Posts Tagged ‘LT100’

“But if you close your eyes,does it almost feel like nothing changed at all, and if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before how am I gonna be an optimist about this?”  – Pompeii by Bastille

As I sat at the Sheep’s Gulch Trailhead at 650pm, in the quiet gravel parking lot next to my friends car, sitting for the first time in 49 miles, I couldn’t help but think back on how I got there.  It had not seemed like such a long day, and I felt good, but my race was over too soon again.  Why?

I had arrived in Leadville on Wednesday night, slept in my car on Fremont Pass, and spent Thursday wandering Leadville.  I even had an opportunity to go up to Independence Pass and hike/jog 3 miles at 12,000ft and felt really good.

On Friday, I went to the pre-race meeting, which had been moved to the Middle School from the 6th Street Gym.  Given the increase in field

A pano from my hie/run on independence pass the Thursday before the race

A pano from my hie/run on independence pass the Thursday before the race

this was probably a smart decision.  It was also eye opening in regards to how many people would be out on the course.  1200 people were registered, a record number, and it was a hot topic around town.  Jason, Lindsey and Jenn had arrived during the meeting and couldn’t get through to the floor space I had saved for them so I met up with them right after, and we went over crew stuff, then we went for a field trip to the aid stations and crew areas they had not been to before, and I was in bed by 7pm.  I felt like I had set myself up pretty well despite the rocky 3 weeks leading to the race with my asthma acting up to the point I had to go on a prednisone treatment and a minor sprain a week before.

I fell asleep quickly, but the alarm at 2am seemed to come so quickly.  I woke up; crawled out of the tent I had put up in the back yard of the Runner’s Roost/New Balance House, and wandered inside to get ready.  I was wide awake but it was nice when Corky, who was also camped out back, came in so I had someone else to chat with.  The house slowly woke up things seemed to be filled with positive energy.  Ed said he would give us a ride to the start line, so we piled into the Roost Mobile and cruised into downtown.  The energy was fantastic, there were lots of people I knew, and as almost 1000 runners packed into the starting shoot it felt more and more real.  But it also felt different than all the other hundreds I have run, so many people, so much light, so much music, so much production, it didn’t feel like the home grown ultras I was used to, but all this stuff comes with always having other people to talk to on the trails I guess.  I was excited to get going, and was chilly standing around in my singlet so when I saw the silhouette of Ken Choubler on the other side of the start line with his shotgun pointed up I was excited to get going.  The boom of the gun sent us running and I warmed right up!

Me and Kirt before the race - photo by David Manthey

Me and Kirt before the race – photo by David Manthey

This race starts so much faster than most hundreds, or mountain ultras in general.  It starts dominantly downhill, with a few ups in the first 4 miles before climbing a steep rocky hill to Turquoise Lake. I kept a good pace on this section and felt good as I kept up on calories by eating EFS Liquid Shot.  We made it onto the Turquoise Lake Trail, and my fears of the conga line quickly disappeared.  It seemed by going out a little bit faster I was able to avoid the slower part of it.  That didn’t stop me from buying some real estate 3 miles around the lake.  Thankfully the runners behind me were not trailing me too close and I was far enough from the runner in front that no one else got taken out, and someone even helped me up.  The only good part of taking a fall on a technical trail early in a race like this is the jolt it gives you, reminding you of where you are!

I came into Mayqueen dead on what I was hoping for as a best-case scenario, 2:30 into the race.   My crew gave me my gear for the next section, and I didn’t waste time getting back on the trail.  Heading out of Mayqueen was where I could see the crowds of runners.  We were everywhere, and as we funneled onto the Colorado Trail, I could see where the conga line would be.  I was able to do some passing, but it was limited, and I was able to catch up to my friend Samantha and then Erik, whom I have run with at Rocky Raccoon for two years now as we popped out onto Hagerman Road.

We talked as we made our way up the road with sunrise behind us.  I put myself on a one minute on, one minute off cycle to moderate pace.  It worked well, and I pulled out my poles as I started up the Jeep Road to the top of the Powerline Right of Way.  They were not worth it in this section.  I topped out feeling good for having just made that climb, and started down.  The poles were very much in my way so I ended up having to stop for a minute to put them away, but the run down went well.  Samantha and I ran together for a bit again, reminiscing on the time we ran this section on a training run in the rain a year before and had a rainbow come out as we worked our way over the top of the last hump before dropping down to the road.  It was a fun part of the race running with my friend and getting to chat as we ran.

My stomach was acting up as I came down the last bit, but was better when I came up the trail onto the paved road that leads to Outward Bound.  I was surprised to see my crew there, but happy.  My legs were tired so having that extra bit with smiling faces couldn’t hurt.  I told them I would need them at Outward Bound too, because they had the wet wipes and body glide so I could hit the porta potty there and I didn’t want to risk lingering when that occurred.  They agreed, cheered me on and I headed out.  I had promised myself that the paved section of the course would not eat me alive again.  I also knew that keeping myself centered in the moment was the best way to keep myself moving, so I put myself back on a firm one minute on/off cycle for anything uphill and running all of the downs, so I made great time to Outward Bound.  I have found that when I put everything in manageable pieces I do far better mentally, and that would also ensure that I would run over half of the road, since I was also running the entirety of all of the downs.

When I came into Outward Bound Aid Station there were so many people everywhere it was hard to tell which way was which.  My stomach

a photo David Manthey took of me coming through Mayqueen

a photo David Manthey took of me coming through Mayqueen

had gotten better, so I opted to keep going knowing it wouldn’t wait past Treeline.  Erik and I had been playing hopscotch this whole time, and this was  no exception.  The road between Powerline and Treeline had eaten me alive the year before, and I ended up walking way too much of it, so I kept myself on a strong 1 min on/off cycle here as well, and set my Garmin Fenix to buzz and beep every minute, which again put everything into manageable bits, and it was keeping me cruising.  I started calling the minute run my ‘one minute grind’ in a joking way.  I also focused on centering myself.  Part of the minute off/on routine was intended to keep me in the moment, centered in the present and focused on always pushing hard forward.

