Monday, September 3, 2012

Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run (er.. ahh... 75 mile)

So that's what it feels like.  This was my first DNF in any race at any distance, guess I was due for one eventually.  Some factors are under our control, some aren't, this one involves a bit of both.  In a nutshell, the altitude kicked my ass.....or did it?

Off to Colorado
I flew into Denver on Thursday with Kendra, Steve and Steve's pacer Jerome.  Carlos, Chris and his wife Kim flew in earlier that day so they were already in Leadville.  We met my girlfriend Lisa in Denver (she'd flown in from Vegas), we grabbed our rental cars and headed west up into the mountains.  We stopped along the way for supplies at Walmart then dinner in a small town.  Denver is at about 5,000 feet elevation, as we got closer to Leadville you could really feel the difference.  Leadville is at 10,152 feet.  It is designated at the highest city in the US (pop. less than 3000, not exactly a city).  It has the highest airport and highest golf course in the US.  It's a beautiful old west town, most buildings are from the 1800s.

We arrived in Leadville just after 9:30pm.  Race starts in just over 30 hours, plenty of time to acclimate to the altitude, right?  As soon as we arrived, carrying the bags up the stairs at the hotel had us out of breath.  I felt some pressure in my head, other than that I felt ok so far...

We got to bed by 11pm, not bad.  Set the alarm for 8am, this would give me plenty of sleep... or so I thought.  I woke up at 1:30am with a massive headache and feeling nauseous.  I went to the bathroom and drank lots of water and took an Advil, then spent the next couple hours trying not to throw up.  Fell back to sleep at 3:30am, then woke up feeling like crap again at 6:30am.  I tossed and turned until 8am then I drank lots more water hoping to feel better.

We headed to the medical check-in first thing to get it out of the way.  I also wanted to do the weigh-in before eating a big breakfast, if you loose too much weight during the race they'll pull you out (little did I know this would really not be a problem for me, read on...).  I weighed in at 167.9lbs, great racing weight for me.

After the medical check-in, we had breakfast then it's off to the pre-race meeting at 11am.  This was in a super crowded, felt like a sauna.  I was still feeling like crap, nausea was better but headache was still there. During the meeting, they mentioned that the course was actually going to be 3 miles longer than usual.  We were actually notified of this a few days prior, but we didn't realize the dramatic impact this would have on our race.  The old route had us run along a dusty dirt road before the 50 mile turnaround, now we had a hilly trail instead.  It would be a nicer run, but take much longer.  We didn't know it yet, but this would add about an hour to our times, throwing our plans and predictions for each aid station arrival time out the window. They did adjust the cutoff times at the aid stations to allow for the extra distance, but the final cutoff was still 30 hours.

Following the meeting, we stuck around for crew/pacer information session, this was very helpful.  By the time this was done it was early afternoon.  We went for lunch, then I went back to the hotel to pack my drop bags.  They had to be dropped off between 3 and 5pm, after that you can't drop them.

Then Lisa and I went for a drive to find some of the aid stations.  Unfortunately, none of the aid stations were marked yet, so we'd follow the directions which basically point you in the right direction to get there, but without the stations being set up we didn't know where exactly they were.  It was still very helpful to find which way to go now, instead of Lisa trying to figure it out during the race.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful the whole way.

After this, we went for some pasta at Pizza Hut (the only chain restaurant in town).  All of the restaurants on the main street had waiting lists, but I remembered there was a Pizza Hut on the edge of town when we drove in, no wait there.  Fine by me, I just wanted some pasta.  We then went back to the hotel and off to bed.  Headache was still there, but it had been feeling better throughout the day.  I was very dehydrated all day, even though I made sure to drink lots.  Set the alarm for 2:15am and went off to sleep...

Race Day!
Woke up at 2am, 15 minutes before the alarm.  I was feeling fine, headache was gone!  Still pressure in my head, but no longer a painful headache.  I got up, did my usual routine of having Mr. Noodles while I sit in a hot bath soaking my legs.  Also had a coffee and banana.  Our hotel was serving breakfast at 3am, so I grabbed a muffin on the way out the door.

Lisa and I met the others outside their hotel (1 block away, then it's just 1 more block to the start).  It was cool but not bad, maybe 12 or 13 degrees.  We all headed to the start and wished each other well.  There was a buzz in the air, very exciting.  This was a much different vibe than the usual 100s, this felt like it was on a different level (it literally was I guess at 10,000 feet).  Carlos headed closer to the front while the rest of us hung back a bit.  I've heard over and over again not to go out too fast in this race, you should start much slower then you normally would.  After running it now, I'd disagree.

