Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dear 2014 Leadville 100 Run Entrant....

Well, you did it--you registered for an epic 100-mile race. If you've been running ultras for a while and this is your first crack at Leadville, you're going to love the experience. Leadville will test what you're made of and force you to "dig deep." "Dig deep" and "You're better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can" are the mottos of the race. That may sound cliche, but when you're climbing Powerline in the middle of the night, with the chips down and more than 80 miles on your trashed legs, those words will mean something to you. Trust me.

If you're new to ultras, buckle your chin strap because you're going to be in for quite a ride. Train hard and get up high and on the trails as much as possible. You've accepted a great challenge that will take you to places you've never imagined.

While it's true the 2013 race had some "issues," as we'll call them, many fellow Leadville veterans I talk with seem to agree that the 2014 running will go smoothly. As set by the organizers, the 2014 race will accommodate 800 entrants. Registration opened "last night" at midnight, and not even 16 hours into the sign-up process 700 spots have been claimed. It is very possible that Leadville will reach capacity in 24 hours! In 2010, I signed up for Leadville in April, shortly after my family and I moved to Colorado. Those days are over!

Given my experience with the races in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, I think 800 is a good number. About 720 will show up (the other 80 will have gotten injured, changed plans, etc.). About 400 will actually finish. Those are manageable numbers.

In the wake of the 2013 race, lots of people took shots at Leadville. While I wasn't without concern over some of what transpired, I never could understand why people would say horrible things about a race that does so much good for the town of Leadville. Leadville is a unique race on many levels. It's very challenging, but yet it doesn't require a qualifier. It's an all-comers race (like it or not). All are welcome. And with "Born to Run" still getting lots of readers, interest in the race continues to be strong. It could be argued the Leadville 100 is the most famous ultra on planet earth, fair or not.

I think interest in Leadville comes down to a few factors. Thanks to the book and the high-altitude environment in which the race is held, Leadville has a lot of cache in the endurance world. The name "Leadville" is much more than a name--it's a brand with a lot of "holy-shit power." We're talking about a "wild west" 100-mile race, held in and around a "wild west" kind of town, that is between 9,200-12,600 feet and has two legit mountain crossings. Plus, the boom and bust story of the town of Leadville resonates with a lot of people, especially in this day and age when so many folks are searching for greater meaning in life amid a world filled with superficial bullshit. For various reasons, not the least of which is the very essence of the town itself, a lot of people think they can find answers running 100 miles at Leadville. When you're up in those mountains working hard, things start to make sense.

People also yearn for adventure. Adventure can easily be found "out West" in our mountains and canyons. I'm in awe of what the settlers endured making their way westward, over huge mountain ranges with erratic and extreme weather to boot. When you're in Leadville, you're in the heart of the Rockies. When you're at the top of Hope Pass, elevation 12,600 feet, there are few better views of the mountains and God's creation.

These next eight months will bring great adventure that will leave you a different person. The race is the reward. Leadville has always tested my resolve in ways no other race ever has. The altitude wreaks havoc on my appetite and stomach. The Hope Pass double crossing has slowed me down more than it should have. Not until 2013 did I finally break through on the Powerline climb and in the last 20 miles of the race. As always, I'll come to the 2014 race as prepared as I can be. I will put in the miles and try to get to the mountains as much as possible. But I know that regardless of how well-trained I may be, it won't be easy. When you're running at 10,000+ feet, anything and everything can happen. I don't want it to be easy. Leadville was made to kick your ass. And it will!

Further reading, including past race reports, links to other helpful sites and more, can be found here.


  1. Do you think Barr Trail on Pikes Peak will be sufficient enough training grounds? Looking at doing some 3-2-1's up top for training at elevation when the weather permits. I'm sure I'll do a couple of runs from Mantiou Springs to the summit and back as well. This year will be my first attempt at LT100 (or any 100 for that matter) and I'm feeling stressed already. :) I've got a couple SR50's under my belt and a few PPA/PPM double's, but nothing longer than 50. Hoping I'm not in over my head.

    1. Mike: Sounds like you're more than ready for Leadville. As far as training, I think it would be impossible to go wrong with putting in some miles on Pikes (one of my three favorite places to run), although Leadville isn't all up and down. There are some flatter sections. You won't find an 8,000-foot climb like you will at Pikes, but Pikes will certainly get you in great shape. I've never done the 3-2-1 workout (really want to) but it would be great for training if done at the right time. I do think the Incline is great for preparing for the backside of Hope Pass, coming from Winfield back up to the top of the pass. The lower part of that section as you begin to climb the mountain is tough. It's not quite as steep as the Incline but it's a section the vast majority of runners (99.9%) hike, and so training on the Incline would certainly work to your favor there. Bottom line: Leadville is a runnable race and so most of your training needs to be done in runnable, high-altitude environments. This summer I'm planning to put in some miles near Loveland Pass for a variety of reasons--not the least of which is that I'll be scouting a potential 50-mile course there....


  2. Mike, you can definitely get ready for Leadville on Pikes Peak!

  3. Thanks for the responses, gentlemen. Wyatt you make a great point about Leadville not being all up and down. The first time I ran SR50 my body was not accustomed to having to climb again as I headed back from Stumptown a the turn around. I vividly remember mumbling to myself how at least in PPM once you're done climbing, you're done climbing!

    Thanks again

  4. I'm looking forward to another year at Leadville...and all the hoopla that goes with it.