Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Leadville Plan

On August 22 I will go to the starting line of the Leadville trail 100 for the sixth time. In my previous five attempts, I have finished it only once. It was my second attempt and just weeks after my Dad had passed away from Pulmonary Fibrosis, a decease brought on by years of smoking. It was sadly ironic to me to be running a race in an environment that is starved of oxygen, when just a short time ago, I watched my Dad live out his finals days struggling for the stuff. I ran the race that year full of his memory and sure of his presence. I view my finish that year as a gift, not just from him to me, but from me to him as well. Other than that one special year, the other four attempts have ended early for a number of reasons, the most painful was last year when I missed the time cut off at mile 87, after battling some of the most epic weather I have ever experienced for over 26 hours.

This year I head to Leadville as confident as ever that I will "find my way back to Leadville" on Sunday morning. One of the reasons I feel so good about this year, is Pacer Dave Wakefield. Dave is a great friend and a great runner and I know he will do everything he can to get me through. To that end Dave has asked me to put down my "race plan" on paper so that he can help keep me on track. So although this is predominately for Dave, and focused primarily on the last 50 miles, I am posting it hear for the benefit it might provide someone running Leadville for the first time and perhaps help my non running friends understand how one approaches running this sort of a race.

SATURDAY MORNING: Up at two. Eat breakfast first thing. Sausage, egg and cheese biscuit along with some scrambled eggs on toast. Start nursing a bottle of Nuun. Forty five minutes out down a VESPA, and thirty minutes out down a VERVE as we walk to the start. Remind me to go out slow, not push too hard up the mini powerline, and step out of any "conga lines" I don't like the pace of. Check in, pray and right at 4:00 away we go.

LEADVILLE TO MAY QUEEN: 13 Miles; I will try to run this in about 2:40, a little slower than past years, hoping to keep a little in reserve for later in the race. I will begin with the following nutritional plan and will plan on following it the entire race unless something goes wrong. Keeping on this plan for the full 100 miles is the key. Every time I leave an aid station I should have a 3 hour supply of these products and every time I come in one, someone should be checking to see if I'm taking an appropriate amount. Dave, late in the race you tell me to eat, drink, etc...just make sure you see me do it so to be sure I'm not lying about it)
  • VESPA -1 every 3 hours
  • MTN BERRY SHOT BLOKS - 1 block every 20 minutes
  • S-CAPS - 1 every hour
  • NUUN - 1 bottle along with one bottle of water between every aid station.
MAY QUEEN TO FISH HATCHERY: 10 Miles; Again, I need to maintain a controlled pace. I personally believe the first 23 miles of this race are critical for "low-landers", if you push too hard, either on the trail to MAY QUEEN or up and over SUGARLOAF, you expend a lot of oxygen early on that you will wish you had later in the race. Remind me not to bomb down the other side of SUGARLOAF, I'll need those quads later. Hope to arrive Fish Hatchery in 9:15 AM (5:15 hrs)

FISH HATCHERY TO HALFMOON: 7 Miles; If I controlled myself in the first 23 miles this should be a more enjoyable section than in past years when I tried to run it on legs I had just thrashed bombing down SUGARLOAF like an idiot. My goal is to run the first mile, then walk and eat for a few minutes before running again all the way to TREELINE. From TREELINE to HALFMOON, the grade will somewhat determine pace, but hope to move through this dusty road section fairly quickly and get to HALFMOON by 10:45 AM (6:45 hrs)

HALFMOON TO TWIN LAKES: 10 Miles, First two miles are still on dirt road, followed by 7 miles on the rolling COLORADO TRAIL (although near the beginning there is about a .5 mile section of very steep up-hill that will get your attention) followed by a 1 mile steep descent down a rutted out fire road. Need to maintain momentum through this section. The Aspen grove near the Beaver Ponds seems to suck the life out of me every year. Plan on arriving by 12:45 PM (8:45 hrs)

