Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Heartland 100

Our big concern going into the Heartland 100 was the weather.  The race was held on 13 October which you would think would be past the tornado season but as the weekend approached we got some ominous emails from the RD.  Here's one of them:

Just spoke to a meteorologist friend at channel 3 news, he said the current pattern is showing a high possibility of severe weather friday night and into saturday morning. He said as of now any chance of a tornado is well to the west, but high winds, heavy rain and hail are not out of the question. By noon saturday if this pattern holds he said we should be in the clear? Just wanted to give all of you a heads up.
If the chance of a tornado or hail is looming saturday, Kyle and I may have to postpone the 100mile start, but rain and wind are not going to stop anything. Please make sure to be at the pre race briefing on Friday for updates.  Just a heads up, shoot with questions.               ---Tony Clark
Also, looking at the NWS severe weather forecast for the weekend they mentioned the possibility of tornadoes in the SE part of the state, right where we would be running.  So we were facing almost certain rain and a high probability of severe weather including thunderstorms and possibly of hail.  Normally when I see the possibility of these kinds of conditions I don't worry too much because most of the runs I do are through the forest where there are plenty of tall trees to attract the lightning.  But on the plains of Kansas we runners would most often be the tallest thing around!

Despite all of this Liz and I had one of the best pre race sleep ever at the Super 8 in El Dorado.  Unfortunately we had also gotten some extra sleep onThursday night too due to setting both of our alarms for 5:30 pm instead of am.  We overslept until after 7 and though we raced to the airport we were way too late to catch our flight.  This was the first time all year that either of us had missed a flight and we were lucky with Airtran that we could fly standby on any flight later in the day.  In fact, when we got to the ticket counter we were given confirmed seats on the next flight at around 1pm.  We ended up arriving too late for the pre race briefing but got filled in by Paul Shoenlaub while we ate the yummy  home made dinner.  There was roast beast, mac and cheese, and a bunch of other goodies in addition to about 6 kinds of brownies and other sweets.

I looked at the radar when we woke up from our dreamless solid 8 hours of sleep and saw just a bit of rain far off to the NW.  At the start it was quite warm and I once again debated on whether to bring a rain jacket but after what happened last week at Arkansas I decided to wear it. We started off in the dark but there were plenty of people with lights and the roads were easy to see so neither Liz nor I needed a lamp.  We sailed along on the flat roads as the sky brightened and still no real sign of threatening weather.  By mid morning though it was starting to get dark off to the west and we could hear distant thunder.  It got closer with the gap between flash and boom about 9 seconds and then suddenly the flash and boom were only 2 seconds apart.  (I've heard that it takes about 5 seconds longer for the sound to travel a mile than it does the light.)

Pretty soon it was raining pretty good and the wind was also howling pretty good and eventually, at times, it was downright pouring.  The course takes several turns so we had the wind changing from side to side and front to back.  Unlike, Arkansas, though it never did get very cold and though I put on my rain jacket it was really more to keep from getting completely soaked than to keep warm.  In fact, I was really too warm running with the jacket and never did need it to keep warm all the way to the finish.  There is a video taken during the day on Saturday at the Ridgeline aid station that shows the rainy conditions. You can find it here:

We had rain off and on all day.  We had wind all day.  We had very frightening thunderstorms for a time just before mid day.  Most of the lightening was cloud to cloud though there were visible ground strikes and one of them was only about 1/2 mile from me.  It felt very exposed out there and I felt very small and vulnerable.  At the same time I must say that the Flint Hills, what we could see of them, were very beautiful.  There are not many trees and the hills are gentle and rolling but the scenery had an appeal much like a desert landscape, beautiful in it's starkness.  I really enjoyed this run and could see doing it again.

My run was going well to the turnaround and I was really actually happy with the weather knowing that I do a lot better with the cooler conditions and that if it was hot and dusty I would have to go slower.  I hit the turnaround at around 10 hours and 30 minutes and felt good about getting a sub 24 hour finish.  I saw Liz about a mile or so after the turnaround and she looked good saying something like "Another one in the bag" with a smile, meaning that nothing was going to stop her finishing this one.  I continued on saying 'Hi' to the many friends running the race and managed to get to about 64 miles before I had to turn on my light.  The sky was starting to clear but there was no moon and it was too dark to run lightless even with the smooth roads.