We're Off!... Start to May Queen (13.5 miles) - Stage 1 of 12:
4am and we're off!  802 runners, very crowded for awhile but at least we're on roads for the first bit (some asphalt, some dirt).  This leg was basically a run out of town, along some dirt roads then rolling single tack trail along the edge of Turquois Lake to May Queen.

I stayed with Chris and JD for the first hour; Carlos was way ahead, Kendra and Steve were just behind us.  I drank way to much, I had to stop for a huge piss 15 minutes in!  Then a few more not long after that.  Some races I'll go up to 5hrs before my first pit stop, this was weird.  I was going much slower than I wanted to, but I was heeding the warnings I'd heard about not going too fast at the start.  After an hour I told Chris I was going to go, I wanted to beat some people before we got to the single track where it would be hard to pass.  I passed lots of people on the remaining roads.  Once we hit the single track, it was just a long conga line.  The trails were still pretty wide, so I kept passing people trying to get further ahead before it thinned out.  Between the road and the trail, I must have passes over a hundred people, I was feeling great.  Then the trail got thinner and it was harder to pass.  I kept getting stuck behind a long line of people, I had no choice but to follow along as we couldn't pass on a lot of the thin trails.  This slowed me down quite a bit, but I still got to May Queen right about where I expected in 2h27min at 6:27am.  Feeling just dandy at this point.

May Queen to Fish Hatchery (23.5 miles) - Stage 2 of 12:
The aid station at May Queen was a zoo, way too many people at one time.  I had to wait in line to get my bottles filled.  I grabbed lots of fruit, some PBnJ and I was off.  This 10 mile leg is a long climb up dirt roads to Sugarloaf Pass at 11,000 feet, then a rapid decent down the dreaded Powerline which is dirt trails on the way down.

At the top of Sugarloaf Pass

Still feeling good, I recognized a runner I'd met at Ontario Ultra Series events, Alan from Michigan.  We ran together for awhile, but we had very different styles.  He seemed to prefer to walk more than I did on the gradual uphills, I prefer a slow jog.  I tend to pass people on the hills and they catch me on the flats, so I said good-bye figuring I'd see him again in a bit and I went on ahead.  I did indeed keep passing people all the way up, still feeling great.  Same thing on the way down Powerline, I was flying the whole way down passing people.  I got to Fish Hatchery way ahead of schedule in 2h05min at 8:33am, still feeling good.

Fish Hatchery to Half Pipe (29.1 miles) - Stage 3 of 12:
This leg sucks big time (it would suck much, much more on the return trip).  It's about 3 miles of flat asphalt road, followed by just over 2.5 miles of mostly flat dirt road.  Good for making up time, but the long straight road felt like forever with only 1 turn on the road.  One friggin turn, you think I'd remember where the one friggin turn is?  Later...

I ate some food here, again grabbing fruit when I left.  Lisa was waiting for me here so I sat in my chair for a couple minutes while I ate.  I'd been taking gels every hour, hadn't been taking salt pills as it was cool in the morning and I wasn't sweating.  I left feeling good and hit the flat roads.  Alan passed me here as expected.

Just over halfway through this leg is a crew access point called Treeline.  There's no aid station but crew is allowed to meet you here.  As I ran though it, I kept looking for Lisa (I was really getting hungry now) but didn't see her so I kept right on going.  I found out later she was waiting here but had to pee, when she returned she saw me off in the distance running away.  Too bad, I would have liked some fruit cups!  Luckily someone was handing out watermelon just after this spot, so I grabbed a bunch.

I arrived at Half Pipe in 1h33min at 10:03am, still ahead of schedule!  I was feeling great, this was going well!

Half Pipe to Twin Lakes (39.5 miles) - Stage 4 of 12:
Leaving Half Pipe is mostly uphill as we climb partway up Mt. Elbert, which is actually the highest mountain in the Rockies.  It's basically rolling trails which go more uphill.  After about 7.5 miles, there's an aid station on Mt. Elbert with liquid only.  I sat in a chair here for a minute while I had a drink before heading off to Twin Lakes.

This stretch was my favourite part of the course.  The next 3 miles are downhill with great views of Twin Lakes and you can see across the lakes to the mountains there and Hope Pass.  Some of the downhills were very steep, as much as I was enjoying this I couldn't help think of what it will feel like to climb back up all this later, after going over Hope Pass twice.  Yikes.  Got to Twin Lakes in 2h13min at 12:16pm, basically on schedule.  I was getting tired now, but feeling ok.

