Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lemming Loop 24 Hour Trail Race: Turning Circles on the Prairie

I got into endurance sports through some experimentation with triathlons and quickly realized that I was never going to fit into that scene. Then I moved onto road marathons, which I found to be equally bland and riddled with an unnecessary sense of competition and elitism.

Then I stumbled across trail running, which led to ultra running, which lead to mountain running. And this new passion is what inspired our move to Utah.

Unlike my brief stint in triathlon and marathon running, I've been reluctant to let go of mountain running and I probably never will. But I'll never be a great mountain runner. I'm a "good" mountain runner...maybe even solid, but I'll never be great. And that's OK.

But I can turn circles for hours...even days, and find some success. I know, it's not the sexiest version of ultra running, but it can be a lot of fun if you give it a chance.

I have a connection with Manitoba, Canada and have been trying to insert myself into their trail running scene this year. The Lemming Loop 24 Hour Trail Race was the perfect race at the perfect time of year, so off to Canada we go!

Lemming Loop is one of the trail races put on by Trail Run Manitoba. A great group of people and an amazing RD with a dedicated staff of awesome volunteers. This race is held near downtown Winnipeg on a 2.05 mile trail loop, consisting of native prairie and hardwood forest. It's a great little trail and I had a blast turning circles on it.

In My "Business Attire" Before the Start

To add a level of difficulty, the 24 hour race started on Friday, at 5:00 PM. Late day starts add waking hours to an already LONG event, so exhaustion can become a bigger issue later in the race. Which it did.
Waiting to Start

My strategy was to take the lead right away, create a gap between me and the rest of the field, then focus on maintaining that gap for the rest of the race. Or something reasonably similar...either way, winning was always the plan.

Up Front at the Start

I felt great from the beginning and ran by feel, letting my legs fly. My breathing was steady and my heart rate was low, so I pushed a speedy pace through that first lap, finishing with a pretty sizable gap.

By the second lap, I was passing the back of the field.

By the fifth lap, I had passed the entire field. I was digging deep to keep building my gap.

While I was being deliberately competitive and extremely aggressive, I was having a blast. The trail is a tight single track in most places, and it makes tight turns and winds quickly through the hardwoods. This makes for a slow course for a timed race, but it's exciting to fly through the woods on those trails. I was pushing a burly pace and smiling like an idiot the whole way.

I had to believe that a lot of the other runners expected me to crash and burn early, and I would be lying if that same thought hadn't crossed my mind. But my body was taking all I gave it, so I kept pushing that pace, waiting for signs to back off.

It would be a long while before that happened.

I've written this before, but Canadians, especially from that part of Canada, are some of the nicest people in the world. In the US, trail runners are very kind and generous during races, but it's taken to the next level with this bunch. Supportive and positive comments were flying around that course much faster than I was. It was hard not to feel great while running with these people.

As the only American in the race, I was a little worried that I wouldn't be well received, but those thoughts were quickly banished as soon as the race started. I felt very welcomed and that feeling grew as the laps ticked by.

I kept my fueling simple. I was grabbing a Hammer gel every 2 or 3 laps, while watching my electrolytes. If something looked appealing on the aid station table, I ate it and pushed on.

Hammering Down My Favorite Gel

The weather was PERFECT for running. It was too cold to stand around in shorts and a t-shirt, but just cold enough for a brisk running pace. As night started to settle in, a stiff, cold wind from the south got to be a bit tough to handle and I started adding layers.

Before the sun set, I was beginning to fade a bit, but running at night has always been a strong suit for me, so I was eager for the sun to go down.

I do about 90% of my training runs in the dark, even in the summer, and this gives me a tremendous amount of confidence in the dark. I assume most trail runners will slow a little bit at night, while I'll maintain my pace.

Ready for Night Running

I kept hammering my pace through the night and my gap continued to grow. When I was 20 miles ahead of 2nd place, I was finally at spot where I felt very optimistic about my chances to win. But I remained focused and kept churning out the laps.

While the trail isn't technical, it does demand that you watch your footing. There are potholes, drop-offs, rocks, and roots to contend with. Specifically, there are 4 little pointy, nearly invisible roots that I managed to kick on almost every lap. Even now, they haunt me...