I continued to move well into the 75 mile aid station where the 50 milers had their turnaround after starting at 6pm.  It was probably about midnight at this point and I passed many runners head on, on their way to the turnaround.  I expected that many of these runners would soon be passing me but few ever did.  I was also passing other 100 milers who were slowing down as the night wore on.  I never felt sleepy and continued to run what felt a strong and steady pace.  This is a course made for fast times as the footing is always good and the hills are often just enough to give you a variation on what muscle groups you use rather than tiring you out with long hills.  I did some calculating and realized that sub 24 was in the bag and that sub 23 was a probability and as I continued on feeling strong I realized at the final aid stations that I might squeak under 22.

I ended up crossing the line in 21:50 which I was quite pleased with especially since that meant that I had only run 50 minutes slower on the second half than I did on the first half which is really good, especially after having a race the previous weekend.  So while I may not have been fast at least I was consistent. This race also tied me with Hans Dieter's male record for most 100's in a year.  Liz came in 3 hours later in 23:50 for a nice sub 24.  We hung out for a while and gathered our nice belt buckles and a cool black hoody with the Hearland logo and "Sub Twenty Four Hour Finisher" across the back.  We were to fly out of Wichita the next morning so we arranged for a room near the airport, and talked the clerk into letting us check in early to get some sleep.  We rested for a while and then I took the rental car to the airport to save us a days rental taking the shuttle back to the hotel.

Our flight home was uneventful and we were both happy with our runs.  This is a great race for a really fast time.  The weather should be better than what we had and the course is really fast.  The wind was an issue to some degree but the course zigs and zags enough that it doesn't seem that bad.  The aid stations are top notch with many of them staffed by seasoned runners and the race organization went of perfectly.  Thanks to Tony, Kyle and all the volunteers!

The following weekend I would be attending my sister's wedding in Florida and Liz would be heading to Utah for the crew-mandatory Pony Express 100.  The weekend after that will be the Javelina 100 where I will break the male record getting my 21st and Liz will hit her 30th for the year.

Race count:  Liz (28)  Scott (20)

Arkansas Traveller 100

The Arkansas Traveller was held on 6 October and is directed by friends Stan and Chrissy Ferguson.  This was the 22nd annual AT so this one has been around for a while and it shows in how well organized and supported the run is.  Liz and I flew into Memphis and hired a car from there to drive to the race.  After we had landed I gave Billy Simpson (a Hardrock friend) a call and he happened to be sitting in a restaurant having breakfast with his son so we popped over and met him there.  We had a nice chat and made arrangement to stay with him on Sunday night as we were flying out of Memphis on Monday afternoon.

We arrived in the middle of Chrissy's race briefing and got ourselves checked in, chatting with friends the whole time.  We decided to skip the pre race meal so we could get to sleep as early as possible.  We grabbed some quick takeout and hit the hotel room.  We managed to get to sleep pretty early and got a good night's sleep before driving to the start of the race.  The weather forecast was for a good chance of rain and thunderstorms during the day and the weatherman got it right this time.  The course starts with a figure of eight that is 17 miles long and about half single track trail.  This was the only significant section of single track with the rest of the course being all gravel roads and old logging roads, with various levels of maintenance form well maintained to not maintained in many years.  Overall the tread was very runnable and while there was a fair bit of climbing the course really felt pretty fast.

This year Stan was doing the bulk of the race directing and Chrissy was running the race.  I was running with her a bit early in the race and came into the second aid station a bit ahead of her.  There were some scraps of bacon at the station which I gobbled up as breakfast.  Chrissy then came running down the hill into the aid station screaming for bacon.  Uh-oh.  I told the aid workers not to tell Chrissy I had just eaten the last of the bacon but I was ratted out as soon as she got there!  I got out of there quickly to avoid being DQ'd!

It was about mid morning when the rain started.  It was a nice gentle drizzle at first but we could hear the thunder off in the distance and it wasn't long before the skies opened up.  The rain came dumping down and the temps dropped dramatically.  I had been debating on whether I should carry my rain jacket because it really wasn't that cold at the start but I was glad I had it in this tempest!  While running along a guy caught up with me that did not have a jacket and we started to chat.  His name was Rob Siebert and he was cold.  He was a first time 100 miler and I could tell talking to him that he was worried about his race.  He asked me about how many times I had dnf'd and how he wouldn't see his crew for a while and how cold he was getting.  I told him that he was young and strong and fit and that he would get through this speedbump and feel just fine later.  I told him that they would likely have some extra trash bags to make a poncho at the next aid station and that as long as he kept moving he'd be fine.