I made up time in this section without being stupid, was staying positive, and before I knew it was at Treeline, but now my GI track was talking to me loudly.  When I came in I thought I saw Jenns red hair at the far end of the crew area so I called her name and waved at her then headed to the porta potties.  My stomach was angry and I lost about 6 minutes here.  I had hoped my crew had seen me but when they didn’t come down, I had to get my pack from outside the porta potty grab my emergency body glide to make sure things stayed lubed up and when I was done I was ready to roll again.  I headed to the end of the area and the crew wasn’t there!  I felt panic surge through me.  I had only packed enough food for the section between Outward Bound and Treeline, and that was long gone.  Half Pipe Aid Station was 2 miles away, and this would put me behind calories but I knew if I pushed on, it might be my best bet.  I had a drop bag there, and I knew I had another EFS Liquid Shot there that would hopefully get me through to Twin Lakes.  I pulled out my phone as I kept moving, I couldn’t stay any longer, I had already lingered 10 mins total and they said they were on their way but were stuck in traffic and I was still ahead of my split.  I wasn’t going backwards on the course, so we talked briefly on the phone, and I pushed onwards.  I kept my cycle going all the way to Half Pipe, and was happy to see it when I came in.

A volunteer outside of the Aid Station asked if I needed my drop bag, I said yes, she took my number, and I went to take care of what I could while they grabbed my bag, something that has always happened when volunteers ask those questions.  I made use of the medical section to get Vaseline.  I looked over to where the drop bags that had been requested were being set, and mine wasn’t there, so I went to ask, and no one had gotten it.  As the volunteers went to get it, I made my way to the aid station tent, which had less than I was used to for food, so I got some soda, a handful of chips, and went back to the drop bag area.  My bag was still not there, but there was a flurry of activity by the building the volunteer had run to, and a minute or two later someone appeared with my bag in their hand.

Excited to finally get it, but getting panicked with the time I was losing, I reached in, grabbed the handheld, the EFS, mixed up the EFS with water as quickly as possible and took off.   So far I had lost 20 minutes to aid stations in the last 4 miles, which was too much.  I put myself back on track with my run walk cycle, and made time.  I was passing people, running moderate ups I remembered walking the year before, and was optimistic until I ran out of the EFS.

With 5 miles to go to Twin Lakes, I was out of salt, electrolytes and food.  So I stayed positive instead.  I pushed myself onwards but since I had a deficit coming into Half Pipe, the calories provided by the Liquid Shot did not go far.  I felt myself bonking as I headed up the Colorado Trail, climbing steadily, still passing people, but not at the rate I had been.   When I topped out I was getting nauseous, I almost threw up drinking water a couple of times, but pushed myself onwards.  By the Mt. Elbert Water Drop I was starving, my stomach was growling (at least I was hungry!), and the volunteers had a giant bag of tortilla chips on the table.  I asked, and got a curt reply that they were for volunteers only and that it was only 3 miles to Twin Lakes.

I have to be honest, this was like a kick in the gut.  I had volunteered at Aid Stations before, including course marshaled and one thing I had learned a long time before was never put anything in eyeshot of runners at an Ultra that you are not willing to share.  I know that is a water only stop, and they are doing their best as volunteers, and this is not intended as a knock to them.  Right at that moment though, seeing that food made my body scream for calories even louder, which was not their fault or issue, it just was what it was.  My muscles were now stiffening, and hurting quite a bit.  My legs were tired enough from pushing through despite the lack of calories that running downhill on the steep trail became difficult at best.  I walked much more of that trail than I wanted to, and lost tons of time.  When I came into Twin Lakes at 125pm, a mere 35 minutes before the cut off, I was in a bad head space.

Jenn was waiting at the bottom of the hill and I immediately broke down as we walked to the crew area.  As we passed the Runners Roost tent it was a boost to have them ask if I needed anything as well.  I sat down, changed shoes, lubed up with Tri-Slide and ate as much as I could.  I have to say that my crew had made a little bit of everything I could possibly want to make sure I ate, which was awesome. They really were fantastic!

I headed out, but with my legs still feeling blown, and the calories not hitting my blood stream yet, I walked more of the flats than I should have.  When I hit the bottom of the pass, I still felt horrible.  I looked at my watch, and began to question my ability to make the time I needed to in order to get up to Hopeless before the cut.  I paused a couple of times on the trail, and even took a couple of steps backwards at one point.  I really felt like I was in an impossible situation.  What do I do?  Keep going just to be cut?  I knew I would have to come down on foot regardless.  The whole time I was moving forward, but it seemed grudgingly.

While still low on the pass I decided I was going to push on as hard as I could, like the year before, no matter what, things got better.  I started making time, and after the last switchbacks that put the trail above the headwall, I started cruising.  I realized that I was doing ok, I could easily make the cut with 15 minutes or so to spare at my pace, and I would make up time on the South side descent and bounce back from this.

The positive thoughts, and calories that were now catching up in my system were doing wonders and I felt great.  I saw the last little switchback before the long straight away to the aid station about ¾ of a mile away and got excited, this was going to happen!  I was making this happen!  I saw a runner standing on the switchback as I approached, and wondered what was going on, and then I saw her.

There was a runner, looking bad sitting on the side of the trail.  I asked the other runner if they needed help, hoping the answer would be no, but I was wrong.  He explained she had been there a long time, 30-40 minutes, couldn’t walk on her own, and wouldn’t go anywhere.  There was only one choice I could see in front of me.  No buckle would be worth leaving this runner here, with another person who couldn’t get her moving on his own.  My brain screamed for me to just go, to get the cutoff, I could just let the aid station know, but who knew what was wrong, and if I left, and something happened to her, I couldn’t live with it, so I sat next to her, and asked what was wrong.  She explained (and I am not going into details about her issues because that is for her to share with people if she wants, not me), and we eventually convinced her to let us help her stand.