There came a point in the night that the field seemed to thin out. I felt like I was nearly alone on the trail. As it turned out, several runners had pulled the plug and some were napping. But the runners I was competing with were still out there, pounding out the miles. The real race had started and the positions were well defined now.

Jo left for the hotel at 1:00 AM for a nap, with a promise to return at 6:00 in the morning. In her absence, I was overwhelmed by the volunteers that stepped up to crew for me. I was nearly smothered with help every time I came back through the aid station to click off another lap.

Once again, these are just great people.

When Jo returned at 6:00, I was nearly 80 miles into the run and leading by 26 miles. She fed me a hot Egg McMuffin. I was a happy man.

Even with a big lead, I wasn't comfortable with my chances of winning. We still had a lot of hours to go, and I was getting tired. Anything could happen.

My reluctance to find confidence reminded me of my first 100 mile race win. From mile 90, my pacer kept telling me that we had it sewn up. We were going to win! I kept telling him to shut up! Every mile or so, he was whispering that sweet song into my ear and I kept shooting him down. About 1/4 mile from the finish, I turned to him and said, "I'm ready to entertain the possibility that we might win this thing."

Winning a race is something a runner should never take for granted. Shit happens. I know this better than most.

As the sun came up, I was fading pretty quick, but I was maintaining my gap. That was always the plan. I expected to give some of those miles back before the end, but not yet. The miles weren't coming as easily, but they were still coming.

I hit the 100 mile mark at 16:49, which is a long way from a PR, but on that course, I think it's a great time. I took a few minutes to rest and made the decision to back off the pace and focus on managing the rest of the race in a manner to save my body, but still hit my goals.

100 Miles Down...More to Go

As I slowed my pace, my body began to stiffen up and running became even more difficult. As if my legs realized we had hit 100 miles and expected us to be done. Pain really began to set in at 106 miles. And it never got better.

I eventually broke the course record, so I took it as an excuse to be lazy for a while. I plopped on the ground and celebrated with a cold beer.

Not my Normal Beer

At 116 miles in, my stomach began to cramp and I started to feel sick. I walked a few more miles and then conferred with my crew about how to handle the situation. I had wanted to get to 200k before pulling the plug and I was just a couple laps away from it. But my stomach wasn't happy and the slower I moved, the more my body wanted to seize up.

After a long discussion, I decided I had gone far enough at 118.9 miles and I called it a day. I stopped my race at 21:30, securing the win and setting the new course record.

In all honesty, when I started to think about it, any additional miles would have been for vanity. I wasn't going to accomplish anything more than I already had, so it was really pointless to go on. I hung around to cheer for the other runners for a while, then I walked to the car and passed out.

Celebrating with Another Finisher

My 2015 race season has been an absolute roller coaster. I have 4 wins, but I also have 3 DNF's. Even with my level of experience, I have a lot to learn still, and I feel like my time is quickly dwindling.

The most important lesson I can take away from my race season is that I need to fall back a bit and take stock in why I even bother with it. I started doing this for fun, so that's what I want to focus on. I think I might have a few more wins, even if I don't take things too seriously. And if I don't win...I'm OK with that, too.

I still have plenty of racing to do this year, and my only goal is to enjoy the trails and the people I share them with. We'll see how that strategy works out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

2015 Wasatch Front 100: Going Down Fighting

Looking back on my Grand Slam effort over the summer, I've tried to find some depth to the experience that would incite strong emotions now that it's over. Especially because I failed to complete it. But it's not there. I feel bad...for not feeling bad. Kinda. But not really.

I've tried to determine the root of my indifference to what happened, but I keep coming up empty. At the end of the day, I end up at the same place.

It's just running.

Me and My Best Friend at the Wasatch Start

I had run the Wasatch 100 last year, so I knew the course and was comfortable with the terrain. I'm well conditioned for running at altitude, and I've been fit all summer. The variable that concerned me was the weather. This year, more than any other, I've been suffering in the heat and the forecast for race day suggested that I was going to struggle in this final race of the Slam.

My plan was simple. I wanted to start deep in the pack so I would be forced to move slow, jumbled in the conga line all the way to the top of Chinscraper. Then I just had to maintain a slow, methodic pace all the way to the finish. I had no regard for a decent finish time. I just wanted to get through the slam and be done with the pressure of it all.

