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Leadville 100 Run 2022

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

The 100 mile distance has been the benchmark goal for my running career since I began.

First came some road races, then a 30km race, 50km, the 100km Movember run, now this was the final uncharted territory.

To me, once you complete a 100 miler, you earn your tenure within the ultrarunning world. You become a true ultrarunner.


This journey began with my long time friend, Austin, posing the idea to me. "Let's run Leadville this year."

The previous summer, I volunteered at the race as it was only 30 minutes away from my house in Summit County. I got the opportunity to run for a few hours with one of me and Austin's idols, Nick Bare. Nick went on to successfully complete the run and I knew Austin's competitive juices were flowing.

We opted to guarantee our entry by becoming fundraisers for The Lifetime Foundation. The role required us to raise $2800 each.

To launch our campaign, we filmed a promo video. We launched it and well...the donations didn't exactly come flying in.



Austin and I spent the winter and spring training, accumulating miles. My philosophy was to just build mileage no matter what the pace, intensity, etc.


Unfortunately, my knees were not taking kindly to the immense mileage and it seemed that the slower I ran, the worse my knees felt. I cut out all lower body strength training in an effort to avoid overtaxing my legs, but that lack of strength work led to the atrophy of some muscle and my development of tendinitis and bursitis in my knees.


The race approached and I peaked early to allow myself ample time to taper and recover.

Knees slowly started to feel a bit better by race day but I still needed to wear compression sleeves on both to avoid pain.




Race day


My lovely girlfriend, Rachael, had arranged us to stay at a friend's house less than 0.5 miles from the start line.

My mom had flown in two days prior and my dad flew in race day eve.


Rachael and I walked at 3am to the buzzing block of 6th and Harrison avenue to meet my Mom, Dad and Austin (who had to defer his entry to the following year due to a broken foot).


The starting line was bouncing energetically.

Most of the time, race nerves dissipate with the start of the race. This time, however, I couldn't ignore the size of the journey ahead and I felt like the beginning of the race wouldn't truly happen until many miles later when things would get difficult.


Start to Mayqueen


The gunshot sounds and the crowd inches forward towards the start line.


I started strong without much issue. The downhill running felt good and I was maintaining a good position in the pack. Making sure to walk certain uphills, I kept my legs feeling fresh.

My stomach, however, had different plans. The anticipation and nerves combined with the fact that I had been eating as much food as I could the last 48hrs meant that my stomach was already not doing well.

I was running well but could only last so long without proper nutrition. I was woefully undereating and I would pay for it sooner or later.

Considering it a later problem, I pushed on to reach Mayqueen in a little over 2 hours, putting me in a really good position for the rest of the race.

The stop was a quick one and the crowds meant my crew was unable to get the prepacked cooler to the course and I was unable to swap soft flasks out for full ones with Tailwind in it.

I ate a couple bites, lamented about my stomach and took off for the next segment.


Mayqueen to Outward Bound


Exiting Mayqueen, I crossed across the road into the forest again and I immediately got stung by two wasps right in the center of my hamstring. The uphill singletrack through the woods let way to the road up to the top of the pass. My energy was starting to be wain with the lack of calories. I walked the entirety of the uphill to the top of the road and was passed by nearly 50 people.

I tried eating but couldn't keep it down enough to swallow more. I walked until the notoriously steep downhill section to the Fish Hatchery forced me to run again.

I tried to run/walk the road into the Outward Bound aid station but knew I was starting to deteriorate and it was very early in the race.




I came into Outward Bound with better spirits just happy to see my crew. I was able to eat some chips, watermelon, seltzer water, and ginger ale.



My position in the race was no longer relevant and survival was really the only thing that mattered at this point.


Outward Bound to Half Pipe


Feeling the first upward swing of the race, I was surprised to see how much the little bit of solid food I got down lifted my morale. The clouds offered a bit of relief and the low grade uphill offered an opportunity to pass some people that had overtaken me through powerline.

For the first time, I felt appreciative. I put a podcast in and listened to Courtney Dewalter and Cam Hanes talk about the importance of enjoyment during the race.

Reaching Half Pipe, I actually felt accomplished to have stuck through that first wave of trouble from the past few hours.

Half Pipe doesn't allow crew at the aid station so I grabbed a cup of ramen noodles and ginger ale and kept moving.


Half Pipe to Twin Lakes


A short section, I struck a conversation with a runner from San Diego and killed time comparing stories and sharing advice. The course continued through the forest with a rolling mixture of downhill and uphill until reaching the Mini Mount Elbert aid station. This was sort of an aid station with no crew and only a couple volunteers handing out hydration.

From there, it was a steep and loose descent into Twin Lakes.

Everyone thinks of Twin Lakes when they think of the Leadville 100.

An entire town converted into an aid station. A sea of pop-up tents and festivities. You can hear it from more than 2 miles away. The nerves build as you pick up the pace racing down the switchbacks. In a way, it feels like a miniature finish line.