Twin Lakes to Hopeless (44.5 miles) - Stage 5 of 12:
This next few miles coming up would by my downfall.  Up until this point I'd been feeling great.  I'd been eating ok, maybe I could have eaten a little more but I was at least eating.  I didn't realize it, but I hadn't been taking my salt pills though.  It was cool in the morning but the temps were in the mid 20s now so I was sweating plenty.  Lisa was waiting for me here, I sat down to eat and change my shoes.  There was a river crossing coming up, so I changed into my older trail shoes so that I could put my newer dry shoes back on when I arrive back here in the evening after a 2nd river crossing.  I still hadn't seen any of the others.  I knew Carlos was ahead, the others were behind me but not too far so maybe somebody would catch up soon.

This leg is simple but brutal.  The first mile or so is flat across fields, then you cross an icy cold river before another field then climbing 2,600 feet over the next 3.5 miles to Hopeless aid station.  Right after that, you climb another 800 feet to the top of Hope Pass, but that's on the next leg.

As I headed across the fields, I was starting to feel tired but I was still ok.  I'd run over 40 miles now at an altitude over 10,000 feet and done most of it ahead of schedule.  I guess the altitude wasn't such a big deal after all! Wishful thinking...

Crossing the Arkansas River before the climb up Hope
After the river, there's a flat field then I started climbing.  I overheard a woman behind me who'd obviously done this before, so asked her if she had any advise for the climb.  She said just pick a slow steady pace and keep going, don't speed up or slow down, just keep the same pace.  Was this good advise?  I don't know but I tried it anyway.  I pulled away from her and kept right on passing people.  There were some steep rocky climbs here, but I was feeling ok so kept pushing on passing people over and over.  This was going well so far.
Hello Anton's Belly!
The person picked to win the race was one Anton Krupika.  He's won it twice before and was planning to do the same this year.  He's easy to spot, super thin with a huge beard and hair, never wears a shirt.  I figured he'd be heading back sometime while I'm heading up Hope Pass.  At one point, I was right behind another runner on some thin rocky single track.  As we were stepping up some rocks, I was right on his ass about to pass him when he suddenly jumped to the right.  As I glanced up I just saw a flash of a shirtless guy slamming on the brakes and sliding right into me; I ducked down and my head went right into his belly!  It was Anton in first place flying down Hope Pass.  I moved to side and apologized then I yelled 'RUNNER!' to the people behind me.  Then I yelled at the morons in front of me who didn't yell 'runner'.  Wtf?  Maybe because he was the first runner to pass in the other direction, nobody was ready yet but come on, really?  Common sense and common courtesy.  At least I got to meet Anton, or his belly anyway.  He tired near the end and finished 4th place, hopefully not due to my head in his stomach!

Actually, maybe Anton's belly was my turning point, because right after that the whole thing went to shit.  About halfway up the climb, I started to get lightheaded and really tired.  So far I hadn't stopped once the whole way up (following nameless lady's advise), but finally about 2/3rds the way up I had to sit down and rest my legs.  I ate a fruit cup, had a drink then kept going, only sitting for about a minute.  I was having problems keeping my balance and moving very slowly.  It was at this point I noticed my belly was actually sagging over my belt.  You'd think this would be alarming, but I was a bit out of it and just figured it was kind of weird but whatever.  I was more concerned with staying upright.  All of the people I'd passed and left behind earlier were now passing me, including my nameless advisor.

At one point a woman passed me and said 'Come on, jump in behind me and keep moving'.  I stepping in behind her and there were about 10 people in line behind me following her.  At first she was very encouraging and kept telling people to keep moving, she would welcome anyone we passed on the side of the trail to come with us and we'll get this done.  This was nice at first, but after a few minutes I just wanted her to shut the hell up.  Once she started babbling about how soldiers used to climb this in the civil war during the winter snow, I'd had enough.  I stepped off to the side, let the line pass and I jumped in at the back.  I told the guy in front of me I couldn't take anymore of this woman, then he told me she's finished this race 10 times and I should probably listen to her.  Oops.  Then some of the race leaders zoomed by going the other direction, one of them yelled out 'Liz Bauer, you're the most badass runner out here!'.  Then other race leaders would say hi to her as they passed.  Apparently everyone knew who she was except me.  Guess I picked the wrong advisor...

I couldn't keep up with the line and had to let them go.  I never stopped again on the way up, but I think snails and turtles were passing me.  By now we were above the treeline and it was just a big slope with rocks.  I could see the aid station way up there, so I just kept plodding along until I got there.  Once I arrived, I saw an empty chair and sat my ass down,  I was completely drained.  This 5 mile leg took me 3h13min, arriving just before 3:30pm.  Climbing this thing was hard as hell, but the way back would be much, much harder.  I was now way off pace.

Hopeless to Winfield (50 miles) - Stage 6 of 12:
Hopeless aid station is so far up the mountain, they use llamas to haul the supplies up here.  The aid station volunteers were great, it's a big party for them up here every year.  It looked like a party too, with me sitting in a chair barely conscious and they guys beside me throwing up.

