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Leadville Trail 100 ( Return to USA For Sub 25 Buckle 2010 ). Part One.


First time here in 2008 I underwhelmed myself with a 28 hr plus result and the most agony in a race I have ever experienced. The buckle was well deserved but I truly felt I was capable of that sub 25 buckle, more than that I felt I should be able to run well for the time, without injury, without any checks on achieving a good result. I still think it's tough for a sea level person to max out here but the challenge is to do your level best. So, I made plans to come back, all the way from New Zealand, acclimatise better, train better and run better. Don't get me wrong, I ran well, I trained well and I took a lot of pain, plus it snowed and rained all day and I finished in the top thirty % but my feet were swollen to hell and back with skin peeling off and a hugely swollen knee.... I knew I could do better.

I did not need to completely rebuild strategy or training, more modify a little. When you are well trained then small changes can shift your performance a lot. I decided to get a lot more steep rocky terrain in, both up and down, to mirror some of the big hills on this thing. I also planned to get my feet wet quite a bit and also to try to keep them drier than before at critical points. I felt the water had led to huge damage to my feet on that day. I changed my shoes and ran a lot more in New Zealands central mountains on rock etc. With a year to go I set out on a base phase of about three months and put in some solid miles on those mts as well as in my local Waitakere Ranges in Auckland. This put me in a good place to move on to the next section. After years of buildups I can now run and absorb seven days a week of running, with some days twice a day. It's taken years to get to that point but I still believe I do not ( thankfully) do the miles some do. I do weights three times a week and for this run only went over six or seven hours as a long run in a couple of races. Most of my long runs are only about four and a half to five and a half hours but I run regularly and I run quality. People are surprised to see me doing five km races and ten km time trials but I see too many people out doing multiple mind numbing slow trudges for eight or ten hours. Their pace never changes and they spend a lot of time walking. I also wanted to get some input from someone I respected so I spoke to colleague and friend Scott Molina. He has tuned up for hundreds of races, he is practical and he has tuned for altitude ..... His opinion was interesting and important to me. We would adjust the final three months and especially the last three weeks. He felt I was not quite tapering right and not really doing quite enough in those final critical weeks. The details were pretty easy for me to incorporate and I am so interested in the training process I decided to enjoy his ideas and see. I also implemented his ideas around frequent fast hiking with a pack and some weight.

The goal... Under 25 in any weather. For a sea level male in late forties I feel this to be a nice goal. You have to be a good runner to achieve this. Travelling all the way to this destination and producing the goods is not easy. So, I ran the T42 in the Nth Island, I ran the Tarawera 100 course a lot, I ran all around Mt Ruapehu in the Central North Island here. As far as buildup races go I ran T42 marathon and Tarawera Ultra among others. These provided much needed breaks from training, some taper and peaking practice, nutrition and pacing practice etc. I am pretty used to much nutrition and never have any issues. For me I drink about 500 mls fluid an hour ( bottles are a must) and solid food about every forty five. I try to recreate aspects of races so for example for the seven day desert race like MDS I camp in the sand for three days at a time utilising the same foods I anticipate using as well as the same sleeping mat etc. For this I practice filling at aid stations with the same foods, maybe changing batteries at night, running at night... Changing socks or shoes, I believe in trying to recreate most things to become familiar and reduce errors. You would be a fool to be unfamiliar with your headlight until the day!