TWIN LAKES TO WINFIELD: 10 Miles; I Must leave this aid station focused and strong for what lies ahead. Remind me to run the field section and keep my spirits up as I climb HOPE. This is where the race begins, after a 1.5 mile run through the field and across the river the course climbs 3,000 vertical feet up to 12,600 feet and HOPE PASS. It is all on trail and kicks my butt every year. This is where I hope running a more controlled pace early on will help me maintain pace and stamina. Once up and over, it's 2,500 feet straight down to the Winfield Rd. I always push too hard here as I love running down hill, but feel if I run with more control this year I will have more left for the second crossing. from there it's a little over two miles into WINFIELD and the half way point. I plan to arrive by 4:30 PM (12:30 hrs)


through.WINFIELD TO TWIN LAKES: 10 Miles; As we head back the other direction along the Winfield Rd we want to make sure that we have everything we need, we should start with a run/walk strategy to get moving again and to give you a chance to assess where I'm at. This will also conserve energy for the second pass of HOPE. Start with run 2/walk 3/walk 4/walk 2...etc...this should get us down the road to the trail head in around 25 minutes. This side of HOPE is shorter (2.5 miles) but steeper. The bottom half is the worst, but the top half has less oxygen so really the whole climb is just awful. Make sure to keep me on my a fore mentioned nutrition plan as we climb and just keep talking. Keep me focused on anything you can think of other than running. Walk in front, but don't loose me. Once above treeline give me short range goals for us to work towards, with very quick rest in between. Once we cross over the top let me lead down unless I start acting stupid. We need to quickly get in and out of the HOPE PASS aid station when we get there, a quick cup of RAMEN and some COKE and off we go. The run down HOPE should be fun if I have run a smart race to that point. The top half is very runable and the air fills with oxygen the lower we get. As we get near the bottom it becomes quite rocky, you may want to take the lead through here as you will be in better shape to find a "good line" down. Once off the trail, it's through the field and across a very cold river and on into TWIN LAKES. Don't let me get lazy here as I will be feeling a bit beat up from the double crossing. Even if we start the run/walk through the field we will still come out ahead. Once we hit pavement we want to run all the way to the Firehouse that is home to the TWIN LAKES aid station. If we're on our game we should be there by 8:00 PM (16:00 hrs)

TWIN LAKES TO HALFMOON: 10 Miles; Karen knows exactly what to do here and will take care of me, so you can get whatever you need. This is a slightly longer stop (7-8 minutes) as I will eat my most substantial meal of the day here, change into warm clothes for the overnight and try to get focused on the last 40 Miles, with HOPE PASS now thankfully behind us. As we leave TWIN LAKES we are greeted by a huge climb up an old rugged fire road. It will be important to keep up a good pace even though we are walking. Once to the top we have rolling terrain for the next 9 miles, 7 on trail and 2 along the Halfmoon Road. My goal through here would be to run all the flats and downhills and power walk the ups. This is pretty good trail, if I'm still feeling good let me lead through here until we hit the road. Once on the road it's side by side into the HALFMOON aid station. It would be awesome to be there by 11:00 (19:00 hrs)

HALFMOON TO FISH HATCHERY: 7 Miles; No crews at the HALFMOON aid station so you will need to get my drop bag. (Even though I have a crew that will help me tremendously throughout the race, I still use drop bags for the absolute essentials. Anything can happen on race day, not only to the runner but to the crew as well. Our first year in Leadville the power steering on our Suburban went out at 5:00 in the morning on the road that winds around Turquoise Lake. Having drop bags is like insurance for the runner and less to carry for the crew). In it, there will be a small zip lock bag with my nutrition stuff. There will also be some spare batteries and warmer/dryer clothes if I am needing them. The sooner we get out of this aid station the better as a lot of people linger here huddled around a propane heater. That is not a good idea and I suppose a number of these folks never end up leaving. OK, back on the Halfmoon Rd. Start out with the same run/walk strategy as on the Winfield Rd. We need to keep moving through here as this is where it can start getting cold. This is especially true once we pass our crew at TREELINE and enter a VERY EXPOSED section of the course where it can be cold, damp and windy. Grabbing a very light shell from our crew along with some caffeine might be a good idea. Just keep me moving through here even if it is telephone pole to telephone poll. We get through this section in good shape and it's only 23 miles to go, and if we get to FISH HATCHERY by 12:45 AM (20:45 hrs) we will have 9:00 hours to do it in!