As we talked, I mentioned Hardrock and Rob asked me if I knew a guy named Billy Simpson.  Well, well.  It turns out that Billy had been informally coaching Rob and I knew now that I had to make sure that Rob finished this thing.  We continued to run together for a while and I tried to give him as much help and motivation and confidence as I could.  I gave him the "quitting is not an option" speech and felt pretty sure that he would tough it out.  He had crew and pacers later in the race and it sounded like they had experience and would not easily let him quit.  At the next aid station they were in full on garbage bag poncho production.  It seemed like half the people leaving that aid station were wearing black plastic bags!  Just another example of how well prepared these folks were.

Many of the aid stations had been manned by the same groups for many years and it really showed.  The food selection was excellent, they were good about helping you get in and out quickly, and many were runners themselves which always makes a difference.  I don't remember when Rob and I split paths but it was after the 50 mile mark.  Because of the unrepeated figure of eight at the start the out and back portion of the run had the turnaround at mile 58.  I really felt early in the run that I was moving really well and that a sub 24 was a real possibility.  The rain didn't seem to have slowed things down and I felt good.  I really felt I was moving well but when we go to the 50 mile mark Rob said the elapsed time was 12:05.  With night coming on and some sections of rocky road and grassy sections that would be slower in the dark I knew that sub 24 was out of the question.

Liz caught up to me somewhere between 50 miles and the 58 mile turnaround and we ran much of the section to the turnaround.  She was faster out of that aid station but I never did see her until the finish because it turned out that she had taken a wrong turn just past the turnaround and ran about 1/4 of a mile up the wrong road before discovering her mistake.  So while I thought she was ahead of me on the last half she was actually just behind.  I really felt quite good through the night and still felt I was moving well except for a very rocky section where we went uphill for a long way and the road was solid loose rocks.  This section would have been slow in any event but I got terribly sleepy here and really struggled though I only laid down for a short 5 minute break where I wasn't even able to fall asleep.  Eventually I reached the top and got back onto a good, well maintained road and once I was able to run again I felt better.

Towards daybreak I did start to feel tired and low energy but still felt I was moving well.  Somehow I learned that Liz was behind me and I felt that I was moving well enough that she had probably dropped back quite a bit but it turned out that she had run strong through the night and only finished about 15 minutes behind me.  In the hours before sunup and between then and the finish I passed many people who were either sitting in aid station chairs, limping along with blown legs or injuries, or just moving slow.  I figure I moved up in the standings at least 20 places through the night.  I was at the finish and after sitting and resting for a while and changing into flip flops I started to walk towards the car which was parked about 1/3 mile down the road and I stopped at the timers table at the finish line to see if they had any idea where Liz was and they said that she should be in at any minute.  I was surprised but waited to cheer her in.  She was moving well and finished with a smile.

We hung out at the finish enjoying the nice pancake/bacon/egg breakfast and watching folks come in.  I asked about Rob and found that he was in fact going to finish and introduced myself to his crew person and his wife who had only arrived that morning.  It was an emotional finish for him and fun to watch him succeed at his first 100 mile attempt.  It was hard and he was sore and whupped but he did it!  Good job Rob!  We stayed for the awards ceremony where Liz got her 5 year award on this the 10 year anniversary of her first 100 mile race at the 2002 AT.

Before attempting the drive to Memphis we drove to a shady spot and napped for a while.  We then drove to Memphis with a food stop or two and contacted Billy.  When we got to his house he set us up with some fine Memphis BBQ sandwiches and greens.  Perfect!  A shower and some race recapping and we were ready for bed.  The next afternoon Billy gave us a tour of Memphis including a wonderful lunch at the Soul Fish Cafe.  It's all about the food!  Thanks, Billy!

This race has been around for a long time and the organization and aid stations really stand out.  It would be a great first time 100 and everyone should do it at least once.  They give a nice buckle and a tech shirt and having a gathering place post race is really nice.  We were able to sit around telling lies and eating yummy breakfast food.  This one shows it's old school roots.  Well done Stan and Chrissy and thanks to you and all the volunteers!

