Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Leadville 100

I was up in Leadville again this last weekend to watch the Leadville 100 run. For the second year in a row, I was on the crew with Mike Aish as he nailed another podium finish - this time a second-place finish in what was without question the most incredible last ten miles I've ever witnessed in a 100-mile run. It's such a fantastic experience to have a front-row seat to watch an athlete of his caliber do what he does. Can't thank him enough for letting me join him for the ride.

Rather than do a full blow-by-blow like I did last year, I figured I'd just put throw down some random thoughts and put them in a post. Here goes:
  • Mike ran about seven minutes slower from Mayqueen outbound to Twin Lakes outbound this year than last. Other than that, the first half this year played out very similar to last year. By Twin Lakes, he had a 15 minute lead on Rob Krar and about 20 minutes on Ian Sharman and Zeke Tiernan. He left Winfield about 10 minutes up on Krar. Again, eerily similar to last year.
  • Unlike last year, Mike nailed nutrition and hydration this year. He finished a flask of gels between each aid, and alternated between drinking water and sports drink between every aid. At the aids, he took part of a power bar along with a can of soda. Dude probably drank 10-12 full cans of soda throughout the day, including six or seven cans of Orange Crush. He had one Red Bull at Mayqueen inbound. I think that's it. But that's plenty of calories to keep a 125-pound guy moving. 
  • Mike looked decent at the turnaround, but man, Rob Krar looked amazing. That guy had so much bounce in his step. Hard to believe he'd already run 50 miles.
  • Mike said his knees hurt at Winfield. And so it wasn't surprising he had a rough section going back down Hope. But that was a bad section. He had the lead at Hopeless but left Twin nearly a half an hour behind Krar. He lost 30 minutes on Krar in three miles. Finished behind him by 29 minutes at the end. No need to ponder where the race got away.
  • Ian Sharman passed Mike at Twin, too. Then Mike passed him back near the Elbert trailhead. Nick Clark, Mike's pacer at the time, said that Ian looked SHOCKED that Mike passed him back. Given how terribly Mike looked at Twin, frankly, we were all pretty surprised.
  • Mike and Ian leapfrogged each other four times during the race. Each time, it looked as if Ian had beaten Mike once and for all. The last five miles, Mike was so dialed in it was scary. He ran a 7:21 mile at Mile 97 to pass him uphill on the Boulevard. Are you frickin' kidding me?
  • That race was SO. COOL. TO. WATCH. Both crews were driving along screaming at their runners. People drinking at Sugarloaf campground heard the noise and came over to watch as Mike hunted down Ian and were hooting and hollering as well. 100 milers are rarely a spectator sport. That 2nd/3rd place duel was an exception.
  • At every aid station, there were at least 20 people there I didn't recognize who showed up for the exclusive purpose of cheering on Mike. He's a popular guy, and he makes people feel special, and folks were there to support him Saturday.
  • Speaking of Ian, that guy is a true class act. He's a champion of the sport in every sense of the term. Class act while running and a super friendly guy when not running. Can't say enough good things about him.
  • Rob Krar is a mix between an introvert and a robot while running. As a fan of the sport, I cheered for him wholeheartedly every time I saw him. I saw him clench his fist once in a sign of excitement. But just the once. Other than that, no reaction whatsoever. Stone-faced killer.
  • 15:42. Alive and well. I think Rob could get it if he ran a perfect race. He got lost once, had an awful stretch from Pipeline to Twin outbound, and he just ran Western less than two months ago (just as Mike & Ian had). On fresh legs I think he could get there. Big question whether he'd make the race his priority, though.
  • Rob's running RRR 100 in three weeks? Good luck with that.
  • I'd briefly met Nick Clark before, but had never really hung out with him previously. He's fantastic, too. Thoughtful and measured yet passionate in lots of ways. Fun to get to know him a little.
  • I think Mike could break the record, too. He ran a great race Saturday, but by no means the perfect race. His split from Hopeless to Twin was a result of rough patch, but he lost focus, too. We changed his shoes at Twin.  Carpenter didn't change shoes. Mike took off both of his shoes a second time to pop a blister somewhere just before Mayqueen in. Could have been ten minutes there again. He stopped and walked while he drank every one of those cans of soda. Could have drank from a bottle in sips, but preferred the taste from a can. Add the shoes, the stopping, and the lost focus in that one section, and you probably have an hour's worth of time. Given his strong finish this year and his love of that race - it's a long shot, but the record's not out of the question.
  • Almost all of the race's now-notorious flaws from last year were resolved. Outward Bound was smooth. So was Winfield. The smaller field made a huge difference. They recognized their clear errors and fixed the problems.
  • Still, the Leadville 100 run isn't the primary focus of the race series anymore. The bike is. Would love to see a respected ultrarunner like Nick Clark get the chance to take the run and make it his baby. 
  • No iRunFar? Because Squamish had a better field? Whatever. If the top guys from Squamish were at Leadville, they would have been competing for fourth, at best. I can understand that that Bryon and Meghan probably get sick of going to the same races every year. Totally understand that. It's a private business - they can do whatever they want. But I wish they would have said that they just wanted to do something different this year. Saying that Squamish was a better field? Can't speak for anyone else, but that rubbed me the wrong way. 
  • Once again, huge kudos to Mike for pulling out the ballsiest finish I've ever seen. He says he's done with 100s, but I bet him $5 he'll be back next year. We'll see.  

