Leadville at last!

Red Group RacingSeptember 2, 2010

I know that it is LONG overdue but I haven’t had time to sit still since last weekends Leadville 100. Until now… it’s taken a blown brake line in the motorhome while attending the WORS races at Crystal Ridge in Milwaukee, WI to make me sit in one place.

I left Marquette on July 27th, heading out to Park City for work and then traveled directly to Colorado afterwards to continue acclimating to the higher elevations that I would be racing at in Leadville. Living at a little over 600ft, the 12,600ft of Hope Pass can easily put a flatlander into a hypoxic state. Running 100 miles in a day can and will put enough stress on the system and dealing with that in itself would be enough to handle. Within a few days of getting to elevation I went from felling great, to sluggish, and back to good, but after 3 weeks of thinner air I was starting to feel awesome.

The race gets underway extremely early, 4 a.m. and for once I am happy that Lindsey’s baking job has completely shifted my sleeping schedule. My alarm went off at 2 a.m. and I was able to wake up with out a fight. I made sure to go about my morning routine as I would for any other distance race, a good cup of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal (because it sticks to your ribs) and then made sure that I continued to watch my hydration levels.

With part of my crew in tow and the rest meeting me at the start, I headed into town to check in at 6th and Harrison.

I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get to excited or start to fast and was able to do a pretty good job of sticking to plan. I settled in as we made our way down the Boulevard and out towards Turquoise Lake and as we hit the lake shore’s single-track I was running with a group of people with the same pace in mind. The end of Turquoise Lake marks the 13.5 mile point in the race as well as the first aide station, Mayqueen. (Due to the number of racers who set out to run this year, I asked my crew to bypass this access point and head directly to Fish Hatchery at 24 miles.) When I came through Mayqueen it was still very dark and the temps were still in the low 40’s. I hadn’t blown through all of my nutrition and decided to just cruise through. Leaving Mayqueen we ran through a fairly gnarly single-track section that includes some of the first elevation gain of the day. I made it through the section very smooth and my legs were finally starting to loosen up and feel like they may be able to do what I needed them to do for the day. I hit Haggerman Pass Rd and made made my way to the top of Sugarloaf for the decent down Powerline. I knew that I was being smart and taking things out at a realistic pace, but it didn’t take long to see the carnage of those who didn’t take the same approach. 15 or 16 miles in and you can already see the terror in some runners eyes as you move slowly by them and they know it’s going to be a longer day then they expected.

If there is one thing that I would like to improve about my running in the immediate future, it is how I descend.  Living in Marquette I don’t really get the opportunity to run down hill for more than a mile or two, so needless to say, descending for 35-40-55 minutes straight beats the hell out of me and more specifically my quads. This descending caught up with me with about 50 yards left to go of Powerline. My legs gave out and before I knew it I was sliding on my arms and belly. It’s been a long damn time since I’ve fallen running and it caught me by surprise. I sprung up, did a quick inventory and let the endorphin rush carry me through Fish Hatchery.

Fish Hatchery came quicker than I had expected and I rolled through about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I made my way through the aide station and then handed myself over to the care of my crew for the first time. I imagine that they had about the precision on a NASCAR pit crew and I was immediately headed out on the road for what has to be the most miserable section of the Leadville 100. Flat, open, boring road for about 4 miles. As bad as this section is outbound, it’s significantly worse inbound. After 4 miles I turned onto the pipeline and after a minute or two I cruised up to my crew at Treeline. Again, not sticking around more than a minute, I topped off and headed out on my way to Halfmoon 2 and then Twin Lakes. These next two segments seemed to go buy really quick. I had settled in to a rhythm, cranked my iPod and I was diligent about my nutrition  consumption.

The last 2 miles or so into Twin Lakes is another fairly punishing down hill and the last 50 meters or so is a crazy steep drop that gathers the attention of the crowds, most of whom I think are waiting to see carnage as we drop into the aide station. Again I quickly passed through the aide station and moved onto where my crew was set up.  This was the first point in the race where I saw my pacers. I had them head back to the house and rest up so that they were ready to go when I needed them late in the day. It was great to see everybody and it reenergized me for what lay in my immediate future, Hope Pass.

Leaving Twin Lakes I was at the low point of the course, ~9,300ft and over the next 7.5 miles I would cross thigh deep streams, climb to 12,600ft and drop back to 10,300ft. The climb to Hope Pass went about how I had expected it would, it was hard, I was hot and I found myself ski walking 90% of it. Just before reaching the top of Hope I made a quick stop at the Hopeless aide station to top off both of my handhelds. Cresting the top I began the steep descent and had a great run down to the bottom and the rest of the way into Winfield at 50 miles. I found myself pretty far ahead of my planned arrival but was feeling fantastic and I was ready to make the turn around as quick as possible.

Arriving Winfield and the 50 mile mark meant the I could now pick up a pacer. Brian Hall would take the role of the first of my three pacers for the next 50 miles. Brian and I left Winfiled and made our way down Winfield Road towards the base of Hope. We made extremely good time and we were ready to start climbing before I knew it. Roch Horton at Black Diamond Equipment was kind enough to hook me up with their new Z-Poles and I ended up using them to crush the ascents from Hope until the Boulevard as well as using them as my 3rd and 4th legs on the descents. We kept a constant pace all the way up and Brian made sure to keep on me about my fuel and hydration as well as provide a significant amount of motivation. We were up and over to Hopeless aide station very quickly but things would slow down pretty rapidly from there for the next few miles. As I mentioned earlier, descending is not my specialty and the previous descents left my quads in pretty rough shape. I wasn’t able to get back down to Twin Lakes nearly as fast as I would have liked and I babied my quads in fear of the downhills that lie ahead.