FISH HATCHERY TO MAY QUEEN: 10 Miles; We will be well served to make sure I am in control and focused before leaving this aid station as the last major climb is before us. A large dose of caffeine would also be an excellent idea. As we leave the aid station we will want to run as much of the 1.5 miles of paved road as we can before turning left onto the infamous POWERLINE trail, up to the top of SUGARLOAF. This section of trail is steep, long, rutted and has at least three false summits. If that's not enough, last year MK and I found ourselves in a complete white out (yes, a blizzard in August). This is perhaps the climb that makes everything that comes before it (conserving energy, keeping up on my calories, electrolytes and hydration, keeping warm and dry, etc...) so critical. If not, we will both pay the price for it here, me physically and you mentally. The job here is to just keep me moving up the mountain. If we're on pace, we have four hours to go 10 miles, that's 24 minutes a mile. Other than that there's not a lot of strategy at this point. This is for many, the time of the race Ken talks about during the Prue race meeting, this is the time to dig deep and find that inexhaustible well of grit, guts, determination and courage. This is the section to remind me how hard I've trained all year, and reinforce how badly I want this. Remind me of what happened here last year and how its not going to end that way this year. Whatever you do DON'T TELL ME WE HAVE PLENTY OF TIME. Keep me eating and keep me drinking (again, don't take my word for it as I quite possibly will lie to you, see me eat, see me drink, remind me about VESPA when it's time) Once over the top, we should try to run a little of the downhill, once we get to the COLORADO TRAIL section you should lead and help me find a clean line down as it is kind of rocky. Once off the COLORADO TRAIL we have just a half mile to go before we hit the final aid station MAY QUEEN. Hopefully it's around 4:30 (24:30 hrs)

MAY QUEEN TO LEADVILLE: 13 Miles; This is no place to dilly-dally. There are lots of runners who never left for one reason or the other filling the cots that line the far side of the aid station. If it is still dark, we are in good shape. If we see light on the horizon....well, let's just plan on getting there while it is still dark. We have about 8 miles of trail ahead of us followed by 5 miles of road, 3 of which are uphill. The first section of trail (to the TABOR BOAT RAMP) is rolling and moderately technical, we can run the downhills through this section. After TABOR it's all pretty runable, and would be a section to push a little if need be. Once off the trail, it's down the mini power line before turning east and heading towards Leadville. After 1 mile of very flat runable road we hit the BOULEVARD, 3 miles of chunky gravel, all uphill. Finally, we hit pavement, and after another hundred yards or so we will make our final turn and there before us a mile away is Leadville. Our strategy for this section will be largely based on two things, one, what kind of shape am I in, and two, what time is it. If we are in good shape on both counts, use the carrot. If we are in trouble on count two, use the stick. If things go our way, it should be right around 8:00 when we hit the red carpet and Merilee.


Lee said...

DAVE: Willie was very receptive to drinking through the night at Leadville. I kept an eye on the watch for his VESPA, which was also not a hard sell but you'll have to keep the time. Also, light up the trail at night, when Willie can see it takes at least one worry away from him.
WILLIE: Do it, man! You are strong enough, get after it!

Anonymous said...

I'll do everything I can to get you that buckle brother. I will use language you've never heard me use before. Believe me when I tell you that I can cuss with the best of the sailors in the world. I am an ARMY brat after all and if need be I will use a friggin stick to get your ass across the finish line. I'll make sure that you get what you need when you need it and if you lie to me I hold your ass down and force the the crap down your throat. So for your benifit don't lie. I turn steam valves for a living and though I may not look it I'm as strong as men twice my size. Don't mess with the bull or you know what! All I ask of you in return is to let me hold that buckle after it's all said and done. So I can see what it feels like.

bryan said...

Willis, just remember, if you don't finish, you're a quitter. Keep that in mind at mile 85. Good luck!


Willie Lambert said...

Bryan,That's awesome.Nothing could motivate me more. You have brightened my day in a way only you could. Hope allis well.