Once she was up, the other runner (who I would later find out was a pacer for another runner that had volunteered to take supplies to

A photo I took of runners coming up Hope Pass as I headed down

A photo I took of runners coming up Hope Pass as I headed down

Hopeless since his runner had dropped) took her pack, and I had her put her arm over my shoulder and proceeded to give her walking assist most of the way to Hopeless.  As we slowly worked our way up the trail, the runner made a comment to me that she knew I was sacrificing making the cuts right at that moment.  I smiled, and told both her and the other person helping that I didn’t care, but I felt my stomach tighten a bit.  Somewhere in me I needed this finish, badly.  But the reality was, it was gone, and I reminded myself that making sure she was safe was way more important than any buckle.  I was doing my best to detach from the need to finish, and did a pretty good job.  I needed this to feel like it was ok, like it would be ok, and I did a good job of it.  As we neared the aid station another volunteer came running down he trail, and took over for me.  Shortly thereafter I asked if I could head up ahead of them.  Part of me wanted to come into the aid station strong, even though I knew I was at the cut.

I came into Hopeless about 3 minutes after the cut.  The volunteer took my medical wristband, and my race was done.  I shrugged, and walked up to the aid station.  Two of my friends, Karen and Sean (both amazing runners) came flying into the aid station on the return as I wandered into the aid station.  It was strange, because I felt somewhat detached as I explained, a little numb.  They headed out, and I found another of my friends at the aid station chilling out.  I old her very matter-of-factly what happened, looked off towards the runners coming down hope and suddenly felt the emotions well up.  Right then I told myself I would not have a repeat of the year before.  This was all under my control at this point, I needed to get down, and I needed to be strong.  I knew my teammates would be coming through and there was no way I was going to mess up their races by being anything other than positive.  My emotions were something I could control at this point so I did.

It was strange, I pretty much completely detached from the race, it suddenly felt like I wasn’t even a runner, like the previous 45.5 miles were nothing but dust in the wind.  A volunteer came trotting down the trail from the summit of the pass, and when he saw my green hair told me some of my friends were up on the pass, and that they had been cheering for runners up there.  I headed up after checking with the Aid Station Staff first and getting the ok to go over the pass to Windfield.  The captain told me they had no way to communicate with Winfield anyway, so my crew would probably be over there waiting, and my friends, I knew would have a car down below as well.

I met my friends who had been cheering all day long on the pass, enjoyed a moment looking out across the Sawatch Range from the top of Hope Pass.  I turned and looked across the horizon to the North, and pointed out to Jason, Jesse, Lindsey and Jessica where I started at 4am, far across the valley, the town of Leadville tiny in comparison to the vast mountain landscape below.  It struck me for a minute, I may be done with this race, and I wished I could finish, but I had come a really long way.  It felt good, but there was still a bit of an empty feeling in my stomach.

I was able to be really positive for the first half of the descent cheering on runners because I was able to focus on helping another runner.  As it sank in a bit more, ran ahead of my friends and finished the descent running except to step off the trail periodically.

I had planned to get a ride to Winfield with my friends anyway, but when I came up to the turn on the trail to Winfield I found out that the race was starting to push runners down to Sheep’s Gulch so I continued down.  I got there well ahead of anyone else, and when I got to the bottom took an opportunity to have moment of real silence alone until my friends caught up.

It had been a full day, with lots to think through, and honestly, even after my friends met me and I got back to the campsite I hadn’t totally worked through everything.

Now, a full week later, I think I am settled in my shoes regarding this race.  It never feels good to DNF, but at the end of the day I know a couple of very important things.  First, everything that happened was within my control on some level.  Last year, I felt like the race had been stolen from me, this year I don’t.  Second, I was able to have some good come out of a bad situation because even though it was the final blow to my race, my race ended with a good deed.  I want to be clear about a couple of things though.

First, I was well behind my splits when I came up on the hurt runner.  I put myself in a position when I could be cut in the first place.  I know that, and at the end of the day, my DNF was principally because of that.  Secondly, I see helping the runner as something that simply had to happen and she was not the reason I DNF’d.  Had I been far enough ahead of the cuts, I could have helped and still made the cuts.  I do not want anyone thinking I failed to finish because I helped the runner, I failed to finish because I failed to stay on the splits I should have kept.   If she was there 30-40 minutes, I could have helped her 40 minutes earlier and still made the cuts.

Finally, and most importantly, I have come to realize that these races, ultra’s are amazing ways to test ourselves in supported conditions.  However, at the end of the day, its another day on the trails.  Sometimes we have good days, and sometimes we have bad.  The weeks leading up to this race were not good weeks for me, and my body was not where it needed to be for this outing.  I spent 3 weeks prior to this race hoping that my lungs would recover from some serious issues, and protecting my ankle from a sprain I stupidly acquired the week before.   I did not come into this race with my body healed completely from those things, that was an issue.  My body was still coughing when I started, and I am sure that did not help.

All of that being said I went out ran hard and pushed myself.  I learned more about myself, and how to stay centered.  I grew mentally, physically and spiritually, and in that I know I walked away a better person than when I started.   Everyone who knows me, knows this is why I run these races, not for the buckle, not for bragging rights, but for the journey the growth I experience along the way.  In that sense, I was more successful than I could have ever hoped.  I kept my principles, and my ideals regarding how I would like to always treat myself and others when put in a position where I could have easily left her and kept running, chasing a goal.  I acted in the way I always hoped I would, and that’s important to me.  So, I am ending this race report with a quote in response to end of the quote I started with; “How am I gonna be an optimist about this”.

“And with dust in throat I crave only knowledge will I save to the game you stay a slave; roamer, wanderer, nomad, vagabond call me what you will.

But I’ll take my time anywhere, free to speak my mind anywhere and I’ll redefine anywhere, anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home”

– Where Ever I May Roam by Metallica

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It’s always amazing to me how quickly time goes by.  As I excitedly get my gear ready for the race this year, it doesn’t seem like it was a year ago that I was preparing to go up to Leadville for my first go at the Leadville 100.  Its strange, because the race last year impacted me so much, and in the end so positively, but of course it always takes time for the positive impact to be felt.

As people reading this might have noticed has been spent chasing the Leadville 100 this year.  Last year, going in, I was so confident I would finish that when I didn’t get that buckle a type of self-doubt I had never had before in regards to running crept into my mind.  That doubt caused me to be much more critical of my training, my pace, everything.  This self-defeating thought pattern was reinforced by 1-1:30 min/mile slower paces at races, and training runs.  It was also reinforced by the romanticizing of my training runs in 2012.  As I walked to the start line at Silver Rush 50 this year, that same thought pattern sat firmly entrenched in my mind, and it really destroyed the first half of my race.

