A 100 mile race filled with rich history dating back to 1983.
Snuggled within the Colorado Rockies with lush green forests and flowing streams continuously within your field of vision. The views of Turquoise Lake while running along the singletrack trail – magical.
A blending of an old mining town and an outdoor enthusiasts paradise.
The Leadville 100 hosted a gathering of the tribe at possibly the biggest 100 miler in the United States with 800-ish registered runners. This big-ness has also created a bit of controversy and logistical issues in the last couple years.
A race with really good running terrain for most of it. The catch – the course traverses from 9,200 feet to 12,600 feet at the top of Hope Pass, which you get to enjoy (or at least not vomit on yourself, hopefully) twice in this out-and-back course. And a 30 hour time limit adds to the keep-it-movin’ excitement.
This race also brings out a great group of TALON athletes willing to take on the “Race Across the Sky” adventure. Out of the 360 total finishers, 15 were part of our local tribe! (Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the total list of TALON athletes that laced them up and began the journey.)
Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico all brought home a finish with the Lone Star State collecting the majority.
The often smiling, yet gritty trail runner, Liza Howard of Texas led our TALON athletes to the finish at the top of 6th Street in downtown Leadville. Liza led the female scamper for most of the race and held tough late in the race for second place honors in 20:01:15.
Matt Smith of Texas led the TALON boys, finishing 24th overall in 21:53:23.
New Mexico had both our wisest and yougest finishers with Edward Trzcienski earning a 27:09:02 finish at age 52, and 30 year old Trent Wester could finally stop moving after 29:43:06 of heart and determination.
Our average finisher was just under 40 years old.
Complete TALON Results
- Liza Howard (TX) – 20:01:15
- Matt Smith (TX) – 21:53:23
- Derek Dowell (LA) – 26:29:11
- Nick Seymour (OK) – 26:54:30
- Edward Trzcienski (NM) – 27:09:02
- Dana Munari (TX) – 28:03:11
- Denver Fredenburg (TX) – 28:38:31
- Sharon James (OK) – 29:10:47
- Dean Harvie (TX) – 29:17:35
- Steve Macdonald (TX) – 29:34:04
- Erik Hanley (TX) – 29:41:54
- Trent Wester (NM) – 29:43:06
- Mark Thompson (TX) – 29:44:03
- Joe Currens (TX) – 29:48:01
- Jason Bousliman (NM) – 30:36:44
- Brett Oblack (NM) – mile 75
Leadville 100 Reflections
Enjoy as our Leadviller’s graciously share some moments from their adventure.
Liza Howard (New Balance)
Going up and over Hope Pass was the most memorable part of the race for me this year this year. The downhill running was sublime, and the stranger showing up to crew for me really captured the essence of the sport.
[EB: Liza’s Hope Pass pacer experience with permission to share from her race report.]
“When the course finally dumped me out on the short section of road to Winfield, a young guy was standing there waiting. He asked if I’d like a pacer.
Now I’d forgotten my rain jacket back at Twin Lakes, and I had been worrying I’d get trapped by a thunderstorm and become hypothermic up on Hope. (I did have an emergency garbage bag rain jacket, but those things are sleeveless.). Anyway, I’d spent a good deal of time catastrophizing up and over Hope, so when the fellow asked about pacing I said, “Sure!” (I’m not saying I would have robbed the nice kid of his rain jacket …. Just the sleeves. Maybe.)
In any event, the weather was fine, and Johnny was the best pacer I could have asked for to help me get up and over Hope that day. He was in such good humor, and was also appropriately appreciative of the vistas and of the race itself. I worked quickly to disabuse him of the notion that there was anything glamorous about pacing someone in the front of a race. He didn’t get the full vomiting-whimpering-runner induction that Brandy did later, but I think I did a pretty good job of it.”
The double crossing of Hope Pass went much better than in 2013 and I was in a great spot mentally leaving Twin Lakes at mile 60-ish. My pacer and I began the climb up to the Mt. Elbert aid station which seemed to go on forever, but I was extremely motivated to keep pushing strong to better last year’s effort.
