Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2011 Leadville 100: Running Sucks

When I first saw a dude wearing a 'Running Sucks' shirt last month, I instantly knew I had to get my hands on one, and that it would definitely get some face time at Leadville this year. Thinking about the words on that shirt around mile 93 (as I layed in the fetal position on a concrete boat ramp shivering uncontrollably) was about the only thing remotely humorous to me over the last 8 hours of this year's Leadville 100... talk about understatement of the decade, Nike. Finally, after 21+ hours on the trail it was over. 21:21, 19th overall.

On a positive note, I successfully picked 7 of the top-10 runners at last weekend's race. Congrats to all my fellow Colorado runners and friends who made this top pack, especially Ryan Burch, who has been overdue for a killer 100-miler for a long time. On a slightly less positive note, I was one of the 3 incorrect guesses, as was my buddy, Dan.

For those of you with ADHD, that was the condensed version. For a slightly more elaborate race recap, keep reading...

Here's how it all went down:

Thursday was travel, campsite setup, and picture taking day. Friday consisted of the now infamous Ken Chlouber pre-race pep rally, the arrival of the rest of Team GU Demon (the shirt pictured below should explain the name nicely), and a pre-drive to the Mayqueen Aid Station in order to get everyone's bearings.

(Pretty self explanatory shirt design.)
After a little bit of campsite relaxing and an early dinner, it was time for me to pre-tape my feet and call it an early night. 5 restless hours later, the moment I'd been waiting 364 days for had arrived.

Start to Mayqueen
Rather than having defined splits that I wanted to chase in order to bag a sub-19 hour finish, I decided to write all of last year's splits on my arm and use these as a benchmark of how I was doing throughout the day. I like this strategy since it allows me to focus more on how I feel (legs, lungs, stomach), rather than chasing numbers which can be both unforgiving and unattainable at various points in a 100 mile race as fatigue sets in.

(Team GU Demon)
After the shotgun blast went off, I quickly settled into an easy, relaxed pace and prepared to find my rythym for what are by far the easiest miles of the entire race. Without overly exerting myself, I found myself leading after about a mile, and there I would stay all the way into Mayqueen. I do not regret this decision, nor do I think I went out too fast. I was conversing with Michael Arnstein the entire time, and never once lost my breath or felt any leg fatigue, so why in the world would I have gone slower? In the two weeks leading up to the race, I had run almost zilch in order to nurse some nagging foot pains, so it felt easy and relaxed to run the first half marathon in 1:42.

2011 Mayqueen Aid Station (13 Miles): 1:42
2010 Mayqueen Aid Station: 1:48
2009 Mayqueen Aid Station: 1:56

Mayqueen to Fish Hatchery
As I headed into the first real climb of the day, I decided to back off on the pace a little and allow myself to fall into a position near where I hoped to finish (7th to 10th, roughly). I also experience a psychological boost from passing people late in a race, rather than starting off hot and fading. This being said, I still managed to crest the summit of Sugarloaf (11,000ft +) about 14 minutes ahead of last year's time, no worse for wear. Little did I know, life was about to change abruptly.

I had already taken two poo breaks by the time I began descending the powerlines, which is par for the course. What I hadn't anticipated was the nausea that was about to set in as soon as I hit the bottom of the last descent. With a photographer straight ahead, I decided to duck into the trees to puke my guts out as I didn't want to show weakness this early into the race. Once done, I seemed to feel 100x better, shook it off, and resumed running the short stretch of road into the Fish Hatchery, where I took a 5 minute pit stop to replenish as much as possible after my recent GU exorcism. I proceeded to lose several positions due to this long pit stop.

