Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leadville 70 mile race report

DNF'd at 70 miles in 18:35

What a great experience - The mountains, the stars, Hope Pass x2, my crew and pacer. 

A thank you to my Sister, her man Ed and my wife the crew chief.  You took care of me wonderfully, gave me energy with your cheering and were understanding when it did not go as planned.

Another round of applause for my Pacer Jeff - Who spent the whole day cheering and then spent 7+ hours strolling 20 miles with me -  Keeping me focused and entertained.

I weighed in at the packet pickup at 228#, this meant I had little room for error in the race.  The extra 25-30 pounds is a lot to hike up the Leadville course.  Everything else was good and my achillies was never a factor.

I decided that I would run up the 1st hill about 1/4 mile into the race, but after that just keep an easy pace going in the 1st section.  I felt I accomplished this with 2:11 for the 1st 13.5 miles, but in reality I should have took 1 more minute per mile.

The rest of the next 26.5 miles I did a lot of power walking on any up hills.  If someone else was walking next to me I would quickly pull away from them walking.  In hindsight, I should have walked slower.

From Twin Lakes to Windfield was the 1st time in the day that I was not in control of choosing my effort level.  After 8 or so water crossings, I hit the base for the climb up to Hope Pass.  This hike goes from 9,200 to 12,600 feet in 3ish miles.  Almost immediately I was moving slowly, but giving near max effort.  Every 5-10 minutes I had to stop and get my heart rate down.  There was a beautiful mountain stream next to us for part of the ascent and the trees gave us shade and coolness.  On the way up I saw my friend John drinking from the mountain stream - I had not expected to see him and just gave a nod to save oxygen.  Soon I broke the tree line and was at the Hopeless aide station.  All the supplies were brought up by Lamas and they were grazing as we went past.  On the trip down, I ran too fast, but it felt good.  At the bottom I hit a gravel road for a few miles into the aide station.  Here my friend John (Who rocked the course in 23:25) caught back up to me after he had struggled with hurling a bit the 1st part of the day.  It was fun spending a little time with him, after we both finished at the aide station we had to cross over a timing mat, so I threw him a nice high elbow and hit the mat 2 seconds before him - Just fun screwing around.

John, my pacer Jeff and I set out for the return trip.  Jeff was going to mule for John and I to the top of the pass. John was stuck going my speed (Slow).  This direction is a bit shorter(1/2 mile), steeper but better footing.  I led the group very slowly up to the pass.  I did not take as many breaks - I thought I was doing pretty good until we crested the pass, then I told John he better go as I would be walking a bit to recover.  A bit ended up being all the way down and all the way into Twin Lakes.

At Twin Lakes, I instructed my crew I would be slow and might be walking it in.  Something was not right.  My legs were OK, my nutrition was OK, my hydration and electrolytes were OK.  Something inside was not OK - Anytime I would try and run flat or down, I would feel both overheated and heart maxed out immediately.  If this was a training run, I would cut it right here.  I knew these were symptoms of a heavily stressed my endocrine system.  At the max stress level the endocrine system will start shutting down most of the bodies functions as a survival mechanism.

The next 3.5 miles to a water only aide station were tough.  I was trying to analyse the state of my body and what I could do to make it better.  Jeff was entertaining me and trying to get me to stay mentally in the race.  When we stopped at the aide station, I sat for 1 minute while Jeff refilled my water.  I started to shiver uncontrollably, so I put my go-lite wisp on and gloves.  Soon I was way to hot and off they came.  The next 6ish miles took forever - Almost no running and walking slow enough to get passed a lot.  I was hitting my max effort even going up a 3-5% incline - having to take breaks. 

We did the last 10 mile section in 3:15 - Which still put us 2.5 hours ahead of the cutoff.  Everything was good enough to finish except my heat regulation and heart rate per effort was gone.  My worry was how much more I would have to stress the endocrine system to finish and I am not willing to take a high level of health risk for a finish.  I wish I understood what was going on better and knew the risk level - But I decided it was time to DNF.

For the next 6 hours my head and core was extremely hot while my legs and arms were not.  I lay in bed shivering with a compress on my head and no covers on.  Between 3-4 AM it went to just a slight fever and I was able to get to sleep.

Although I am disappointed not finishing, it was a new and wonderful experience.  It has left me hungry to actually get my weight under control and back into good shape.  It has not left me with a need to go back and finish what I started.  Going back to pace or crew - Now that sounds like fun.

Leadville = 1
A Big Horse = 0


100 mile trail races = 1
A Big Horse = 0

The 1st score I have no need to settle - The 2nd score I will settle some day.

A special call out to my friend Tom, who could not run for many months with an achillies injury - getting just a few months of less than ideal training.  Cheers Tom - For getting the job done!

Now it is time to get back into top 24 hour race shape!

Good running to all -


  1. Damn, followed on RA. Smart to call it. Everything about that race intrigues me. Great report, look forward to seeing you bring it back around at the monkey.

  2. Altitude will mess with heart rate. When I was pacing out there, my morning heart rate was 110-114, instead of the usual 36-38. It's just the body's trying to make up for lack of oxygen before making new red blood cells. Either you have to spend time acclimating, stick to low altitude or get used to the extra effort.

  3. You did the smart thing, there is no question of your toughness, take the motivation it provided you and move forward!

  4. Definitely the right move, DB. I am looking forward to following your training for your next 24. Good luck!

  5. Even after a few days - I still feel good about the call. I just feel angry about letting myself getting into the position to make the call.

    There is a good chance I am doing the NorthCoast 24 in a little over 3 weeks. Under trained, over weight - Just like Leadville. I give myself a 5-10% chance of > 135 miles, but what the heck.

    Then it will be off to some serious training for a May or June 2012 24 hour race.

    Michael Henze