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Matt Mahoney's 2010 Vacation

Aug. 6-8, 2010. I ran a 10K and 5K on Friday, a 5K on Saturday, and a 55K on Sunday to celebrate my 55'th birthday. All of my training for the last several months has been at 17 feet elevation with no hills and heat indexes in the 80's to 100's. I run about 25 miles per week on average.

Aug 9. A good day to let my legs recover so I flew to Colorado for 2 weeks in Leadville, elevation 10,152 feet. Typical weather is high 30's to high 60's. I got a bed at the Leadville Hostel.

Aug. 10. I climbed Mt. Elbert, 14,433 ft. I am trying to acclimate to the altitude as quick as possible. I started from the Halfmoon trailhead at 10,050 feet and climbed 4.5 miles to the summit in 2:32. The descent was about 2 hours. (9 miles in 4:30).

More photos of Mt. Elbert.

Aug. 11. I climbed Mt. Massive, 14,421 ft. I started from the Halfmoon trailhead and traversed west to east because the west side is steeper. I started at 9 AM, reached the summit at 12:30, and returned about 3:15 PM. (14 miles in 6:15).

More photos of Mt. Massive.

Aug. 12. My quads were sore and it was raining, so I took a rest day.

Aug. 13. My legs were feeling a little better so I climbed Mt. Belford, Oxford, and Missouri. I started at the Missouri Gulch trailhead at 9600 ft 9:15 AM, reached the Belford summit, 3 miles to 14,196 ft at 11:40 AM. Then I traversed the 1.5 mile ridge to Oxford (14,153 ft) at 12:45 PM. The ridge drops 700 feet and climbs back up. Then I returned to Belford the same way, then descended to Elkhead Pass and back down to Missouri Gulch to take the trail up to Mt. Missouri (14,067 ft). I reached the summit at 3:15 PM and returned at 6:00 PM. That was 8:45 to go 12 miles with 15,000 feet of elevation change.

Mt. Missouri. More photos.

Aug 14. There was a 100 mile mountain bike race. I didn't ride it but I took a few photos.

Aug 15. I ran the Leadville 10K in 48:48. If you can't find results, I took photos of them. page 1 page 2. This was about 1 minute per mile slower than sea level. The route starts in Leadville at 10,152 ft, drops 450 ft to the turn around (3% grade) and climbs on the return. I reached the half way point in 22:30 in 23rd place. I ran the second half in 26:18 and passed 5 people. I was breathing every 3 steps for the first 4 miles and every 2 steps to the finish. Normally I would breathe every 4 steps, then every 3.

Mike Arnstein the Fruitarian won in 38:42. He normally runs 32 minutes at sea level. The next runner was 43 minutes. After the race, Mike decided to run 20 miles from Half Moon to Winfield (part of next week's race), which is no big deal because he normally trains 160 to 180 miles per week. He missed the turnoff to the Colorado trail and ran the Pipeline road to Twin Lakes. He could not find any signs to Hope Pass (it says "Willis Gulch"), but managed to find the 12,600 ft. pass anyway. After descending he didn't realize it was 10 more miles of dirt road back to US 24. He tried to hitchhike back but nobody would give him a ride. He eventually called the police who gave him a ride. He got back to his campsite on Mosquito Pass (13,185 ft) at 11 PM. It turned out to be about 40 miles of running.

Mike's food for the next 2.5 days.

Aug 16. Not much today. I ran 3 miles with some uphill fartleks east of the hostel at up to 10700 ft on dirt roads at 5-10% uphill grades in 50 deg. F and rain. I had planned to climb Elbert with Mike the Fruitarian but it was raining and he arrived late, explaining yesterday's adventure. So it worked out well.

Aug. 17. I climbed Elbert again, this time with Po'dog, Matt, Pete, and Mike the Fruitarian in 2:06 (2100 ft/hr) in nice weather. Descent was 1:24. Photos. Mike climbed in 1:46, then put a big rock in his backpack and ran down with it for extra training. Matt and Pete were up in 2:00. Po'dog stayed with me but I think he could have gone faster considering he won the 2009 Arkansas Traveller 100. Mike brought his car because his trunk was loaded with fruits. He eats 30 pounds of fruit and 3 pounds of raw vegetables per day and nothing else.

The other Matt, me, Po'dog, and Pete.

Aug. 18. I climbed Mt. Sherman (14,036 ft) and Gemini (high 13s) with Po'dog and Enoch in nice weather in about 5 hours. Po'dog did not go to Gemini, preferring to save his effort for Saturday.

More photos of Mt. Sherman.