After the race, I was determined to figure out what was going on.  So I started pondering this idea, and it started to click on a rainy Sunday

training run on Hope Pass.  I had gone out for what was supposed to be a double crossing of the Pass, but after climbing in cold rain all the way

a Flower and the Rainbow that emerged from the downpour I was expecting as I started my run at Deer Creek Canyon

a Flower and the Rainbow that emerged from the downpour I was expecting as I started my run at Deer Creek Canyon

up to 12,100, we decided it would be smartest to turn back.  Jim is an incredibly talented runner, and he is fast.  After we turned around and were running the new Winfield Trail, I decided that I did not want to hold Jim back, so I started diligently looking for ways to make it so I could go faster.  I started to focus on the moment I was running in, and it felt good, I was almost keeping up, then we found the new trail cutoff the race is using this year.  It is a well graded, super soft, pine bed trail, perfect for running with little restraint.  Jim opened it up, and went cruising down.  I wanted to keep up, so I intentionally shut my brain off and let loose, and kept up.

The next day, as I was getting ready for what I thought was going to be another rainy run at Deer Creek Canyon on my own, I started to think back on my run with Jim the day before.  What had happened?  I decided I would go out today, and set my intention on figuring this out.  As I got out of the car, there was a huge rainbow, and the sun came out, I was energized, and I just ran.  As I worked my way up the switchbacks, I started to think to myself “don’t let your heart rate go too high, conserve for later”, and then stopped myself.  What the hell was I doing?  My mind was looking for an excuse to go slower.  That moment was the key that unlocked a huge realization for me.

The best runners are not out there looking for reasons to slow down; they are looking for ways to go faster.  Even when they power hike, it’s a question of how fast to power hike, not a question of slowing down.  So why was I doing this?  I contemplated this as I ran and realized that last year I had nothing to judge myself against while training for a mountain 100.  I just went out and ran.  I ran with all my heart.  When it was tough, I pushed on, and didn’t think about how hard it could be, or should be, I just ran. This whole past year, because of the doubt that last years DNF put in my mind, I was convinced that if my runs were not at least as good as last years in regards to time, and how I felt, I was going to fail at Leadville.  What I didn’t realize is that was setting me up to fail.  There is no such thing as an ‘easy’ mountain run, they are all tough, they all feel hard, but because last year I had nothing to judge it against, it all ‘felt good’ so I expected the same this year.  When I would go out and it felt hard my desire to chase my perception of the prior years runs would feed the self-doubt and I would start thinking about how much farther I had to go, then I would start finding reasons to slow down.  It was a mental trap that was literally the equivalent of pouring led into my legs.

At that run in Deer Creek Canyon, as I spiraled up and around Plymouth Mountain, I found myself running in the moment again.  For the first time in a year I was able to truly let go of the doubt that had plagued me because I understood where it came from, and how to beat it.  I was able to stop chasing the ghost of the runner I had been, and focus on being the runner I am.  I focused on reasons to go as fast as possible, and as I focused on being the best runner I could be in that moment, I found myself flying up and down the trails with a feeling of utter freedom.  I was seeing the beauty of the trails again in a way that exceeded anything I had ever experienced before.  As I looked down at my watch when I got back to the trailhead, feeling energized, fantastic, and like I could run another 100 miles, I also saw that I had run that route faster than I had ever run it before.

There is a quote from the Buddha that I really love, and feel applies to this situation perfectly:

“Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. The past no longer is. The future is yet to come. Look deeply at life as it is in the very here and now, dwelling in stability and freedom.”

As I walk up to the starting line this Saturday at 4am, I will take this with me.  This year I know that the ghost of the race last year is just that, a specter that lives in the past, behind me.  I have already passed him long ago, and I do not have to worry about surpassing him, I already did that.  I will also walk up to that line knowing that no matter what happens, I will be the best runner I can be, I will be the best runner I have ever been.  When I am running through the beautiful Colorado Mountains, as long as I stay focused on every beautiful second, I will have the most amazing race I could ever hope for.

This race has been the badboy I have been looking forward to, and training for all summer, actually more like for the past 10 months.  All of my races since Rocky Raccoon, have been sacrifices on the alter of the Leadville 100, each one planned specifically getting me to the goal of crossing the finishing line at the Race Across the Sky in Leadville, Colorado.  The second 100 official modern 100 mile race in the United States, this race has been around for 30 years, and crosses the mountainous area surrounding the highest incorporated city in Colorado.  It passes a 11,000ft pass twice, and a 12,600ft pass twice.  In short, this race is not a joke, and I did my best to train with the respect this race deserves.

Since my finish at Silver Rush 50, I had been on a modified training plan, fewer miles, but high quality ones.  I got in another crossing of Sugarloaf Pass, and Hope Pass (for a total of 3 crossings, and 2 double crossings), while moving out of, and getting my house sold.  I had spent the afternoon of the 15th closing on my house, the last vestige of the marriage that officially ended in June.

For me, this race was my doorway into my new life.  I felt like I needed something more from this race than just a waltz across the finish line (which I was not at risk for regardless).  I needed the experience of running this race, of pushing myself beyond what may seem sane, and into the surreal, meditative land that comes when you push your body past your own belief, and fall into a type of bliss that I had only found in ultra running.  But, as I found in February, at RR100, this is heightened to a whole new level in 100 mile races.  I was looking forward to this.  Its addicting, and I needed it.

As I parked my car on the Summit of Fremont Pass to get some extra sleep at altitude on Wednesday August 15th, just 2.5 days from go time, I felt confident.  My crew would be coming up on Friday, and I would spend the next couple of days volunteering at packet pick up handing out free posters on Thursday, organizing my gear in the bins my friend Lisa had loaned me, and acclimate a bit more.

My running buddy Elizabeth, and her friend/crew chief, Tammy, showed up on Thursday, as did Jessica with her fiancé.  It was neat getting to spend some time ‘relaxing’ with friends who had a sense of the challenge we were facing.  Haze sat over the mountains, and the smoke that had plagued the mountains this year from fires all over the country came up in conversation.  I dismissed it as just haze.  I couldn’t let myself think about fire haze, those particulates, I knew would wreak havoc on my asthma, the one thing I only had so much control over.  I made a mental note that my inhalers would need to be my constant companions on this run, and dismissed it, while gazing into the haze that obscured the mountains not 5-10 miles from Leadville almost completely.