After three miles, we had the most spectacular view of Twin Lakes…but wait, we shouldn’t be that high above it. Turns out I missed a turn and put in four bonus miles with 1,200 feet of additional gain / loss which ended up derailing my goal time.
On a positive note, I bet nobody else saw that amazing view of Twin Lakes or has a cool story of how they completed the LT104!
This was my first attempt at a race at this altitude and what I was hoping would be my second 100 mile finish. Coming from Oklahoma, I have experience with heat, humidity, lower altitude and flatter terrain. My only hundred mile finish so far was done on gently rolling hills in Tahlequah, Oklahoma – the Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd. I took advantage of the LT100 training camp offered by Lifetime Fitness and was able to train on every section of the course prior to the race as well as spend several weekends during the summer training at altitude in the mountains.
The most memorable and rewarding view was directly related to the amount of effort involved in achieving it – the summit of Hope Pass.
Here is how it went…
Leaving out from the Twin Lakes aid station, passing through several small ponds or large puddles of standing, knee high water and a knee high river crossing of briskly flowing, refreshing water, I crossed an open expanse of field and began the ascent up the tree-lined, shaded trail which would take me to the summit. I fell into a steady, but still brisk pace up the trail using my poles to help set a comfortable cadence. The shade of the trees gave me a needed break from the intensity of the sun and the splashing of the creek which ran alongside the trail provided a mental and physical lift. I took advantage of the creeks proximity and soaked my hat and head full of thick hair.
I was in good company – not too many fellow runners so as to make the trails congested. We were all silently making our way up, saving energy by not talking, picking our way among rocks and roots, sometimes stopping to empty a shoe of rocks or dirt. Occasionally, a runner (or should I say hiker at this point?) would call out ‘runner up’ and those of us on the trail would quickly step off to allow what would be a potential winner to make his/her way down. I would call out “great job” to them as they passed by and their reply was usually labored breathing – deep in concentration, watching every foot fall.
I emerged from the shaded, tree-lined trail into a brightly lit meadow surrounded by pine trees and majestic mountains in the distance, the afternoon sun perfect for picture taking. The yellow and purple clusters of flowers which lined the trail were vibrant. I didn’t stop for pictures – I did my picture taking during the training runs. I felt an impulse to start singing “The Hills are Alive…” from The Sound of Music, but there is no way I would ever do that – someone might hear me. Scriptures started filling my head…I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and Earth.
Continuing the climb, the pine trees began to thin out and I finally emerged above the tree line. Flowers still lined my path and I continued to step off the trail for the fast downhill runners. The trail began to switchback up to the summit. Looking back, I saw the small specs of runners working their way up.
Finally, the last switchback arrived and I reached the summit – a pile of rocks with a stick protruding up. The wind was blowing stronger here – a refreshing cool down from the climb up, so long as I didn’t stand around too long that is. I turned around and looked back on the trail I just ascended, the lakes in the distance reflecting the blue of the sky. Rugged peaks in other directions – 360 degrees of brightly lit beauty.
I passed Llamas lounging in the grass next to the aid station, groups of runners standing around the fire, and enjoyed a great combination of mashed potatoes and ramen noodles ladled out by wonderful volunteers. I began my next favorite part of the trail – the descent into Winfield. I didn’t linger long – cutoff times were looming in my mind. I’m trying to like the climb up from Winfield to the summit, but I can’t just yet – it’s something I want to forget. Maybe I’ll work on that next summer.
So, aside from the fantastic views I was surrounded by during this event, I would say the people out there with me make me love this sport. From my experience, people are more relaxed on trails. We’re sharing a common interest, trying to achieve a common goal, helping each other out when needed. These types of races also bring out the selflessness of others – whether crew or pacers. My husband has no interest in running 100 miles because he doesn’t want to stay up all night, yet he was there at every aid station, greeting me with a big yellow banner and a shady spot to recover. Gia Madole paced me from Winfield to the finish. I had only met and spoken with her one other time after a race, yet she was willing to help me reach my goal and kept me fed and encouraged from 50 miles to the finish.