This leg starts with switchbacks climbing up another 800 feet to the top of Hope Pass, then you descend down the steep backside to the bottom.  Here is where they screwed us, I mean switched the course.  In the past, you'd run along a rolling dirt road to Winfield, a small old ghost town which is the 50 mile turnaround.  The road is crowded with cars and very dusty, so they got permission to use a trail instead, but this added 1.5 miles each way.  This 1.5 miles is NOT flat, but very hilly.  They just announced this 1 week prior, so nobody knew what we were in for.

I found out later that once you get up to Hope Pass, you should quickly head back down to lower altitude. I didn't know this so I sat there trying to eat for 15 minutes.  I had some noodles, but they weren't going down.  I tried some fruit, but I just didn't feel hungry and nothing tasted good.  I dragged myself up from the chair and looked up.  Still 800 feet to climb to the top of the pass.  I headed up the switchbacks and kept moving until I got to the top.  Words can't express the awesome views from up here.  Now at 12,600 feet you can see all the way down and mountain peaks in every direction.  Then I got back to reality and started heading down the backside.  This was much steeper and rockier than the climb up, but the worst part was I'd have to climb back up this in a few hours.  I tried not to think about it and kept heading down.  I was ok on the downhills, I'd take big strides and let gravity do the work.

When I got to the bottom, they had a volunteer standing there directing people toward the trail "just a short ways along this rolling trail".  Fuck you buddy.  Thanks for volunteering though.  After a few minutes, I thought I'll just run along here for a bit and I'll be there.  Then I met Carlos heading in the other direction.  He looked tired but he was moving along.  He said to get moving, it's still an hour to Winfield.  What?  An hour?  I couldn't believe it.  The next few people I passed going the other direction I would ask what time they left Winfield.... yup, an hour.  I was already behind schedule, but this was adding much more time than expected.

Thanks Dude!
Turns out the trail to Winfield is rolling, but it's uphill!  I was really down in the dumps here, I was really tired and had stopped keeping track of gels and electrolyte pills a long time ago.  I kept trying to run as much as I could, but the uphills we killing me.  I was still managing to pass some people, but I felt like shit.  Some guy ran behind me for a bit, I asked if he wanted to pass but he said no.  When I got tired, he encouraged me to keep going, I ran slowly and said "This is all I can do".  He said "Come on, let's go!".

Somehow having this stranger behind me pushing me along lit a fire under my ass, I picked up the pace and we started passing people.  After mostly uphill for 45min, some guy said "it's downhill after the next climb".  Thank God.  I got to the next crest and we started flying downhill.  I wanted to make up for lost time and I took full advantage of the downhill, knowing there was an aid station at the end. Whenever we'd pass someone I'd yell "On your left, there's 2 of us!" and we'd shoot past.  After 10 minutes or so I was still yelling this, but I looked back for the first time in awhile and my anonymous motivator was gone!  I'd been yelling there's 2 of us but I have no idea where I left him in my dust.  Oh well, thanks dude!

Stumbling into Winfield at 50 miles

I was out of breath and exhausted when I got to Winfield, I didn't break my pace the whole way downhill. So, I'm half done this thing now? Ugh. This leg took me 1h49min. My prediction chart had me arriving here at best case 3pm, worst case 4:45pm. It was now 5:25pm.

Winfield to Hopeless (55.5 miles) - Stage 7 of 12:
I arrived at Winfield in the worst condition I'd ever run in.  Mentally I was frustrated that it took me so long to get here.  Physically, I was fucked.  First thing you do is get weighed in to make sure you haven't lost too much weight.  I started at 167.9.  I stepped on the scale thinking "please don't be too low, pleeeease don't be to low", then the scale showed 175!  Oh shit.  I was retaining WAY too much water, but how?  The medical staff asked me if I'd been peeing, I lied and said yes.  Truth is, I couldn't remember the last time is peed.  I recall earlier in the day I felt like I had to go, but when I tried barely any came out, I never thought about it (I had a few other things on my mind).  I looked at my hands and realized they were getting big.  Not good.

Lisa wasn't supposed to meet me at Winfield, I told her to skip it and just meet me at Twin Lakes on the way back, but she came anyway and I was so glad to see her.... and my chair! She was there with Kim and Jerome; Jerome was waiting for Steve so he could pace him back over the mountain.  I sat down in my chair to rest, told them I'd gained 7 lbs.  I felt nauseous.  Lisa tried to feed me various foods but I couldn't eat.  I got a bit of watermelon down but that's it.  I had to sit for a bit, I couldn't go on right now.

