€”my thoughts, my breathing and heart rate, nutrition. The wind is picking up in a big way–we have gusts over 30 mph and we are on the exposed Mineral Belt Trail that winds through old mines, equipment, and ghost towns. Fast forward to the 50 mile markâ€”feel great, moved into 3rd overall, skiing very well. I come into an aid station and they ran out of the electrolyte drink I was usingâ€”I knew that I was going to have a problem. I slowed it down, and kept my focus. It is amazing how your whole life is encapsulated into a 3 by 4 foot space right in front of you. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. The air temperature is now over 40 degrees and the snow is turning to slush. Hard to get any glide, almost like your skis are glued to the ground, and the wind is in your face. Dig deep, stay focused. I hear several soloists have dropped outâ€”doesn’t surprise me.
At 75 miles I feel that I am starting to come apart and am losing powerâ€”it’s warm, windy, and I start to get into a zone of losing track of time. There is a mandatory 5 minute sit down to where the race director interviews you to make sure you know your name and where you are. I passed by sheer luck! Keep eating, keep drinking, keep your feet moving. I have now been skiing for 9 hours and I am drainedâ€”physically and mentally. I then remembered a quote from the Leadville 100 bike race director who said that â€œpain is temporary, glory is forever.â€ I repeated that to myself a thousand times on the last lap. I just kept moving forward, one step at a time. I was out of power, out of gas, out of my mind. The course is now starting to freeze and the tracks are difficult to navigateâ€”I am losing coordination, but I keep moving. I see lone volunteers as they look like ghosts with cow bells, cheering me on in the middle of nowhere. I think of my 8 year old diabetic daughter who I wear a red wrist band for and think of what she goes through every day. This is nothing compared to that. I start to have visions that I may not finish, but I remember a quote that says â€œif you quit, you will spend the rest of your life justifying to yourself and your friends why you didâ€ It’s not an option. Just find the finish lineâ€”I am out cold on my feet, barely able to hold myself together. I keep moving, I have double vision, I think I see a bear chasing me. I then see my 11 year old Daughter, my 8 year old, and my beautiful wife as I am 5 miles from the finish line.
It’s now dark and I can hardly see where I am going. There is one final climb up to the finish that I stumble, barely upright, like a wounded animal. I am as spent as I have ever beenâ€”I did not know the depth of what the body can assimilate, which is just flat amazing. I came through the finish line through the two wooden ski poles I had started behind 13 hours ago. A volunteer with a headlamp came to me to ask if I had just finishedâ€”3 people clapped and it was over. 100 miles in 13 hours and 4 minutes. 2nd in my age group and 5th overallâ€”an amazing self journey that I will never forget. Race director Bill Perkins, a veteran skier, mountain biker, and runner, handed out beautiful cowbells to the overall and age group winners. The theme this year was that you will be skiing â€œuntil the cows come home.â€
This is the last year of the 100 mile race, as it is too difficult and many have asked for a shorter, more user friendly, course. Next year will be a 100k course that will be sure to attract the best endurance athletes in Colorado. I am one of twenty all time 100 mile finishers and am proud to say that I will be back next year.