My plan worked. Mostly.

I was moving so slowly in the first few miles that I could hardly stand it. But I knew it was the right move. Making my way up the first enormous climb, I refused to pass anybody unless they stepped off the trail to let me by. I was finding patience that I didn't know I was capable of possessing.

Topping out on Chinscraper
Photo Courtesy of Lane Bird

When we dropped over the top of the ridge, I felt great. I tucked in behind some runners and plowed along at this newly discovered patient pace.

I was in and out of the first aid station as fast as they could get my hydration pack loaded with ice and water. The sun was high in the sky and I knew the hard part of my race was about to begin.

The climb into the Bountiful B aid station was moderately taxing, but I climbed well, chatting with runners the entire way. When I came into the aid station, I reloaded my pack again while eating fresh fruit from the table and while chatting with the volunteers.

So far, things were good. Not great, but much better than last year and I felt like I was finally showing some maturity in my race management style. My competitive, impatient attitude has claimed a few DNF's in the past, so I was hopeful that this agonizingly patient approach would pay off. It better, because it's super annoying...

I was eager to get to the Sessions Liftoff aid station because I had a lot of friends volunteering there and I was excited to see everybody.

The sun was beginning to wear on my body, while my race strategy wore on my mind.

I began to hate myself a little bit because of my new found weakness for running in the heat. I don't know how I developed it, but it's a problem that requires a solution.

I was uncomfortably warm but tried to keep a positive attitude.

I stayed at Sessions Liftoff aid station a little longer than necessary because I wanted to chat with friends and suck up some of their positive energy. I didn't know it then, but this would turn out to be the highlight of my 2015 Wasatch experience.

Leaving Sessions
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Hunt

The trek into Swallow Rocks aid station was when I sincerely began to worry about my race. The course provides no cover and the sun was really beginning to bother me. I went from casual and chatty, to focused and determined. I put my head down and tried to run smart.

I was fueling well and my hydration seemed to be perfect. I was draining my 50 ounce hydration bladder between every aid station and I was very cognizant of my electrolytes. I was confident that my body was being taken care of.

But I could feel it slowly slipping away under the heat of the day.

At Swallow Rocks, I sat for a few minutes and savored a couple of delicious Popsicles while I chatted with the aid station volunteers. Before I could get too comfortable, I was back on my feet, headed down the trail.

The entire section between Swallow Rocks and the Big Mountain aid station is totally exposed and full of rolling hills and rocky trail. This is definitely my least favorite part of the course and I muddled through it under the blazing sun.

I began to have doubts.

I was certain that if I could make it to Lambs Canyon, I would definitely finish this race. By then, I could meet up with my pacer, the sun would be fading, and we would head off into the mountains to wrap this thing up.

Just get to Lambs! I repeated this in my head thousands of times.

A couple of miles before reaching Big Mountain, I started to feel nauseated as I ran. I walked intermittently to let my stomach settle, but it would eventually fire back up again.

Just get to Lambs!

Dropping into Big Mountain Aid Station

The Big Mountain aid station is at mile 39 and is the first time I get to see my crew. In that 39 miles, I had gone from light footed and jovial, to desperate.

I sat in a chair, under the first bit of shade I'd seen in hours. I asked for ice water and a moment of rest so I could cool my body down. Jo had a fresh pack waiting for me and like always, she was ready to push me down the trail. I just needed a minute.

Because I wasn't feeling well, I made a last minute decision to take a pacer. My good friend, Jason Howland, was helping Jo crew, but he came prepared to run. I headed down the trail while he got geared up. It didn't take him long to catch me.

The climb out of Big Mountain was slow. We tucked in behind a train of guys that seemed friendly enough, so we hung with them and allowed them to meter my pace. They all chatted away. Jason and I were quiet.

Jason has paced me more than any other person. I'm extremely picky about pacers and will usually forgo their use unless I can get one of the trusted few that I can count on. Jason knows my style. He gets me. I knew he could see the reality of what I was dealing with.

We remained silent.

Photo Courtesy of Jason Howland

When we made it to the Alexander Ridge aid station, I took a seat in the shade while Jason brought me some ice water and a few pieces of fruit. I nibbled and drank while Jason hovered over me. After a minute, I looked up and told him I was going to have to puke. He pulled the tarp away from the back of the tent and I slipped out back to take care of what needed to be done.

