Thursday, August 26, 2010

Leadville Trail 100 Race Recap

Katy and Bronwyn, her crew chief, tried to leave for Leadville on Thursday night but got vehemently denied by a combination of mudslides and one badly running RV. Instead, we headed south the next morning, me following in my truck. After the heavy rains the day before, it was a beautiful morning and we made it to Leadville in plenty of time for Katy to do her pre-race medical check-in and to sit in on the race briefing and crew meeting. 800 runners had registered for this year's race, it's largest field ever and about 750 made it to the starting line (362 finishers) Saturday morning at 4 a.m.

We awoke around 2:30 a.m., got ready and drove to the start. Even in the dark, cold morning, the energy at 6th and Harrison was palpable. Bronwyn, myself and other crew members, Johnathan and Laura, watched on as Katy and hundreds of other runners, streamed down the road, headlights beaming, beginning a grand adventure. We then loaded up into the Suburban and made our way to the first aid station, May Queen, where we would resupply Katy after the first 13.5 miles around Turquoise Lake.

Due to the incredible volume of people crewing for runners, the roads were a madhouse all day. At May Queen, we parked about a half mile from the aid station, assembled and loaded a gear chariot and towed Katy's supplies (food, extra clothing, etc.) down to meet her. Katy arrived at May Queen looking calm and relaxed in about 2.5 hours. Her first question, "Did you bring the blue bag?" was met with befuddled looks from the rest of us. Immediately, John bolted into a run back to the Suburban. As a crew, we were now batting 0 for 1. Still, there was no big hurry to get Katy out on the trail right away and she ate a little and stayed warm until John returned with her gear. The next leg had an aid station about 10 miles from this point but we wouldn't meet her until Twin Lakes, about 27 miles away. She packed and wore a running backpack with enough supplies to get her there. After a brief stay, she rejoined the race and began the trek up the Colorado Trail towards Hagerman Pass and onto what would become her toughest stretch.

After leaving Katy, the rest of the crew went back to our campsite to prep food for later in the day and I tried to start mentally preparing myself to pace. We left for Twin Lakes and arrived there a couple hours before we expected Katy to arrive. The little "town" was all abuzz and the front runners were already starting to trickle through. When she finally arrived, Katy complained that the IT band (connective tissue running along the quadracep from the hip to the knee) in her left leg was giving her problems and locking her leg up when she tried to run flats or downhills. The pain had started around mile 18 and wasn't getting any better. John, our masseuse, worked on her for a few minutes as she ate and got ready to climb Hope Pass. I think everyone was little nervous at this point but Katy was determined to keep going. A few minutes after she left Twin Lakes, she called from her cell phone to tell me that she had passed the leader, Anton Krupicka, going the other way (Unfortunately, Anton ended up not finishing the race after "bonking" around mile 80) and to say her leg was locking up again. Still, we stuck to the plan and John, Laura and I went to Winfield to wait for her.

After a dusty and slow drive out to the ghost town of Winfield, we anxiously waited a few hours for Katy's arrival. There was well over a thousand people at the turnaround and it was really quite a spectacle as masses of people gathered to spectate and support these incredible runners. As it got later and later passed the time we expected her to show up, we knew Katy's injury was getting the best of her. We started to think that maybe she had turned around and headed back to Twin Lakes but with a scant 45 minutes to go before the cutoff time, Katy came rolling into Winfield. Her IT band had definitely taken a turn for the worse but she was determined to continue as long as she could. After another massage and conferring with a doctor at the medical tent (who recommended she NOT continue), I joined my beautiful and persistant girlfriend back down the dusty road for 3 miles before heading up the south side of Hope Pass.

We tried to run on the road but it was just too painful for her. However, once we reached the trail she had no problem with the uphill hike. On the contrary, we began passing many people on the climb. Most were just having trouble dealing with the altitude. I know it was frustrating for her that we had no problem passing 20 or so people on the uphill knowing that the downhill would be excruciatingly slow. We reached the Hopeless aid station (complete with 30 or so llamas that had brought in all the supplies) just as the sun was going down, around 8 p.m., and ate a cup of noodles and stood by a fire for a couple minutes. It was getting cold and we were a little underdressed since we had planned to do all this section in daylight. Still, we trudged on downhill, into the dark woods. After about an hour more, we reached the first of several, cold water crossings. These, combined with some cold mud, made the last mile fairly uncomfortable. Just after 10 p.m., we reached the Twin Lakes aid station, 15 minutes after the 9:45 p.m. cut off time. Katy's run had covered 60.5 miles in 18 hours. Not her desired result but very impressive considering her physical condition. Mentally, she did not let down at ANY time. She's a champ.

After a few hours of sleep, we awoke to cheer on some of the final runner's along the part of the course that went by our campsite. Around 9 a.m. we all went to the finish line to watch the last people who would make the 30-hour cutoff (and one that wouldn't). The street was lined with a couple hundred people and the finish was a very emotional scene, especially for these final runners who had fought the course longer than those before them. Particularly moving for me was one man who was in the 70-79 year age group who finished with about 10 minutes to spare. The crowd roared as he came through. Amazing. Chances are very good that Katy and I will both attempt the Leadville 100 next year.

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