Race count:  Liz (27)  Scott (19)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Georgia Jewel 100

The Georgia Jewel was on 22 September which gave me a weekend off after the Hallucination 100. While I had the weekend off, Liz ran the Mark Twain 100 in Missouri which she finished and in doing that tied Monica Sholz's record of 25 100 mile races in a year. I'll post her report if she writes one. Georgia Jewel is conveniently located just 45 minutes from where we live so we'd get a break from the airport/rental car/motel routine.

We decided to sleep at home on Friday night and drive to the start in the morning. We drove up for the packet pickup and briefing on Friday afternoon at thr Holiday Inn. We saw RD Karen Pearson, Andrei Nana, Mike Smith, Christian Griffith, Vikena Yutz And others there. We got a great briefing on what toexpect during the race and Liz got recognition for the fact that she would be the new world record holder for most 100 mile races in a year. We dropped off our drop bags headed home soon after to get some rest. It was nice that the race was close and we knew the course having run those trails many times. But knowing the course, we knew what we were in for. The race has a 36 hour cutoff and there's a reason for that. It is a rough, rocky course with lots (about 18,000 ft) of climbing.

We arrived at the starting line in plenty of time, looking forward to great weather. The course starts with about a mile and a half of climbing on a paved road to get to the Pinhoti Trail. It then follows the well blazed Pinhoti trail nearly all the way to the turnaround. The divergance from the Pinhoti is a cruel detour hatched in the dark recesses of the mind of RD Karen Pearson. And she seems like such a sweet person.......

Instead of just following the Pinhoti, Karen has us run up and down a powerline cut for about a mile. For a bit I thought I was on the Barkley course with the crazy steep and rutted climb and briars. The first part of the Pinhoti we hit is called the "rock garden". For several miles you have lots of rocks. There are plenty of rocks throughout the course but those first (and last) miles are pretty slow and tough. The trail traverses through lots of beautiful hardwood forests on a mixture of single track, fire/logging roads, with a bit of pavement thrown in.

Aid stations are spaced a bit apart with the occasional unmanned water stops but the stations were well stocked and the folks manning them were absolutely great. I believe most of the aid station workers were from a local Dalton running group as well as the Atlanta GUTS group. Thank you all for such wonderful support! I was doing my usual eat only when hungry thing and doing fine but as I got to the turnaround aid I was famished! I pigged out big time eating a huge Turkey sandwich, a Mickey D's chicken sandwich, a large piece of pepperoni pizza, a large handful of chips, and a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso drink. That gorging held me for about the next 20 miles!

As I headed back I didn't expect to see Liz for a while as I felt I had been moving quite well so I was surprised to see her only about a third of a mile down the trail. She was moving well and looking good. I continued on, feeling good myself and moved well as darkness fell. I did some foot maintenance at the mile 71 aid station and continued on to the 87 mile station where I sat for a bit and refueled. I had started to get real sleepy just before this stop and my stomach was getting a bit dicey. I didn't linger and after chiding Andrei not to sit too long I started up the hill onto the ridge above.

At this point Imwas running with the guy who had been in the lead at the turnaround. I don't remember his name but we had been running togethernfor several miles chatting. When we reached the top of the ridge, about an 800 foot climb in about a mile or so, I spied a campsite just off the trail. I was feeling really sleepy and said I was going to lay down and get a nap. I slept for probably 15 minutes and got up, very groggy. (Andrei teased me later about seeing me sleeping on the ground after just telling him to get out of the chair.) When I got up I actually wandered around a bit just to find the trail. I was disoriented but recognized a rock pile and started down the trail. I ran for while and has vague disorganized thoughts that I seemed to be dropping down too much as I thought The trail traversed more along the ridge. It never occured to me that I might be going the wrong way until I saw aid station lights below me. Crap. I had just run back down the hill to the 87 mile aid station at Snake Creek Gap.

I thought about just turning around before the station but wanted to see if Liz's brother, Robert, had made it there yet. I had run into him hours before at the top of John's Mountain. He was there and I explained what had happened to him and the aid folks I had just seen an hour before. What a stupid mistake! I wasn't really that upset about it all for whatever reason and started back up the hill. Thecourse is 104 miles long so I still had 7 miles to go. Near the end Susan Donnely caught up with me and we ran together for a few miles before she pulled ahead to finish before me. Those last miles through the rock garden were tough for me. I was tired and my feet really hurt. With all the rough tread And rocks I hate to think what I would have felt like without the Hokas I had been wearing the entire race. They were lifesavers! Still, I did have some toe issues.......