I sat in the grass and emptied my stomach for several minutes, surprised by the massive volume of its contents. It was clear that my body wasn't using any of the fluids or nutrition that I had been taking in. It was just sitting there, on the ground...mocking me.

Being a Type A personality, I throw myself into everything I do. Even puking. When I hurl, it's a pretty spectacular event. Every muscle in my body gets into it, leaving me depleted and shaking.

After my vomiting subsided, I rested for a while before pulling myself off the ground. I couldn't stomach the though of food, so I sipped a little water, put my pack back on and hit the trail with Jason in tow.

The climb out of Alexander Ridge is gradual and rolling, but it was more than I could handle at any decent shuffle. I stopped a few times to rest and catch my breath. After a couple of miles, I plopped to the side of the trail and sucked on a gel, hoping to gain a bit more strength and to slow my steady rate of physical decline. It took five minutes to get the entire gel down.

Meanwhile, I was being passed by runners, many of them friends that could see the pain in my eyes and the desperation of where I was. I felt for them, because I know they were feeling for me. But nothing is ever said.

Coming Out of Alexander Ridge
Photo Courtesy of Jason Howland

I was shocked to see that we wouldn't make it to Lambs Canyon before the sun set. To add insult to injury, I dug my iPhone out of my pack and used my flashlight app to lead us through the dark to the aid station.

What the Lambs Canyon Aid Station Would Look Like in the Daytime

When Jason and I got to Lambs, we were greeted by Jo and my next pacer, Jen Richards. They got me in a chair and we discussed my situation. My entire team was determined to get me patched up and back on the trail, but I needed calories and my body wasn't processing anything.

I nibbled on some fruit, drank some water and sat long enough to let it settle.

And then I puked it all up.

Again, the volume of my stomach contents proved that my body wasn't processing anything that I was taking in. I was surviving on reserves that had already been tapped out.

We spent the next two hours trying to coax some fuel into my body, but it wasn't working. I watched the minutes tick by, knowing that things were getting desperate. If I couldn't pull myself together soon, it would be too late.

There came a point when it was obvious that my race was over. Wasatch and the Grand Slam were no longer in my grasp and all the planning and focus that had been invested in this endeavor would be for nothing.

I called it. I made the decision that I wasn't going to try to recover and carry on. I was a hopeless mess and the remedy for my situation was beyond my ability to manage.

And I'm OK with that.

I have anguished over DNF's in the past, but not this one. I knew I had done everything within my power to solve the problem and I was fighting physically and mentally to get back on the trail. It just wasn't going to happen. I had nothing to regret because I had met the challenge head on. I failed, but I failed fighting. I can live with that.

I was a little surprised by how easily I shrugged it off, and I think others were too. I suspect they thought I was putting on a front, trying to act indifferent, but it wasn't an act at all. It really didn't bother me. It still doesn't.

And in the days since then, I've had time to consider a lot of things, but the thing I think about the most is my future. I have a lot of things planned that I am excited about. Deeply excited. And now that the Slam has passed, I can focus my attention to the things that I've had to push out of my mind all summer. I realize I'm relieved to be beyond the grasp of these races and all the expectations surrounding it.

I just want to run and be happy. I wasn't happy running the Grand Slam. Maybe someday I'll find the spark that will drive passion into running the Slam, but this wasn't the year for it.

The day after Wasatch ended, I hiked my battered body up to the top of Mt. Timpanogos with Jason. Our new home in the mountains provides a spectacular view of this mountain and I've looked at it all summer, wishing to be on top of it. But I couldn't do it for fear of risking my conditioning while running the Slam.

But I could do it now and it was the best thing I did all summer. And I really needed that, because those are the things that make me happiest.

Top of Timp

I'm more content now than I've been all summer and I'm excited to finish out my 2015 race year doing events that bring a smile to my face. Because that's why I started all of this in the first place. I just needed an opportunity to regain that perspective.

As always, thanks to all my sponsors, supporters and my awesome wife for making all of these adventures possible. And thanks to everybody that reached out to me after Wasatch. I hope to share trails with all of you again soon.

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 Leadville 100: And the Slam Continues...