(Fish Hatchery)
2011 Fish Hatchery Aid Station (Mile 24): 3:24
2010 Fish Hatchery Aid Station: 3:38
2009 Fish Hatchery Aid Station: 3:55

Fish Hatchery to Twin Lakes
I felt extremely good after refueling at Fish, and continued feeling that way most of this stretch. Other than a couple more dumps in the woods, I was clicking off consistent miles and didn't walk a step, other than to fumble with a GU, salt, or the iPod. I made up several more positions along here, and bettered my time to Twin Lakes by nearly 20 minutes compared to last year. Nausea gone. No cramps. No falls. Only minor blisters. Sub-19, here I come. 
2011 Twin Lakes Aid Station (Mile 40): 5:55
2010 Twin Lakes Aid Station: 6:13
2009 Twin Lakes Aid Station: 7:04

Twin Lakes to Winfield
As I approached the crux of the race course, I performed a self diagnostic and found myself doing surprisingly well. While tired, my legs were still able to churn, and I found myself employing a walk-run-repeat strategy for a good part of the climb up Hope. As always, it seemed like an eternity before I broke out of the trees and got a glimpse ahead to the summit, but eventually I was at the Hopeless Aid Station hanging out with the llamas. I only needed water here, and was quickly back on the trail in hot pursuit of Charles Corfield who was just a couple switchbacks ahead.

I reached the summit around 11:30am (7 hours 30 minutes) and began descending after a short break to catch my breath. Besides another bathroom break about halfway down the mountain, I descended uneventfully, and hit the 2.5 mile gravel treadmill of death into Winfield. This year I was at the base of the trail before I ran into the leader, which told me I was either faster than ever, or the competition was slower than ever. (After seeing how the results panned out, it was definitely the first option.)

Some time was lost on this section due to the blistering heat and sun exposure, and I was forced to walk close to 1/2 mile of it. Regardless, I was still on a nice PR pace as I cruised into the halfway point.
50 down. 50 to go.

2011 Winfield (50 Miles): 8:42
2010 Winfield: 8:55
2009 Winfield: 10:02
Winfield to Twin Lakes
Ahead of pace? Check. Best friend and pacer by my side? Check. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer to that question is nothing... for a while, least.

The backside of Hope pass was predictably hard as always, and the fact that it felt like it was 110 degrees out didn't help the cause. Either way, Andy kept coaxing me along, even if it was just barely one foot in front of the other, and we slowly neared the summit. Seeing lots of familiar faces and well wishers provided a much needed distraction from the arduous task of climbing 3000+ ft, but I was hardly in the mood for pleasantries - I was ready for this sufferfest to be over.

(It was all downhill from here... literally and metaphorically speaking.)
After cresting the summit, I finally started to feel bad. Really bad... and I'm not talking about '55 miles into a hard 100-miler' bad. I'm talking, 'internal organs and brain not functioning properly' bad. I had to sit and drink some fluids at Hopeless, and also pulled the socks for a second to tend to some blisters. Now that I had some fresh contents in my stomach, the real hell could officially begin...

About 2 miles from Twin Lakes, I began my unending cycle of 'puke-recover-repeat' which would last for the next 10 hours. I had a bad blister that needed to be tended to when we finally arrived in Twin, but this would be the least of my worries over the next 40 miles.
2011 Twin Lakes #2 (Mile 60): 11:33
2010 Twin Lakes #2: 11:52
2009 Twin Lakes #2: 13:32

Twin Lakes to Fish Hatchery
I had bad diarhea during this stretch of trail and brought my total bowel movement count to 9. More puking ensued, and I finally started to feel sorry for myself and go into pity-party mode. I've been there before and know that it gets a guy nowhere, so I tried to just suck it up as much as possible. Around mile 65 we had a cold rain to contend with on top of everything else. Again though, I know 100-milers are supposed to suck and just tried to keep going as fast as possible. Despite a long break at the Half Pipe aid station and another at the Pipeline crew access point (where I wanted nothing more than to cry like a little kid), I was still making record time! I didn't care... but this just served to reaffirm that I'm a stronger runner this year than in 2010 - despite the disaster I was enduring.

