Wednesday, November 2, 2011

LT 100 - The Journey Begins

The Leadville Race Series opened their races for registration yesterday and I took the leap. I am officially in for the 100 mile trail run on August 18, 2012. After I hit the "submit" button on the registration page, I had an immediate moment of anxiety where I thought "holy %^&*, I just did it!". A buddy of mine compared that moment to "that awesome and scary moment you encounter in poker where you go 'ALL IN'". Of course in poker you know your fate in less than a minute. I will have to wait ten months to see how it unfolds for me. A few minutes after I signed up, it was all I could think about. That was all the proof I needed that I made the right decision.

Was there really a doubt I was going to attempt it?  No. Leadville has been all that I have thought about the past 12 months. In fact, I've been compiling race day strategies, tips, and training plans since I finished the Silver Rush 50 miler last July. Running 100 miles seems unfathomable and borderline insane to most people. And there are a million rational reasons NOT to do it.  So why am I craving the chance to try? Because I can. Because it's there. I wish I had a more in depth response, but I'm still figuring it out myself. Maybe this video will help explain it.

I will have hundreds of conversations and dozens of blog posts about this journey. For the moment, I want to post a quick preview of the course. The image below shows the elevation profile. It is an out and back course: the first 50 miles are left to right on the image. Then you turn around and return, essentially going right to left on that image. The large spike in the middle of the run is Hope Pass. You cross it twice in a 20 mile stretch and, for most people, it determines the fate of their race. If you reach the 60 mile aid station within the cutoff time, the probability of finishing increases dramatically. The peak elevation on Hope Pass is 12,600 feet. The weather is unpredictable and the air is thin. The Winfield aid station is the midway point and just after the first trip across Hope Pass. More people quit at that aid station than any other.

Instead of medals, finishers are given belt buckles (a 100 mile tradition). There are two obvious goals when attempting this race. The first is to finish under the 30 hour cut off. And they don't give you even one more minute. The second goal is to finish in 25 hours and get the "big buckle". The majority of finishers do not make the 25 hour cut off. Historically, the 30 hour finish rate is roughly 50%.

My current goal is just to finish (but stay tuned because I may change my mind). That appears to be a fairly conservative strategy because my Silver Rush 50 time of 10 hours projects me as a 26 hour finisher. And I have only gotten stronger since then.  It is not out of the question that I could go for a 25 hour finish. Given the amount of unpredictability that goes into running 100 miles, it would not be a wise decision to think like that on my first attempt. Certainly I have some more aggressive splits in mind if I feel strong. Those splits probably won't come into play until I've gone over Hope Pass both times. With the hardest part of the race behind me, I can assess how strong I feel and whether to push the pace for a strong finish.

The cliff's notes version of race day strategy for a finisher is:
  1. Run most of the first 40 miles at an easy pace
  2. SURVIVE two trips over Hope Pass
  3. Muster up what ever energy and will power you have left to walk, run, or crawl to the finish
The table below is a more detailed breakdown of my "finish" strategy by aid station.  In the article linked below, this is similar to the "Buckler Pattern".
Destination Section Miles Cumulative Miles Section Time Cumulative Time Cutoff Time
May Queen 13.5 13.5 2:30 2:30 3:25
Fish Hatchery 10 23.5 2:15 4:45 6:00
Halfmoon 7 30.5 1:35 6:20 8:00
Twin Lakes 9 39.5 2:05 8:25 10:00
Winfield 10.5 50 4:05 12:30 14:00
Twin Lakes 10.5 60.5 4:10 16:40 17:45
Halfmoon 9 69.5 3:05 19:45 20:45
Fish Hatchery 7 76.5 1:55 21:45 23:00
May Queen 10 86.5 3:55 25:40 26:30
Finish 13.5 100 4:05 29:45 30:00

You can find additional strategies here.

Note that the race starts at 4:00 am on Saturday.  This table suggests I would finish at just before 10:00 am on Sunday.  My crew and I will likely have been awake for 36 hours by that point.  And, if I make it, I don't think I will be going to bed right away.

Now I have taken step one of the journey.  (Or maybe it's a giant leap?)  All that is left to do is lots and lots of hard work.

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