Thanks for joining us today on Elevation Trail. We talk about the Olympics, mountain biking, Leadman/Leadville races, interview with “The Champ” oh, and handguns.
So, now you’ve made it through the training and have finally arrived in Leadville the week of the race. Gasping for air while walking to the car concerns you a bit but you hope to acclimatize before race day. Funny enough, the percentage of oxygen in the air (21%) remains the same up to 70,000 feet. Interesting…(if you have no friends and thus too much time on your hands and can concern yourself with useless facts). However, it’s the density (or lack thereof) of the air that makes some people feel like they’re suffocating. If panting like a porn star isn’t enough of an indication that you’re having a tough time with higher altitude, here’s a list of pleasant symptoms (nabbed off some wiki-crap page)…
- Lack of appetite, nausea, or vomiting
- Fatigue or weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Pins and needles
- Shortness of breath upon exertion
- Persistent rapid pulse
- General malaise
- Peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet, and face).
Sounds like side effects of Levitra, “We’ll help you get a chubby but your eyes may start bleeding.” Those symptoms above will emerge just from standing in line at the one decent coffee shop in Leadville (hint: it’s not the dumb ass yuppie coffee shop you’re thinking of). Mix in a little 24 hours of nonstop running and you’re in for more suffering than bumping into your insurance salesman neighbor at a bagpipe conference.
The race starts early, like “get your ass out of bed, sailor, you’re in the navy” early. The 4am start means you have to get up around midnight to fiddle with your gear for the 80th time, eat whatever won’t make your nervous stomach barf, rub Body Glide on every surface of your body until you feel like a glazed doughnut, and pray that your bowels will release before the start instead of halfway down 6th Street. It’s so early that you’re probably better off just staying up all night drinking. Any lingering sleepiness at the start will be exploded out of your head by the 12 gauge shotgun blast that Ken Chlouber uses to start the race (and wake up half the state). Now you’re off and running at a pace more suited to a 5k. The start heads down 6th St, which is downhill for about a mile until you’re dumped off onto “the boulevard”, a rumbling dirt road that lasts for about 2.5 miles and seems more like 25 miles long when returning to the finish some 20-30 hours later.
You can pretty much predict how people are going to do in the race based on what time they reach Mayqueen aid station at mile 13. If you see a friend reach that point in, say, 1 hr 45 mins, you yell, “Man, you’re killing this shit!” But really you’re thinking, “That poor bastard will be a salt caked zombie with diarrhea by the time he hits 70 miles.” “Great job, dude!”
By the time you finally wake up and are conscious by 8 or 9am, you’ve already covered about the distance of a marathon and think, “just three more marathons to go…” As mentioned, much of the course is mostly open and runnable and, with over a 1,000 people running, you’re never really out there in the wilderness alone like some 100s where you feel like you could be on the wrong end of a snuff movie in the woods at any given time. In fact, most of the first 40 miles of the course are, well, boring. Once you reach Twin Lakes at mile 40, that changes. There are a lot of people, both locals and race related, hanging out, cheering, enjoying the day, and likely thanking God they aren’t moronic enough to attempt something as dumb as what you’re doing. If you glance up, you see Hope Pass looming tall in the distance and realize you’ll have to get over that thing, twice. Suddenly, the race has a new meaning and seems much bigger than the 40 miles you’ve been enjoying so far.
|All of a sudden, this doesn’t seem like such a great idea. photo stolen.|
To make the climb over Hope Pass (12,600 ft) just a little more interesting, you have to cross Lake Creek (which feeds the twin lakes and is the only point at which you get wet feet, unless you piss on yourself – been there, done that), so you have soaking wet feet before the climb up to one of the weirdest aid stations in ultras. After about an hour of climbing up a trail that would be beautiful if you weren’t brain dead from being asphyxiated, you pop out onto this beautiful meadow and suddenly feel as though you’re in some cool dream with flowers, soft music, and girls in light sundresses. Then you see a fairly large animal that looks vaguely like a camel, then another, then several of them. Just before you’re almost ready to swear off anymore cheap LSD sheets from your SoCal friend, you realize you’re at the Hopeless aid station on Hope Pass and those weird animals fucking up your cool dream are llamas.
|WTF. Looks like a humpless camel with a Bob Marley wig.
photo, yep, stolen.