Aug. 19. 60% chance of thunderstorms. Good day to hang around Leadville and start my taper.

More photos of Leadville.

Aug. 21. I ran the Leadville 100 in 29:51. Results photos.

There were about 780 runners registered, 642 starters, and 363 finishers. The finish rate was 58% probably due to perfect weather, from the high 30's to high 70's F no rain, and a nearly full moon. Usually the finish rate is 40% to 50%. Most other 100 mile races have a 60% to 80% finish rate. Leadville is one of the few big 100 mile races that don't require a qualifier, typically a 50 mile finish or longer. Anyone can pay their entry fee ($250 to $300) and they are accepted. Also, the 30 hour cutoff is a little shorter than most other races of similar difficulty at lower altitude. Usually over half of the finishers are over 28 hours. The terrain is not especially difficult compared to other ultras except for the high altitude, which ranges from 9200 ft to 12,600 ft. There is about 18,000 feet of climb. Aid stations are about 10 miles apart.

Crews are allowed and pacers for the last 50 miles. All aid stations except Hopeless have drop bags. However I find it simpler to race without crews, pacers, or drop bags. The aid stations have all of the food and fluids I need. For the race I wore shorts, a synthetic long sleeve shirt, a polypro shirt, jacket, a cap for day and a knit cap for night, gloves, and 3.9 ounce Adidas Adizero PR racing flats without socks. When it was warm I tied my extra clothes around my waist. I carried a 2 bottle hip pack, 2 LED flashlights, a small tube of Vaseline-like lube, caffeine and ibuprofin, and a camera. I had one bright light for downhill runs and a dimmer light for climbs and open roads. The bright light lasts 4 hours on 4 AA batteries, and then provides dimmer light for the rest of the night. The other light takes 3 AA batteries and will last several nights. This way I did not need to carry extra batteries, even if one light stopped working.

I had a large breakfast of pancakes and eggs at 2:30 AM, but did not eat a lot during the race. During the day I took 2 bottles of Powerade or one each of Powerade and water at each aid station. I also took a few cookies, chips, a few piece of fudge, a piece of watermelon, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a cup of soup or hot chocolate or a cup of Coke. The total amount was probably not much more than I usually eat in a day. After the race it was 2 or 3 hours before I got hungry again. I took one ibuprofin around 8 PM for the second descent of Hope Pass, and one 200 mg caffeine pill (NoDoz) at 3 AM. I refilled by bottles twice from stream water during the warm second climb up Hope Pass.

I planned to run about 28-29 hours if all went well. It was cold so I only filled my bottles half way with water at the start to save weight. The first 3-4 miles were downhill on dirt roads. I went through the 5K split about middle of the pack in 27 minutes, compared to 22:30 in last week's 10K. Once we got on the flat to rolling trail for miles 5-13 there was a constant stream of runners that made it almost impossible to pass, but fortunately the pace was perfect mix of walking uphill and jogging down so I didn't worry about it. I got to the first aid station (Mayqueen) at mile 13.5 in 2:35 (6:35 AM). After that the runners had spread out enough so you could go at your own pace. I continued walking uphill, running down, and a mix on the flat parts. My splits were as follows:

0    Start          4:00 AM
13.5 Mayqueen       6:35 AM  (cutoff 7:15)
23.5 Fish Hatchery  9:07 AM  (cutoff 10:00)
32   Box Creek     10:48 AM  (cutoff 12:00)
39.5 Twin Lakes    12:42 PM  (cutoff 2:00)
45.5 Top of Hope    3:17 PM
50   Winfield       5:09 PM  (cutoff 6:00)
54.4 Top of Hope    8:00 PM
60.5 Twin Lakes     9:34 PM  (cutoff 9:45)
68   Box Creek     12:02 AM  (cutoff 12:45)
76.5 Fish Hatchery  2:39 AM  (cutoff 3:00)
86.5 Mayqueen       6:17 AM  (cutoff 6:30)
100  Finish         9:51 AM  (cutoff 10:00, time 29:51:55.847)

The race was chip timed with RFID tags in our bibs, allowing finish times to 1/1000 of a second. Splits were timed similarly but I rounded them to minutes. There was also a cutoff on Hopeless (mile 45, 12,000 ft) of 4:30 PM. If you arrived after that you had to turn around and go back to Twin Lakes.

