Really stupid...

If an idea is good, it's on the verge of being stupid. ~ Michel Gondry

I have always had this theory… get a group of people in a room, throw out a bunch of ideas and at the end of the night, look at your list to find the most idiotic and that's the one you should do.

This blog was spawned from one very stupid idea - run the Leadville 100. I gave that a shot in the summer of '07 - completed 73 miles - and survived. The blog lives on...

RunStuRun has moved to

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What I did on my Summer vacation...

That's a wrap. ~ Dr. Dre

Yesterday: Run - Leadville to Winfield back past Twin Lakes, ~ 22 hours?
Today: Stop running
Tomorrow: Burn running shoes

73 miles. Wow. What a day.

First and foremost, I need to thank everyone who helped make this happen. I really couldn't have done it without you. Though I did fall short of the 100-mile goal, this day, and the preparation that went into making it a possibility, will always go down in my book as a huge success. The following is the promised recap of the weekend's festivities.

Roll out...
Friday morning, we met at Kermit's to caravan up to Leadville. This turned into a fairly short caravan due to some emergency chiropractic needs so Brad, Jess, Pete and I made it up the hill and checked in by about 10. Luke and Nichole arrived shortly thereafter in time to catch the last part of the Racer Meeting. Good stuff. Megan injured her back but really came through and met us all in Twin Lakes that evening while Bob and Lindsay joined us the following day.

I weighed in at a svelte 168 and apparently gave appropriate answers to all their questions (Are you taking any medications? Is there any reason you should not participate in this event? etc.) and quickly moved through the check-in process. Brad had an emergency work task to accomplish so Pete and I loitered on Leadville's main drag and ate Rach cookies. She went above and beyond, as usual, with a selection of her world famous chocolate chip, decorated sugar, special-recipe oatmeal and ginger snaps. It is a wonder I don't weigh 349.

The mandatory racers meeting was a bit long and uneventful but entertaining at times. There were about 590 starters ranging in age from 21 to 73, one of whom was starting his 24th Leadville 100! Amazing. Post meeting, we drove parts of the course then headed out to Twin Lakes to our cabins. We organized gear, dodged rain and ate a tasty dinner prepared by Brad. Ben made a brief appearance on his way to Crested Butte and his brother Dan arrived about 7 with more much-appreciated advice and guidance. I was in bed by 8:45 and asleep by about 9:15.

Early to rise...
My alarm went off at 2:10, rousing me from what had become fairly restless slumber. I slept well until around 11:30 but then seemed to awaken every 45 minutes or so to check the clock. After whacking down some breakfast and packing up the gear, we headed to the starting line where about 1000 other people had congregated. I quickly checked in, gave the Crüe a goodbye hug and we were off promptly at 4:00.

Along the Boulevard... (miles 0-7)
The first section of the race heads towards Turquoise Lake along what is affectionately known as "The Boulevard". We were cheered on along the first few miles by groups of enthusiastic locals - some in costume. It was actually quite heartwarming to see people get up that early to applaud a bunch of crazy people. I, for one, was actually quite touched. (But perhaps it was just the sleep deprivation talking.)

I planned to take the first section very slowly and shuffled my shoe plan to accommodate some very wet segments we discovered on the course assessment the day before. This turned out to be unnecessary as the water and mud had subsided a bit by race-time and there were ways around the worst of the puddles. We traveled at a steady pace to the powerline then up and around the lake to the Tabor Boat Ramp where I was to see the Crüe for the first time. I had to take an emergency pit stop along the way and was fortunate to find an unoccupied toilet along the route. Much better than sneaking off into the woods.

Hail to the Queen... (miles 7-13.5)
Since my shoes were still dry, I continued around the lake toward May Queen, settling into a nice rhythm and generally moving with traffic. The sun rose over Turquoise Lake while traveling along this section which features relatively smooth, winding singletrack punctuated by several creek crossings. I rolled into the May Queen checkpoint feeling pretty spunky and fresh and was met immediately by the Crüe who guided me through the check-point and on to the truck where they accomplished a quick gear change and sent me on my way.

Climb number one... (miles 13.5-23.5)
Dan walked me out of May Queen and gave me some strategy tips for the coming sections. He ran Leadville last year and finished in the top 15 with a VERY respectable time of 22:16. How much does that rule? With a pat on the back, he sent me on my way and I quickly hit the Colorado Trail and started up at a leisurely pace. The Crüe met me at Hagerman road and I continued my ascent up Hagerman to Sugarloaf Pass. This is a relatively mellow climb (on the North side) and I conserved energy along this segment by hiking the roughly 3-mile climb. Once over the top of the pass, the descent is quite steep. I ran about half of this section and walked the rest. By this point, I had developed a small kink in my right glut/upper hamstring but it was manageable. Once the trail met up with the main road to the Fish Hatchery, I jogged with several other racers to the second checkpoint at the hatchery.