I have since gone from been there, done that, check it off my list of races, to I wonder if I can improve my time next year.
Let me start by saying I’m an unlikely Leadville finisher. I’m a 20 year back of the packer. About five years ago, my running partner, Rich Wessels, agreed to pace a friend at Leadville. I helped him train and, somehow, the seed took hold in my mind. Two years ago, I ran my first ultra, the 50k Rockledge Rumble at Grapevine Lake (back of the pack). Last year, I ran the 55k Endurance Buzz Adventures race at Possum Kingdom Lake (back of the pack) and the Jemez Mountain 50 Mile Race (back of the pack). At the end of Jemez, I thought I could probably do more. In January, I registered for Leadville and set out to train exclusively for that race.
From the start, my “realistic Leadville goal” was to get to Twin Lakes Inbound (about 61 Miles) and then just see “what happens”. The cutoffs are reasonable on the inbound half, so I knew there was a shot if I made it back to Twin Lakes. Once there, I was simply following my pacers and moving as well as I could.
Around Mile 86, it became clear that I was slowing and would likely miss the Mayqueen Inbound Cutoff (Mile 87). I suddenly felt the power of the selfless contribution everyone had made to get me that far. I knew friends and family were watching the chip times. I knew crew and pacers were waiting for me. I became so mad at myself for letting this opportunity slip away that I just started running as fast I could (Think Forrest Gump). I ran something under a 9 minute mile through a trail/road section, after 86 Miles and 26 hours on my feet. I am slow, so I was shocked to see that I could still do more than my head had been telling me all along. Fueled by doubt and anger, I made Mayqueen with five minutes to spare.
I still had to do a 3:35 Half Marathon to finish (sounds slow now) but I knew I would finish if I kept pushing. My friends, family, crew, pacers, volunteers and strangers were pulling for me. I finished 12 minutes under the 30 Hour limit.
My friend, Rich, had severe stomach issues and was unable to finish this year (He still covered 60 Miles, most of it with almost no food staying down). When I saw Rich at the finish, I broke down in tears. Rich is my running mentor and my brother on and off the trails. I would never have even been in Leadville without his inspiration and help.
I came away from Leadville with a clear feeling that ultra marathons are not individual events. The runner gets the credit, the medal and a cool buckle but the community around him/her actually does the work. There is literally no way I could have done it alone. I benefitted from Aid Station volunteers, random bystanders with a nice thing to say and other racers along the way. I had outstanding training partners, extremely supportive crew, and veteran pacer. Every person I saw collaborated to get me over the line. I owe them all.
Before the race, Leadville Founder, Ken Chlouber, tells runners two important things.
First, “You are better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.” In retrospect, he was right. You have to place yourself outside the ordinary to see what is really inside you. No one was more shocked than me when I crossed that line.
Second, Ken asks you to “Dig deep into that inexhaustible well of grit, guts and determination.” I couldn’t remember all that during the run but I must have told myself to “Dig Deep” ten thousand times. I encourage anyone who is thinking of running Leadville to go give it a try. At least, take a step forward and try something you’ve never done before. If I can finish, I know you can.
I’ll keep on running. If you have any questions, look for me at the back of the pack!
Enjoy his EB Leadville adventure report here.
The Positives and Negatives from This Year’s Leadville 100
The elephant in the room at this year’s race briefing was the issue of littering. Because it was such a problem last year, Leadville’s reputation as one of ultrarunning’s premier events suffered a serious setback.
Race Director Josh Colley and Leadville race founder and icon Ken Chlouber didn’t shy away from the topic of littering. During the race briefing it was stated without ambiguity that any instance of littering by a runner, their pacer or their crew would result in an instant disqualification. Those assembled in the gym immediately cheered this news. Many times during the race I saw runners and pacers pick up trash on the course, all of which seemed like accidental littering (the tops of Gu Packets, a baggie of food, stray articles of clothing, etc). Overall, littering was a non-issue at the race which is a tremendous improvement by both the race staff and the runners.
