Sunday, August 31, 2014

Leadville. Random Thoughts and Observations.

I'm back! After a few months off writing it was time to re-activate the blog. I completed the Leadville 100 mile trail run in Colorado, USA, a couple of weeks ago, so now I'm having some down time, time to write and not spend all my spare time training.

Leadville. It looks like this. Source:

This post is just some random observations and thoughts. I will save the in depth discussion on training and running for another time.

So in no particular order:

  • The most popular running shoe on the run was the Hoka by a country mile. Followed by Salomon and Brooks I would say. The Hoka has gone from obscurity to the ultra running favourite. First time I saw anyone wearing these sponges on their feet was about 4 years on La Trans Aq run in France, when this couple suddenly appeared in front of me (yes, they had cut the course and were 'orienteering') wearing matching and bizarrely stacked shoes. Who would have thought they would take the ultra world by storm.
Hoka: the minimalist running trend has been usurped by these.

  • A few hardy souls were wearing sandals/ huarache's/ Lunas. But maybe less than 5. One barefoot guy had done the Leadman challenge - which means running the marathon, doing the 50 mile run or mountain bike and the hundred miler. Did he do the mountain bike barefoot or do Luna make a special clip-in huarache sandal for a bike?
A few hardy souls were running barefoot and in sandals. Be careful running down to Winfield, don't stub your toe. Is there a mountain bike clip in version of the huarache?

  • The barefoot minimal trend seems to be over, and as always with these things the pendulum has swung the other way to the super cushioned Hoka. For the record I was wearing Nike Pegasus and Inov 8 315s.
  • I was under the misapprehension that the first half of the course consists of a fair amount of road running. It doesn't. A few miles at most. Hence I was wearing the Nike Pegasus for the first 40 miles and the last 40 miles to cushion myself on the road, as I don't road run that much. As it turned out the Nike was fine, I didn't get one blister.
  • The de rigueur trail wear for female ultra runners is long socks (preferably brightly coloured, possibly compression) and 'sassy' shorts, topped off with a head band/buff.
  • Male ultra runner clothing breaks into 2 camps. The Kilian/ European school of thought - white Salomon compression sock, white Salomon compression shorts, trekking poles and the other school, the Anton/ Hobo runner school of thought - beard, no shirt, hand held bottles.
  • Americans are the most positive people on Earth.
  • The three most popular running vests were: Ultimate direction, Nathan, Salomon S Lab, and then hand helds.
  • Some pacers aren't pacing anyone, some pacers are basically Sherpas' carrying everything, some pacers are actually pacing.
  • Running across a field full of rabbit holes/ gopher holes is difficult during the day and almost impossible at night.
Caddyshack. I don't know if gophers live in Colorado.

  • Someone projectile vomiting by the side of the trail can really put you off noodle soup.
  • The aid stations were faultless. Big thanks to all the volunteers. As I ran in they asked if I had a drop bag, went and got my drop bag when I did, filled up my bottles and were generally awesome (in the truest sense of the word). If you are used to some British runs, where the aid station consists of a bloke with a bowl of Jelly Babies and a woman from the St Johns ambulance who can't be bothered to get out of her chair while moaning about her job as you run in after 40 miles (yes, I have witnessed this) then you are in for a treat. Special mention to the ad hoc Spacemen aid station at the top of Sugar Loafin Pass on the way back in the middle of the night. My girlfriend was running with me over the last 24 miles, and as we approached the the top of the powerlines we could see all the lights and hear the cow horn. Confused, I said it wasn't there on the way out. At the top were some locals who had obviously partaken in Colorado's legal Marijuana supply, they had cola and ginger beer, LEDs and some 'far out' postiive guys that really cheered me up at that stage of the game.
  • Marijuana dispensaries advertise on the local radio in Colorado.
  • Some people seem to be able to talk continuously while running one hundred miles. I can barely stand up and breathe, so I have no idea how they manage to do this.
  • Most of my calories came from energy gels & a carbohydrate/ protein drink.
  • Watermelon is a life saver.
  • If you wear a head torch too loose you will end up with a big bruise in the middle of your forehead. Now I know why people wear a buff under their head torch. 
  • Thanks to my crew, my Dad, his wife Vanessa and my girlfriend Tiss. When you are running time compresses after a while and you enter 'dream time', it doesn't seem like a day has passed. But for the crews it is hurry up and wait. Hours waiting at an aid station, then a big rush for 5 minutes, and then the runner is off again, and the crew has another 4 hours of waiting in the cold and dark. Being crew is a hard job.
At the top of Hope Pass with Tiss, On a course recce 5 days before the race

