In Leadman 2014, my ultra racing killed my bike times. I hadn’t put enough time in the saddle and was chronically tired coming into the series having run Hong Kong 100K, Montara 50K, Ultra Trail Mount Fuji, and dropped at Lavaredo in Italy. Four race ultras before starting Leadman. In hindsight, I was run cooked coming into the first marathon. But I was an old school elite ultrarunner at heart and loved kicking my own butt on the trails. And I still do. So coming into the Leadville 100 run, and culminating apex of the series, I was 7th place in Leadman overall, 90 minutes behind Bob. NOT where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in first, but Bob was in first coming into the Leadville 100 run finale. And I wanted to catch him.
I felt good when Ken Chlouber fired the 100-mile shotgun at 0500. I raced like I always had, staying near the front, as I wanted to podium in the 100 run AND win the Leadman series. I went over Powerline at mile 24 with Ian Sharman in fourth place, all cylinders firing. Bob was somewhere behind me. The fact I’d raced the 100-mile bike and 10k run the weekend before hadn’t registered in my body...yet. I hadn’t competed in Leadman, so I didn’t know what would happen. And I sure wasn’t going to hold back. I felt just fine. And then the wheels fell off.
Coming off Powerline (24) to pass Fish Hatchery (26), I decelerated from elite run pace to a shuffle/walk. My medial quads were cooked and spasming. I proceeded to shuffle all the way to Twin Lakes, mile 40. Bob rolled by me by Half Pipe, looking strong and steady. I went from 4th to 90th place by TL. It was brutal. He was an hour ahead going into the 100, and every second ahead of me in the run was even more time in Leadman to make up. Other Leadman competitors, with their coveted Leadman race bibs, and dozens of other regular racers passed me, many of them expressing sympathy. I grumbled every kind word too, as I was flailing. I thought I was done, Leadman and the 100 run, finished caput. I walked into Twin Lakes mile 40 hurting.
Then something happened. Fortunately, I was able to eat and drink well, and that energy was slowly recovering my legs. The spasms and medial quad pains were lessening. As I came out of Twin Lakes heading through the meadows and creek crossing towards Hope Pass, I rebounded with a vengeance. My prior slowed pace was turning into an overall strength as the fuel fired. I accelerated (well, kind of as far as ultras go) up Hope Pass, down to Winfield mile 50, then back up and over, sans pacer. I felt solid! Passing tons of runners, back through Twin Lakes, with a brief stop, I ran the 1500 climb out of TL feeling strong. I was passing all the runners who’d cheered me on my prior walk. I still didn’t have a pacer, as my pacer Kendrick had run Pikes Peak Ascent that morning and was nowhere to be found. No matter though, I didn’t need a pacer as I felt fantastic.
I passed Bob and his pacer Peter Downing, at Half Pipe, rolling well. Bob said, “I knew you’d do that!” ...But I sure as heck didn’t! By then I knew I wasn’t going to crater before the finish, which was still 30 miles away, and every step ahead of him was one more in the bank to taking the overall Leadman series. At Outward Bound, mile 76, Kendrick joined me finally, and that was yet another boost, as he could mule for me and he was fine company and it was getting to be headlamp time. Over Powerline, onto the Colorado Trail to May Queen, mile 86, then powering around the sweet technical single track of Turquoise Lake, I ran the final three-mile climb into Leadville, dropping Kendrick, to a finish of 19:10, 5th overall in the run. The clock ticked while I waited for Bob, hoping 90 minutes would pass, securing the title.
An hour went by...Then Bob’s headlamp appeared over the last rise of 6th street from the west. He finished and won the Leadman title, and I secured second overall. I told myself I’d be back and win that series, whether Bob or then course-record holder Travis Macy returned, I’d be ready next time. I knew I’d be back to win my local multi-sport series.
But then I fell off Bear Peak in 2015, and my life changed forever.
The story has been well-told...many complications later, I chose the amputation of my left leg below-the-knee. The night before this 14th surgery, my friends and running community held a good-bye party for my leg...On Halloween night, 2016! I loved that, as I appreciate dark humor. The next year after that was spent adapting a prosthetic socket, walking, biking, and then gradually running again, and finally consistently running. I ran the Bandera 50K trail race in January 2016, after the longest run of 13 miles, with my marathoner brother who had never run an ultra. Then the Jemez 50K. These were milestones, but my biggest milestone was to come; returning to Leadman.