The course had some slight adjustments from the previous year. Leadville has always had the distinction of having more actual road miles than many of the other famous hundred mile race. There were still a few miles of running on paved roads, without any blocking or redirecting of traffic. Most cars were obviously filled by race crews and were slow and respectful.
The big highlight this year? Rob Krar. It is impossible not to cheer for this guy and seeing him rocketing down Hope Pass was an incredible sight. The fact that one of the most recognizable faces (beards?) of ultrarunning won this race with a fantastic time can only be a benefit to the race’s image.
R.D. Josh Colley also acknowledged in the race briefing that they allowed too many racers to participate in 2013. The number of entrants this year was capped at just below 700. While this is a move in the right direction, it still felt very crowded compared to any other trail race, with much of the iconic Hope Pass section spent stepping on and off the trail to make way for runners from the other direction. Several of the key aid stations (Twin Lakes and Winfield) felt chaotic from the sheer amount of people present. Many runners had trouble finding their crews at the Twin Lakes aid station, probably the most important crewing location of the whole race.
Despite the previously mentioned push to completely eliminate littering, some volunteers seemed to not quite understand what exactly constituted littering. They allowed, and even encouraged runners to throw cups and food scraps “as long as it was in sight of the aid station.” Other volunteers were more proactive and helping runners get their trash into the right receptacle (recycling and composting bags were available at most aid stations).
Please don’t get me wrong, volunteers are amazing, generous people. I was practically moved to tears during the race by how nice several volunteers were during my low points. However, there still seemed to be a lack of precise directions regarding trash and food leftovers. A move toward making this race cup-free would be a great way to signal a new focus on lessening the environmental impact of the race.
Putting these races on is a massive and expensive undertaking and Lifetime Fitness, New Balance and all the sponsors involved are businesses trying to make money. I get it. That doesn’t change the fact that there were still way too many entrants. At 10,000’ elevation, the environmental impact of every action is multiplied. There was obvious erosion from foot traffic at several places during the race.
Lifetime Fitness has been the focus of a lot of the criticism leveled at the Leadville 100 trail race. They have been somewhat demonized as commercializing the event, drawing the wrong type of crowd, adding in way too many events throughout the summer, etc. From what I witnessed, the race organizers stated that Lifetime is making it possible to have a smaller field, keep costs down and keep more of the race from having to use roads. One racer was vocal in criticizing Lifetime Fitness and was told by the race staff that the race was in danger of shutting down prior to Lifetime’s acquisition.
That being said, it was actually some of the other sponsors that left a bad taste in my mouth during the race.
Should You Race Leadville?
Race directors, volunteers and sponsors all have herculean tasks to put on an event of any size, let alone one of the biggest ultramarathons in the country. When that event is as prestigious and storied as Leadville, the spotlight can get shined on some dark places. The directors and staff of the Leadville series do seem very aware of the complaints that have been leveled against them and seem to be working to solve, or at least lessen, those problems.
However, there are many examples of ultramarathon races being conducted in a manner that combines that ethics of trail stewardship and environmentalism with sponsorship by companies who actively support both the trail-running community and the values it should stand for. There shouldn’t have to be a choice between money for the community, athletes and race companies and maintaining the natural environment that we all love so much.
Many trail-runners cherish the solitude and interaction with the natural environment that the trail and ultrarunning community provides. Despite the stunning views throughout the race, Leadville often felt more like a crowded road marathon, with jam-packed aid stations and crowded trails. Leadville has always been the largest 100-miler in the country and promoted itself as open to everyone. Each person who is considering signing up needs to determine if the history of the race and the beauty of the course is enough to overcome some of the problems the race is currently facing.
A big Woot! to our entire Leadville 100 tribe!
Also a special thanks to those that shared a few thoughts with us from their Leadville adventure.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
Posted on 11 Sep 2014