Chasing the Record at the Race Across The Sky: Ian Sharman Takes on Leadville 100 (again!)

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“Every time I come out to Leadville, it’s a chance to enjoy the Rockies, catch up with friends, and really enjoy some great variety in training. I include hikes up 14ers (14,000 feet mountains) and lots of low intensity vert.” -Ian Sharman

Q: Your Strava activity shows a variety of running and hiking in the months after Western States and before Leadville. What are some of the reasons you alternate between flat and fast road running to steep hiking at high altitudes?

A: “It’s only 2 months between Western States and Leadville, so the first priority is to recover then to prepare for the large amount of steep hiking at Leadville. I also love the chance to get into the mountains in Oregon and Colorado, so I’d want to do these steep hikes and easy jogs anyway, irrespective of how very specific it is for Leadville. But I also like flat running and having a little more speed, plus Leadville includes long stretches of flat running in-between the climbs, so having decent marathon fitness is important as well. As with all my training, I try to mix in both runs that are fun and allow me to go to places I enjoy, plus workouts that are very specific to the upcoming race. Ultimately, summer has a lot of great options for runs and races, so I don’t want to miss out on things like the Cascade Lakes Relay, which I’ve run for the past few years; knowing that it’s worthwhile itself as well as surprisingly good training for Leadville.”

Ian Sharman

Q: What is the acclimatization process for you when racing at a high elevation? (i.e. what is the elevation of your usual training location in Bend, and how early do you head out to “location” to get used to the thinner air?)

A: “Leadville sits at 10,200 feet and the high point is 12,600 feet, so it’s essential to create more red blood cells to carry the oxygen that’s harder to get from the low pressure air. It takes about 3 weeks to get the vast majority of adaptations from being at altitude, but I tend to go to Colorado for 2 weeks since I can’t spare too much time from work and family. I live at 3,600 feet, which has a negligible effect on altitude acclimatization, so without these 2 weeks staying at at least 9,000 feet, I almost certainly couldn’t run nearly as well and would have a high risk of getting acute mountain sickness (which is a risk above 8,000 feet, especially when exercising).”

Q: You did some Heat training for Western States, but what specific kind of training have you done for Leadville?

A: “The most specific training for Leadville was getting into the mountains locally to do 5,000 feet non-stop climbs and also see how it felt at 10,000 feet; although, a couple of hours at altitude has a negligible effect on adaptations. Since it was summer, I couldn’t avoid some extreme heat too (wish I could have done this before Western States, but there was too much snow).”

Ian Sharman

Q: For the gearheads: what shoes and why? Will you change shoes during the race? What socks? What pack/bottles? What is your go-to fuel during a 100 miler? What apparel was crucial in Western and what apparel is crucial in Leadville?

A: “I’ve never changed my shoes in a race before, but I always have at least one option for shoes and socks with my crew just in case I need them. So, I’ll wear the Lone Peak 3.0, which I’ve used for the past few 100 milers, and I’ve not run a trail race without one of the LP versions for about 3 years. They have the perfect combo of good grip, comfy flexibility, and they’re rugged enough to cope with the mountain trails - I always used to get blisters in 100 milers before using LPs since the foot shape stops my toes being squished together and rubbing non-stop, all day. The shoe-sock combo is really important and I’m lucky enough to work with Drymax socks to have my own Sharman sock with my own preferences for having plenty of cushioning as well as a super hydrophobic layer that helps keep my feet dry.”

Then for hydration, I run with 2 handheld bottles from UltrAspire and switch these with my crew when I see them. Plus, some of the race is ran in the dark, so I use the Lumen 600 waist belt lamp since it lights up the trail better from the lower angle than having a headlamp.

For food and drink, I use Clif Bar race food between aid stations. A mix of gels, Bloks, and the baby food-style, Organic Energy Food pouches since that’s easy to carry and eat on the run. Then at aid stations, I graze on whatever they have, usually taking on a variety of fruit, some candy, and carbonated drinks like Coke, Sprite, and ginger ale to help settle my stomach as well as get some more calories from liquids.”

Q: As the defending champ, what is your A-goal for this go around at Leadville?

A: “My dream goal is the course record (15:42), but it’s one of the toughest records in global ultrarunning and this year’s course is about 2 miles longer than last year due to a diversion near halfway. So, the main aim is to optimize my race to run the second half as quick as possible and, hopefully, run quicker than my best time at Leadville (16:22 from 2016). The depth of the field isn’t quite as much as it’s been in recent years, so I’d expect that kind of finish time to be a win, but in the last third of Leadville, the priority is to race anyone close to me and get my 4th win. In a 100 miler a lot can go wrong, so there are no guarantees, but I’m feeling good and fit, so the fact I’ve had solid races before at Leadville gives me a lot of confidence. Whatever happens, it’ll not go quite as I expect and it’ll give me memories for years to come. Bring it on!”

Ian Sharman