I ended up finishing in 30:30:26 so happy to sit down and take the shoes off. Having driven here I also had a cooler full off beer. Robert was there and helped a ton. My Subaru was parked in a different lot and Robert offered to get it for me. I told him where the key was hidden and where my flip flops were in the car. He came back and said he had found the car but couldn't find the flip flops. Odd. He went back to the car and was rooting around in the back when I looked over and saw him rooting in the wrong Subaru! I said "My car is green, Robert." His eyes got big and we got a good laugh. He said he'd put that one back and return the key to the identical hiding spot I used. I told him to park it in a different spot but he said he'd just put it in the same spot in the other direction. Pretty funny. Turns out I had met the owner before and he was amused too. At least it seemed he was amused......

Liz arrived in 32:49:25 and got quite the reception as her crossing the line set a new record for most hundreds in a year. Karen had also had a very handsome trophy made to mark the accomplishment. A very nice and thoughtful gesture, Karen. This is a very tough but very well organized event. As it grows it is sure to get even better. It was fun to do a race on trails I train on and perhaps one year I'll try to actually perform here rather than just survive.

Race count: Liz (26) Scott (18)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hallucination 100

3 days of peace, music and running says the website.  The finishers medal is a peace sign that says "Finished it, man". There are multiple distance runs on Friday thru Sunday including a couple of night "natural" (read: naked) runs.  What's not to like?  The Hallucination 100 course was a 16.67 mile figure of 8 that we did 6 times.  There were lots of other runners out there with all the other distances so it never got too lonely.  The organizers, Running Fit, a Detroit shoe store organize a ton of races and have the execution dialed.  It was a fun weekend.

After having driven the motorhome back to Georgia, we flew into Detroit where our friend Bill Hildenbrand picked us up at the airport, hosting us for the weekend in his motorhome.  Bill is retired and lives permanently in his rig driving around the country running 100 milers and timed events.  Just the week before he set a pending national age group record of 20:26:25 for 100 miles in the 65-69 age group.  This beat the previous mark by 66 minutes and was run as a split at the Badgerland Striders 24 hour in Wisconsin.  And he was signed up for the 100 again this weekend!

We arrived at the Hell Creek Ranch "Commune" well before the 4pm Friday start.  The hordes of race volunteers got us situated in our parking spot just yards from the start/finish and we did our last minute preparations.  We put together drop bags for the start/finish but decided not to make one for aid station at the far end of the course.  There was a nice covered area for the aid station and drop bags.  Everything was really well set up and organized.

We had heard some horror stories about the mud on this course and it looked like there was a good chance of rain so that had us a bit worried.  And the rain did come with a vengeance after dark.  It rained for most of the night but the trail was dry at the start and soaked up much of the rain.  What we worried about was the start of the 50 mile, 50k, marathon and half marathon in the morning.  (Only the 100 mile and the LSD 100k started Friday afternoon.)  All those additional runners could really churn things up.   It turned out though, that things dried out well enough that it never did turn into a slopfest like we had at Rocky Raccoon in February.

A nice surprise during the night was the appearance of Mike Dobies who lives in Michigan.  Mike is a good friend from Hardrock and I wasn't sure that he was going to be able to make it.  I also got a good chance to sit and chat and drink a few beers with him late on Saturday while waiting for Liz to finish.  I finished in 24:35 and Liz in 29:03 after missing a turn and doing an extra 8 miles.  I found out that Bill had dropped out after I think 3 loops with his legs more dead from his previous weeks run than he expected.

In my race, at about 5 miles, a guy runs up behind me and after running just behind me for a bit asked if I minded him just settling in behind me.  I said it was no problem and we started talking.  His name is Noah Wolfson and he's just in the process of finishing a doctorate in biochemical engineering at the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor.  Noah was attempting his first 100 mile with only one 50 mile race from 2 years ago.  His training wasn't optimal either but he had a great attitude so I figured he had a chance to finish.  We ended up running together all the way to about 80 miles where he pulled ahead as I struggled with sleepiness.  I did catch him at the end of that 5th lap but he had a pacer for lap 6 so we didn't run together anymore.