9 comments:

  1. Great meeting you before the race. You nailed several points on the head in this post. The Leadville 100 was back to being a terrific race on many levels - good for Lifetime in making that happen. Mike Aish is a super guy both in running shoes and out of them. It was odd that irunfar didn't cover this race. I could understand if it were up against something like RRR 100 but it just seemed weird otherwise. Whatever, they can cover any race they choose and were probably compensated more to cover the 50 (and, maybe even asked not to come to LT???). Who knows. Who cares. It was a great race with or without a few tweets being spewed.

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  2. Tim - great meeting you, too. Sorry I dumped beer all over you at the party:) Mike is a great guy. Who knows what's going on with IRF? Just seemed a little weird that they ditched Leadville. But I guess there's enough races out there these days where they have to pick and choose.

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  3. That was one of those races that's a bitch to be part of but leaves great memories. I'd take an easy, uncontested stroll to the finish over that type of battle...except then I probably wouldn't think or care about it years later. Also, I think your $5 is safe - no way will he quit 100s after that run and the knowledge he could go faster.

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    1. Yeah, no inside info here, but something tells me he'll want some redemption at Western.

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  4. As a TL volunteer this year and last, the impact of the smaller field was immediately evident, even the evening before when the drop bags were trucked away from the court house. Figuring that each runner brings in ~2-3 additional people (crew, pacer, cheerleaders) to the aid station, the smaller crowd was definitely appreciated and made it easier to help runners. Under 700 runners seems to be the sweet spot. I hope Lifetime doesn't over-rotate on this year's success and get tempted to bump up the entrant numbers, even just by a small percentage. As for IRF, I was surprised that they didn't at least publish a small LT100 preview despite not being onsite.

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    1. Totally agreed that limiting the numbers makes a difference. It may not seem like a huge difference between 700 and 1000, but when you add in crews, it changes the whole dynamic in a major way.

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  5. Solid stuff Kieran! Always great to see you posting. As for IRF not being there, I was totally fine with that and would actually enjoy them not being at HR as well.

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    1. Dunno. Those post-race interviews would have been fun!

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  6. This is a great insight from the other side. Thanks for sharing.

    I hear you on IRF but I am giving Bryon the benefit of the doubt on this one that it was a matter of just being spread too thin. I will take for his word.

    By the way, your blog name ... got me thinking, I met quite the gnarly Irish runner last night (finally). Dude by the name of Keith Kelly. Took all the marbles home one year at Providence for XC.

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