Friday morning came, and I woke up on Fremont Pass feeling happy and rested.  I went down into town, cruised through the expo, running into my Runners Roost friends, Marissa was pacing, and a couple Roost Team Runners were there ready to run.  I was happy to know that I would have familiar faces out there with me.

I met up with the other runners at the place Elizabeth rented off 6th and Pine, and we wandered over to the pre-race meeting.  Lisa, one of my crew, and the runner who I had paced the year before met us there, and we listened to the instructions, the warnings, and the course changes (there would be extra miles added due to a trail change coming into Winfield).  We all chanted with the long time race staff, and new, “I commit, I wont quit”.  This is how the meeting ends every year.  Each runner is asked to commit to not give up.  I left ready to run.

I spent the night in a spare room at the place Elizabeth rented, and woke with Jenn next to me, she had arrived late Friday night and found me asleep already.  In the darkness of 230am, everyone crawled out of bed, and prepared themselves.  I pulled my Mizuno kicks on my feet, tied them tight, and at 3:40am, wandered out the front door to find out place in the starting chute.

The Race  – Start to Powerine

“This is a gift,
it comes with a price,
Who is the lamb?  Who is the knife?
Midas is King, and he holds me so tight,
And turns me to gold in the sunlight
This is a gift”
– Florence and the Machine

The plan was for Elizabeth, Samantha, and myself to stay together as long as possible, helping to keep each other on track.  This strategy had worked amazingly well at Rocky Raccoon 100, and while this was a totally different race, I hoped it would help us all get

Left to Right: Jessica, me, Elizabeth and Samantha

through the early portions of the race.   The gun went off and so were we.

We did a great job staying together as we ran the first 6 miles, dropping off to use the restroom in the woods, catching up to each other, and maintaining an almost perfect pace.  When we arrived at Matchless Boat Ramp, right after hitting the Turquoise Lake Trail, the ladies dropped off to hit the restroom.  We had agreed we wouldn’t stop and wait for each other in these circumstances, so I kept running.    I also felt lucky, because there was no conga line I was stuck behind.  Everyone I was near was running where we needed to run and hiking where we needed to hike.

I thought the ladies would catch up to me quickly like they had before, but that wasn’t to be.  I cruised along the trail, making it into Mayqueen only 5-6 minutes behind my planned split.  In my mind, this was perfect.  Better to be a little bit slow, than a little bit fast at this stage of the game.  I was happy to see my crew all set up, everything went perfectly and I was out in no time.  Only 2 minutes lost there.  The crew said they heard Elizabeth’s number called as I was ready to leave, but I wasn’t wasting time waiting, we had agreed, we were running our own races, together as much as possible, but I had no idea how far back they actually were, and I couldn’t risk losing time hanging out, so I headed.

The trail was exactly as I remembered from Training runs, and was able to get easily around the slower runner without any issue on the flats and downs.  I found more folk to talk to and run with, and before I knew it was running down Powerline.  I felt pretty good at this point, but made an effort to reel it in, no reason to

Almost to MayQueen!

blow the quads at this point in the race.  I was close to perfectly on my splits, a couple off so I wasn’t all that worried.  Just before the last real down hill, we came up on a gentleman with a cooler, handing out coke and water, telling runners just not to die on his property.  I told him he was an angel on the mountain as I cruised by, snagging a coke along the way… no reason to say no to free calories!

I got to the bottom of Powerline feeling strong.  I swapped out my gear and headed to hatchery.

Powerline to Twin Lakes

I left Powerline ready to tackle the long section of road.  I came into hatchery with porta-potty business to tend to, but was not feeling the best overall.  As I left, Samanthas husband let me know that she had just come through.  I thought this meant that she had come in and left in the minutes I was taking care of business, so I booked out, hoping to catch a running partner.  I planned on running most, if not all of the road headed into Treeline, but quickly started to understand why that section of the race is dreaded.  It is completely exposed to the sun, and I started to heat up.  With the sun directly on me, I started to struggle with getting calories in.  I settled into a solid run walk pattern, but knew I was losing time.   Samantha, it turned out, had been behind me, and caught up to me at a run.  She was moving strong, and at that point I wasn’t able to keep up. I had built in a two hour buffer and really didn’t understand how much of that I was going to lose in this section.  After Treeline, the course is mostly uphill, and I couldn’t get my body into a good pattern.  I was hungry, but struggled getting calories in.  I felt myself cramping, and just forced myself to keep going.  I got passed by a few people, but everyone seemed to be struggling here.  The trail was more uphill than I had remembered in training, and the heat was taking a toll.

Halfpipe came out of no where, and I did my best not to lose any time, but again, the going felt harder.  I knew something was wrong,

but nothing that would normally fix it, was fixing it.  Drinking more out of my camelback?  Nope.  Eating?  Nope.  I was confused, but

Running down into Twin Lakes

there was nothing to do but keep moving, and I did.  When I made the Mt. Elbert fluid only aid station, I knew it was all down into Twin Lakes, and I did my best to run all of it, but the cramping in my sides slowed my run.  When I dropped into Twin Lakes, I was hurting, and ready to figure out how to make things better.

My crew had things ready when I came in, I chowed on potatoes, but continued to feel fatigued.  I felt like waiting wasn’t the answer, so it was time to move on.  I made my way through the aid station, where I saw Coach David from Runners Edge.  He came over and asked how I was doing.  I told him, and he instructed me to drink more, to focus on water.  I then saw Ben, who gave the same instructions.  Water, focus on hydration…

It was time to face the beast.