Just after me, Chris came in.  He was bitching (rightfully so) about the extra distance and trying to figure out if we had time to make it back before the next cutoff.  Then JD came in, he was pissed to.  He did the math and figured there wasn't time to make it back to Twin Lakes.  I just sat there with my head hanging down listening.  It took me 5 hrs to get from Twin Lakes over Hope Pass to here, we had just over 4 hrs to make it back.  I attempted to get up and go, but still felt nauseous so I waited a bit more.  Chris had left now, he was going to go for it.  Finally at 5:45pm, I made myself get up and I slowly made my way out of the aid station.  Steve was coming in as I was leaving, he asked if I wanted his pacer but I declined.  He was just arriving at almost 5:50pm, so he knew he didn't have time to check-in, refuel and turn around in time head back.

As I left Winfield, I knew they were extending the cutoff 15 minutes due to the course change, but I thought the extension was to 9:45pm, giving me 4hrs to get back over the mountain to Twin Lakes.  Along the way I learned that the old cutoff was 9:45pm, the extension was until 10pm, giving me 4h 15min.  I'm glad I didn't know this because the 4hr cutoff is what made me move.

I powerhiked uphill out of Winfield, not sure if I was feeling better or if I just put it out of my mind, but I was focused on making the cutoff.  The first 20min or so is uphill.  I was passing many runners heading in the other direction into Winfield, I felt bad for them as none of them would have time to make it, they were all done (the cutoff at Winfield was 6:15pm).  Once I got to the top of the last uphill, I knew it was now mostly downhill to the base of Hope Pass.  I knew I had to either go hard now or it was over.

I took off running and never stopped until I reached the base, about 40 min or so.  I was flying along passing everyone, I was actually confused as to why others weren't moving with more urgency.  I passed Chris early on and told him we have to run this whole section if we want to make it.  Just after that I passed Kendra, I don't even recall seeing her at Winfield.  By the time I reached the base I was spent.  I used too much energy running hard to get here, now I had to climb the steeper side of Hope Pass.

My quads were done, it was a very slow climb.  I had to stop and sit every few minutes to get strength back in my legs just to continue.  This was extremely frustrating as I just wanted to go but couldn't.  As I climbed higher I was light headed and couldn't balance.  By halfway up, this was the most exhausted I'd ever been.  When other runners passed me as I sat there, some would give me a double take.  Wtf are they looking at?  Then someone stopped to ask me if I was ok, I said I was just tired, why?  They told me I was very pale.  Great, add it to the fucking list.

What a huge sense of relief when I finally reached the top. Climbing that shit in the condition I was in was the hardest thing I've ever done.  I looked back down and could see Kendra not far behind now, but no sign of Chris.  The temperature had now dropped quite a bit and it was getting dark.  I had a windbreaker in my pack so I finally put it on, then started running down the north side toward Hopeless aid station.  I made here in 2h50min.  I didn't really have time to stop here but I had to sit for a few minutes.

Hopeless to Twin Lakes (60.5 miles) - Stage 8 of 12:
As tough as the climb was, I now had to descend 2,600 feet as quickly as possible in order to make the cutoff.  By now I knew the cutoff was 10pm, but it was going to be very close if I even made it.  I sat down if front of a warm fire and was able to get some noodles down, total stop was 7 minutes.

My main headlamp and flashlight were waiting for me at Twin Lakes, I thought I'd be there before dark.  Thank goodness I kept a light attached to my belt, I removed it and carried it in my hand for light.  This was way less light than I'd like to have sprinting down rocky trails, but at least I had that.  I ran down the entire mountain as fast as I possibly could.  I was tripping and stumbling the whole way, but managed to stay upright.  I kept my single light shining a ways in front of me, trying to spot the obstacles ahead of time.

I passed a few people on the way down, including 2 goofs who offered me $100 for my light, they didn't have one!  I assume it was at Twin Lakes with my other lights.  When I reached the bottom, my quads were fried.  I now had to run 1.5 miles across fields and the river.  Trying to keep running across the flat fields was excruciating, my legs were done and I was almost out of time.  I came into Twin Lakes at 9:55pm, 5 minutes ahead of the cutoff!  Winfield over the mountain to Twin Lakes took me 4h 10min, the toughest 4h 10min I've ever had.

Twin Lakes to Half Pipe (70.9 miles) - Stage 9 of 12:
Lisa managed to find me in the dark, I checked in and she directed me to my chair.  As I sat there, I could see the last few runners pass by before 10pm.  I was hoping to see Chris and Kendra come in, but unfortunately not.  Then we could see they were still letting runners check in.  Due to the extra distance debacle they decided on the spot to add another 15 minutes to the cutoff at this station only, so runners now had until 10:15pm. Who the fuck is running this thing?  If runners knew ahead of time that they had until 10:15pm, that would have effected their mindset and whether or not to go for it while they're killing themselves on the mountain (Chris included, had he known of the extension I'm sure he would have made a push for it).