Normally I don't try to run with anyone else but just do my own "steady effort" thing.  But Noah was willing to match my pace and it was really great to run so far with him.  We had interesting conversations about a bunch of stuff including academic stuff, life stuff, and of course running.  He was a ready sponge for my ultrarunning knowledge and I think he learned a lot because he was willing to listen to the voice of experience.  One thing he struggled with was stomach issues and I told him to back off on the food and keep emergency calories with him.  He did this and his stomach settled down and he never did have any energy issues.

I've really come to believe that many runners doing ultras eat too much.  You should shoot to eat the least amount of food possible during the event without getting bonky.  Every bit of blood flow that needs to go to your stomach is blood flow that cannot go to your legs or brain.  And if there isn't enough blood flow to go around then the stomach won't get it's share and you'll get sick.  This is over-simplified but basically true.  Train yourself to eat less during training and learn to listen to your body tell you just how much it needs during races.  I think you'll find that less is better.

Noah ran well with me but was complaining of shin tightness which really slowed him on the final lap. He finished though, in a respectable 26:31.  Congrats, Noah!  I really love to see people finish their first 100 miler and I find it really fun to be a part of that experience.  Just after the race he said he wasn't interested in doing another but in an email later in the week he said he was already looking for another. Ever heard that story before?

Thanks to the organizers, thanks to Bill, and to all the volunteers on the course.  It was a really fun event and I recommend it for anyone looking for a 100 mile event that runs like a party.  It would also be a great run to bring the whole family to.  Despite the hippy theme and drug references it really would be a great event to bring anyone to.  It had a real family feel.

Race count:  Liz (24)  Scott (17)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lean Horse 100

Lean Horse came the weekend following Leadville.  Liz and I were in the RV and drove to Hot Springs SD from Leadville leaving on Tuesday, stopping at the Boulder Running Company en route to look at some Hoka One One shoes.  Liz and I both owned a pair of Hokas and had done some running in them but they had both been bought online at big discounts and were too small.  One of the biggest physical ailments that both of us have been suffering from is tenderness in the bottoms of our feet.  Doing so many races and doing some rocky races in road shoes earlier in the year (Zion and OD in particular) had left the bottoms of our feet really sore both during runs as well as in between runs.

BRC had the full line of shoes in multiple sizes and we tried on most of them.  We both left the store with a new pair.  Liz bought the Stinson Evo ($180) and I got the Mafate 2 ($150).  Liz ended up running all of Leanhorse in hers and I did about 70 miles in mine.  We are now both in love with our Hokas!  Before this year I was really into the more minimalist shoes and I'm sure I'll go back after this year to a shoe where I can feel what I'm running over.  But for the rest of this year I will be doing most of my mile in Hokas for the simple reason that they protect the bottoms of the feet so well.

They are remarkably light and provide decent stability by having a very wide outsole.  The softness of the midsole also allows the shoe to conform to unevenness on the trail providing stability.  I have found that the shoes are a tiny bit narrow and the uppers don't give so well which has resulted in my toes taking more of a beating that with softer shoes.  I'm very happy, though, to trade some toenails and bruised toes for the protection of the soles of my feet.

I have wanted to do Lean Horse for several years but always imagined doing it fast, perhaps as a pr race.  The course has little climbing and the tread is almost perfect.  Alas, this year was not to be about speed.  I really did enjoy the race, though, and could see myself returning.  It is a great course for running a pr as long as the temps are not too high.  Liz and I were lucky with the weather once again with race day falling perfectly on a window of cool weather sandwiched between 90 degree days on both Friday and Sunday!  I believe it was about 15 degrees cooler on Saturday with a few clouds early in the day and clear skies late and at night.

The race has been going on since 2005 and RD Jerry "Marathon Man" Dunn has everything down to a science.  The pre race meeting and dinner was held at the Meuller Center in Hot Springs, SD, a nice venue with lots of room, wifi, and showers.  It is also the finish line of the race so you can hang out there and cheer runners coming in.  There was a short 10 minute bus ride to the start.  A huge shout out to all the volunteers and race staff.  Everything flowed really well and the aid stations were well stocked and well staffed with very helpful volunteers.