Hope Pass to Hopeless Aid Station…

“Regrets collect like old friends,
here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play,
And every demon wants his pound of flesh,
But I like to keep some things to myself,
I like to keep my issues drawn,
It’s always darkest before the dawn”
– Florence and the Machine

I left to cross the field to the base of Hope Pass, and as I neared the water crossing a thought hit me… the GU Brew!  It has way more salt than I am used to, and I switched to it more recently.  I had worried about this, so my crew had dropped to one tab per camelback periodically, but that may have still been too much.  Oversalting would add up to what was happening, but now my options were limited.  I had a pack full of the GU Brew, but there was no way around drinking it to Hopeless.  I pulled out my poles, and started up.  No stopping.  Constant pace.  I knew how to do this, but I felt myself draining, as I became more and more off balance.  I was also feeling my lungs tighten.  I needed to get to Hopeless, I needed fresh water, I needed electrolytes without so much salt.

I talked to others, giving them encouragement too, it helped me to feel like I was helping someone else get up this thing, but I was fading

Crossing the River, outbound. I was happy to stick my head in the water as I crossed, it felt really great!

fast.

Jessica and Elizabeth passed me as I felt I was slowing to a crawl, I wasn’t about to alarm them, so I just let them go ahead, knowing how close to Hopeless I was.  We needed to run our own races, and I was not about to make them feel like they needed to stop or slow for me.  I couldn’t live with that, so I focused on moving, one foot, then the other moving up the hill.  Through the last of the trees…  as I came into the station, I was worn down, and in need of real water, like Coach David had said back in Twin Lakes.  I asked the volunteers to dump what was in my pack and refill it with water, but my lungs were still tightening, and I was out of it.

I felt myself wavering a bit when I stood, I knew this feeling well.  Dehydration was setting in, and I needed to stomp it down.  Fixing that would help fix everything else, but what else could I do?  I wracked my brain, what was my body telling me?  It was telling me food, it was telling me water, and my lungs were telling me air, with what felt like endless cramps low in my chest.  Time to take care of business.

A volunteer asked me what I needed and I asked for my inhaler out of my pack, hoping to not even take it off.  They pulled it out, looking concerned, and as soon as they saw me use it, asked me to sit down, which I did.  I was upset with myself.  I had made huge mistakes with switching my hydration nutrition 2 weeks before the race, and now my lungs were revolting.  This should fix it, but I had a moment, feeling stupid, feeling like I put my race at risk not thinking through things.  I knew what worked for me, and I should have stuck with it.  I broke the rules, and I was paying for it, but I knew I would recover.  I felt better than I had at Greenland 50k a year and a half before, when I had bounced back like a ping pong ball from hell, so I could bounce back from this if I did what I knew I needed.

As I was processing this in my head, the volunteer got an EMT to come over to look at me, and they moved me to a chair, rather than the log I was sitting on.  They took one look at me and offered me electrolytes.  Yes, that’s step 1, thank you!  I told them about the salt, and they agreed, I was oversalted, so they gave me water as well, and cheese sticks for food.  I was ready to sit for 5 minutes, to let things settle, but I had every intent of leaving.  I could not stay here.  I needed time for some of the electrolytes to settle in, but movement was an absolute necessity, I couldn’t stay here.  As I sat, I became cold, I could feel the electrolytes helping, but not enough yet, I drank more.  I pulled on my jacket, and they gave me a sleeping bag for my legs as I shivered.  I wasn’t fighting their help, I knew every bit would get me closer to leaving.  I was still upset, and panicked, but I knew I had it in me to finish; this race was not over for me yet.  I wasn’t about to give in.  Not to this, not to my asthma, not to by mistakes, everything passes in these races, I knew that in my heart, and needed this too to pass.

After 15 minutes, I felt like I was as ready to go as I was going to be, so I pulled off the sleeping bag to go.  A volunteer came over, and told me they were thinking I needed to go back to Twin Lakes, to which I disagreed, so they asked if I would talk to one of the Doctors.  Minutes ticked.  I heard the GPS beeping, indicating the minutes slipping away.  I felt ready to go, I knew I was ready to go, I was pacing.  The Doctor told me to sit back down, and told me he needed me to eat more and sit in the sleeping bag more, that he thought I needed to go down but would talk if I gave it more time.  I had a mini break down.  The aid station volunteer asked me what was wrong, and I told her I wasn’t quitting.  The doctor had said I was going back down, but I wasn’t having it.  I wasn’t quitting.  I had come too far, run too hard for my asthma to be the reason they sent me down.  The aid station volunteer sent a text to my crew in Winfield, letting them know medical was holding me, but I knew they wouldn’t get it until after they left.  In my head, all I could think was “I am not quitting, I am not a quitter, and you can’t make me, I’ll show you I can finish this”.  But I felt helpless too.  This was an area I couldn’t be the Punk Rock Rabbit, I had to do as I was told.  If I disobeyed, I would be DQ’d for sure, and possibly banned from future events.  I had to play inside the flexible, and ever changing rules medicine had, but how could I help the people now in charge of making the rules for me understand?

The doctor came over, and I told him, I wasn’t quitting, what did I have to do?  “Walk around the aid station, maybe do some running.  Drink more water”, and they may let me go, so I did, but the minutes ticked by.  I wasn’t going down.  They kept holding me.  I felt like I was in hell, the aid station name could not have held more significance for me in that moment.  I felt so trapped.  I felt so desperate.  A volunteer told me I still looked out of it, but I knew I wasn’t, I was thinking clearly, I was over come with panic.  I had to go.  An the minutes ticked by.  Beep, Beep, Beep…

I went back, a few more minutes, a few more minutes, 15 more minutes they told me…. I jogged around, I walked, I needed to go if I was going to finish.  I needed to go!   But before I could leave I needed the Doctor’s blessing, and it wasn’t forthcoming.  I went back, knowing it was getting too late to make the Winfield cutoff, one last time to ask to go.  I knew, if the doctor delayed me again, my chances would be completely gone, if he said yes, I might have a fighting chance.

I went over, I explained again, I had been jogging, I had drank, I had run, I felt fine, I needed to go.  He looked at me, and told me I could go ahead and go!  Not wanting anyone to have a chance to change their minds, I went to my pack, picked my things up and went.  It was well into the 4pm hour, I didn’t know if I could make it to Winfield, but I wasn’t about to quit.  There was no room, for anything, nothing but movement.  I felt like I had escaped the spiders web, and it was time to run now.