Kim gave me some noodles she had brought for Chris, these hit the spot.  I still couldn't handle much food here.  I should have had some coffee now but the thought turned my stomach.  I rested for about 20min here, I had to.  Before leaving, I put on my warm hat, gloves and dry shirt under my windbreaker.  I knew I had some big climbing ahead of me up to Mt. Elbert aid station, but my quads really didn't want to go.  I verified the next cutoff time at Half Pipe, it was in 3hrs 15min at 1:30am.  Okee fine.

This stage absolutely sucked.  It took forever to climb up with my dead legs.  I now had to stop and sit on any uphill, just to get strength keep moving up.  Downhills were fine, uphills brought me to a stop.  On one of the downhills, I passed by a couple of runners and one of them said "Morgan?".  I turned around, it was Kendra!  I couldn't believe it, she was still in it!  I assumed she didn't make the last cutoff as I never saw her run by, turns out she thought she was done but squeaked in with the extended cutoff.  This was great, I ran with her and her companion for a bit.  The excitement of a familiar face was short lived, I couldn't keep up on the uphills!  I'd run ahead on the few downhills, but we were still heading mostly uphill so I had to let them go ahead as I kept stopping to sit at each uphill.  Very frustrating, but there's nothing I could do.

It was now that I realized I should have had some coffee earlier, I was so exhausted and sleepy.  I started nodding off and stepping off the trail while running.  When I sat down on each uphill, my head would drop and I'd nod off for a few seconds.  I've been sleepy at night during races before, but never this tired.  My fingers were getting numb now, I wasn't sure if it was from the bloating (hands kept getting bigger) or if it was from the cold.  My watch was now tight on my wrist, it's usually hanging a bit loose but my wrists were big too.

I was in a haze and had absolutely no idea how long it was until the next aid station, I assumed with my sleepy plodding and sit downs that I wouldn't make the next cutoff.  I was so tired, I didn't even know if I cared at this point.  Then I saw a light approaching, it was an ATV.  The guy stopped to ask me if I'd seen a runner he was looking for, I said no, then asked him how far to the next aid station.  He said it's less than a mile.  I looked at my watch, it was 1:18am, I had 12 minutes.  Crap, guess I better do this... I picked up the pace and arrived at 1:27am, 3 minutes ahead of the cutoff!  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry...

Half Pipe to Some Fucking Freezing Cold Barren Country Road (75 miles) - Stage 10 of 12:
I had a cup of coffee here and a bit of noodles.  There were a bunch of other runners here who were dropping, along with some runners right behind me who didn't make the cutoff.  I sat here for just over 10 minutes before I could drag my butt out of here.  Next cutoff was at 3:15am, I had just over 90 minutes to run 6.5 miles, plus it was flat dirt road (slight uphill), then 5km of flat roads.  No problem.

About 2 miles in, after the uphill dirt road, there's a spot where crew can meet you called Treeline.  Lisa was waiting there for me, the only car left.  I sat down briefly and had a bit of soup.  We talked about the cutoff times and realized I had time to make the next cutoff, so I quickly got up to go.  The next cutoff was do-able, then the stage after that is 10 miles but gives you 3.5 hrs to do it.  If I could get myself up the dreaded Powerline climb, I'm sure I can fly on the downhill to May Queen.  Once there, you have 3h15min of flat and rolling 13.5 miles to the finish.  So as long as I could get up Powerline in a half decent time (wishful thinking maybe), I was actually going to finish this!

The temperature had dropped to freezing now, so she gave me a thicker shirt but I didn't want to bother taking off my pack and jacket, I told her it's only a few miles to the next aid station so I'll put it on then.  I got up and started running toward the trail to the road.  There was nobody coming behind me, there was a reason Lisa was the only car waiting, I was now in last place out of all the runners still in it.

I headed along the trail across a field to the road.  I wasn't moving very fast here but I was doing ok for time so just kept moving as best I could.  I was beyond exhausted and just kept moving to get to the road.  As much as I prefer the trails, I'd make up good time on the flat road.

Road to Nowhere
I got to the road at exactly 2:37am, leaving me 38 minutes to run a flat, paved 3.5 mile (5.7km) to the next aid station before the cutoff.  I actually thought is was more like 7km, (I looked at a map later and realized it`s 5.7km) so I summoned all the energy I could and picked up the pace, I was running fast down the road thinking it would be a close call.  I knew I was supposed to turn left, so when I got to the first road and I saw the small purple flags that lined the course positioned in a curving pattern to the left (which traditionally signifies a turn), I of course turned left and kept motoring along.  I didn't see any more flags but I just figured it's a straight road, they're not going to bother with more flags until they're needed again. 