They use the llamas to haul all the aid station gear up the mountain. You’re so messed up from lack of oxygen that you can barely make small talk with the “interesting” folks who manage the aid station, so you just sip the soup broth placed in your hands, wave weakly to no one in particular, and wander off to complete Hope Pass and make your way down to Winfield, the 50 mile halfway point.
If you’re lucky enough to have tricked one of your (soon to be ex) friends to pace you, Winfield is where the pacing begins (refer to my pacing guide here). If you turn around and get started out of Winfield quickly enough, you have a chance of not coming to your senses and just ending the suffering and quitting right there. Dropping isn’t so bad. It only wears on your mind every day for the rest of your life. No biggie. To avoid the guilt a blind Jewish mother would be proud of, you continue on. By the time you get back to Twin Lakes, the party is pretty much over and you waddle through the aid station, get weighed in, find that you’re down about 10 pounds since starting the race, even though you’re hands are swollen like you got stung on each finger by killer African bees. Now that it’s night time and cold out, your appetite for certain food changes. A grilled cheese sandwich cut into four cute triangle shapes and Gold Fish crackers are the best things you’ve ever tasted in your life, even though normally you consider both of them fit for a four year old child. In fact, I just realized that aid station volunteers treat you more and more like a child as the race progresses. Says a lot about the mental state required to sign up for one of these things.
The rest of the run is a painful blur until you get to Mayqueen at mile 87. Depending on your condition (likely shitty), this last 13 miles can take you anywhere from 2 to 16 hours. If you hit Mayqueen 20 hours into the race, you have a great shot at finishing under 25 hours and getting the big buckle (the entire point of the race and the last six months of wasted life). The big buckle is, well, big and, as Americans, we always want big.
|Here’s my Leadville buckle. That’s right, ladies, the big one.|
The smaller buckle isn’t worth showing a picture of in this post. It’s like the size of a quarter and comes with a Hello Kitty pink cotton belt. You get the smaller buckle for finishing in 25-30 hours. If you finish after 30 hours, you should find another hobby because if you have the 60,000 hours per year of time to spend on a hobby, you could be a kick ass quilt knitter.
Now that you have the big buckle, go back to that holiday party this year and be the center of attention. You will surely lure another idiot who can’t talk to women into wanting to run Leadville for the sole purpose of impressing girls with a shiny buckle. And, really, do we want a girl who is impressed by a shiny belt buckle? (yes).
Since finding faith in God isn’t likely, nor is the chance that he may accept your belated and misguided faith, you need to figure out how to actually train for Leadville. I’ll eventually release the “How to Run a 100 Mile Race” guide that’s already written (and pretty damn awesome), just not down in physical words yet, so for now we’ll focus on the overview of training for Leadville specifically.
|The next six months of your mountainous high altitude training. Good luck.|
See, Leadville is an odd race. It’s an incredibly runnable course yet offers two obstacles, one obvious and tangible (Hope Pass x 2) and one unseen (altitude). Many of the participants come from Colorado. When I ask them why they run Leadville (when there are so many other badass 100s in the country, I get the obvious(?) response “Because it’s convenient.” I’ve run a few 100s and I can assure you that no 100 mile run is “convenient”. Whatever. The point is that these Coloradans are used to both the climb of Hope Pass and the altitude of the entire race. I’m assuming you’re from some sea level handicapped, humidity saturated town. You know, a place where only a tool d-bag would wear a Leadville Big Buckle (we’ll get to that distinction eventually) to a cocktail party. Wear that thing to a party in Colorado and you’ll be ostracized to the living room off the foyer (hall/entrance) -you know, the room where no one has ever spent more than three minutes, much less sat down and relaxed. The sort of room your grandparents would have plastic all over the furniture so if you did sit on it, you’d make constant farting and squeaking noises and smell like a new beach ball the rest of the night. Wear that buckle to a party in New Mexico and you’ll get shot and have the buckle stolen only to be sold for scrap metal with an old radiator and random fence material and your scalp will be spray painted pink and dangling from the rearview mirror of a lowered 1982 Chevy Silvarado. Regardless, we’ll say you’re from a coastal state or, sadder even, a midwestern state where you have no idea why the air is so fucking thick and your house is ripped up by a tornado every two years.
|Xenia, Ohio tornado. I lived through this bitch when I was a kid. photo Dayton Daily News|
Anyway, you need to figure out how to survive at over 10,000 feet, as well as how to run continuously uphill for 3,500 feet (a couple times), just to impress chicks who probably won’t care much because your arms are skinny like a malnourished spider and your feet look like you’ve been spending nights with Kathy Bates in the movie “Misery”. Whatever, at least you’re interested in trying to impress the ladies. It’s a start.