The course is mostly on the Mickelson Trail which is a crushed granite trail that is smooth as a baby's bottom ... well, almost that smooth.  The course has an out and back section that goes off the Mickelson Trail on the outbound only.  and then about 17 miles from the finish you turn off the MT to run into Hot Springs.  The turn around is in Hill City and the trail passes through Custer about 15 miles before Hill City.  The first part of the course is pretty but kind of flat and open but the further along you go the prettier it gets.  Up towards Custer and Hill City is it gorgeous.

I started out at a pace that felt fairly fast but with it being so flat it didn't feel too hard.  I felt good and forced myself to walk a lot of the very gradual uphills that many people were running.  I knew that these stretches would be fantastic for running in the other direction and didn't want to be too tired to roll on them.  I got to the turn around feeling good and after a quick stop to fix some chafing and to eat a bit I was headed back.  I saw Liz about a mile out and she was looking good and still moving well.

I continued to move well, enjoying the scenery and the cooling breezes.  All day long there had been intermittent breezes and they always felt cool.  At times the temps were just a bit warm but the breeze always felt nice.  As the light faded I continued on without turning on my headlamp as I often do long past when others have their lights on.  I love running at night but don't like running with a headlamp or handheld.  If I can run by ambient light or moonlight I'm happy but running with a lamp tires me out.  I continued on hoping that with the 3/4 moon at about 45 degrees and rising that I wouldn't have to use the headlamp much.

What followed was one of the most enjoyable stretches of night running I've ever experienced.  The MT is very smooth and flat with no rocks or ruts or anything to trip on so even if you are in a moon shadow you don't have to worry about tripping.  I was able to run most of the night just by the moonlight.  The trail is also a light color so it felt quite bright.  It was magical.  The beautiful scenery, the moonlight, the nice running and still feeling good all came together for a very memorable experience.  The only place I had to turn my light on was when we came off the road going toward Hot Springs and had to run some grassy trails for a few miles.

Coming back towards the spot where we turned off the MT and onto the Argyle Road I met up with Cheryl Lager another experienced 100 miler who I had heard of but never met.  We ended up running a good many miles together chatting and helping each other stay awake.  As we neared town Cheryl told me that she might be able to get her 100 mile pr here.  Leaving the last aid station she told me she was going to put on her music and push to the finish.  I decided to hang with her but my legs had a different idea.  I was mostly able to keep her in sight but she finished a couple minutes ahead of my 21:32 for a 10 minute or so pr as well as third woman.

When I got to the finish I checked to make sure that Liz wasn't too close to finishing so that I could get a bite to eat and a shower.  I did both of those and dragged one of our anti-gravity chairs over to the finish line along with my zero degree down sleeping bag and cheered people into the finish while waiting for Liz.  (It was quite chilly outside especially with the post race body chill.)  As the 24 hour deadline approached I joked with a 50 mile finisher taking finish photos sitting next to me that Liz would most likely finish between 23:50 and 24 hours as I thought she'd be close and I knew she'd push for it.  But 24 hours passed and still no Liz ... but it wasn't that long before she finished in 24:06 barely missing it.  It turns out she had been pushing hard for quite a while and thought at the final aid station that she had fewer miles to go than she actually had.

Cudos to the volunteers at the finish for the continuous stream of hot breakfast burritos and other goodies on Sunday morning!  There was a nice awards ceremony around 10 in the morning which was well attended and then everyone started leaving.  We had been camping out in the RV at the Meuller Center since Thursday and decided to wait until morning to start the long drive back to Georgia.  Next up is the Hallucination 100 in Michigan after one week off.  We would fly from Atlanta for that one.

Thank you Jerry and all volunteers for a wonderful weekend!

Race count:  Liz (23)  Scott (16)

Leadville 100

Leadville was in the middle of August and I'm writing this in October trying to catch up with my race reports.  Lean Horse, Hallucination and Georgia Jewel (each of which both Liz and I ran) will get me caught up.  This Leadville report is largely a negative spewfest against Lifetime Fitness and what the Leadville race has become.  If you don't like negativity then this report ain't for you.  Fair warning given.

The positive in this race this year was Liz achieving her 10th consecutive Leadville finish.  She is only the third woman to do 10 and the only woman ever to do them consecutively.  And she did this despite the curve ball thrown at us by race management this year.  I ended up quitting just before getting to Hope Pass on the way back because there was no way that I was going to make it to Twin Lakes before the cutoff and I didn't see any point to all the extra running and climbing just to time out there, especially with Lean Horse coming up the next weekend.

