Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Leadville 2009 – Round 2 – there will be a Round 3!

Right before the 4 am start, left to right, Smelsers, son Mark, cousin Ron, Allen's dad Lloyd, son Scott, wife Nancy, Allen, and then me and my brother Andrew
This report will be short because my experience on the course ended much too soon. Thursday and Friday were partially filled with pre-race meetings and preparations. We left our campsite and stayed in downtown Leadville in the RV on Friday night. We woke up Saturday morning at 1:45 am to eat pancakes and the race started at 4 am. It was really warm at the start, like 48 degrees (compared to 32 degrees last year with rain and snow!) and I left all the jackets and gloves at the start. I forgot that at 4 am the temps still go down a bit before they go up so I spent a couple hours trying to keep my hands warm before the sun came up. The first leg of 13 ½ miles to Mayqueen was uneventful. Allen Smelser had caught up to me by the time we got to Mayqueen and we ran into the aid station together. I was already suspicisously worried about nasuea, only nibbling a little on food as I left the aid station and jogged up the road to the trail.

The next section is only 10 miles to the Fish Hatchery but I think it's probably like 6 up and 3 down or so. Those six miles up just took forever! It's not really that steep and last year I ran up much of it so I don't know what was wrong with me this year!? I was going as fast as I could stomach-wise and I was chewing Tums just trying to make it up and over the pass without throwing up. It seemed like everyone was passing me only going a little faster than I was but they were soon out of sight. After a while I started looking at my watch even wondering if I would make the Fish Hatchery cut off in time? Good grief! Once I crested the top and starting running (plummeling?) downhill, I immediately felt better. I had about 30 minutes left when I got to the pavement and had 1 1/2 miles to run mostly uphill into the Fish Hatchery. I felt so much better and knew there was a lot of runnable territory coming up so I ate a little bit at Fish Hatchery and continued on, leaving 10 minutes before the cut off.

I ran power poles through the next 4 relatively flat miles and then on the dirt roads it started to get hot! and I mean really, really hot. The sun was just so intense. I heard later that they had record or near record high temperatures in the area that day. 80 degrees at 10,000 feet and higher is really intense. For these miles there was no shade at all. I was alternating running and walking with a group of others, trying to make it to the next aid station. A couple miles at the most from the aid station, the nausea came roaring back. My head was spinning and so was my stomach and my pace had slown (is slown a word? if not, it should be!) considerably, and I was just trying to stay on my feet. The sun felt hotter and hotter and I stumbled a few times, with nothing to stumble over. I arrived to the aid station before the cut off barely by a couple minutes and told them I think I am going to throw up. I went in the medical tent and started throwing up in nice big black trash sacks. After 10 minutes of such ridiculousness, the cut off has already gone by and my wrist band was cut. They put ice on me and eventually I started to feel better. But when they weighed me, we found out I had lost 7 pounds from dehydration, in just the first 30 miles. I guess that's what did me in - dehydration and altitude sickness? It had been bothering me all week to be honest - especially the altitude. When I hiked Mt. Elbert on Wednesday with Andrew, I threw up several times just after summiting on the way back down. But once we were below timberline, I felt much better. All week long I was light-headed and slightly miserable at my camp site, but that didn't strike me as odd when I lined up on the start line on Saturday morning! The previous 2 times I had come to Leadville I hadn't experience anything quite like what I did this time.

It was especially frustrating because last year I made it 50 miles and this year only about 30. With training and experience, I was immensely more prepared this year. I trained very well all summer! Anyway, as I lick my wounds and re-commit to training harder and better and going back next year, hopefully, I respect so incredibly those that were able to finish. It's just so amazing! One day I'll get that Leadville buckle! And then what will I do with it? uh...

My brother Andrew was my crew and he helped me out a ton, especially with bringing ice to the pipeline road where I was really needing it. Also, I think he was 'inspired' by the whole event and just might want to run an Ultra some day...maybe even Leadville! And Allen made it to Winfield but was late for the cut-off (this was his third Leadville attempt!), but Nancy told him after the race that he is going back every year until he finishes! Then Allen responds to Nancy, "I love you, wife!" I thought that was pretty funny!