You need to practice over months with your food before such races and test the routine in race conditions. Practice arriving at the aid station and filling your own bottles with your powders, adding water etc ( do not let others do it for you). Gradually your routine will suit you and you can evolve it rather than radically change it. For me I suggest gaining most calories from liquids but have a regular solid input to settle the stomach. I start with a bottle ( bottles are best as you know what you have consumed in the last hour, can change the fluid if you want, rather than be stuck with three litres of the same) of pure maltodextrin powder ( three scoops for me) plus a little ( teaspoon) powerade powder for taste. It could be another electrolyte but the maltodextrin can be a bit of a plain taste. I will drink every twenty and finish the five hundred mls in the hour. Be careful, if you are a small lady and it's cold this might be too much for you, if it's hot I may do 650 mls. I will consume a sliver of powerade or similar ( banana) every forty five. By sliver I mean about an inch. On the second hour I usually have a liquid meal powder ( up to 500 calls). For me I use Spiz but in NZ we have other cheaper meal powders by Horley which are sufficient. Again don't start with 500 - that's going to depend on your workload and also how you cope. Maybe try with 200 calories in training and see. It's calories people so be aware. If you are in light training you do not want to consume 1000 calories and start putting on weight when you combine with all your meals etc. But, in a seven day run like Marathon Des Sables this calorie input will be vital. Third bottle will be maybe just an electrolyte drink that you are familiar with. I usually carry my powders in small ziploc bags and decant as I need. After this for long races I will continue this routine but always be aware of modifications. If I feel sick I may use just water for an hour etc, be sensible and do as required. In a long race your first three bottles are vital..... If you skip one it's better to be one towards the end. You will need your first few hours nutrition to do well in a twenty or thirty hour run! Of course, as you run around a 100 like Leadville you will deviate from this a little.... It's a plan which is a little flexible. At times I may grab a fistful of crisps or some jelly shapes or a bit of pizza or even a coffee at midnight at Fish Hatchery. As we get experienced we know when to supplement and when to be disciplined. The point is practice your basic regime and learn about the physiology and calories needs etc. I get worried by people running off for 100 miles thinking they will consume a gel every thirty mins for twenty five hours.....you wonder why you get stomach issues or run out of energy..it's carbohydrate only and just dropping that in will make most people queasy. I have not had any stomach issues at all now for over twenty years. Find what works for you. After twenty hours these things are a lot easire if all the basic boxes are still ticked...stomach, urinating ok, not popping pills every hour, running freely not walking all the time, good posture still, blister free. If all the dials are still in the green you are going to finish this baby.

so, I arrived in Denver three and a half weeks ahead and drove to Boulder. This allowed about four days of acclimatisation. I recovered from the trip, walked then walked and jogged then ran and hiked with a pack as per my training. After this time I was running freely and moved up to Leadville. If you go straight there with little experience you may well get really knocked by the altitude and perhaps even get sick. Stage it, I have done it a number of times so I know now how I will react. Increase your water consumption at altitude and increase the carbohydrate % of your diet. Don't drink much alcohol, if any. In Leadville inraidly got up,to speed and was soon running in the morning and speed hiking up high in the afternoon. I combined this with some time on various bits of the course, not so much I got bored with it, but enough to be familiar. Personally I wanted to be sure of the first sections in the dark and the return leg in the dark. I was also conscious of the big climb sections so I ran over to Winfield and up Powerlines etc. My wife practiced finding her way to the aid stations. Work out contents of drop bags as well as climate needs and any changes needed. This race, for most of us, is not overly tough in terms of terrain or isolation or temperature extremes but for most of us the race will probably be about the altitude. It's 10,500 to 12,500 ft up! If well prepared by being a resident that's a big plus! If it's your first 100 then the prep for this height is critical or you will end up sucking oxygen at the end or being told to go down to a lower altitude quickly or worse. It's avoidable if you are sensible. One of my British friends arrived 24 hours before the race. I know he did not have the time so he went with the theory of get in quick race and get out quick. Ok for a four hour run but this is a long time. His wife withdrew and I past him in real trouble crawling up Powerline on the way back. He was a fine runner, probably enter than me but the altitude was really hitting him. He finished under 25 by some miracle but it really was a close run thing and he turned up to prize giving carrying an oxygen cylinder. I believe that is a bit scary and can end up badly.

In downtime I watched videos and regularly visited the one good coffee shop. I travelled out of town on the odd day to Buena Vista etc. years later I would return and do the Trans Rockies which started here. The experience at Leadville allowed me to get a third place in this for a six day run. Leadville is lovely but it's small with very few excellent shops or restaurants ( High Mt Pies was my favourite for huge quality pizza).

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