Hopeless to Winfield (aka fighting to stay alive)

“Shake it out, shake it out,
and its hard to dance with the devil on your back,
so shake him off
and I’m done with my graceless heart,
so tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart,
cause I like to keep my issues drawn
Its always darkest before the dawn
Shake it out”
– Florence and the Machine

I was intent on keeping good form going up the remainder of the pass, and moved up the hill without too much trouble.  I passed others, and I maintained a strong pace.  As I crossed the timing mat up top, I collapsed my poles, convinced that I could run faster without them, and started down the hill.  I struggled with managing the loose rocks for the first quarter mile, and was worried about my ability to make it down with the speed I needed, without rolling an ankle, if I didn’t use my poles, so I pulled them back out.  It had been over a year since I had used the poles for downhill running, but quickly got back into the groove.  Using them to stabilize my steps, I picked up speed rapidly.

I came up on another runner using poles, but moving so slowly, and asked her if she knew how to use them.  She was the first I had seen

trying as hard as me to make it down.  I wanted to help her.  I had tried to encourage others to run as I went by, but she was the first that didn’t look defeated.  She looked like a fighter.  She said no, so I showed her as I ran, and before I knew it I had a companion coming down Hope Pass.  I asked her what her name was, and she said Jane.  We talked about how fast we would have to move at Winfield in order to make it through, but I was convinced we would both make it, if what the race organizers had said about the new trail were true.  Near the bottom of the pass, I rolled my ankle, and she saw it, but just as I had done for her, encouraging her to use her poles to keep a faster pace, she encouraged me to keep it moving.  I knew she was right; there was no room for pain here.  Only running.

When we made the turn onto the new trail, the course marshal’s told us we had another 4-5 miles to go… What the F***?!?!?  4-5 more miles?  I felt my heart sink,  the task was now far more daunting.  It was 530pm, we had a long way to go on an unknown trail that is now well over a mile farther than I thought it would be.  I shouted back to Jane that we would still make it we just needed to run!  No negativity, only running, there was no room for anything else.

It was at this moment, the race morphed into something entirely different for me.  This was no longer about finishing; this was about

Trevor and Jenn running into Winfield

proving that I wasn’t the type to quit.  I wasn’t the type to give up to circumstance, or other people’s fears for or about me ad my health issues.  Yeah, I have asthma, so what?  Sure I had heart surgery when I was 26.  So what?  That was a part of me, and one that had stolen so much from me as a kid.  These are things, things that have no place here.  They had no room here.  There was no space in me for those poisonous thoughts, only me and this trail, and running like I was free, and like my life depended on it.  I knew I had something more in me, and now was the time to find that, and make this happen.  If I were going to miss the cut off at Winfield, it wouldn’t be because I ever gave less than my all.  I would make the aid station staff see that I pushed myself to the bitter end.  I wasn’t about to go out without a fight.

With this determination I called back to my friend, who I realized I had dropped, and forced myself along this new section of trail I had never seen before.  With my GPS dead, I had no way of knowing how far I had come, or even what time it was.

Driven by the need to make the cutoff at Winfield, I ran on, power hiking a few uphill sections, but I was not giving up.  Anything that wasn’t a steep up, I ran.  I tried to get others to run with me, I didn’t want to be alone in making this fight, I wanted us to all fight tooth and nail to get in.  So what if we fought and still ended up missing the cut, at least we went down fighting.

I felt like an hour had been stolen from me, that I was set up to not make it, but the Doctors had let me go, giving me even the slightest chance, and I wasn’t going down without a wicked fight.  Tooth, nail, bone and blood.  Nothing was stopping me from putting it all out there.  If I was going to get cut, I may be the only person to know it, but I would no I hadn’t quit, that I had fought every second to stay in the race, and finish.

I saw Coach David, and the Roost Team, I saw Samantha, Jessica and Elizabeth.  I shouted back I had been held by medical as I ran by so they wouldn’t worry.  They were all in the game, I was making time, but this would be close.  Coach yelled to me not to quit, so keep going.  I saw Winfield far below me, the trail kept going up, this was a sick joke!  But I wasn’t quitting, I ran on. With no warning, I saw the trailhead sign, but was told a half-mile left!  A half-mile and little time to do it, the cut off was on us, but I could hear the screaming at Winfield below.  I ran.  I ran hard.  There was no time to rest, the time to rest would come when I finished this, but it wasn’t now.  I saw several people standing on the road, yelling at us to run!  All I could think was “I’m running as hard as I can!” so they ran with the 3 of us coming down the road, turning, shouting “run!”

I was 100% tunnel vision now, but I saw Jenn pop out of nowhere, screaming at me to run, telling me I was awesome, but to run, and I ran.  I heard, my name getting yelled below me, my crew was down, the road, shouting me to come down the road.   I made the turn, and saw the timing mats, and was directed over them, to the scale.  I stopped to wait for one, but was directed by race staff to another, which I stood on, and held my breath… I couldn’t get cut now, not because of weight… the numbers popped up, 193lbs!  I had gained 4 pounds, which confirmed I had oversalted, but that was fine now.  I just needed to get out an run.  I stepped back over the mat, and was ready to get Becky and go.  I saw my blue inhaler, and told the crew to put it in Becky’s pack, I would se it and run, but I had a second, so I used it while my pack was prepped.  I told the crew, no more GU Brew, water only.  They pulled my pack on me, handed me my muscle milk, which I drank half of, and walked with my potatoes, eating them and walking quickly up the road, as Heather strapped my new GPS on my wrist.  There was no time to waste, I thanked them, and was off, following my pacer, Becky, up the road.  I let her know I needed to power hike this up to recover, and filled her in on the last leg of the race, but that my new goal was to catch Elizabeth and Jessica.

Winfield to Twin Lakes

“Run fast for your mother,
run fast for your father,
run for your children, for your sisters and your brothers
leave all your love and your longing behind
you cant carry it with you if you want to survive”
– Florence and the Machine

I was still in this thing, I had fought to make it this far, and the fight wasn’t over, not by a long shot, but it was time to push more.  This well of determination felt endless, and now I had a friend to help me keep drawing from it.