2011 Fish Hatchery #2 (Mile 76): 14:42
2010 Fish Hatchery #2: 14:56

Fish Hatchery to the Finish
I wasn't doing well upon arrival at Fish. Here I needed to sit for over 10 minutes and warm up and have another mini pity-party. I was just so thankful for my friends and family being there and wanted to remind all of them how grateful I was for them. This was followed by apologizing profusely for the disasterous next 24 miles I was sure to have. I had so wanted to impress everyone with a PR and a great placement, and here I had to kiss that goodbye. Sometimes the mind is willing, but the body is weak.

Andy and I eventually hit the road again and as soon as I hit gravel I needed to hit the trees again for my final bowel movement of the day. I felt good for less than 15 minutes and soon was laying on the ground in the middle of the trail begging Andy for a 10 minute nap. I didn't know exactly what was wrong with me, just that I internally, and mentally wasn't right. I knew my salt balance was off to some degree, but I was experiencing a feeling I couldn't put my finger on.

It was like being drunk, sleep deprived, and having the flu... all at the same time.

Hiking resumed at a snail's pace and somehow we were up and over Sugarloaf in the daylight. Surprisingly, I was actually STILL ahead of last years time by the time we hit Hagerman Road. Unfortunately, with recurring vomitting throughout this stretch, I was mostly reduced to a slow downhill walk that afforded Andy and I some time for deep conversation about, life, love, and why we put our bodies through this crap.

2011 Mayqueen #2 (87 Miles): 17:20
2010 Mayqueen #2: 17:13
2009 Mayqueen #2: 20:00
By the time we reached Mayqueen, I had finally fallen off of my 2010 pace and collapsed into a chair to warm up. I still hadn't been passed or passed another runner in more than 8 hours when Lynette Clymons finally came cruising by. Neither seeing her, nor hearing that I'd closed the gap on Brendan to within 7 minutes was enough to motivate me to attempt running again.

Andy had gotten extremely dehydrated over the last 37 miles and needed to relinquish his pacing duties at this point. This wasn't a problem though, since most people could crawl as fast as I was now moving. Kelly joined me and we made small talk to pass the time, but I was slowly becoming less lucid and more light headed. Before long I was dizzy and could hardly keep my eyes open. This led to repeated tripping and stumbling. After the longest hour and a half of my life we arrived at the Tabor boat ramp and I insisted on laying down again for my own self-preservation.

I would have been content staying on that cold concrete all night, but my crew finally persuaded me to get back up and dig in for the last 7 miles.

For this stretch Andy's girlfriend Lizzie accompanied me and it was again nice to have someone to talk (listen) to. This helped keep my mind active and I was far more alert as we finished our walk around the lake. The only problem we encountered on this stretch was a dying headlamp, but thankfully I had packed extra batteries that would get me through to the finish. As we were sitting down fumbling with my headlamp, my friend Patrick came running by... he seemed to be hauling and in good spirits. I was pretty stoked for him, yet somewhat jealous of the pace he was holding, since I would have killed to get this suffer-fest over with sooner. On-on we went.

Finally reaching the road I knew it was still 1-1.5 hours before I would be done. Combined with the fact that we passed our campsite along the way, I hit a new low. Another mile down the road more vomitting ensued, and after being depleted for as many hours as I had been, this one brought me to the ground - nearly in tears. Here more familiar faces paced, Tim and Marc if I remember correctly, and I eventually got up and we marched on.

Surprisingly, we eventually saw light and then hit pavement just after 1am. I now knew for a fact I would finish and decided to embrace the moment and walk in with an entourage of 9 other friends, family, and fellow runners. As I approached the red carpet I gladly just walked on through - no need to run now. What a relief to finally be done.

2011 Leadville 100: 21:21.31
2010 Leadville 100: 19:57.52
2009 Leadville 100: 23:21.27

For the record, 21 hours and 21 minutes hurts. I can't imagine what the 28-30 hour finishers must go through. After an hour and a half in the medical tent this year's adventure was finally over.