If you’re one of those dumb rich guys with a shitty marriage, you could buy yourself a high altitude tent to sleep in like the bubble boy. Your kids will start doing drugs out of sheer embarrassment. Or (since you obviously have no sense with your cash) you could fly to Colorado and spend some time in the mountains learning how to breath air with like 2 molecules of oxygen per lungful. At least there are nice views (and you’re not encased in plastic watching your family live like normal people).
Aside from acclimatization, you’ll need to run a lot and run uphill a lot. Easy.
Let’s assume you’ve done all the proper training. You’ll know whether you have if you’ve lost all your friends, you are so skinny you look like you escaped from a concentration camp, and you are tanner than a lifeguard at a nudest colony. Now you’re ready to race Leadville.
|Mining competition, circa 1900-1910. These guys would kill and eat an ultrarunner. photo Denver Public Library|
The scene in the town of Leadville surrounding the week of the 100 mile run is, well, odd. There’s this town full of mostly unemployed, deep fried food eating, cigarette smokers, who look like they’d just as soon kick your 2010-model-Subaru-driving self in the teeth, than say hi to you. And then there’s you and the other thousand quinoa and kale eating, sinewy appendaged, Patagonia wearing, hipster wannabe, bleach white toothed “health nuts” wandering around the main street shops like you’ve never seen a silver necklace with a bear claw pendant before. It’s like two worlds colliding in some time warp. It’s really fascinating if you step back from your terribly important life and just observe it. I often hope something will spark a massive brawl between the townsfolk and the tourists. I envision the fit runners slapping at the tree trunk fore-armed and walnut knuckled Leadvilleans like five year old girls. Then they get killed and dumped into Turquoise Lake. But I digress.
Here’s the scene: you are at a friend’s holiday party and some d-bag shows up with a belt buckle the size of your VW’s hubcap. He becomes the center of attention (yes, you’re jealous) and proceeds to woo the crowd. You even start to question your own sexual preferences because you find yourself staring at his belt and crotch area with a half-smile on your dumb, standing-by-yourself, face. You finally force yourself to wander over to talk to the man with the shiny beacon. He’s skinny, almost puny but has the aura of Midas and animated like a cracked out marionette. After listening to him tell you, and the cast (look it up) of fifteen women bunched in front of him, the tale of courageous suffering and triumph in the wilds surrounding 10,000 ft Leadville, CO, you brush aside the notion to mention the Melanoma 5k you completed last summer, an uninspiring event at which most of the participants were covered up like Saudi Arabian women in winter.
|Melanoma 5k where you took 10th in your age group.|
That night your mind is filled with images of yourself running through dark woods, over razor-edged mountain ridges, crossing the Vegas-like finish line of the Leadville 100, and, finally, being smothered by women in cocktail dresses wanting to touch your big shiny Leadville belt buckle, which is conveniently close to the crotchal area of your Rod Stewart tight slacks. Not being able to sleep and encouraged by the images (and lingering buzz from vodka), you register for the Leadville 100 miler – even though you’re not certain where Leadville is actually located.
The next morning the only thing that hurts worse than your hungover, swollen brain is the reality that you are now obligated, at least financially, to run 100 miles at over 10,000 feet elevation. Upon looking over the race website, your nausea comes to fruition as you stumble across the elevation profile…
At first glance, you find the image sort of cute with the pointy bunny ears in the middle. Then your gaze drifts down to the diminutive numbers at the bottom and the words “Distance (mi)”. The furthest you’ve ever run was 20 miles (and that was because you became lost and ended up fighting tears back because it was getting dark and finally getting a ride home from a stranger). 20 miles on the chart looks ridiculously short, so you avert your attention to the numbers on the left and realize they represent feet above sea level. Holy shit! Those cute bunny ears go up to 12,600 FEET! You almost pass out because looking over the rail from the second floor of your shopping mall makes you dizzy. You almost wish you could impale yourself on the bunny ears and end the imminent suffering.
The Web is such a great place for (some) useful information. It’s like a garden combined with a junk yard. So, you do a couple of quick searches and find race reports from other sorry bastards who’ve run the race. The photos alone are enough to make you finally barf, so you slap the monitor of your laptop closed and begin the mental struggle of acceptance that you are doomed to die at nearly 13,000 feet in a place so harsh that even miners gave up on it.