  • The training is what gets you up the hills, but something else keeps you awake and moving and I don't know what that is.
  • Hershey bars are terrible.
  • American coca cola and sprite is made with high fructose corn syrup and not sugar.
  • The river crossing doesn't get much of a mention when they talk about Leadville. Or to be exact the swampy water that is next to the river. You have to wade through several pools of this on a jeep track, above knee height, and some of it don't smell too good, the river water is clean and cold. I guess living in England has got me used to running with wet feet. But the smell of the swampy water is still embedded in my Inov 8 trainers.
  • I need to practice running downhill. Ascending I was strong, but got over taken all the time by people when going downhill including a fella wearing huaraches on the descent to Winfield (hats off my friend). At the end of the run the only muscle soreness I had was in my quads - like I had done a million squats.
  • Americans say 'Good Job' the same way French people say 'Bon Courage' on the trail. Again the friendliest, most positive atmosphere to run in.
  • The race briefing talk by the doctor was very entertaining.
  • To paraphrase Ken Chouber at the race briefing talk, this isn't a motivational talk, motivational speeches work until the first time your throw up. Something else gets you to the end.
  • My girlfriend wants to live in Colorado, preferably in a camper van. Mainly in the hope of bumping into Anton Krupicka.
  • Trekking poles, once the preserve of European runners are very popular in the USA now. (I used trekking poles for the first time).
  • I got my blood taken at the end as part of a research study. I got sent the lab results, sodium, potassium and glucose levels were all normal but I'm not sure how my kidneys and liver are still working, the results were 'abnormal but not unusual for an ultrarunner'. I luckily had no GI distress, and all bodily functions were normal during and after the run.
Beer is a recovery drink. Fact.

  • Most runners seemed to live in Colorado and most first timers had paced the race before. I met people from UK, France, Australia, Sweden, Florida, Washington, Oregon and probably a few other places.
  • Don't ask for a white coffee in the US, no one has any idea what you are talking about.
  • Ever wondered how The Beatles, Led Zep, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd still make millions of dollars every year. Its because American radio stations play them constantly - which is a good thing.
  • Put Body Glide everywhere, I mean lubricate absolutely everything!
  • Starting at 4am in the morning and running down 6th Street in Leadville while the residents of one of the houses play Springsteens Born To Run full blast - seems like a dream I once had.
  • British Airways are a rubbish airline.
  • I want to grow a beard like Rob Krar.

A list of the most common questions I have been asked after finishing Leadville:

  • Were you tired?
  • Did you stop?
  • Did you run all the way?
  • Did you sleep?
  • Did you do it all in one go?
  • Did it hurt?
  • I bet it was hot, is it hard running in the heat? (British people are obsessed with the weather and appear to think anywhere that isn't the UK is hot all the time)
  • Is it the hardest thing you've ever done?
  • Are you doing it again?
  • What's next?
  • Are you going to do the London marathon?
  • Did you eat anything/ what did you eat?
  • Were you sore the next day?
  • Have you lost weight?

"Life's barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at." - Rust Cohle, True Detective (TV Series)
View from Sugar Loafin camp ground. Hope Pass in the distance. Time to stop.