Hide your shame... (miles 23.5- 30.5)
Luke met me at the checkpoint entrance, took my pack and shuttled me down the road to the crew vehicle where I swapped out my cool-weather gear for warmer-weather garb. Nothing like dropping trou' in a public parking lot in front of some of your closest friends. The Crüe treated a hot spot that appeared on the arch of my right foot and I was off. The section from the Fish Hatchery to Treeline features a flat, paved 5 miles of tedium during which I started having some stomach problems. Once I reached the truck, I felt a bit nauseated but the team really got me turned around in a hurry with some crystallized ginger Rach included in my kit and fresh apples. By the time I reached the check station at Half Moon (~3 miles up the road), I felt much better and was excited for the section to Twin Lakes (a beautiful segment of the Colorado Trail).

Rollin' rollin' rollin'... (miles 30.5 - 40)
The section between Half Moon and Twin Lakes features a short jaunt up a fairly mellow dirt road followed by a relatively steep and technical singletrack segment. This dumps into a glorious section of singletrack that rolls along the shoulder of Colorado's highest peak, Mt. Elbert. I alternated between hiking and running along this section and generally felt strong though I did develop a nagging blister on the instep of my right foot. Unfortunately, I compensated for this issue by over-pronating which subsequently led to soreness along the outside of that same foot. I started eating just the fillings of my wraps during this part of the race and donated the tortillas to the local fauna. Rach made me some tasty treats for the race which were going down smoothly at this point - black beans, humus, special tea and the aforementioned cookies - but the tortillas just weren't doing it for me at this juncture. Happy squirrels abound.

Top of the world... (miles 40-50)
I left Twin Lakes in good spirits after having my blister treated, my back massaged and my spirits lifted by being cheered on by the Crüe. This is the section of the course that features guaranteed wetness, complemented nicely by sporadic storms. I made it through the marsh and on to the river crossing. The river was lower than the past time I tackled Hope Pass and a rope was in place to assist tired racers so the crossing was not a problem. I donned my jacket during this segment to help keep dry as rain began to fall. After several false starts, a steady drenching settled in that would continue until the summit.

I settled into a rhythm going up the pass which was now quite slippery from the cumulative effect of daily rainstorms and race traffic. My knee started bothering me a bit on the steeper uphill segments and I started to have more complications in my right foot. I moved strongly up the pass, however and was only about 4 minutes off my projected pace for the section. Once I arrived at treeline, I was greeted by the staff of the Hopeless Pass Aid Station and their team of llamas. It was really cool to see these volunteers who had set up camp this high up the hill. The race leader (and eventual winner), Anton Krupicka, passed me on his way back to Leadville toward the bottom of the pass. The second-place runner, Harry Harcrow, didn't pass me until just beneath the summit, roughly 45-minutes behind Anton. Harry would eventually finish over 3 hours back. Amazing.

After braving some foul weather at the top of the pass, the rain and sleet stopped for my descent of the south face. This side of Hope is much more steep and rugged than the north face and I carefully made my way down to the Winfield road. By this point, my foot was really bothering me and I was unable to sustain a running pace. I ran out of fluids going over Hope as well (should have filled up at Hopeless) and went through all my food while tackling the pass. The Winfield road is notoriously dusty and I ran sections with a bandanna over my face to help stave off the ill-effects. By the time I made it to the aid station, I was limping a bit but was still in decent spirits. I had definitely crossed over to un-explored territory at this point, having traveled 50 miles in about 12 hours.

Way Homer... (mile 50-60)
After Megan, Bob, Lindsay and Jess helped with some blister first aid and ice on my foot, I left the station with Brad as my pacer. I limped out of the Winfiled but quickly moved into a decent rhythm back down the road and was able to run for limited periods of time during the subsequent 2.5 miles to the trailhead. I bogarted Brad's hiking poles for this section and was quite happy to have them as returning back up Hope Pass proved to be quite a challenge, made tougher by more inclement weather. Brad and I climbed back up Hope at a steady pace and reached treeline as a Flight for Life helicopter flew over the Hope Pass saddle. I felt fortunate to not be the recipient of this visit as the chopper descended into the valley. Shortly thereafter, during another deluge of rain and sleet, the 'copter made its way back up the south side of the pass, circling slowly to gain altitude in the thin air. Definite drag for someone and their loved-ones.

Brad worked like a sherpa, hauling my food and water to the top of the pass and kept me hydrated and well-fed. We summited on a pace about 10 minutes faster than my north-side approach and made our way back down to the Hopeless Pass aid station where Brad stopped to refill the bottles as I continued down the pass. I made quick time down into the thicker forest then slowed a bit to let Brad catch back up. We moved down the pass conservatively to avoid blasting my quads or falling in the mud which was now the consistency of chocolate pudding and soon reached the valley floor without incident. Any discouragement I felt on the ascent was replaced with confidence on the descent and I felt I had a really good shot at finishing in the 27-28 hour timeframe without too much trouble. We rolled back in to Twin Lakes before dusk where I swapped clothes, fueled up, treated my feet and got ready for my return to Half Moon.