I knew I was a long shot, but I needed something to push me.  We agreed that I could not stop for any breaks on Hope Pass, and we

Headed back up to the Hope Pass Trail, on the new trail section with my pacer behind

didn’t.  We made out way up the mountain, Becky singing to me, telling me stories of her recent trip to South America, and cracking jokes when possible.   My crew had made me hummus on a tortilla, which Becky used to lure me up that mountain. Becky would let me know when we passed a previous minute per mile average, and kept going onwards, and upwards.  We passed runner, after runner.

Our headlamps were pulled out shy of the summit, but I didn’t care, now, I wasn’t going out without a fight.  We would make those cut offs, I would see those Dr’s again, and show them how strong I was, that they were right to let me go, and then go to Twin Lakes, and make that cut off too.

Becky and I came up with a game plan as we crossed over the summit of Hope Pass, trying to recruit other runners to commit to running all the way down the mountain to make the cut off, but few would even respond to that.  We would divide and conquer Hopeless Aid Station, she would refill my camelback while I got food, and we would go.  No time to waste.  And we didn’t, but I did go to the EMT, and Doctors to show them I was alive and kicking, they were amazed how well I was going, and I even gave them hugs for letting me leave, then booked, there was just no time to waste on anything, but I learned long ago, grace goes a long way to keeping myself moving and happy.  They had just done their job, they did what they thought was right, and I owed them my thanks for that.

A half mile out of Hopeless, I realized my headlamp was on the low setting, so I switched it to high, and ran found myself able to pick up the pace again.  As I heard Becky falling behind as she tried to raise the crew to let them know what I would need, I told her if I dropped her, to catch up on the flats, and then let it all out.  I ran that pass like it was daylight, I ran that pass like I was on fresh legs and like it was a training run.

I realized I had dropped Becky but shouted back and she could still hear me so I asked her to get my jacket and I took it off and dropped it on the ground for her to grab, and ran.  Without the heat, I felt even faster, and before I knew it was at the bottom, I let out a yell of defiance at the pass as I ran on.

I felt good, no I felt great.  I felt the best I had all day, I was in my element, this was my world.  Sometimes, on training runs on Bergen Peak, or in Deer Creek Canyon, I would fall into a trance, almost, as I ran.  It would become me and the trail.  It’s like everything in that moment exists in slow motion, every step is intentional, but my focus would hone in so tightly that that step was the only thing in the universe that mattered at that moment, then the next, and the next.  This is where I was.  I have come to run for this feeling, its so freeing, and I was there.  60 miles in, and as I ran down the pass, I felt like my soul was raised up to the universe, bared out, briefly pure in this movement.

I felt graceful, like I was in a dance with the mountain, and I had found my home again.  I felt this in SR50, RR100, and CP25.  This was where I needed to be.  This was how things needed to be for me right at this moment.   I had come into the race seeking this feeling, and even in the moment, I didn’t feel like I had achieved, it, because I was so absorbed by the purity of movement.

I broke free of the pass, and let whoop and a shout into the sky, “I made it down!”  I could see Twin Lakes in the distance, but the time to rest was still a long way away.  I still had to prove that I could make this cut off, and then each after that.  It was time to keep running.

Becky caught me shortly after the river crossing.  We could hear the people in Twin Lakes yelling.  Becky was on the radio and heard they were still letting runners through, so we ran, Becky had no mercy, and I didn’t want it, running was the only thing there was to do so I ran.

We crossed into the parking lot, the guy in grey was there from Winfield and he yelled at me to go, saying he remembered me from Winfield and I could do it again, but I had to run, so I did.  Jenn and Heather caught me crossing the parking lot, and as I ran up the road, handed my poles to someone, and cranked it out, I had to run!  I had to make it.  I heard my crew telling me things, telling me I had to look good, I had to look strong to get through, but all I knew was I had to run.  No niceties, I didn’t have room for that.  If they were going to let me through, the determination in my soul would shine through.  As we came up to the Aid station, a staff directed us to the timing mat, and then the lady with the scissors stepped out in front of my path.  I knew her.  She was the cut lady.  I had begged her to let Lisa through at MayQueen a year before.  I knew her word was final.   It was her job to be stoic.  It was her job to enforce these rules.

She said no more runners were coming through, that it was done… my legs gave out, and I fell on the ground.  I started crying; I don’t think I have cried that hard in a long time.  All I could think was how hard I ran for so long, how I tried, how I hadn’t lost time because I quit, but because of my asthma, and how I had fought, but it wasn’t good enough… Honestly, in that moment, I was crushed.  My crew reminded me that being held for over an hour at Hopeless wasn’t my fault, but at that second, it was little consolation.  My race was over, and I was nowhere near ready for it to be over.  I was utterly overwhelmed by emotion, and really didn’t give a crap who saw it.

After… well, actually I have no idea, I pulled it together, stood up, and my crew offered me assistance, which I refused.  I had run all the way in, I was not about to do anything other than walk with my head held high.  I was not happy with how things turned out, but I knew I never quit.  I knew that I ran stronger in that last 15 miles than I had run in any ultra, or any race, ever.  There had been no quit in my brain, only running.  I had done what I actually set out to do, and I walked away feeling undefeated.

My crew stayed with me, offering me food, and telling me how proud of me they were, and I absolutely believe them.  They are my friends, my supporters, they may not be related to me by blood, but they are part of my family.

I may not have gotten that buckle, but I ran without ever letting myself give in, and it would have been so easy to, so many times after I got to Hopeless the first time.  Does this make not finishing any easier?  Not really.  I have something to prove now.  So many people helped me get to Leadville, so many people helped me get to mile 63 in Twin Lakes.   There are too many people to let down.  So I will be going back next year.  I will be getting that buckle, not just for me, but for all the people who sacrificed along with me.  So they can know their sacrifices, their time, and their faith in me were worth it.

“I commit, I won’t quit”.  I meant it when I chanted it with the rest of the runners in the pre-race meeting.  I still haven’t given up, I still haven’t quit..  Even though the race in 2012 ended with me walking away without crossing that finish line, I never quit, and won’t until I cross that finish line, with my head held high.

“and I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t
so here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road,
and I’m ready to suffer, and I’m ready to hope…
shake it out shake it out,
and its hard to dance with the Devil on your back,
so shake him off”
– Florence and the Machine