Open Source Athlete - September Edition

Race: Leadville Trail 100 mile Endurance Run

Distance: 100 miles (160km)

Date: 18 August 2012

Start Time: 04:00am

Finish Time: 03:37 am

Total Time: 23hrs 37min 10sec

Weather conditions: Crisp, cool start about 3-4 degrees C, full daylight at about 630am and warmed up at about 7-730am. Great running conditions early on, then started to hot up to mid twenties, possibly high twenties from 10am to 3pm, then cooled down quickly, windy. Many of the athletes were very sunburnt due to the altitude and dry climate but I had the chance to train up in similar conditions so my body and skin was used to it. Windy up Hope Pass and the temps dropped but not to anything uncomfortably cool. I was anticipating changeable conditions over the pass and was fully geared to take warm clothes with me back over Hope Pass but didn't need to wear them. The night was cloudless and very starry, but with no moon. It chilled right down to zero in the early hours and round Turquoise Lake in the last quarter it was freezing cold. I was in multiple jackets, gloves, beenies and at the glacial pace I was running at, still freezing cold even in all of that. I can't complain about the weather though, it was a really weather great day for racing.

Race/Event Objectives: With any 100 mile race I always go in with the goal to finish. Leadville is touted as a tough mountain race and I went in giving it the respect it deserved. There were a few variables I knew would come up to test me: the altitude firstly. It's inconceivable how thin the air is up there. Leadville the town is over 10,000 ft, and Hope Pass is 12,600ft. At 10,000ft you have 30% less oxygen with each breath as you do at sea level. I watched how Kirsten struggled to even climb the stairs without getting out of breath when she arrived, and her roller ball pen exploded when she took the lid off to write. Chip packets puff up to splitting point and your eyeballs are constantly gritty and dry. It really is harsh on your respiratory system, muscles and brain.I knew I had spent the time acclimatizing as best I could, but I was still wary of the effects while running.

Secondly the weather and in particular the conditions up Hope Pass could be a factor (which they weren't in the end) and thirdly I wasn't as fresh as I should've been at the start. It is fairly inevitable with the Grand Slam and I knew I had to freshen up between races, but I had come out of Vermont VERY pumped, and possibly slightly overtrained in between races. I'd come straight to Pagosa Springs and met up with my favorite running buddy Morgan Murri. Fueled by his great running company and my exhilaration at the result of the Vermont race, I realize now that I started running to quickly and with too much intensity. I had listened to my body and run with feeling, but by the time I got to Leadville I was concerned that I had probably overdone it a bit and should be toeing the line fresher. I love to run, so my passion possibly overshadowed my common sense. But geez did I have some phenomenal runs in Pagosa Springs!!

Of course I went in conscious that I was now in poll position for the Grand Slam, but in all honesty that was really something I was only prepared to consider after the Hope Pass return. In the end it wasn't a consideration out on the trail, only finishing was.

Race/Event Details: Kirsten jokingly wrote on Facebook this week, when I was dragging out putting this race report together, that all I needed to write was in essence, "I toed the line in good form, I ran, I vomited, I ran and vomited some more, ran some more vomited some more and then finished." Unfortunately that very much sums it up. It wasn't a disastrous race, or a terrible time, it was just a very long time to run while feeling nauseous, and a twisted game of how long I could keep food or liquid down and absorb some nutrients for energy to run.

I ran a strong first 40 miles before I started to feel unwell, and then once the nausea hit there was no return. From mile 40 I got progressively worse until I was over the pass, then I vomited consistently from the turn around all the way to the finish. I was mostly making myself sick as it made me feel instantly better and able to run. However it wouldn't take me long until I was too weak to have any power in my running, so I'd try to fuel only to feel nauseous again.

My crew and pacers bullied me to keep up the fluids (mainly water and coke) and I took small nibbles of anything that looked vaguely tasty until I became too unwell again. I decided at about mile 70 that I really wanted to stay under 24 hours and I used that goal to push myself relentlessly forward even if it was only walking. I knew I had to fuel to finish so I forced myself to eat and then tried to keep it down as long as possible.

There were many athletes out of the course (800 to be exact) and because its an out and back I passed many people on the trail - and that was really inspiring, in particular when the front pack came through. Also on the way back from Hope Pass down to Twin Lakes there were so many people doing it tough and they were only heading outbound over the pass for the first time. That gave me the courage to know that even if I was feeling revolting, I was really making good progress along the course. Ultra runners are so encouraging, selfless and have such camaraderie for their fellow competitors that I never felt alone and was buoyed along by their collective fortitude.