Never before during any race have I wanted to quit so bad for so long, but never before have I been so determined not too. I was not about to disappoint my friends and family who had come out to support me by dropping. I'd never felt as selfish as when I gave into the pain at Hardrock last summer, and held true to my vow to never experience that feeling again.

While I'm on the subject of crew, I need to thank Shelley, Kelly, Eric, Andy, Holly, and Lizzie for providing the hours and days of support and forcefulness I needed in order to get Leadville finish #3 under my belt. It sounds cliche' to say "I couldn't have done it without you", but honestly, I couldn't have. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Until next year...


PatrickGarcia said...

Proud to know you man. You are a badass. Soon we'll be out of shape and due for a long hike in the woods ;)

Sean O'Day said...

I was in pain just reading this.

You should consider pioneering the sport of endurance pooing.

SY said...

Wow. Way to endure! When I saw Patrick after he finished, he said you weren't doing too well out there, but I was happy to see you safely return to Leadville for finish #3. Congrats!

solarweasel said...

you're a trooper, man. aweomse writeup and great to share the trail with you out there. wish we'd had a chance to chat after the race.

also, your crew was great -- very encouraging, cheering me at several points -- it definitely helped!

i hope we cross paths again some time!

Anonymous said...

I can't even imagine dude... damn.. I gave up way to easy at White River. Lessons learned I guess.

And I'm with Sean, you poo a lot. Congratulations on finnish #3

Brooks said...

It's a pleasure to know you to, my friend. I look forward to our winter trek in a couple months. PS: Way to kick butt at your first one.

It hurts me just thinking about it...


Let's make a plan to cross paths this fall. Congrats on a stellar innaugural 100.

That DNF will do you more good than you'll ever know. It will serve as fuel for you at your future endeavors.

Jay said...

Thanks for laying this out Brooks. Such a sufferfest, but for some reason, reading about it makes me want to try a 100 soon too.
Maybe I'll give Leadville a go next year instead of 2013...
By the way - (crude comment alert)
How do you keep your balls clean with all of that deuce? They're so big they've got to get in the way...

cb said...

Awesome report, man. Wow. I can confirm that 28 hours definitely sucks, but what you endured seems 10x worse. It is cool how previous failures (like your Hardrock) keep you going when it gets bad. Totally relate to that frame of mind. I bet you look back on that DNF and think it was a joke compared to what you just went through. You are fast, and will now be a lot stronger as well. Congrats on getting it done.

BLOS said...

...diggin' the "No Guts...No Glory" shirt!

Anonymous said...

It was great meeting you && the lady! Nice recap.I saw you at the first couple of aid stations and you looked great! Sorry about the blowouts--yuck! Haha, you and Luke both should wear the "no guts no glory". Great job on the finish!

Jim P. said... meaning to the cliche about "having nothing left." You definitely left it all on/next to/near the trail that day/night. Congrats on gutting it out. Your toughness is something to behold. How many pounds did you drop over the course of that course?

Brooks said...

Balls clean? What's that? Unfortunately, after enough crapping you're inevitably a mess down there. Conveniently, you inevitably stop caring whatsoever, too!

Thanks man!

Fond memories go along with that shirt. If you ask nicely, I'm sure Shelley has one with your name on it.

It was nice meetin you guys, too, and congrats on Luke's finish. That has to be a huge relief for him.

I actually ended up overcompensating towards the end of the race (or I took too much water and retained fluid) because I ended up being almost 4lbs heavier than when I started. I really wish I new what was askew...

Scott said...

Brooks - I can say definitively that a 29 hour finish is no where near the pain you endured. Now I will forever feel like a total pansy if I ever drop at any race for any reason short of being dead. Scott

Buzz said...

More Potassium less Sodium.

Brandon Fuller said...

You went out foo fast, retard.