43 men and women started the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning this year, which was a record number of runners. By the time the Leadville 100 was over, only 16 of us remain. The majority of runners washed out at Western States, the first race in the Slam, as heat took it's toll on the entire field and the race experienced its highest DNF rate in the last 9 years. But Leadville did its best to wipe out the rest of us.

I had run (and finished) the LT100 the four previous years, on the way to my goal of 10 consecutive finishes and that BIG ASS buckle that comes along with that accomplishment. So keeping my streak alive was just as important as continuing on in the Grand Slam.

Equally important, and not to be overshadowed, was the 3rd Annual Leadville Beer Mile. For the first time ever, the Leadville Beer Mile is a part of the Royal Grand Slam of Beer Miles. These beer miles follow the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning and I had won the first two events in the series.

The Leadville Beer Mile draws some of the kings of the sport. I like to fancy myself a pretty solid runner, with only one greater talent. Drinking beer. Fast. But some of these guys are unreal and I had no illusions regarding my chances of keeping my winning streak alive.

You can click the link below for a short video that sums of the best parts of this race... (Courtesy of Vanessa Runs)


Knowing damn well that I can't beat the great Patrick Sweeney in this race, I opted to go easy and have some fun.

Patrick and I at the start

Action Shot!! Going out Strong. Beer #2!

In the end, I made a solid showing and came in just off the podium in 4th place. I expect a return to the top of the heap at the Wasatch Beer Mile. Less competition in Utah...

Now...back to the "other" race.

If you've run Leadville, you know how entertaining the pre-race briefing is, especially when compared to most. For example, the Western States briefing is really just a trick to force you into a cramped, overheated room while being guilted into applauding the race officials while they present each other with awards for various mundane tasks. Like doing their job.

The Leadville briefing remains relatively unchanged over the years, and I'm pretty sure I have the entire thing memorized now, but it never fails to get me pumped up for the race.

My Medical Tag and My Good Luck, PBR Race Bracelet. All I need!

Start Line

Well rested and confident, we arrived at the Start line at 3:45 AM, ready to go. Standing in the crowd, waiting to start, has become a very comfortable and familiar setting. All the nervous energy that I used to feel has been replaced with a sense of calm, and belonging. It was nice to be standing on 6th Street with a bunch of likeminded people, ready to head into the mountains.

Ready to Start

The first 13.5 miles of this race are very runnable. Probably too runnable for most people, because I was being passed by runners that were pushing a  sub 7 minute pace as if the race was going to be decided in the first half mile. It's the same every year, and I always wonder which aid station they'll eventually DNF at. I wish I could stop them long enough to implant a microchip and apply a numbered ear tag so I could observe their species from a safe distance while recording their interesting behavior.

Ultra Tip #1: If you're running flat ground in a 100 mile race and you can't catch your breath...you're gonna have a bad day.

After leaving the Boulevard, around the 5 mile point, we duck into the woods and start our run around Turquoise Lake. In previous years, this is where the conga line started, but this year, it was far less crowded due to tighter restrictions on the number of entries. Kudos to Lifetime Fitness!!

I was feeling great. The weather was cool, almost cold, and I was enjoying the familiar run around the lake.

Sunrise at the Lake

As we got close to the May Queen aid station, I checked my watch and noticed that I was going to be about 5 minutes faster than any other year. I didn't feel like I had increased my effort at all, so I took this as a good sign for the day.

Coming to May Queen at 13.5 Miles

Jo was waiting for me when I passed through. I swapped my depleted hydration pack for a fully prepared pack and we rolled on without ever stopping. I was gone, heading for the climb up Sugarloaf.

Sugarloaf is the first big climb in the race and I always look forward to it because it gives me an excuse to hike for a while. After 13 miles of feverish running, it's nice to relax and enjoy the sunrise over the Rockies.

After topping out on Sugarloaf, we traverse the ridge for a few minutes before dropping down Powerline, a steep, rutted mess.

I made a conscious decision to take the descent slow and easy, to save my quads for the downhills later in the race. A lot of runners were on a different program and I lost a handful of spots on the descent.

Ultra Tip #2: If you're running downhill so hard that you can't catch your breath...you're gonna have a bad day.