Brian did a fantastic job of bringing from Winfield to Twin Lakes. Arriving in Twin Lakes I stopped where my crew was setup before checking in at the aide station. No sense in backtracking. This was my longest stop of the day and I think it may have been the first time I took the opportunity to sit down. I made sure to get down some more solid food and got another great opportunity to absorb some of the energy that my crew was putting out. I was feeling a little worked and with a big climb out of Twin Lakes any energy I could snag was welcomed.

Tim Wong took over the pacing duties at Twin Lakes and would keep me moving towards Fish Hatchery. Once again, the climbing was tough but we made decent time and after a couple of miles we were back to running. I’m pretty sure that this is the point in the race where I started to lose a little brain function. Up until this segment of the race I can recall everything image for image, things changed here though and I only recall small parts of conversations, Halfmoon 2 aide station and then rolling into Treeline. Coming into Treeline I was running pretty steady but definitely slower and I was finding it more and more difficult to start running again if I needed to stop for any reason.

We only stopped at Treeline for just a couple of minutes before heading out on the road section to Fish Hatchery. Bryon Powell of irunfar.com was hanging out and it was great to get a few words of encouragement from him before moving on. Coming through Treeline I achieved my first goal of the day, arriving in daylight! In fact, the sun was still high enough that I was able to put off snagging my headlamp until Fish Hatchery.

The next 4 miles were brutal. You can see where you need to get to but it was 4 miles away and even though I knew I was moving forward I never felt like I was getting any closer. I think Tim may have struggled with this section as well from talking to him post race, but he did a fantastic job of hiding that and if he was hating life, he hid it well. I suppose thats how a pacer should handle it.

Arriving at Fish Hatchery I quickly weighed in at the aide station and went right into the care of my crew. I picked up a pair of arm warmers and my headlamp and my new pacer, Lindsey! Lindsey’s job for the day was to take me the last 24 miles to the finish which was not going to be an easy task. I was dealing with some calf issues as we left the crew but after a few minutes we were back to a jog and then a run. Once we hit the base of the Powerline climb I once again started using the trekking poles from Black Diamond and we set a solid base towards the top. There are two false summits before reaching the top and it wasn’t until the second that we needed to use our headlamps. I was pretty pumped about that and it helped push me over the last climb and towards the descent to Haggerman Pass Rd.

The top of Powerline brought the absolute low point for me in the race and the first time in the day where I though that I wouldn’t make it to the finish. My quads were beat up beyond all belief and I could no longer run down hill. I got passed by a few people on the down hill and this through me for a little bit of a loop. The singletrack leading down into Mayqueen was dark, seemed significantly more technical than it did in the morning and it seemed like I could hear the crowds at the aide station but that I was ever getting any closer.

Needless to say that I was extremely relieved to get to Mayqueen but mentally I was pretty beat up. All I wanted to do was stop but my crew was there to save the day once again and between seeing them and a cup of ramen noodles from the aide station, I somehow ended up back out on the course and moving through the last 13.5 miles to the finish.

While everyone played a huge role in getting me to the finish, I would have never made it the last section with out Lindsey. I was tired, hurting and definitely not 100% mentally aware. She seemed to call out every rock, root, stump and twist in the trail and made it possible for me to concentrate on one task, moving my feet. She’s paced me before and has always done a fantastic job but the way she took control at Leadville was on another level. I wouldn’t trade her for any pacer in the world.

We hit the Tabor Boat ramp and were greeted by part of my crew and I was glad to know there were less than 7 miles left in the race. There was no stopping, no slowing down and we kept heading towards the end of Turquoise Lake. At the end of the lake we popped out and crossed the road and my whole crew was there. One last steep descent down a powerline and it was gravel roads to the finish. It was awesome to get to this point and I new that I could walk it in from here and finish the race with out any issues. However, I had goals for the day and Lindsey and I kept pushing as hard as I could go towards town. At this point I figured out that I could speed hike faster than I could run and so thats what we did. Every now and then we would shuffle as quick as I could and then return to speed hiking.

The last push took everything that I thought I had but with a mile to go I found a reserve  from out of nowhere and ran at what felt like 10k pace up 6th St to the finish at Harrison. I finished in 22 hours 49 minutes! While I didn’t make the A goal I had set out for myself it was a damn good day and I now have my first “big” buckle. There is absolutely no way that I could have had the race that I did with out the support of my incredible crew. I am incredibly fortunate that my family (Tom and Marla Dehlin and Bill Dehlin), and my friends (Todd Hanson, Tim Wong and Brian Hall) are all willing to give up their time, money and sanity to help me achieve my goals. It also goes with out saying that I am beyond lucky to have a wife that understands and is willing to partake in the craziness of my running and their is no better way to spend my time than running with my wife.

So thats Leadville in Cliff Notes. I’ll post my race plan in a couple of days for those of you who would like to see how I planed out my race and what the goals for the day were and how they could change depending on different factors.

We’ll be heading back to Leadville next year but there is a good chance that I’ll be playing the pacing role and helping Lindsey to her first buckle!