Join us this week on the Elevation Trail Show as we get Gary pumped up to race his 45th Boston Marathon. We also chat about true elite road racers filtering into ultrarunning and other stuff. Thanks for listening!
In a small, selfish effort to both lure ET listeners into dirt bike sports and dirt bike fans into Elevation Trail’s community, here are some things I’ve written up for you to watch and be engaged in tonight’s race.
This is the 4th round of the 2015 AMA Supercross season (Rd 1 Anaheim, Rd 2 Phoenix, Rd 3 Anaheim). Today’s race takes place in the Coliseum in Oakland CA (lock your car doors if you’re attending! 😉
Race coverage begins live tonight (Jan 24) on Fox Sports 1 at 7pm PT – 10pm ET.
Things to keep an eye on:
The murmurs that the season is early and RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Factory Suzuki’s Ken Roczen may not stay as hot and fast as he was in round 1 are quieting and fading. After the first three rounds he owns two first places and a second place, has led 52 of the 60 laps raced, and holds a 12 point lead in the standings over 2nd place Ryan Dungey. The rest of the field simply cannot let this guy get an early lead because he may not always have the fastest qualifying lap times but he’s consistent with his speed and will check out and say bye-bye if he gets a gap on everyone.
Ryan Dungey absolutely has the ability to win but it seems he can’t do it on his own terms, meaning that whoever is in front of him will need to slip up. Dungey NEEDS to get more aggressive. Listening to Red Bull KTM’s manager, Roger DeCoster, in interviews, you’d expect him to be thrilled with his rider sitting in 2nd overall but he knows Dungey’s talent and work ethic and knows he is capable of owning these races. He simply rides too conservatively.
Meanwhile, Coloradan, Eli Tomac (son of one of the greatest mountain bike racers ever, John Tomac) sits in 3rd overall after his win in Phoenix, where he controlled Roczen, and his 3rd last week in Anaheim. Tomac has the ability and aggressiveness to win every week. I’m guessing we’ll see him on the podium several times over the next 14 rounds. The only question is, does he have the consistency of Dungey and the speed and drive of Roczen to stand on the top step of that podium?
Speaking of aggressiveness, the big talk over the week following last Saturday’s race was Chad Reed getting black flagged after intentionally running into Trey Canard after Canard basically landed on top of him in the previous turn, causing both of them to go down hard. Most opinions I’ve heard and read feel the black flag was uncalled for. The AMA race official (John Gallagher) was standing right in front of the incident when Reed crossed the track and ran into Canard (who was riding one handed while clearing his goggles), causing him to endo and somersault over the tough block barriers. Gallagher almost immediately called for the black flag on Reed, which means “get off the track, your racing night is over”. Reed was stunned and words were exchanged between all three parties after the race.
Most seem to feel that they should’ve just let everyone finish the race, then evaluate possible penalties and fines. Comments have also voiced concern that this ruling may set precedence and influence aggressive riding in the future races. I personally am on the fence with the black flag. I’ve watched the incident (the whole thing from the previous lap through Reed’s black flag) a few times and feel that it could’ve gone either way (flagged or not). I don’t believe it’s going to influence anyone’s riding style or aggressive racing and I don’t think it will set a precedence for future flagging. In fact, I think it may have the opposite effect, where we see a reluctance to flag riders because of the heat they received over this one. We shall see.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how Canard and especially Reed bounce back from this. Reed really suffered a hit with the black flag with him being the team owner and rider of 22 Motorsports Discount Tire. The loss of any points essentially knocked him out of the the overall running in the standings (he sits 15th now). Just to rub salt in the wound, Reed’s team rider, Josh Grant, DNF’d, so the team went home with some things to think about.
I won’t cover the 250cc class but Cooper Webb is on a tear, Tyler Bowers is a classy, aggressive rider who’s ready to mix it up for the championship, and Malcolm Stewart (James Stewart’s little brother) is really fun to watch.
So, that’s it from a novice fan of the sport. Let me know if you watch the race and what you thought of it.
Here’s the Trey Canard / Chad Reed incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uidvHFB2jf4
Thanks for joining us today for our return to the Elevation Trail show after a two month vacation! Today we have on Edward Sandor who had an interesting experience at the Arrowhead 135 mi race and experienced a bit of controversy in the following months. He’s now blacklisted from the event. Find out how a grilled cheese sandwich played a role in the situation.
Direct link to .mp3 – https://elevationtrail.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/grilled-cheese-incident.mp3