I started to wonder what was going on, a few times I stopped and turned around wondering if I went the wrong way, but how?  I hadn`t seen ANY flags.  After 15 minutes or so, I realized I was definitely not on course..... and I was done.  I'd gone over a mile in the wrong direction and didn't have time to get back on course and make the cutoff.  I couldn't believe all my training, expenses and sacrifice to gear my year around this race had come to and end with a wrong turn.   I never should have been in such a time crunch anyway, that`s my own fault.  It`s also my fault for not knowing the course, but who the hell puts the flags rounding the corner when it`s a straight run past the intersection?  Doesn`t matter, I was done.  Part of me felt a huge burden lifted, but mostly I was just disappointed.  So after 23 hours and 75 miles (actually a little more with the course change), I was done and had my first DNF.

I walked the whole way back to the correct road very slowly.  I didn`t have the energy to run back, I was only running up until now out of urgency to stay in the race.  Temperature was zero, there were even a few flurries and I was freezing.  I was just wearing my windbreaker and my shirts under it were soaked.  As I slowly walked along, there was nobody around.  802 runners and I`m completely alone at 3:15am on a country road.  I switched my headlamp to strobe, it does an SOS flash so I hoped someone would see it and pick me up.  I could hear coyotes howling in the fields around me, but I still couldn`t run.  I walked back to the turn I screwed up and looked at the flags. It was clearly marked like a turn, but I should`ve remembered from running by here earlier.  There were Leadville signs just down the road from where I turned, but they`re all facing the other direction so we`d see them on the way out, not the way back.

After wandering alone for over half an hour, I finally saw some headlights approaching in the distance.  The car slowed down and stopped, thank goodness it was Lisa.  She went to look for me when I didn`t show up.  I was so happy to get in the warm car.  She drove me to the next aid station so I could hand in my timing chip, then we headed back to the hotel.

Post Race Fun
When we got back to the hotel, I got in a hot bath to warm up.  My chest was a bit sore and my breaths were wheezing a bit when I exhaled, but I though it was nothing.  My hands were huge now, along with every other part of my body.  Lisa wanted me to head to the medical tent, but I was way too tired to get dressed and walk a few more blocks.  After warming up in the tub for a little while, my breathing was becoming  more labored and I was wheezing while inhaling now.  Ok, I give... off to the see the medics.

They tried to weigh me but the scales weren`t working properly.  I was clearly bigger than at Winfield, I`d guess 10 lbs heavier compared to 7 lbs at Winfield.  This was due to hyponatremia, which is when the body retains too much water and doesn`t excrete it. They checked my oxygen levels and said they were very low, so they put me on oxygen for 30 min. until my levels came back up.

What Altitude?
They kept listening to my lungs and told me I had Pulmonary Edema, aka fluid in my lungs.  They asked me how soon I was leaving Leadville, we told them we were driving to Denver that night (it`s only about 5am now).  They said no, you need to go now before it gets worse.  Denver is at 5,000 feet compared to Leadville at 10,000 feet so I`d feel better there.
We headed back to the hotel and I napped while Lisa packed.  Then we went to say goodbye to the others (Carlos was still out there), we grabbed some breakfast to go and hit the road, leaving Leadville in the rear view mirror...... for now!
At Home
After a few days, my chest was still sore so I went to see my doctor.  They put me through a bunch of tests and xrays, trying to make sure it was an isolated incident.  My chest felt better and breathing got easier every day I was home.  They had me come back a few days later for another blood test, then a week later I had to go back for a cardiac stress test.  This involved me running on a treadmill uphill while they monitored me.  I`ll find out how everything went next week, but I`m sure it`s fine.  One more follow up blood test next week and hopefully that`s it!  Been 2 weeks now and I haven`t run yet, but I did play soccer last week and felt fine.
So What Went Wrong?
Everyone had their own reasons for what went wrong, mostly the unexpected course extension and the altitude slowing things down.  In the end, Carlos was the only one of the 6 of us to finish, he had issues but toughed it out to get there, awesome job.  Kendra missed the same 3:15am cutoff I did, I didn't know it but she was just ahead of me on the road.  Had I not made a wrong turn I would've caught up to her and maybe we could have pushed each other along to the cutoff, who knows.
So what the hell went so wrong for me?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe I was meant to take a wrong turn and stop.  The next stage had a massive climb up Powerline.  Ì may have actually done some real damage had I gone on.  Ahh, nevermind, I fucked it up.  There are the contributing factors:
 Hyponatremia: I need to look into why this happened to me.  Why the hell was everyone else losing weight (Carlos dropped 10 lbs in the first 50 miles) while I was gaining weight?  I think this started an avalanche of problems.  I had to run up and down fucking mountains 7 lbs heavier instead of 5 or 7lbs lighter?  That's an extra 12 to 14 lbs I carried and I don't even know why.  Symptoms include nausea, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, muscle weakness, spasms, muscle cramps and decreased consciousness.  A few of those ring a bell!  This would explain my loss of appetite, which I've never had at a race before.  So little food means no fuel for my muscles, which contributed to my quads being so tired (plus running down mountains I suppose!).