As I was one of many, many competitors that felt nauseous as a result of the altitude there was a sense of a common bond there too and many crew, spectators and aid station volunteers gave me advice and suggestions to keep on keeping on, which helped.

In the end, and undeniably with the help of my pacers, Pete and Mandy, I was able to finish strong, and to receive my big buckle for a sub-25 hour race. I was stiff with cold in the end and went to the medic/fire truck's warming dock for 15 minutes to thaw out - which made me feel instantly better. What a welcome facility that was.

Leadville is a race I will remember as one of the longest I've had to live on the edge for while running. To keep on digging and finding the courage to move forward taught me a lot about the reserves I have. I am proud of the race I put together there.

I keep feeling like I should be disappointed because I'm capable of running a faster on that course, but in reality I just feel really pleased that I still finished with such a great time considering how I felt.

Shoes: Saucony Kinvara, then swapped out shoes at mile 60 for the Saucony Mirage following a river crossing just before Twin Lakes.

Socks: None

Fluids taken during the race: Endura Optimizer, Endura Gels, water and coke

Energy / Calories consumed Prior to the race: Approximately 600 calories in the form of 3 x tins of Heinz Vanilla rice pudding (kindly bought over by Kirsten and missing in Vermont), banana, almond butter, a glass of orange juice and two cups of coffee. Another 4am race start and I decided to rather sleep in then eat 2 hours before the race as I prefer to do. Perhaps that was a mistake.

Energy / Calories consumed During the race: As always, I aim for roughly 400 calories per hour from the gun and a 90% fluid intake which is why I stick to Endura Optimizer and gels.

One of the effects or repercussions of the Grand Slam 100 miling that I'm noticing is flavor fatigue and space food/race food rejection by my stomach more quickly. While my mind and my legs may have accepted that I'm racing another 100 mile in quick succession, my stomach is slower on the uptake. It's had enough of the taste of the race nutrition that I would normally be able to consume for hours. So I'm having having to adapt to that by trying to find alternatives that it accepts.

As I felt nauseous so fast in this race, I went to water and coke quicker than I would normally. I also tried to eat bananas and fruit (melon mainly) at aid stations as well as dry saltines and salt & vinegar Pringles. During the night I had soups and broths as well as coffee at the aid stations.

Sodium / Electrolytes consumed During the race: 4 SCAP tablets per hour, or wherever I could get them, if it went over the hour.

Things that worked for this event: For the nausea Travel calm and natural ginger chews, as well as Coke.

Things that didn't work well for this event: I needed to have practised my long runs at altitude while consuming food. I should have mixed up the nutrition earlier on to give my digestive system a break from the inevitable flavor fatigue I was petulantly ignoring.

Post-Race Recovery:  It's amazing how much worse you feel after a 100 mile run when you're out for around 24 hours or more, it's like your bio rhythms, circadian system is whacked out of place as well as everything else. Almost like jet lag. After Vermont I was in bed by 930pm, a typical and restful night for me. After Leadville I was asleep by 5am, and the day was already breaking outside. I had a couple of hours sleep only before waking up starving hungry but still unsettled. It took me a couple of days to recover from the lost sleep. In terms of the legs, I was walking around like I hadn't raced. It wasn't like Western States where my quads were trashed from the downhill, or like Vermont where the intensity of racing stiffened my legs and torso. I felt GREAT, the lack of intensity and numerous walks during the race meant my legs and body felt fresh, and my muscle texture was still good.

Lessons Learned: Respect the effects of high altitude on my stomach when I run long. Practice nutrition at altitude and have a better strategy for fueling. Wake up 2 hours before to get the breakfast properly digested before the start line.



#5 dee 2012-09-04 13:55
Another great race - under 24 hours despite the problems you had. Well done. Good recap and best of luck for the end of your Grand Slam.
#4 dan Salem 2012-09-01 05:12
Another great race and another great race report.Congratulations Mike Inspirational. Dan from Townsville
#3 Rob R 2012-08-31 17:14
Hey Mike - always learning - great example for us all. Racing on the edge and keeping the end in mind was well done. With the three races under your belt your taper will be interesting with those races in your body condition - I guess focus toeing the line as fresh as you can is Utah looks a big challenge.
#2 Andrew Firman 2012-08-31 16:04
Well done Mike. You should be going into the next race strong with your excellent recovery. This is now the business end. Go hard or go home!
Good luck!
#1 Ian Gallagher 2012-08-31 11:33
Outstanding Mike, well done for nutting that one out. Very impressive.
Good luck with your last one - at least your legs are fresh!

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