To be brutally honest, I have never been a big fan of the Leadville 100 race.  It was my second 100 miler back in 2002 and my first big goal 100.  (I did Umstead that same spring largely to see how I would handle the distance.)  I've learned, since 2002, that the hype and atmosphere of this race are just not my style.  I'm much more of a low key kind of guy.  The understated Hardrock 100 is more to my liking.  This is the same reason I've never even applied to Western States or done one of the huge big city road marathons.  To each his own.  They're just not my cup of tea.

So I'm not a big fan of the Leadville race but that's just my preference.  Besides my personal preferences, what happened this year at Leadville rises to, if not surpasses, a breach of contract with race applicants.  I was really pissed just after the race and planned to try to get my entry fee refunded to me but in the end decided that it probably wouldn't happen and wasn't worth the grief to try.  But I'm still disgusted with race management.  So what did they do?

Keep in mind that this race has the tightest cutoffs and one of the lowest finishing rates of any other 100 miler in this country.  30 hours to finish this race with 14k feet of climbing at altitude is very very tough and an approximate average finishing rate of 40% attests to that.  To be in line with other races the cutoff should be at least 32 hours if not 33 or 34.  I'm not saying that they should add time to the final cutoff.  On the contrary, I think having a race with tight cutoffs is good as long as you know what the challenge is when you sign up.  If hundreds of people are willing to pay the money knowing that it is unlikely they will finish then no problem.

When I signed up for this year's race late in 2011 I knew what the challenge was.  I've completed the race twice and paced another 200 or so miles on the course in other years.  I knew that this year would be more difficult due to doing so many races prior to Leadville.  But I was willing to give it a go, thinking that while it would be hard it was doable.  Then 3 days before the start of the race, race management announces that there would be a course change.  And this was to be no small change....

The change was in the last few miles where, instead of running down from Hope Pass to the Winfield road and then up to Winfield, we would follow a new single track trail out to Winfield and back.  This change would add approximately 3 miles, 800 feet of climbing, and for back of the packers, close to two hours of running.  And all this announced just 3 days before the start of the race with arguably the toughest cutoffs of any 100 mile race out there!  Historically, close to half of the finishers of Leadville finish the race in the last two hours.  This was an ambush!  Not only was the course longer and with more climbing but it took away several miles of easy dirt road running and replaced it with newly constructed, twisty, narrow, up and down single track.  Instead of looking forward to a place to regroup on the Winfield road you now had to maintain focus and concentration the entire way out and back from Winfield.

Those who know me would attest that I'm no whiner but this move on race management's part was just wrong.  Morally, ethically, perhaps legally, wrong.  If you're going to make one of the toughest to finish races out there even tougher to finish, at least do it before you have the participant's money in your grubby hands.  It really makes me wonder if the people (person?) making the decision was looking at how many fewer buckles they would have to hand out.  Or maybe they were calculating the cost of cookies and coke for all those people coming back.  I dare anyone to challenge the idea that Leadville is now all about the $$$.  Lifetime fitness paid a lot of money for this race and they are milking this modern day gold mine.  The awards ceremony felt like a WWF arena with the high tech blaring PA system and two Masters of Ceremony rather than Race Directors handing out awards.  The two guys doing the ceremony looked to me like two guys doing a job and nothing more.  I detected zero emotional involvement in the event or the participants.

Lifetime Fitness is providing a product and if that's where you want to spend your money that's fine.  But I will never again write a check for any Leadville event.  I think that the Grand Slam should seriously think about allowing an alternative event for Leadville so people can take part in that challenge without having to put up with Lifetime Fitness.  I'm sure I'll have friends do the race and I'm sure I'll help some of them with it but I'll never compete there again.

Having said all of this I must mention that I do like what this has done for the town of Leadville.  Ken and Merilee as well as Lifetime Fitness donate to the Leadville Legacy Foundation but the amount is a pittance compared to the revenue generated by the races.  The town really does benefit though from all of the money spent there during all these sporting events.  That's a very good thing.  I like the town and it's people.

Okay, rant over.  It is what it is.  I'm sure Lifetime Fitness will start 800+ runners again next summer.  I just hope the runners are able to run the event they signed up for.

Race count:  Liz (22)  Scott (15)