Near the End of Powerline

After dropping off Powerline, we run a couple miles of rolling and annoying pavement on our way to the Outward Bound aid station. I was still ahead of schedule and took my time heading in.

Outward Bound

Inbound at Outward Bound

Again, Jo had a restocked hydration pack ready for me and we made a quick swap while I briefed her on the race so far. I was having fun, feeling good and all was well.

Leaving Outward Bound, on My Way to Half Pipe

This is the point in the race when people tend to settle in and relax. The day is warming up, so for most of us, the pace is slowing down. I took this time to chat with other runners in an effort to put the race in the back of my mind for a while.

The Half Pipe aid station is remote and doesn't allow crew access. I popped into the aid station tent, took a swig of cold Coke, chatted with the volunteers for a minute and headed back out.

I was leapfrogging with the same small group of runners all day, so we were getting to know each other through small sound bites as we passed each other, or ran side by side for a few occasional minutes. Most of the runners knew I had run the race several times, so they took the opportunity to mine my brain for detailed course knowledge. It helped to pass the time by giving them a step-by-step account of what was coming up.

On the Colorado Trail

After cruising through 16 miles of rolling trails and jeep roads, we make a sudden and drastic drop toward Twin Lakes, the low point on the course. This is an important aid station because it's at the base of Hope Pass, the high point on the course. It's a great opportunity to refuel and get prepared for the big climb.

Coming Into Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes is always packed with crew and spectators. It's the loudest and craziest aid station on the course and serves to give a big mental boost before climbing up and over Hope Pass.

I took the opportunity to sit, rest, fuel and get ready. I spent 5 minutes at Twin Lakes and pushed onto Hope Pass.

River Crossing Before Hope

The ascent is always a grind. There are very few switchbacks to take the pain away from slogging straight up the gut of the mountain. I was climbing better than I ever have and was taking spots away all the way to the top.

A lot of runners were suffering, several were resting and more than a few were vomiting. I continued to climb.

Ultra Tip #3: Avoid puking on yourself. The lingering smell will inspire additional puking later on!

Coming to Hopeless Aid Station, Mile 45


When I reached Hopeless, I grabbed a cup of cold water and plopped down in the grass for moment. I sipped my water and enjoyed the view back toward Leadville. I was still ahead of schedule and wanted to spend some of that time enjoying the scenery. When the cup was empty, I was off for the final push over the top.

Top of Hope

Coming down Hope Pass sucks. Not as bad as coming up it, but it's a pretty close second. This is an excellent opportunity to blow out your quads so you can spend the rest of the race shuffling to the finish. I took it easy.

Eventual Women's Winner, Liza Howard, Coming Back Up Hope

I picked my way off the mountain, heading to Winfield. The faster runners had already made it to the turnaround and were heading back up Hope Pass, making their way home to Leadville. The descent is steep and narrow, making two-way traffic slow and awkward. But it's nice to have runners coming back at you, giving encouragement, and giving me a chance to return it. Again...it's another thing that helps to kill time and take my mind off the task at hand.

The descent took a little longer than I had hoped, but I wasn't worried, I still had plenty of time to meet my race goals and I still felt great.

Coming Into Winfield

And this is where everything fell apart...

I had developed a leak in my shoes on the way up Hope Pass, which allowed my shoes to fill with small rocks. These rocks were eating my feet up, as well as eating time up when I had to stop to empty them out. I desperately needed to change shoes. When I got to Winfield, I told Jo that I needed my other shoes from my race bag and showed her the problem with my shoes. By the look on her face, I knew we had a problem.

Keep in mind...I have NEVER changed shoes in a race before. Ever. Because of this, my backup shoes were back in the truck, which was parked way down the road. After fueling up, I headed to the truck to find them.

After the long hike to the truck, I found my shoes, which are brand new and still needed to be laced up. While the clock is ticking.

I decided to also change my socks while I had my shoes off. When I pulled my socks off, I saw the damage the rocks had done to my feet and realized I needed to do some work on my feet. Tick Tock!!

After WAY TOO LONG, I had my feet fixed, new socks and new shoes. I grabbed my pack and headed for the climb back up Hope Pass.

After being on the trail for a while, I looked at my watch and started estimating my time to Twin Lakes. This is when I realized it was probably going to be getting dark before I got there. DAMMIT!!! I turned around, headed back to the truck to get a headlamp!