Pulmonary Edema: This would have limited the amount of oxygen I could intake, but I really didn't feel the effects until after I'd stopped at 5am or so Sunday morning.  Had I made the next cutoff, this would have hit me while still running and would have been a mess.

Altered Course:  The extra distance cost me about an hour.  This would have been valuable time, but I can't use this as an excuse as others still finished the race.  It sure as hell didn't help though.

Altitude: Truthfully, I'm still not sure how the altitude affected things for sure.  It slowed the overall pace as doing things over 10,000 feet if definitely more tiring than at sea level!  I'm really not sure which of the negative effects I experienced were more from altitude or from hyponatrenia.  Maybe both.

What Now?
Don't really know.  The others are already talking about going back next year.  My instinct is to do just that, hell I'd like to go back next week, I'm pissed.  I can't accept that I didn't finish this race while so many others did.  First I need to figure out what went wrong for sure.  My original plan for next year was to see how Leadville went then put my name in the lottery for Hardrock 100 (basically the toughest 100 mile race in the world, still in Colorado but more than double the hills and higher elevations).  After this shitshow, no way.  I was well trained for the hills, but I need to find out if I'm even capable of running at altitude.  I'll put my name in the Western States 100 lottery again, if I get in I promise not to fuck that one up.

For the immediate future, there are two 50 milers in Sept (Haliburton and Virgil Crest) but I've got kids both of those weekends so they're off the table, which is fine by me.  Right now, not even sure when next race is (which is weird for me, there's always one on the horizon).  Soccer finished last week also, so I'll just take a mental break from everything, including any hard training for now.  So far, I'm enjoying the break!  Won't last long though, I'm too mad right now...

Take care,



  1. No sense rushing into again. Easy for now, rest up and then decide what`s next. Physically you may fell fine but the mental part needs to be there as well.

    Even though I finished it was THE toughest struggle I`ve had in my life BY FAR! Let me tell you, the race got a shit load tougher after Fish Hatchery, I suffered and I`m still not 100%. Every little bit adds up so much after so long of a struggle. One thing I remember now, is that I felt so lonely out there, It seemed like everyone had a pacer or a crew but I was just going at it alone. Maybe it helped, but not sure. If I had my wife there with a car I might of just jumped in.

    We`ll back out there soon enough. Next year will be good one, I have a feeling we will get into WS100.

  2. akkk! you made me cry with this report.

  3. You know I was thinking about what happen to you while running this afternoon. Could it be that, leading up the race, you over drank (hydrated way too much as you mention in your write-up) and flushed all your electrolytes out. That will surely place you in a bad spot leading up to race and will certainly help you get hyponatremia b/c you would be always thirsty and have low salt/electrolytes. You also did mention that you did not take any salt tabs for the first part of the race....just a thought.

    1. That's a good point Carlos. I drank much more the night before than usual, as I felt dehydrated on Friday and wanted to be plenty hyrdated for the race, may have over done it. I stopped for 3 huge pees before we even got to May Queen, not like me at all.

      During that speech the doctor gave during the pre-race meeting Friday, he stressed not taking too much salt as temperatures are lower than we're likely used to, so I held back on the salt. Bad move, by mid-day it was plenty warm enough to be taking salt but I held off too long. I should have stuck to what works for me.

  4. great report, not taking salt was a mistake I think.

    I made a HUGE mistake when I let you go on the way to MayQueen, I should have stayed with you but I was so paranoid over going out to fast. Also I got you beat I peed 5 times in the first 13 miles. WTF was that about, usually its maybe once in the first 2-3 hours.

    Come back with us next year Morgan. We will get it done!!

    1. Wow , what a report...WOW!

      Sure isn't allot of room for error in this race. This years experience will make a huge difference in your outcome next year...DO NOT HESITATE to go back. I know you have 2013 in the bag!

    2. Thanks Ron. I missed DG 48hrs for this DNF! Would have liked to have joined you for that fun run... We'll see what next year brings...