My dad came to meet and run with me through to town to our crew location near the exit of the aid station.



This was the place to take a longer rest.

I switched shoes, drank and ate what I could, and sat down for 15 minutes. I was still on track to make the cutoffs.




This was a hard goodbye to say to my crew as I wouldn't see them again for many hours. Between now and then I would climb Hope Pass twice and cover a marathon distance.


Twin Lakes to Hope Pass


This is exactly what it seems. A quick, yet substantial creek crossing and then a long steady climb up a couple thousand feet to the Hope Pass aid station. The climb is not as steep as the back side and if you keep your head down, seems to pass without too much fuss. It took a couple hours and I was greeted with warm soup and a campfire at the station. Feeling relieved that I was this far into the race and that I had made it up Hope Pass, I sat and rested for a while. The rest was nice, but too long.


I called Rachael to tell her I made it and wouldn't have cell to call the crew for the next few hours.


Hope Pass to Winfield


I crested the pass a few hundred feet above the Hope Pass aid station and started my descent. I was hurting but felt good. All I had to do was reach the bottom of the Pass on this side and Winfield should be right there (right??). The backside of the pass is steep and brutal. It is much less traveled than the front side and the trail reflects that.



Eventually I reached the bottom where the trail turns out and starts traversing the mountain a few hundred feet above the valley floor. I assumed it would be a mile - two maybe - to get to Winfield. After 30 min, I asked a runner coming in the opposite direction how much further it was. He checked his watch and said, "Looks like about 3.2 miles according to my watch. If you run you might make it."

I didn't fully believe him so I asked another. Same answer.

Fuck.

I had about 40 minutes until the cutoff time and needed to cover 3.2 miles of technical, uphill singletrack after running for nearly 14 hours already.


I reconciled with the idea that I wouldn't make it and I would walk it in.

"I've seen the whole course by making it to Winfield. I don't need to keep going. I made it halfway. I am good to drop. I'll tell my crew I just couldn't make it with the time."

The problem was that I had promised Rachael that I would not quit. I would give it my all.

I could easily have convinced myself and everyone else that I gave it my all and missed the cutoff.

But I knew in my heart that it was not impossible for me to make it. I knew I could make it if I gave it my all and ran hard the next 40 minutes.

It would take everything I had.

I pulled through more than I ever had during an event over the next 40 minutes.

The runners in the opposite direction knew I was on a mission. I ran 3 back to back 9-minute miles when my previous pace had been close to double that.

My heart rate was 180 running into the aid station. I had hoped to cross the timer and been able to recoup but the timer was on the exit of the aid station. I grabbed my drop bag and took the whole thing with me through the timing mat.


I had less than 1 minute to spare, but I made it. And I was proud.


Winfield to Hope Pass


I was hurting. The massive spike effort it took to get through the turnaround and stay ahead of the cutoff debilitated me. I knew my race was probably over.

I knew that I would probably not make the next cutoff but I was content. I gave it my all to get through Winfield and I would be damned if I didn't make it back to my crew in Twin Lakes on my own feet.

A nice woman gave me a spare headlamp because I had left mine in my drop bag during the hurry of Winfield.

Later, a nice man gave me a big 'ole 8mg Zofran pill to curb some nausea.

I linked up with three other guys who all ended up in the same boat as me but were determined to make it back to Twin Lakes on their own. We all headed up Hope Pass at a snails pace.

One of them dropped off and it was me and my two new friends. We shuffled up the 30% grade and eventually popped out of treeline sometime around 9 pm.

It helped to have someone to talk to this time.

This climb was significantly more challenging than I thought and felt about twice as difficult as the front side of Hope Pass.

The inability to eat much of anything for the race took its toll. I was in such a calorie deficit that I really was having a hard time seeing straight and keeping my balance as we approached 13,000ft.

The lights of the aid station a few hundred feet below welcomed us as we crested the top of the pass.

I finally had cell service again and called Rachael to tell her I wasn't making the next cutoff but that I was okay.

She seemed relieved in a way.

My two friends and I ate more ramen and coke and sat by the fire before taking off to walk back down to Twin Lakes.


Hope Pass to Twin Lakes


Good conversation kept us occupied as we creaked our way down the mountain. Hallucinations began to animate the forest and we joked about how tired we were. We spoke about next year, our appreciation to at least finish the unofficial Leadville 100(km) fun-run.


We were met at the creek crossing by my crew - now with the addition of my friends John, Ben and Molly. They escorted us the last 1.5 miles back into town.




The day was over.


A different outcome than I had hoped but a valiant effort and enough experience to help me in a second attempt.


I felt nothing but relief and gratitude to everyone who had come out to support me. They put their lives on hold to be here to help and support me. I could never fully express how grateful I will forever feel about this day.


Thank you:

Rachael Dye, Austin Story, Clarice Moran, Tom Moran, John Kernaghan, Molly Manske, Ben Carlson


And Thank you to everyone who supported with a donation to the Lifetime Foundation.


Onto the next year!


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