And here's the best part...when I shoved the headlamp into my pack, I realized Jo had already packed one!

This entire fiasco cost me between 40 and 60 minutes of race time. Mental mistakes everywhere!

Ultra Tip #4: Don't do any of the things I did.

With my race goal now out of reach, I changed objectives and decided to focus on a slower, easier pace. If I wasn't going to meet my goal, I might as well finish this race as happy and healthy as possible, so I can be better prepared for Wasatch in three weeks.

My climb back up Hope Pass was as good as its ever been, but I was now deeply annoyed with my situation. I had been running so well all day and now my happiness was replaced by self loathing. I kicked rocks and muttered obscenities to myself all the way to the top of the pass.

On the Descent, Looking Back to Leadville from Hope

Hello Again...LLAMAS!!

It should be noted that the only Llamas that interest me are the llamas on Hope Pass. When I see llamas anywhere else, I never feel compelled to stop and take photos of them. In fact, I may ignore them entirely, flaunting my flagrant indifference to their entire species. Why is it different during the race?
Because they're a distraction!!!

The sun was just setting when I made it back into Twin Lakes, and as it turned out, I never really needed my headlamp. But whatever...what was done, was done.

In an unusual twist of fate, Jo and I missed each other at the aid station. This almost never happens, but rather than burn more time looking for her, I opted to fuel up and head out.

After making the climb out of Twin Lakes, I ran the rollers at a good pace back into Half Pipe aid station. I took a peek inside the tent, but refused to go in there. From previous experience, I know how easy this aid station can suck you in and hold onto you. It's warm, the people are friendly, and runners are talking about their desire to DNF like it's no big deal. More than anything, they're supporting and coaxing each other into it!

Ultra Tip #5: Avoid warm and inviting aid stations at night. AT. ALL. COSTS!

I got out of Half Pipe in a hurry, passing through Treeline and then out onto the pavement leading back to Outward Bound. On the road into the aid station, I met up with a girl, also running solo, who was convinced we were lost. On the road. The only road, which happened to have a very well lit and prominent aid station glowing in the distance. After some convincing, she felt confident that I MIGHT be right.

When I got back to Outward Bound, I was able to finally see Jo again and give her a race update. We swapped packs, chatted for a minute, then I headed out to do battle with Powerline.

I walked most of the paved road back to Powerline, because I wanted to tackle the climb on rested legs. The Powerline trail was busy with runners and the carnage was rampant. I was climbing well, so I kept my head down and tried to block out the negativity around me.

When I reached the ridge, I walked the flat section to loosen my legs up, then ran the downhill toward May Queen. My quads were screaming, but I was essentially done with them for the day, so I really didn't care.

May Queen would be my last supported stop. I made sure I had a good headlamp, an extra jacket, gloves and plenty of Hammer gel, then I pushed out.

I'm always amazed by two things on the return trip from May Queen:

    1. The outbound run around the lake is swift on a buffed out trail. The return trip on the same trail is slow and carries you over boulders and highly technical terrain. Or so it seems...

    2. The Boulevard, which was once a very gradual descent, has become a monstrous climb back to Leadville.

Compared to previous years, the return from May Queen went pretty fast. Before long, I could hear the muffled sounds of the race announcer, followed by faint cheers. I was almost there!

I topped out on 6th Street and could see the finish line below. I ran.

Getting my 5th Hug From Marilee

I recorded my 2nd slowest Leadville finish, but I didn't mind. I had a decent Leadville finish and I was still slugging it out in the Grand Slam. That was enough of an accomplishment for me to find happiness in.

Walking Through Leadville with my Celebratory Beverage at 6:30 AM

Welcoming fellow Grand Slammer Joshua Holmes Back to Leadville After Barely Making the 30 Hour Cut! Good Job!

627 runners started the Leadville 100. 309 managed to make it back to Leadville to collect their buckle. I was happy to be one of them.

After a three week rest, we'll head to the Wasatch Front 100 and finish the Grand Slam right in my back yard. I go into that race with confidence and enthusiasm.

Thanks to Jo and all my sponsors for the unwavering support. I'm a lucky man to have the chance to do all the things that I do!