The decline... (miles 60-69)
Luke took the helm as my pacer back to Treeline and we left Twin Lakes in good spirits. I was still eating, still felt strong and believed strongly in my ability to finish the race. I had some concerns about getting back up Sugarloaf and was not looking forward to the final 4 miles uphill to Leadville but believed that, given how much better I felt on the descents, I had a strong chance of finishing the event. This was fairly short-lived, however, as my injuries began to snowball while moving back along the Colorado Trail. The problems I had been nursing with my foot and knee quickly worsened to include my shin and I no longer experienced relief on downhill and flat sections of the course. I also developed a nasty cough that devolved into hacking fits that doubled me over and often ended in dry-heaving. Things were not looking good. Luke and I moved slowly along the trail toward Half Moon and finally reached the high point of the section after a much suffering. I was having difficulties eating and drinking and was sapped of energy every time I stopped to cough and heave. I staggered down the descent to the Half Moon road where we hoped to find some relief given the smooth, gradually-sloped terrain but I only moved at a slower pace. Definitely not good.

We made it to Half Moon after about 3 and a half hours of suffering (we had budgeted 3 hours to get all the way to Treeline) and passed through the checkpoint on our way down the road. This had been the longest 9 miles of my life and we had about another 3 to go before meeting Megan, Nichole and Pete at Treeline.

Last ditch effort... (miles 69-73)
These last few miles were miserable. I was barely moving at this point, limping noticeably, and coughing and dry-heaving fairly consistently. I am not sure how long this section took to complete but I am guessing it was over an hour and a half. Ugh. Luke did an amazing job keeping me moving and offering words of encouragement. At this point, I became quite concerned about my ability to reach Fish Hatchery, much less the top of Sugarloaf, and the deterioration in my performance moving downhill made me question the wisdom of even attempting to go on at all. Luke helped to encourage me to keep trying and we finally made it back to Treeline where the Crüe went to work to salvage what little strength I had remaining with warm fluids, massage and words of encouragement. They bundled me up and finally got me back on my feet in an attempt to reach Fish Hatchery. Pete took pacing duties and we moved slowly back down the road towards the paved highway. Despite the Crüe's best efforts, my coughing fits continued, forcing me to stop every 20 yards or so in convulsive coughing and retching. Luke met us about a mile later along the cut off and we hobbled to the car where I called it quits at about 2:00am and 73 miles covered.

The aftermath...
We headed to Fish Hatchery to let race officials know that I was pulling out of the race then back to Twin Lakes. I passed out in the car on the short trip back to the hotel then threw up several times upon our arrival. I took a quick shower then got to bed about 2:45. I fell asleep immediately, as you might expect.

I awoke around 9:00 with a sharp pain in my knee and decided to start getting things ready to head back home. My own bed sounded really nice at this point as did some much-needed nursing from my sweet Rach. We quickly packed up the cars and Pete drove me back to my house where he, Luke, Nichole, Brad and Jess helped me unload the truck. I then couch-surfed and was treated like a (injured) King for the rest of the day by Rach. I would say that my feet are the worst of my ongoing problems (Rach just lanced at least three more blisters and they feel as if someone is sticking needles in the soles) but my quads are fairly recked, my knee is a mess when moved in the wrong way and my foot looks like "raw chicken". I am generally fatigued and am going to head to bed shortly.

In summary...
Megan summed things up nicely in an email sent this afternoon, " is really about the journey, not the destination." Looking back over the past year, I can certainly say that the cumulative experiences will define this segment of my life. As stated in a previous entry, the goals I have been able to achieve and growth I have experienced personally over the past year exceeded my hopes and dreams. Though my time as an ultramarathon runner will not define me as a person, the process leading up to participating in such an amazing event will always be something on which I can draw and from which, perhaps, others can draw inspiration.

I am not sure where runsturun will go from here but rest assured, there will be ongoing posts as I recover over the coming weeks. Thanks to everyone for their continued support and interest in runsturun. As always, I'll keep you posted.



asab, rlope + tlope said...

incredible effort, stu.
you are an absolute warrior.
pushing yourself to the limit and beyond is something few people ever know...
keep rockin', stu, keep rockin'...
peace, todd

Rage said...

When I look at Stu's feet I am experiencing fear...not entirely sure that all of those toenails are here to stay.

I have been massaging his feet, legs and toes as he sleeps in the hopes that he will not be completely cripped in the morning.

Stu is AMAZING!!!!!

Ben said...

Stu, awesome effort! Thanks for the interesting, well-written posts. Heal quickly! Ben

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