Thursday, July 31, 2014

If You Want to Finish Leadville, Here's the #1 Most Important Thing You Must Do

Damn, I love provocative headlines!

With the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run now a little over two weeks away, those of us entered in "The Race Across the Sky" are undoubtedly in our taper or about to begin the taper. Leadville is a fairly unique race in that it's between 9,200 feet and 12,600 feet the whole way. One hundred miles is hard enough; throw in some high altitude and mountain passes and the challenge becomes even tougher.

If this is your first time toeing the line at Leadville and you're unfamiliar with what it's like in the high country and Colorado Rockies, this post is for you (as is my two-part Guide to Finishing Leadville)!

A lot goes into successfully finishing Leadville. You don't want to go out too fast. You need to stay hydrated and fueled. Your stomach needs to stay happy, though you can almost bank on a few queasy moments (or worse). You need to show grit when you're doing the big climbs and thoughts of hopelessness (pun intended) are swimming through your brain. All of that is important, and it's what you'll hear about on Friday afternoon when we all gather for the very motivational pre-race meeting, which I highly recommend.

But there's one thing you may not have thought about, especially if you're coming from sea level. Hell, I even know a few Coloradans who have overlooked or forgotten about this one super-important thing. It's something that can totally end your race.

Are you ready?

Me in the finisher's tent after
crossing the line last year. Note the hat,
sweatshirt and vest. I also had gloves--
and I was still cold.
Stay warm and dry. There's a saying here in Colorado and it goes something like this: "If you don't like the weather in Colorado, give it five minutes."

At Leadville, expect everything from sunny skies and temps in the high 70s during the day to hail, rain/lightening storms of the biblical variety and, yes, snow, especially when you're on Hope Pass. Even if during the day the temperature is in the 70s and the sun is out and life is beautiful, you can expect the mercury to plummet into the 30s after sunset. Cold nights in Leadville are the norm. It's especially cold around Turquoise Lake, which you'll be running along very late in the race (with no other aid stations before the finish). If you aren't in warm clothing after the sun sets and especially along the lake, you will risk hypothermia. And, if you go hypothermic, your race is pretty much over.

So, be sure to have:
  • Rain gear. Get a waterproof jacket and hat--maybe some waterproof gloves, too.
  • Warm clothing that will keep you toasty in temperatures as low as 30 degrees. Usually when running in cool temps it's OK to dress on the light side as our bodies heat up with movement. Not so in Leadville after night fall. Dressing on the light side after sunset will get you a DNF.
  • Emergency poncho. I highly recommend you carry one at all times, especially if we have cloud cover.
One final note: Under no circumstances is littering acceptable on the trail or anywhere on the course. Sometimes stuff falls out of pockets and we don't notice. But it's totally not OK for anyone to intentionally throw trash, such as an empty gel package, on the trail. That is not cool and it will result in a disqualification.

As for me, well, I'm in shape (I think). Those long tempo runs and long trail runs seem to have me ready even as I dropped my peak weekly volume buy 15%. I did a MAF test yesterday morning and averaged 6:30 pace for five miles, with a one-second drop in time when you compare my mile-1 split with my mile-5 split. Not bad. It's my best-ever MAF test result. But MAF tests don't mean much when you're climbing Hope Pass or Powerline. So, we'll see how things shake out. But I do think I have experience on my side and I also think my nutrition plan is solid.

Have a great taper and race. I hope to see you in Leadville!


  1. Good post, Wyatt. I have been really impressed with your training focus and dedication over the past few months. I am sure it will pay off for you in a big way.

    1. Thanks, Chris! I'm impressed by the five finishes you have (and counting).


  2. I'm super jealous of your upcoming race. That one is high on my bucket list. Good luck and have fun!