I lost time on the two climbs over 12,600 ft. Hope Pass between Twin Lakes and Winfield. The first ascent climbs 3400 ft in 4 miles. I had some pulmonary edema (water in the lungs), which I seem to always get after 10 hours of effort at high altitude. I could only climb 1600 ft per hour. The second climb was 2600 ft in 2 miles. It took a little over 2 hours again, about 1200 ft/hr. 11 days ago I had climbed Mt. Elbert at 1800 ft/hr after 1 days acclimation and then 2100 ft/hr one week later. I never get pulmonary edema in training. When I do get it, I have to breathe twice as hard as all of the people passing me uphill.

My lungs later cleared so I did not have much problem with the remaining climbs. At mile 87 I tripped over a rock and hurt my big toe. I could not put any weight on it so I ran the last 13 miles with my left foot tilted outward. I don't know if it is broken but it still hurts a day later. Except for that and my lungs filling half way with water, my race went well. I did not have any nausea, vomiting, cramps, blisters, or joint or tendon pain. My legs are a little sore but not as much as after a marathon. All of my weigh-ins were within 2 pounds of my starting weight of 152. I carried just enough clothes for the coldest part of the night on the flat roads between Box Creek and Fish Hatchery.

More photos by Bill Thom.
Report by Katie Oglesby unofficially 30:30.
Report by Anton Krupicka, on CR pace, crashed and burned.
Photos by Rob O'Dea.
Report by Chris Justice done in by Hope Pass.
Video by Olan Young big buckle attempt that went horribly wrong.
Report, photos, and GPS map by Brandon Fuller, 28:53.
Ed Bartone's Sad Race Report ending at Winfield.
Report by Darin Schneidewind, fast legs, slow stomach.
Report by Paige Troelstrup, a lesson in futility.
Report by Stubert McFly 24:42.
Video by Jason Koop 19:40, 8'th overall.
Photos by Kelly Gaines late for Winfield.
Report by Nathan Sanel 23:06.
Report and photos by Sherpa John Lacroix missed cutoff at Twin Lakes inbound.
Report (with videos) by Travis Liles 23:41.
Report by Barefoot Ted McDonald 27:17 in Luna Sandals (and barefoot up Hope Pass).
Report by Tracy Thomas finished.
Report by Chris Boyack, 27:52.
Report by Wyatt Hornsby part 2 part 3 part 4, 24:47.
Report by Aaron Mulder, 23:39.
Report by Michael Hodges, dropped at 72 miles with ankle tendonitis.
Report by Ryan Kircher, 21:23, 15'th place.
Video by Nick Lee (7 min), Attempt @ 100 (ending on Hope Pass inbound).

My comments on the race reports. A general theme emerges on the causes of failure. In descending order they are:

1. Hope Pass. This is where most people drop. Some people can climb just fine here but others are destroyed by the lack of oxygen. Ability to acclimate to altitude is not a function of physical fitness. If you haven't been to high altitude before, you don't know. If you don't live in Leadville, then you are most certainly coming from lower altitude. Even people coming from the foothills at 6000 feet get altitude sickness. My advice is to arrive as early as possible. You may have heard that if you can't arrive 2 weeks early, then you should arrive as late as possible before the altitude sickness can get you. Sorry, that's not what the studies show. More time is always better. I suggest you sleep in Leadville and climb above 14,000 feet as much as you can. When you first arrive, drink a gallon of water to get rid of the altitude headaches. I arrived 12 days early because I know from experience that any less and I don't finish. I had finished 2 hours faster in 2003 when I arrived 6 weeks early and climbed 28 fourteeners.

2. Stomach problems. A lot of people bypass the aid stations and take only Gu, Perpetuum, and other artificial foods until their stomachs rebel during the night. The real problem here, I believe, is failure to train on a full stomach. Try running after breakfast instead of before. You might even find the aid station food to be perfectly adequate. I did.

3. Blisters. Train your feet. Walk barefoot. And avoid running in stiff, heavy shoes.

4. Injuries. Knee problems and sprained ankles are usually the result of high heeled running shoes. In 1994 the Tarahumara took 6 of the top 11 spots, including first, running in huaraches or sandals made from old tires. This year 2 runners wore similar huaraches and 3 others ran in Vibram Five Fingers. I wore 4 ounce racing flats without socks. Minimalist shoes require a forefoot strike, which can take years to adjust to. However, I still find that heel striking is necessary for steep descents like the south side of Hope Pass. Practice.

5. Crews, pacers, and drop bags are overrated. You, not your crew or pacer, are responsible for getting yourself to the finish line. Keep it simple. You don't need a truckload of personal crap every few miles. Most of what you need can be carried or is available at the aid stations you paid for. Ultrarunning is a selfish pursuit. I don't like to burden others just so I can achieve my personal goals.